Sunday, May 23, 2010

Inasmuch as Ye Were Born

He looked at me, and I looked back. A large smile appeared on his face and he began to bounce. His eyes were large and trusting. Though he didn’t know who I was, the little boy wrapped each of his small hands around my index fingers and pulled himself to standing position on my lap. In an instant I remembered what it was like to have a baby again as we played for about an hour.

The boy’s parents, who are good friends of mine, have had a very challenging year. Anticipating a premature birth, and then having to keep their son in the hospital for the first couple months of his life was not easy. Many, many prayers were offered for them before and after his delivery. He is the recipient of a lot of invested faith. Their experience reminds me of the instruction the Lord gave to Eve after being cast out of the Garden of Eden. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children….” (Genesis 3:16) Yet, who can doubt that the joy and happiness, also delivered by the Lord, far outweigh the costs of arrival?

Innocence is a short season before accountability. As my friends’ son looked into my eyes, there was no fear present, only hope. He had no reason to be afraid. He has not yet been tarnished by transgression or doubt. Whenever he has a need, he simply cries and his parents take care of him. Life is simple. Yet, what is more beautiful still is the potential for him to become something so much greater. As he becomes accountable, power will be given him to choose for himself. He will be able to choose what he would like to become. A pure life is powerful, but a life that is pure by choice is more so.

If purity is such a powerful virtue, then why is temptation so appealing? Why do we sometimes doubt that obedience to God’s commandments is always the best course? We may not be willing to state this openly, but our actions show where our faith is. So much depends on our needs and how they are met.

Spencer W. Kimball said that sin is the result of “deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner.” Each of us has divinely given needs, appetites, and desires. Our passions can be great motivations when properly controlled. But all too often, when these needs go unmet, we become impatient. When promised blessings do not arrive when hoped for, we often accept alternatives. This willingness to settle for something less than what God intended makes us both vulnerable and susceptible to temptation. When a trial is delivered instead of a needed blessing, we are tempted to doubt God’s integrity. Instead of trusting that the pain is a sign that something greater is on its way or is about to be delivered, we question why God has forgotten us.

Each time my wife delivered one of our children, she experienced a period of intense pain as she labored to get them here. As the father, I felt like I could do little but support her and watch as she experienced something that I could not take away from her. That was not my role. Instead I tried to encourage her. I held her hand and tried to comfort her. I sometimes wondered how tightly she planned to squeeze my hand as each wave of contractions became stronger and stronger. My efforts did not feel very heroic. Her endurance was.

As we become more accountable, the period in which we are allowed to cry before our needs are met may increase. Courage is required if we are to face our weaknesses with faith. We gain strength and become more like God as our abilities are tested. Each wave of trials becomes greater, as does our faith if we exercise it well. Our Father in Heaven bases each lesson, not only on our accountability, but our capability. While the duration of time before deliverance may increase, His promises do not diminish. If anything, they become more powerful because our faith becomes stronger. Thus, we have every reason to hold on a little longer until we are delivered.

Recognizing that by reason of the transgression of Adam, all mankind became carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature, we all become guilty of sin and are in need of repentance. It is an interesting irony that we become devilish to please and satisfy our bodies, when the devil who tempts us does not have a body. It is when we choose to act like him, in spite of the promises of God, that we become devilish. Whether by deliberate sin or unintentional transgression, we can only become like God when we do what he would do, and this requires correction.

After Adam was cast out of the Garden, God told Adam how his needs could best be met. He said to him, “If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.” (Moses 6:52)

After we repent and are cleansed, we are offered the precious gift that will help us see that our needs our met. We become worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who, in spite of our imperfections, will help us know what to ask for, and it then it will be given.

Consider the counsel given by the Lord to Joseph Smith. “I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory.” He wants to bless us. He is only waiting for us to choose to be pure in heart as He is. “And to them will I reveal all mysteries…. Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know…. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them….” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:5-8, 10) Sometimes, the greatest mysteries we do not understand have to do with the trials we experience in mortality. We wonder, and we want to know what the Lord expects of us. If we are faithful, He will tell us and make His mysteries known.

After the Lord taught Adam about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Adam asked, “Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water?” The Lord answered Adam and said that he was forgiven of his transgression in the Garden of Eden. Because his children were conceived in a world of sin, subject to mortal conditions, “sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.” Therefore we have to teach them to repent or they cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (Moses 6:53-57)

The Lord then teaches Adam about baptism, and the powerful symbol it is for our conversion by comparing it to the birthing process. He said, “Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:58-59)

Inasmuch as ye were born into the world, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven. In order to do this we need to put off the natural man and allow the carnal, sensual, and devilish desires to die. When we do, then there is sufficient room for righteous desires to flourish and thrive. The womb has only so much room for a baby to develop. Our hearts likewise only have so much room for our faith to develop when crowded by other desires. The things that are conceived in our hearts will determine our actions, and the blessings and trials that are delivered to us. Devilish desires cause the heart to contract, while righteous desires cause the heart to expand as wide as eternity.

The Lord continues, “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.” (Moses 6:60) These three pieces are very important. The commandments, justification, and sanctification are all connected and are necessary for us to receive the grace of God.

We are commanded to be baptized because, among other things, it is a symbol of our spiritual death and cleansing. The water is symbolic of the protective water that surrounded us at the time of our first birth. Coming up out of the water represents our spiritual rebirth into heaven. As we keep this commandment we are justified because we have chosen to be pure. As a witness, the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and confirms this truth. It is the presence of His influence that allows us to be sanctified through the atoning blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of his blood that was dispersed for our sins, and because of His infinite grace that covers the things we cannot do for ourselves, we may truly become clean and not just by washing with water. The washing by water, symbolic of a temporal cleansing, prepares us for a deeper spiritual cleansing.

While baptism is a temporal act, its spiritual significance is much greater. Regarding the commandments given to Adam, the Lord said, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created. Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.” (Doctrine & Covenants 29:34-35)

By settling for lesser alternatives to God’s blessings, we show a weakness and tendency to appease the mortal body instead of God. However, when we are obedient to the commandments of God, we show that we are willing to submit the desires of our bodies to our spirits. We also demonstrate that we are willing to submit our spirits to the will of God.

Adam yielded to temptation when he was not accountable. After he gained knowledge and hearkened to God, then he yielded to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, that member of the Godhead who will be our constant companion and guide if we are wise and choose to receive Him.

When we receive the Holy Spirit in our lives, our actions, and all of our choices, his influence will permeate our hearts. He will then expand our hearts and our capacity to love God. He will sanctify our lives so there is more room for more faith. This faith will give us the courage to endure our trials and hold out for the promised blessings of the Lord without having to settle.

We all have powerful needs. When we cry unto God with all our hearts and look to Him to receive His promised blessings, He will provide for us, and He will deliver us.

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