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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

Benjamin Franklin: Biography by John Stevens Cabot Abbott

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I am completely inspired by Benjamin Franklin.  His life, character, and patriotic values are what has established the country we live in today.  Other figures played some key roles in the development of the Declaration of Independence, but Benjamin Franklin was so admirably impactful.

It is a novel thing to think that he only had 10 years of education (which was all his family could afford) and spent his career in life with writing and printing- which he excelled at.  He read books continuously throughout his childhood and adult life.

What I adore about Ben personally is the level of character he obtained by his sheer will.  He had general beliefs in God, but when it came to values, principles and behaviors – he focused on them one by one until he himself said that he felt he mastered them all – except for humility.  Which speaking of that he said, that he supposes that even if he mastered humility he would be proud of being humble.

He in fact ventured to start his own religion named, “The Society of the Free and Easy.”  The members were to be Free from vice and consequently, Easy in mind.  It seemed to downplay the idea of faith and focus on the works of man, particularly the virtues:  Temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, charity, and humility. His ritual consisted in devoting one week to the cultivation of each of these virtues.  This exerted a powerful influence upon his own mind, even though he had no candidates apply to join his ‘religion’.  Soon this new church was forgotten.  Hower, as mentioned the impact of this goal was life changing:

“I was surprised to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined.  But I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.  After a while I went through one course only in a year, and afterwards only one in several years; till at length I omitted them entirely, being employed in voyages and business abroad with a multiplicity of affairs that interfered.”

However even in his travels to Europe as he stayed in England for years away from his family, he had an unyielding ability to exhort patience, and to desist from anger.  Periodically while waiting for England’s response he would spend the year or so traveling – simply waiting for England to contact him.  On one account he waited for 3 years in England awaiting a delayed response.  his philosophy taught him that when he absolutely could not do anything but wait, it was best to wait in the most agreeable and profitable manner.  Later, though the disrespect and accusations England continued to make against him, he always held his head high and remained poised in every way.  When accused in a British court for ” stealing private letters, of misrepresenting their contents, that he might excite hostility against the loyal officers of the king.  He was also accused of doing this that he might eject them from office, so as to obtain the positions for himself and his friends.  Still more, he was accused of having in an unexampled spirit of meanness, availed himself of his skill as a printer, to publish the letters, and that he sold them far and wide, that he might enrich himself.  Charges better calculated to ruin a man, in the view of these proud lords, can scarcely be conceived.

During all this really terrific assailment, Franklin stood with his head resting on his left hand apparently unmoved.  At the close, he declined answering any questions.  The committee reported to the king, that said petition is founded upon false and erroneous allegations, calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a spirit of clamor and discontent in said province.  Franklin went home alone – free.  Afterwards the king released him from  Postmaster General in America as an ambassador.  This outrage was one of the most atrocious acts ever perpetrated by men above the rank of vagabonds in their drunken carousals – says the author.  In noble restrain Franklin wrote to America:

“When I see that all petitions and complaints of grievances, I am at a loss to know how peace and union are to be maintained, and restored between the different parts of the empire.”

Even with the distresses of British troops harming the American people, burning homes and assaulting civilians- he remained focus, with an incredible strength of character, despite his remorse.

His general routine in each day:

5am: awake, pray to to God, or as he referred to, “Powerful Goodness.”

The he laid out the business of the day, and directed his mind to the virtue which he intended that day and week to cherish.

He devoted himself to books for an hour and a half.

8am: Breakfast

He commenced work in his printing shop.

12pm: Dinner and rest

He then returned to the arduous labors of his shop.

6pm: He finished his labors and took supper.

He then commonly read and studied.

10pm: He retired to bed.

Around 1785 at age 79 when Ben made it back from the voyage to France, he was immediately elected Supreme Executive and chairman of the body voted in by 76 of 77 votes. Though worn-out in life, he humorously said,

“I had not firmness enough to resist the unanimous desire of my country folk; and I find myself harnessed again in their service for another year. They engrossed the prime of my life.  They have eaten my flesh and seem resolved now to pick my bones.”

Another thing I admire is how he handled the question of religion – particularly Christianity of which many of his colleagues, friends and family continued to question him on.  Throughout his life, he wavered in general regards to religion, but he always maintained a liberal stand – which is very respectful.  Toward the end of his life, his vigor and faith in God seemed to escalate.  There was a particular period as the congress began to re-evaluate the representation between smaller and larger states near 1780 and he spoke to the men, exhorting them to pray and recognize the hand of God.  He recounted what God had done for them in enabling America to separate from England.  As the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, he pointed out they continued in prayer and supplication on a regular basis, imploring the Lord for guidance.  So he simply stated – do we no longer need our friend? Let us pray each day as we go about our business.  Everyone but 3 in congress felt it necessary to pray.

