Showing posts with label gospel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gospel. Show all posts

The Gospel in My Life

Studying the scriptures through Preach My Gospel has been one of the most powerful transformations to my testimony I have ever experienced. I love Preach My Gospel, and I love the changes it has brought to me. I never realized that all the "dailies" and all the commandments we keep are functions of the gospel, and that the gospel is what brings Christ into our lives.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of salvation we, as members of the Church, are under covenant to share with the world. That message includes 5 fundamentals:
  1. Faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord, the only one who has/will ever atone for all of the sins of mankind
  2. Repentance to be reconciled with Jesus Christ for all of the sins we have ever personally committed
  3. Baptism under restored priesthood authority, as existed in Christ's church anciently
  4. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, a confirming ordinance of that same authority
  5. Enduring to the End--to become continually converted to Jesus Christ by remaining true to the gospel

That's it. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those five things are the root of true conversion. And, as I recently learned, that gospel is not just a preliminary set of steps for new members to go through. Once the first four are finished, a person does not stay permanently at step five, in a vague state of generally doing what we know we should.

No, the gospel is a repeating cycle. To endure to the end means to repeat the cycle continually. The Sacrament becomes the symbolic representation of baptism and confirmation after someone has already been baptized and confirmed. The commandments we follow are then supposed to work together as functions of that gospel, to bless our lives for good and help us grow spiritually.

I attended this talk by Elder Ballard on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I came into it hoping to gain much-needed insight on time management.

Afterwards, I realized that if I would strive to make a schedule that is based on the gospel itself, I would feel the Holy Ghost's influence more abundantly in my life. So I sat down and categorized how all the things I have to do fit into the gospel itself.

For example, I was reminded that scripture study is inseparably tied to faith in Jesus Christ. It has been my experience that faith in Jesus Christ is almost impossible to maintain unless you consistently read the scriptures--especially the Book of Mormon. Personally, that's also where I chose to classify my studies and college classes because in order for them to be worth my time and money, they need to be building my faith in Jesus Christ. I've found that when I put forth the effort to find Christ in even my most secular subjects, He makes it possible for me to understand many lessons that only He can teach me.

Repentance, for me, is largely grounded in prayer. Once I understood that a crucial part of my prayers needed to be daily repentance, it became a lot easier for me to remember to pray every day, and for my prayers to be more than 30 seconds long. When prayers are a constant vehicle for repentance, they become the conversational prayers I have heard so many teachers strongly recommend, but never instruct anyone on how to begin. For someone who is trying to have more conversational prayers with the Lord, I would recommend starting with adding repentance to them each and every day.

Baptism by immersion was an interesting one. I associated that with temple worship because I'm still in the baptism-by-proxy phase of my temple experience. But this could also apply to the Sacrament, and thereby Church attendance. Because baptisms performed outside the temple are almost identical to the ones performed inside, the jump from the first to the second is not hard to make. But how often do we think of Church meetings as being a place to be immersed in the goodness of God? That's what Zion and the Church are supposed to be like--and whether they are or not depends entirely on what we personally put into them, i.e. all of ourselves. If we continually plop ourselves down in a chair and expect to be spiritually fed without putting any effort into it, we will continue to be disappointed when that feeling of immersion does not come.

The one that jumped out to me the strongest, however, was receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. This made me think of the priesthood, and the question I had to ask myself was "How can I get the priesthood to be more of an active force in my life?" The answer that came to me immediately was the Relief Society, and thereby Visiting Teaching. (If you're curious as to how I made that jump, read this and this.) FHE also came to mind, which actually surprised me way more than Relief Society and Visiting Teaching did. I never thought of FHE as being a means of having the priesthood in my life. As I continued to ponder, I realized that service opportunities fit well under this one because the Holy Ghost inspires people to serve. The laying on of hands in itself is a giving act--one we are commanded to extend to anyone who will receive it.

I have a white board I use to do my planning and time management, and I decided to color code each of the four principles with its own color. I plan to continue doing so as I implement this plan, in order to track the gospel's presence in my life. Once I can build the habits of following through with my plans, and assessing my performance, I can more easily identify how to add things to my life when I feel I need extra help in an area. By being a careful steward over the gospel's influence in my life, I can fortify myself against temptation and the attempts of the adversary to lead me astray.

From this I have learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a catch-all phrase to describe every good thing. The gospel is how every good thing--every commandment, every truth, every principle--is tied to Jesus Christ. When we see those connections as they really are, and keep them unimpeded in our lives, we magnify the ability of God to bless us and endow us with great faith and power. We become more true to what we know, disciples of Jesus Christ. Our light is more able to shine because it is more easily magnified through our righteous actions, and I know that as I strive to lay that gospel foundation in my life, that gospel will lay a foundation in me for greater things to come.

I testify of this in the holy name of my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, whose gospel this is. Even so, Amen.

Water, Blood, & Spirit

It has been my pleasure to visit the Museum of Art since I've been living on campus, and I wish I would have started going there sooner. Quiet meditation has proven to be very good for me--something I managed to forget after Christmas break because I've been too nervous and conscious about spending too much time alone. It should have occurred to me that Satan (or perhaps just my lack of good sense) would try to convince me that something that is actually very good for me would be a mistake.

But I digress.

