Episode 33. September 9, 2016. Before I start, I want to recognize the 15th anniversary of the terrible events of 911. May we never forget that freedom is not free. Today I want to talk about how being born again helps to purify and sanctify our lives. So with that, let’s get started.
One of my favorite times of year is spring. There is such a newness of life. A time when things that appear to be dead, miraculously spring to life. Perhaps just one more reason why “Spring” is called “Spring”. It is also one of the reason’s I love Easter. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first fruits of them that slept (1 Corinthians 15:20). The reuniting of body and spirit (Alma 11:43). It is the central theme of new life.
President Eyring said something in a talk in 2004 that has stuck with me. It was from a District President with whom he was serving as a counselor. This is what he said, perhaps you remember it as well: “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”
The title of Elder Eyring’s talk that day was “In the Strength of the Lord”. His thesis was that since almost everyone is in some sort of trouble, we all need the Lord’s help to get through our challenges. Does that resonate with anyone listening to this? I know it does with me.
Why do we all face obstacles? Because as Elder Eyring pointed out in his talk they give us an opportunity to prove ourselves faithful to God. A few years ago I read a book about near death experiences titled “Trailing Clouds of Glory” by Harold Widdison. This book is different than many books with records of near death experiences because its purpose is to establish evidence of a pre-mortal rather than a post-mortal existence. While the author is an LDS psychologist and gathered these experiences over 7 years, this is not doctrine. In many of his examples, those either remembering or seeing pre-mortal glimpses spoke of selecting their own challenges through which they could prove their faithfulness to God here on earth. In a number of examples, individuals were counseled to choose fewer than those they originally had wanted to accept to prove their faith. While not doctrinal, the concept is interesting and can, I think, be helpful as we each experience our own set of trials, especially as we consider that we may have had a hand in selecting them!
So here we are on earth. We have come here to get a body and prove our faithfulness and the next thing you know we find ourselves in trouble, perhaps even severely spiritually injured – and the result is a loss of light in our lives. Isn’t that when we need a rebirth? Isn’t that when we long most for our our Spring? Our own resurrection from the carnal to the celestial?
In the April 2007 General Conference, Elder Bednar addressed this rebirth. You may all remember his talk because he talked about making pickles. Yes Pickles. He explained that a cucumber becomes a pickle as it is prepared and cleaned, immersed in and saturated with salt brine, and sealed in a sterilized container. He went on to say that this procedure requires time and cannot be hurried, and none of the essential steps can be ignored.
Just as a cucumber must be prepared and cleaned before it can be changed into a pickle, so you and I can be prepared with the “words of faith of good doctrine” (1 Tim 4:6) and initially cleansed through the ordinances and covenants of baptism and confirmation. Once we have received these ordinances the scripture in Alma 5:26 reminds us there is more we need to do: “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” You see, we may have been prepared and cleansed and then because of these obstacles and succumbing to temptations, we may find that while we have felt to sing the song of redeeming love in the past, we may be struggling to feel so now.
So what is the remedy?
On Jan 12, 2013 Elder Ballard visited Houston and held a meeting with all stake presidencies, bishops and Elders Quorum Presidents. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. Elder Ballard spoke plainly about the assault of Lucifer as he releases all of his forces. He said the world is spinning out of control and indicated the prophecies in Mormon 8 and 2 Nephi 28 are in fact playing out now. He told us that we needed to be the greatest generation of priesthood leaders ever assembled because that is what is required in these last days. He then said repeatedly: “If there is something in your life that is keeping you from hearing the still small, you need to Fix It.”
I want to pass that same advice along to each of you. If there is something, anything, in our lives that are keeping us from hearing the still small voice of the spirit, then we need to fix it, and we need to begin that journey of fixing it right now.