From the biography  by John Stevens Cabot Abbott, I quote: It is evident that Franklin, as he approached the grave, became more devout, and he lost all confidence in the powers of philosophical speculations to reform or regenerate fallen man.  He saw that the interposition of a divine power was needed to allay the intense excitement in the convention, and to lead the impassioned members to act under the conviction that they were responsible to God.  On the 28th of June, this venerable, partriarchal man offered the following memorable resolve:

“Resolved, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in the Assembly every morning before we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

“Mr. President! The small progress we have made, after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other; our different sentiments on almost every question, is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding.

In this situation of this Assembly groping, as it were, in the dark, to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not yet hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings?

In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers, in this room, for divine protection!  Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.  All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.  To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting, in peace, on the means of establishing our future national felicity.  And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?

I have lived, sir, a long time.  And the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth; That God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his aid?  We have been assured, sir, in the sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’  I firmly believe this.  And I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building, no better than the building of Babel.”

Afterwards, when a colleague made contact with Ben to show him a book he had written and lure him into denying any sign of God towards the end of his life, he said,

“I shall only give you my opinion that, though your reasoning are subtile, and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject; and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a  great deal of odium drawn upon yourself; mischief to you and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind spits in his own face. I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance.  If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it.”

Benjamin Franklin also had a difficult time acknowledging Jesus as a Christ and Savior.  He admired and even admitted later in life what Jesus had done on this earth, and responded to friends in this regard:

“As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is like to see.  But I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity;  though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon having never studied it.  And I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.”

On his death bed, he had his maid Sarah place a painting of the Jesus on the cross, and placed it in front of Ben to easily view.  He said,

“Ay Sarah; there is a picture worth looking at.  That is the picture of him who came into this world to teach men to love one another.”

After looking at it wistfully for some time, he said, ‘Sarah, set this picture up over the mantel-piece, right before me as I lie.  I look to look at it.’

Sarah said, “When I fixed it up he looked at it very much; and indeed died with his eyes fixed upon it.”

Those who say that in this country one’s religion should be relegated to his private life alone and never be allowed to “intrude” on his public activities should study the Founding Fathers. This nation has a spiritual foundation. Its wellsprings are themselves religious. Its life is deeply rooted in faith. Ezra Taft Benson

President Wilford Woodruff performs temple work for Benjamin Franklin (1880s – late 1890s)

It is an exciting thing to think about Franklin’s comment above when he said, “And I think it needless to busy myself with it now (Jesus’ divinity), when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” As I described, Franklin always remained liberal in his view of God.  In fact he even said that he felt the idea of Christianity “has received various corrupting changes,” in which he was absolutely correct.  Every religion in his day in regards to Christianity had interpreted the scriptures so differently – the reality was there was no governing prophet on the earth, divinely called by God.  Everyone did their best to understand and apply the scriptures, but Franklin felt they were missing the mark- and so concluded that he would not spend his time trying to unravel the mystery of Christ’s divinity.  Joseph Smith (the prophet of the restoration) also felt the same dilemma I imagine, as his only interest was to seek God’s answer. You can read about Joseph Smith’s experience here.  On Franklin’s deathbed he had his maid place the painting of Jesus on the cross and wistfully observed it until he passed away.

100 years later, President Wilford Woodruff spoke of a very special experience in regards to temple service in these words: “Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, `You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.'”

After he became President of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits [and] were inspired of the Lord.”

The temple work for the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence and other Founding Fathers has been done. All these appeared to Wilford Woodruff when he was president of the St. George Temple. President George Washington was ordained a high priest at that time. You will also be interested to know that, according to Wilford Woodruff’s journal, John Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and Christopher Columbus were also ordained high priests at that time. When one casts doubt about the character of these noble sons of God, I believe he or she will have to answer to the God of heaven for it. Yes, with Lincoln I say: “To add brightness to the sun or glory to the name of Washington is . . . impossible. Let none attempt it. In solemn awe pronounce the name and in its deathless splendor, leave it shining on.”

Source: Benson, Ezra Taft, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 198

Written by marshsned

September 11, 2010 at 1:23 am