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From the life of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

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Ye Must Be Born Again

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Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Through faith in Christ, we can be spiritually prepared and cleansed from sin, immersed in and saturated with His gospel, and purified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

Elder David A. BednarMy boyhood home in California was located relatively close to large orchards of apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and other delicious fruits. We also lived near fields of cucumbers, tomatoes, and a variety of vegetables.

As a boy I always looked forward to canning season. I did not like scrubbing the canning jars or working in our hot kitchen. But I did like working with my mom and dad. And I loved eating my work! I am sure I ate more fruit than ever made it into any of our canning jars.

My memories of time spent in the kitchen with Mom and Dad are stirred every time I see a bottle of home-canned cherries or peaches. The basic lessons I learned about temporal self-reliance and provident living while picking and canning produce have blessed me throughout my life. Interestingly, simple and ordinary experiences often provide the most important learning opportunities we ever have.

As an adult I have reflected upon the things I observed in our kitchen during canning season. This morning I want to discuss some of the spiritual lessons we can learn from the process by which a cucumber becomes a pickle. I invite the Holy Ghost to be with us as we consider the significance of those lessons for me and for you as we come unto Christ and are spiritually reborn.
Cucumbers and Pickles

A pickle is a cucumber that has been transformed according to a specific recipe and series of steps. The first steps in the process of changing a cucumber into a pickle are preparing and cleaning. I remember many hours spent on the back porch of my home removing stems from and scrubbing dirt off of the cucumbers we had picked. My mom was very particular about the preparing and cleaning of the cucumbers. She had high standards of cleanliness and always inspected my work to make sure this important task was properly completed.

The next steps in this process of change are immersing and saturating the cucumbers in salt brine for an extended period of time. To prepare the brine, my mom always used a recipe she learned from her mother—a recipe with special ingredients and precise procedures. Cucumbers can only become pickles if they are totally and completely immersed in the brine for the prescribed time period. The curing process gradually alters the composition of the cucumber and produces the transparent appearance and distinctive taste of a pickle. An occasional sprinkle of or dip in the brine cannot produce the necessary transformation. Rather, steady, sustained, and complete immersion is required for the desired change to occur.

The final step in the process requires the sealing of the cured pickles in jars that have been sterilized and purified. The pickles are packed in canning jars, covered with boiling hot brine, and processed in a boiling-water-bath canner. All impurities must be removed from both the pickles and the bottles so the finished product can be protected and preserved. As this procedure is properly followed, the pickles can be stored and enjoyed for a long period of time.

To summarize, a cucumber becomes a pickle as it is prepared and cleaned, immersed in and saturated with salt brine, and sealed in a sterilized container. This procedure requires time and cannot be hurried, and none of the essential steps can be ignored or avoided.
A Mighty Change

The Lord’s authorized servants repeatedly teach that one of the principal purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Alma declared:

“Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25–26).

We are instructed to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), to become “new creature[s]” in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off “the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses 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. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn.
Preparing and Cleaning

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 and of good doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6) and initially cleansed through the ordinances and covenants administered by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood.

“And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

“Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins” (D&C 84:26–27).

And the Lord has established a high standard of cleanliness.

“Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57).

Proper preparing and cleaning are the first basic steps in the process of being born again.
Immersing and Saturating

Just as a cucumber is transformed into a pickle as it is immersed in and saturated with salt brine, so you and I are born again as we are absorbed by and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we honor and “observe the covenants” (D&C 42:13) into which we have entered, as we “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3), as we “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48), and as we “serve [God] with all [of our] heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2), then:

“Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7).

The spiritual rebirth described in this verse typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience.

A cucumber only becomes a pickle through steady, sustained, and complete immersion in salt brine. Significantly, salt is the key ingredient in the recipe. Salt frequently is used in the scriptures as a symbol both of a covenant and of a covenant people. And just as salt is essential in transforming a cucumber into a pickle, so covenants are central to our spiritual rebirth.

We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority.

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.

