Episode 18. May 29, 2016. Today’s znukcast is on the topic of Holiness and three things we can do to increase the amount of Holiness inherent in our lives.
On the night of December 29, 1876 one of the worst railroad disasters in American History occurred. The Pacific Express, an 11 car two engine train was traveling west through Ohio during a heavy snowstorm. Among the passengers were Philip Bliss and his wife Lucy. Philip was a Christian songwriter and singer. He and Lucy had been married for 17 years. About 7:30 pm while crossing a trestle bridge over the Ashtabula River, the bridge
collapsed sending the 11 cars 75 feet into the river below. As the water pressed up from the broken ice, the wooden cars, heated by kerosene stoves, ignited. According to an eyewitness, as reported in the Chicago Tribune the next day, when the train fell, Mr. Bliss freed himself and succeeded in crawling through a window. He turned around to pull his wife free but found she was pinned in the ironwork of the seats. Rather than escape, he stayed with Lucy, continuing to try and free her before they were both engulfed and consumed in the flames. Ninety other people also perished that night.
Three of Philip Bliss’s hymns are in our hymnal. I will mention just one of them. It is hymn number 131. More Holiness Give Me.
More holiness give me, more strivings within
More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin
More faith in my Savior, more sense of His care
More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer
More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord
More zeal for His glory, more hope in His word
More tears for his sorrows, more pain at his grief
More meekness in trial, more praise for relief
More purity give me, more strength to o’ercome
More freedom from earth-stains, more longings for home
More fit for the kingdom, more useful I’d be
More blessed and holy, more, Savior, like Thee
It is evident to me that Philip Bliss lived these words in the moment during the greatest test of his life.
Let me shift gears for a moment. This week our ward here in the Philippines, the Makati 4th ward had a temple day. This is something we have been working on in the ward for several months. I was responsible for overseeing and managing the details of the day. I had worried a lot about how things might go. Would we have enough people show up? Would there be room in the temple that day for us? Would people be disappointed if sessions they wanted to attend would be full? Would people be able to bring their own names?…the list of things I worried about seemed endless. About 4 weeks ago the bishop announced that a couple in our ward, Eric and Rona would be sealed that day. Then later we learned that two other sisters in the ward, Wilma and Lin would receive their own endowments the same day. The interest in the event was growing as members of the ward rallied around these four wonderful saints.
Well to make a long story short, the day was simply amazing. We had 57 members of our ward attend along with 5-6 more who were friends of those going through the temple. Some in attendance had not been to the temple in several years. It was a marvelous experience! Of special importance to LaDawn and me were the family names of 20 couples and numerous children that we had found and brought to the temple to be sealed. In fact, we ended up participating in three sealing sessions for our own family as well as other members of the ward. The spirit was powerful and my feelings were tender. And though we have been going to the temple nearly every week here in Manila, this is the first time we have done sealings. The spirit testified to me of the ultimate importance of this crowning temple ordinance. I think I had forgotten just how important it was to these families to complete their ordinances by being sealed as forever families through priesthood power. It was simply an amazing experience.
Needless to say, my worries were unfounded. It was as if once we arrived at the temple, everything went perfectly. We could not have asked for a more day! We arrived at the temple at 6:30 am that morning and as we left the temple that night at 9:00 pm after a baptismal session with the youth, I had such gratitude in my heart for the influence the temple had had on me that day. For the influence that the temple has had on me every single time I am there.
So with this event fresh on my mind, couched in the story of Philip Bliss, I want to talk about holiness in our lives.
President Faust explained that holiness, in part, is achieved by conforming to God’s will.
Elder Quentin L. Cook taught, “holiness is exemplified by consecration and sacrifice”
Elder Ballard said: “We seek to have our lives sanctified, purified, and cleansed to the point where we can be found worthy to walk into the presence of our heavenly parents and Jesus Christ, our Savior and redeemer”.
This last statement is reinforced in Hebrews 12:14 where it says “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” That would mean neither in this life nor the life to come.
Elder Russell M. Nelson said: “We can acquire holiness only by enduring and persistent personal effort.” (April 2001 General Conference)
We learn from 2 Ne 2:10 that at the Day of Judgment, we will be judged based on the truth and holiness which is in Christ. I take that to mean that we will be then be judged on the holiness and truth that is within us.
I think the world would probably say that holiness is boring, I love this quote from CS Lewis: “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible” (CS Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, 1967).
In 2 Nephi 8:10 (Quoting Isaiah 51) says that “Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads;…” Thus we can see a connection between joy and holiness
So from these statements we learn several things about holiness:
- To become holy we must willingly do the Father’s will and be able to lay our will aside.
- We need to sacrifice our time and resources and consecrate our lives to the building of the Lord’s kingdom here on earth
- We must be on the path of sanctification, repenting of our sins as we go, even until our natures change and sin is no longer appealing.
- We acquire holiness through enduring and persistence.
- In the final judgment the degree of holiness in our lives will be an important criteria
- Holiness brings joy to our lives
- Holiness is irresistible
Given then the importance and associated blessings of holiness, I would like to briefly touch on three things I have found that lead to holiness. Reading the scriptures, attending the temple and as a result of both of these, accessing more the enabling power of the atonement.
First the importance of the scriptures in our quest for holiness:
Doctrine and Covenants Section 43:9 says “And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.”