This painting by Ron Richard illustrates a section in Moses 6 from the Pearl of Great Price that has weighed heavily on my mind since my Pearl of Great Price professor emphasized it in class not too long ago. The part I want to emphasize is in from verses 59-62:
Photo of Triplus No. 3, painted by Ron Richmond
On display at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art
59 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;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
62 And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time.

I sat in front of this painting for a long time, contemplating the symbolism in what I was seeing, and how the image before me represented the Plan of Salvation, and the more I thought about the completeness of the representation, the happier I became because I saw how perfectly everything fit together--but more importantly because I could feel it was true.

In verse 59, it presents an ordered list of water, blood, and Spirit. The order of the list is relevant, both forwards and backwards, because of everything it illustrates. For the sake of simplifying my life, I'm simply going to list what I've come up with so far:

  • The Godhead - Spirit would obviously represent the Holy Ghost, and the blood Christ, but what I found to be profound was that Heavenly Father would be represented as water. So simple, yet so essential and inseparable from everything we are, and living itself.
  • Spirit birth - As it was explained to me in my Pearl of Great Price class, we simply do not know much about the birth of our spirits. Verse 59 states that water, blood, spirit, and dust became a living soul, and I won't pretend like I begin to understand what that means. It probably has something to do with the fact that bodies are referred to in the scriptures as tabernacles of clay, in which case the "clay" has been consecrated to be a "tabernacle." It seems that only when our spirit is joined with our body that this consecration is complete.
  • The Creation - Because the earth was created spiritually before it was created temporally, it has a spirit and must go through the same baptismal process as we do. Its baptism by water occurred at the flood, and by blood when Christ atoned for our sins in Gethsemane. When the earth undergoes baptism by fire at the second coming, it will be for the purpose of purifying the earth and preparing it for the work that will continue after His coming.
  • The Fall - The Fall was a necessary transition from the spirit world to the mortal world, or between Spirit and blood. Life does not end with mortality, however, and we must be cleansed through the blood of Christ's atonement before we can progress as purified beings and return to Heavenly Father's presence.
  • The Atonement - Much of the Christian community mistakingly thinks the Atonement took place only upon the cross at Calvary, which is why Latter-day Saints often get weird looks about not holding the cross as a symbol of our faith. In actuality, the Atonement began in the garden of Gethsemane where Christ took upon Him the sins of the world and bled from every pore. He gave up the protection of the Spirit, His blood, and His divinity in that moment in order to be the kind of sacrifice He had to be to save us all. Only "an infinite and eternal sacrifice" of a God would be able to atone for the sins of the world, and by giving up His Spirit, blood, and water, Christ was able to do that for us. (Alma 34: 10)
  • Baptism - Baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes many specific details that were restored to the earth in order that the ceremony and covenant would be in harmony with what it was supposed represent. We believe in baptism by full immersion; the entire body has to go under water to represent death to the natural man. Then, by the laying on of hands (a part of the body), we can be confirmed, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is then conferred upon us, and we can have that constant companionship, according to our worthiness.
  • Eternity - In Doctrine and Covenants 76, we learn that the kingdom of heaven has three separate kingdoms; the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial kingdoms.
    • The Telestial kingdom is the one I have the hardest time understanding because I'm not sure how to distinguish the Telestial kingdom from Perdition and outer darkness, but the Spirit part of this metaphor makes it a lot clearer. Outer darkness would be receiving none of God's substance. The Telestial Kingdom, however, would be like receiving of angelic ministry and spirits, but nothing more.
    • The Terrestrial kingdom will essentially be like the Garden of Eden, where God's children who were righteous temporally will no longer live in carnality or sin of blood and body, but will not have the fullest joy because they also cannot bear children.
    • The Celestial kingdom in the greatest glory that God can bestow upon His children, comparable to the exceeding brilliance of the sun's light. Only in this realm, we believe, can Heavenly Father's sons and daughters become gods and goddesses. What most people don't realize is that such a thought is hardly blasphemous because it isn't possible without Heavenly Father. Period. It requires all the purity of water, metaphorically speaking, and nothing less will ever get someone to that point. While we've all been given the choice to be that pure, and many still are being taught about the choices they have to make in order to inherit that grace, the bar is high because it's a matter of becoming, not a matter of passing the test until you can get through the door. Someone once expressed to me that most people probably won't be going there because of how hard it is to get there, and I believe that from what I've seen in my life. Purity is the highest law because it requires a complete transformation. To go from red blood to clear water would require nothing short of a miraculous transformation.

This is just a list of what I have time to go into now, but I imagine you could take just about anything that God has made, any part of His plan of salvation, and these elements will be a part of it somewhere. Thinking ahead to the day when I receive my Endowment, I really do wonder how much of what I'm being taught will also be evident in those temple covenants. That knowledge is not the kind of thing I would ever seek before my time, but I do know that the Spirit has a way of teaching and preparing us ahead of time for many things that might have otherwise been overwhelming. For now, I am satisfied with the truth I have been given, and find great joy in pondering on it still.

I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to be in such a spiritual community where I can be worthy to receive such beautiful teachings. I also testify that if we will seek out the Spirit of God, it will teach us lessons that will bring us to an understanding of our Father's world and what marvelous, miraculous gifts He has given to us, His children. I testify of the joy he has given me, and my heart swells to know that an infinite and eternal deity, my Heavenly Father, would care so much about me to teach me of His artistry so that I can come home; because at the end of the day--after water, blood, and Spirit rest from His labors--that's the only place I want to be.

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