“I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again.
Purifying and Sealing

Cured cucumbers are packed into sterilized jars and heat processed in order to remove impurities and to seal the containers from external contaminants. The boiling-water-bath procedure enables the pickles to be both protected and preserved over a long period of time. In a similar way, we progressively become purified and sanctified as you and I are washed in the blood of the Lamb, are born again, and receive the ordinances and honor the covenants that are administered by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).

The word sealing in my message today does not refer exclusively to the ordinance of eternal marriage performed in the house of the Lord. Rather, I am using this particular word as explained in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“This is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—

“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

“That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

“And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (vv. 50–53).

The Holy Spirit of Promise is the ratifying power of the Holy Ghost. When sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, an ordinance, vow, or covenant is binding on earth and in heaven. (See D&C 132:7.) Receiving this “stamp of approval” from the Holy Ghost is the result of faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants “in [the] process of time” (Moses 7:21). However, this sealing can be forfeited through unrighteousness and transgression.

Purifying and sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise constitute the culminating steps in the process of being born again.
“In the Energy of My Soul”

My beloved brothers and sisters, I pray this parable of the pickle may help us to evaluate our lives and to better understand the eternal importance of spiritual rebirth. With Alma, “I speak in the energy of my soul” (Alma 5:43).

“I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again” (Alma 5:49).

I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior who invites us to come unto Him and be transformed. I testify His Church and priesthood authority have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Through faith in Christ, we can be spiritually prepared and cleansed from sin, immersed in and saturated with His gospel, and purified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise—even born again. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Written by marshsned

November 22, 2010 at 2:14 am

Let us put our trust in God and His Prophets

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It is a big deal, to think that the Pope of the Catholic church or even Eddie Long of the Baptist church may in fact have the weight of responsibility before God, for concealing molestations either personally (Long) or hidden publicly (Pope) – leading so many faithful people astray.  Not to mention the enormous trust tax that takes place for everyone else, but the Lord Himself has got to be grossly offended by these admirable men.  He himself said: And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences!  For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Matthew 18:5-7

Nephi of the Book of Mormon said:
9 Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after
this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark.

15 O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! 2nd Nephi 28: 9-15

World leaders of religion are not prophets.

In 1999  Eddie Long’s baptist church rivaled the size of 25,000 which came along with all the glitz and fame.  He said to a reporter at the time, that the pressure of being a high-profile pastor could be brutal.  “You don’t want any of this,” he said in a raspy baritone voice as he shook his head. “You don’t want any of this…” The burden we place upon leaders of world religions is not an easy task – we almost raise them to the level of a prophet as we subject them to a pedestal they did not sign up for.  At the same time, we know that they are only elite men – at best.  It is stunning to think of the responsibility we hold these elite men of religion to and yet ironically dismiss them, “understanding” their sins of human nature.  Why do we esteem them as high ranking religious leaders when they do not make high ranking decisions – inspired by God? They cannot uphold the expectations we place upon them because they would even admit their role is misunderstood.  They are not a prophet as recorded in scripture.

The world qualifies leaders in religion through school and enduring the ladder to obtain the entitled priesthood.  Those who are skilled speakers move along faster in this system and like Eddie Long, end up becoming incredibly wealthy.  Prophets of God always preached a relentless message that was never the most popular one, often times lacked the majority of supporters and usually didn’t have the convenience for over-indulgent wealth.  Those who study the scriptures would identify the wicked kings to this kind of genre of leadership.  Since when did we decide the Lord would want his kingdom organized like this?  Since when do we put leaders into office that lead according to the dictates of their own conscience rather than God’s will?  Why does the world put their faith in man, to only have it diminished by the surprising acts of priests?  As much as we wish it were so, these good men are clearly not acting under the inspiration of God – otherwise they would not lead us astray!  So why do we settle for anything less than a prophet of this caliber with such strict guidelines and perfect alignment with God?

To that point I say: what man dares assume any kind of role as a “mouthpiece of God,” or seek any kind of entitlement to lead a people? Without the utmost assurance of being called by God, a person is standing on a sandy foundation.  Who could handle such a burden?  Who would want such a burden? Many good men seem to be certainly qualified and have the most admirable character (as far as we know) – but a prophet of God has historically been a unique role – even one men have not wished for according to the scriptures.  A role that often times ends up in martyrdom.  Perhaps this is why most people dare not take on the title of a prophet – it assumes a mantle that is too heavy to bear.  A responsibility man alone could not endure.  A mantle that requires complete unwavering obedience and humble subjection with no worldly adornment.  A role so challenging that a person would only accept if God commanded it.