We need to understand the doctrine, ordinances, laws (all of which is encompassed in the law of church) and then act on that knowledge, which in turn enables us to be sanctified. It is then incumbent upon us to bind ourselves to act in ALL holiness before him (interesting that it doesn’t say before the world, the saints, or even our family). This means especially what we think and do when no one else is watching.
This is reinforced in D&C 20:69 – where it essentially says that to walk in holiness before the Lord we must have faith and works agreeable to the scriptures. How will we have this faith and works if we do not know the scriptures?
This is also consistent with Elder Packers oft repeated phrase that “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior”. This applies in our personal lives as well. If we want to become more like the savior, we need to know the doctrines. And where better to learn the doctrines than from the scriptures.
Therefore, the scriptures are a source of the knowledge of the doctrines that will change our behaviors. In the Lectures on Faith, we learn that Faith is dependent upon knowledge. The more knowledge, the more faith. I’ll come back to this in a moment.
Second the role of the temple in our quest for holiness
In the great dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple revealed to the Prophet Joseph and recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 109, the Lord said,
And now Holy Father, we ask thee to assist us, thy people, with thy grace that thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house; And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.
President Howard W. Hunter sustained in 1994 as prophet, called on the members of the church to make the temple The Great Symbol of our Membership, he said, “When I contemplate the temple, I think of these words: “The temple is a place of instruction where profound truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God are unfolded. It is a place of peace where minds can be centered upon things of the spirit and the worries of the world can be laid aside. In the temple we take covenants to obey the laws of God, and promises are made to us, conditioned always on our faithfulness, which extend into eternity” (The Priesthood and You, Melchizedek Priesthood Lessons—1966, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1966, p. 293).
Elder John A. Widstoe said: “Temple work … gives a wonderful opportunity for keeping alive our spiritual knowledge and strength. … The mighty perspective of eternity is unraveled before us in the holy temples; we see time from its infinite beginning to its endless end; and the drama of eternal life is unfolded before us. Then I see more clearly my place amidst the things of the universe, my place among the purposes of God; I am better able to place myself where I belong, and I am better able to value and to weigh, to separate and to organize the common, ordinary duties of my life, so that the little things shall not oppress me or take away my vision of the greater things that God has given us” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1922, pp. 97–98).
My own experience is that regular and frequent temple worship sanctifies us and brings holiness into our lives. I have felt this in my own life, and I have seen it in the life of my own sweet wife.
As you know, the words “Holiness to the Lord” is written above the east door of the Salt Lake Temple. Perhaps it could also say, “Holiness to Man” meaning holiness comes to those who enter”
I want to pause for a moment and reflect on both the power of the scriptures and the temple. In 2 Ne 9:20 it says, “O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things and there is not anything save he knows it.” Here we learn that holiness of our God originates in his knowledge of all things. Where can we learn all things? I suggest that collectively the scriptures and the temple are two unbeatable combinations. I would also suggest that through the scriptures and the temple we invite an increased influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives, which in and of itself brings added holiness. In fact, the more influence the Holy Ghost has on us, the more holy we will become.
Leverage these first two as we now speak of The Atonement
Elder Bruce D. Hafen has said, “The Atonement in some way, apparently through the Holy Ghost, makes possible the infusion of spiritual endowments that actually change and purify our nature, moving us toward that state of holiness or completeness we call eternal life or Godlike life. At that ultimate stage we will exhibit divine characteristics not just because we think we should but because that is the way we are.”
Elder Bednar talks about two aspects of the power of the atonement. The redeeming power (probably the area we are most familiar with – that associated with the forgiveness of sins) and the enabling power (that which gives us the strength to change our circumstances) and an area we are less familiar with. The best example of this is the people of Alma as recorded in Mosiah 24:14 in the land of Helam being strengthened by this enabling power so that they could not feel the burdens upon the backs. Do you think this had an impact on them in terms of having more holiness in their lives? We don’t really know what happened to these people individually, but we do know that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again saying: “Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage”. Is not this what we all seek, to be delivered from all different kinds of bondage?
In Mosiah 3:19 we have further evidence of how both the redeeming and the enabling power of the atonement helps us along our journey. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
We need to tap into the enabling power of the atonement so that we have the power to change our own circumstances rather than pray that miraculously the Lord will change our circumstances without any effort on our part. The result is that this enabling power will have such an impact on us that our level of holiness will rise.
This is why increasing our faith through reading the scriptures is more important. The more faith we have, the more frequently we will access this enabling power of the atonement.
Just one more thought here. In Hebrews 12:10 we learn that by inviting the Lord’s chastening into our lives that it will allow us to be partakers of his holiness and yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness within us. In order to become holy, we must be able to endure God’s chastisement for it helps us to become holy. Holiness comes because of the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. When we are chastised or face opposition, it causes us to drop to our knees in search of relief and as we find strength in the atonement of Christ and tap into that strengthening and enabling power, we become more holy.
Our access to the atonement always comes through the Holy Ghost. Perhaps this is why the Holy Ghost is called “Holy”. By and through his influence are we made to become more holy and sanctified.
Holiness is available to us all. It is a free gift through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Perfecting the Saints is all about becoming more like the Savior. May we each consider how the scriptures and the temple and the strengthening power of the atonement might be helpful to us in your own change journey. May we each, as the closing line in the hymn More Holiness Give Me says, petition the Lord that we may become… More blessed and holy, more, Savior, like Thee