So how do we “Fix It”? Just read Alma 36:18, Mosiah 4:2 and 1 Nephi 17:41. If you look up those scriptures, you will find that fixing it requires just enough faith to Heavenly Father for help through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Once we have asked, we need to go back to the pickle process. The second step is the process of immersion and saturation of the cucumber in brine. Elder Bednar states: “We are immersed and saturated by being absorbed by and in the gospel of Jesus Christ by doing 4 things.” He then explains what these four things are: 1) Honoring and observing the covenants into which we have entered, 2) Feasting upon the words of Christ, 3) Praying unto the Father with all the energy of heart and 4) Serving God with all of our heart, might, mind and strength. Elder Bednar added: “The conversion described in the scriptures is mighty, not minor – a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are.”
In a talk given at BYU titled, “If Thou Endure it Well: Elder Maxwell adds that being born again is not a one-time thing. Hence Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 said, “I die daily” and by inference, he was being reborn daily. Elder Maxwell went on to say that being born again is the process of putting off the old self as one becomes a woman or a man of God and that quick-change artists in this process are rare. He also spoke of “spiritual submissiveness as one of the qualities that will rise with us in the resurrection that will give us so much advantage in the world to come.”
George Bernard Shaw said that Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.
I suspect we are all familiar with Elder Packer’s oft repeated quote about doctrine and behavior. “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the Gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior”.
But in the end, it is not behavior we are trying to change, it is us! And we get to choose our next step.
In 2013, our stake had a youth conference with the Theme “Journey to Zion…Seeking Higher Ground”. As I thought about the experiences of that conference and its theme, I recorded seven reflections that I would like to share with you that I believe have an important connection with this theme of being born again.
- Israel, Israel God is Calling is a favorite LDS Hymn. Let me read a few phrases from that hymn: God is calling us from lands of woe. Hear your great deliverer’s voice. Now a glorious morn is breaking for the people of His choice. For your coming Lord is nigh. Mark how judgments pointing finger, justifies no vain delays. These are all good reminders and good counsel for us to answer the call to Zion and to do so we must be purified.
- Getting to higher ground takes effort. Elder Wirthlin in the October 2005 General Conference told the story of the Moken People who live on Islands off of Thailand and Myanmar. When the powerful earthquake struck the region in December of 2004, over 200,000 lives were lost. But none of them were Moken. Why? Because the Moken elders knew the sea. They knew how to read the signs of the coming disaster. Some of the younger generation doubted, but the elders insisted that everyone was to seek higher ground. The result was not a single person from that tribe was lost. We too can be saved from the calamities of the last days as we listen and obey our priesthood leaders and seek higher ground.
- There is great power in the temples that are in our midst. During that conference the youth reconstructed a replica of the Houston Temple on a small rise. For the rest of the conference, the spirit of what that replica represented permeated the youth and adults in attendance. It was a powerful lesson. Because the youth had a vested interest in that temple (after all, they built it!) it was even more powerful.
- The obstacles of mortality require us to work together so that no one is left behind. We are all part of God’s family. We need to come together and lift and encourage each other so that we can all make spiritual progress together.
- There are competing voices in the world, and we must listen carefully. Some time after Joseph Smith’s death, President Young reported that the martyred prophet appeared unto him and instructed: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right…They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord, they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are all disorganized and in great confusion.” [Journal History, 23 February 1847]. We must learn to listen to and obey the Spirit of the Lord if we are to become purified and sanctified.
- Others have paid a terrible price so that we now have higher ground that we can go to. Think of the sacrifice of our Savior. The martyrdoms of the apostles in the meridian of time and the murder of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Sacrifice brings forth blessings, both for ourselves and our posterity. Sacrifice is an important component to sanctification.
- When we are on higher ground, it is then that we have eternal perspective. We can see so much clearer and so much farther. Perspective and context gives us hope for a better tomorrow.
I want to end today by quoting two scriptures. The first is D&C 90:24. “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another”. The second is Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”
I hope we will all take the opportunity today to make a change, to be just a little or a whole lot better. To fix anything in our lives that needs fixing. To be born again and again and again. To become men and women of Christ. To be purified even as our Savior is pure. May we seek higher ground so that we might have greater eternal perspective, which I believe will lead to greater hope, desire and courage to become more like the Savior.