Let God choose His prophets.

God’s kingdom is perfectly organized, including the structure and function of His church.  A prophet has always been at the head.  A prophet who serves Him and humbly conform to His plan and authority.  We “fear” the Lord because we trust and respect His ways.  The status of a prophet is not a question of your assumption or even desire.  This is not a business or course you take in school to achieve a standing before the Lord.  This has nothing to do with money or stature.  There are no qualifications designed by man that can qualify you – no matter how much you want it or how much you are entitled to it.  You must be called of God – literally personally chosen to be His prophet and mouthpiece.  Muhammad claims this status through a special experience he recorded and supported with enlightening discourses in the Qur’an.  I’m unqualified to identify the veracity of this – although I don’t see why the Lord would not call a prophet amidst another nation for we know there are more records than just the Bible.  Although his reforming efforts to preach against idol worship is worthy of acknowledgment, the one point I would make in regards to Muhammad (whom I admire and respect) is failing to acknowledge Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of mankind – something all of God’s prophets have done since the beginning of time in recorded scripture.  But like many great leaders, there is still much we can learn from him.  In any case, the Holy Ghost will seal this kind of title without question as you would have been foreordained from our pre-existent state and prepared to become such.  However more than not, a prophet humbly feels unqualified: chosen by God to the point that they dared not even deny it, perhaps even fearful of the charge like Moses or Enoch:

Moses

25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen. Moses 1

13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? Exodus 3

Enoch

27 And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their fears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off.

31 And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?

32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good. Moses 6

The Priesthood:  Authority to act in God’s name.

God selects his prophets and leaders through the priesthood delegated by Him to represent Him on earth.  The priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name and to lead His people in His organized church.  We can certainly study and live the gospel in faith as we prepare, but the opportunity and call from the Lord – has to be from the Lord.  Although the burden may be heavy and our qualifications few, the Lord through the Atonement of Jesus Christ will magnify our abilities with strength to rise to the occasion.  This is a difference between religious leaders chosen by man and priesthood leaders chosen by God.  He sustains and magnifies whom He calls and they can be rest assured their foundation is a rock, whereas those who aspire to a title are on a sandy foundation.  Within the priesthood the Lord selects those who are worthy for a purpose, and oftentimes those who humbly have much to learn.  We may never know the reasons why or how the Lord identifies His leaders.  We simply accept His will in faith and humbly serve Him, because He is the omniscient one – not us.  And remember, more than any entrepreneurs or philosophical specters, the Lord simply needs more obedient disciples whom he can use to fulfill His plan for us.  We do not need to “recreate the wheel”.  This teaching is as old as this earth and eternity.  Let us not rethink the plan of salvation or His gospel, but rather seek Him and serve.

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and caspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be  controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

D&C 121:34-37

My message:  Let us be led by that ideal prophet.  One who is called by God and not rely upon leaders of world religion – the good men of the earth – with righteous intent who are subject to human frailties.  We need someone more eternally reliable whom the Lord would trust.  Let us raise the bar and set our standards as high as God’s.  Let us not put our faith in the arm of flesh, but rather our complete trust in God without reservation.  Let us unequivocally sustain that prophet whom God calls to instruct us with a message through inspired revelation.  And let us find God’s pure message, hold to it like the iron rod, and settle for nothing less than pure light and truth – pure water that springs up unto everlasting life.  After all, if the way really is narrow and strait, let us be quick to realize that there is a specific way that we must certainly identify that leads to Him.  Is there another goal so great in life?  We should carefully seek the inspiration of God’s will to know this way and whom His designated prophet on earth is.  As Christ said:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Matthew 7

The good news is that although there has been a significant span of time since we’ve had a prophet on the earth, that all changed in 1820.  This is good news indeed and this is why I blog.

Written by marshsned

September 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm