This has been a hard lesson for me, whether it was because I have so much to learn about becoming Christ-like or Satan really wanted to test my ability to become Christ-like, I don't know. But it has been quite a struggle to learn and then decide what we needed to talk about today.
One of the things that I found helpful was learning yet again, that we are not expected to be perfect, just moving forward. As mortals we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. In that way we learn at our pace and in the manner best suited for us. Some of us are going gang busters, some are lagging behind, but the point is to keep moving forward.
Another thing that has helped me prepare has been reviewing the visiting teaching messages for this year. The thought came to me that how can we hope to become more Christ-like if we don't understand who he is, and these lessons have been very clear in pointing out to us some of his divine attributes. So lets review the topics of these lessons so far this year:
Without guile or hypocrisy
Forgiving and merciful
meek and humble
powerful and full of glory
Most of these I think are self explanatory, but still worth pondering. However last month Sister Healey was giving the lesson, meek and humble, and she told me that the word meek bothered her concerning the Savior. She had always thought of being meek as being weak, and had never thought of the Savior as being weak. So she decided to look up the word meek, she used the scriptures of course and the dictionary and a couple other sources and these are some of the definitions she came up with:
patient under suffering
opposite of the natural man, as in put off the natural man and become meek
meekness takes in injuries like pills, not chewing but swallowing them down so that they may be overlooked and forgiven
and my favorite – refers to a war horse that is bridled and ready for battle
Of all the lessons so far I think that has been my favorite just because of what Sister Healey taught me about meekness and the pondering within my self that it started. When it comes to the war horse thing, can you just picture a powerful horse, armed with shields and weapons, stomping it's feet, ready to charge, and yet completely obedient to its rider?
Jesus Christ has all power, he used that power to create this world, to work miracles, to Atone for us. None of which he was forced to do, he chose to be obedient, to subject his will to the father in all things. If we can learn one thing from Christ I would like it to be that!
But we are not ready for that perfection yet, so how do we get there?
I'm going to take quite a bit of our lesson today from Elder David A Bednar's talk, Ye must be born again, or as it's become better known, the parable of the pickle. This talk gives us a great outline to work from. We will become like Christ by learning how to make pickles.
So, to make pickles we must first start with a ….......cucumber. You'd be surprised how many people don't know that!
Once we have our cucumbers they must be prepared and cleaned. You scrub off the dirt, remove the stems. In our lives we are also prepared and cleaned. We must become spiritually changed and transformed, changed from a fallen state to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters.
We often experience this change as we gain a testimony and desire to know more and become better people.
The cleaning would of course come through the priesthood ordinance of.......baptism.
The scriptures tell us
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)
Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins (D&C 84:26-27)
The next step in making pickles is immersing and saturating. The cucumber is immersed in and saturated with salt brine. Depending on your recipe it can sit over night or for a few days.
We must be immersed and saturated by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We become that as we make and keep sacred covenants, as we feast upon the words of Christ, as we pray unto the Father and as we serve with all our might, mind and strength.
Lets read Mosiah 5:7
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; therefor, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
Our spiritual rebirth does not happen over night or even all at once. Again it's almost always line upon line. Often we can't see or feel the change unless we look backwards and then we can see the progress, the change. Gradually our thoughts, our deeds, our words and our actions become more in line with the will of God.
You can't immerse a cucumber for 5 minutes in a brine and pronounce it a pickle, neither can we have one spiritual experience or moment of clarity and become born again and change our lives. Even if that did work, our spirits require daily feeding or we backslide. A testimony is a living thing, it's either moving forward and growing or moving backward and shrinking.
So to recap so far:
We begin our process of becoming christ-like or spiritually reborn by exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion by the correct authority.
Elder Bednar has a wonderful way of describing, probably all of us at some point or another, by telling us that we cannot achieve our goal by sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ. Blessings of eternity come from fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment and offering our whole souls to God.
By that definition I believe that I need more practice! I think most of us feel these things often, do these things often, but on a daily basis we may get side tracked more often than we would like to admit.
The next step in our pickle making is the 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.
Lets read Helaman 3:35
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
When Elder Bednar talks about sealing, in this talk he points out that he's not exclusively talking about eternal marriage, he's using the word as it's used in D&C 79: 50-53 which reads:
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.
Elder Bednar explains that 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. We receive this “stamp of approval” as a result of faithfulness, integrity and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants. However this sealing can be forfeited through unrighteousness and transgression.
I have heard of the Holy Spirit of promise many times. I'm not sure I really understood it or that it sank in until now. Now that I understand a little more of what it is and means, it encourages me to work on receiving that “stamp of approval” in my life, my marriage, all things.
OK, so now we have become pickles! What's next?
We desire that all men become pickles! We do missionary work. Now as we talk about this I want you to think of your children, your ancestors as well as your friends and neighbors, for we must all become converted and reborn.
As we think of Christ as a missionary, we first think of how he loved and served the people. He also set a perfect example of living the way you believe. He was not a Sunday servant, nor should we be. We should be the same people inside this building as we are outside, and hopefully that's a good person! But we love, we serve, we invite. You never know who is watching you or how the neighbors or work place people will accept the next person because of your example.
There are countless stories of meals taken in, children watched, lawns mowed, hands held. This applies to planting the seeds, to inviting them to missionary lessons, to retaining those who join. We all know we have to forgive each other on a daily basis, not one of us is perfect, but we also know that people need to know they are loved and they are needed and they have a place with us. This applies to new members, old member, family members, it applies to everyone.
So we love, we set a good example, we serve, we invite.
We learn in the D&C section 1 that we all can do this, I'll paraphrase
And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days
The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones
That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world
And inasmuch as they are humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high
I know many missionaries go out thinking, how in the world am I supposed to do this, but they have this promise. We open our mouths and do our part and we will be blessed.
President Eyring tells us that there is a pattern when people have truly accepted the invitation to come unto Christ. It doesn't matter if they are young or old or convert or just gaining their own testimony.
This is the pattern:
They come to feel that the only way they can have the happiness they want most in this life or in the world to come is through Jesus Christ.
This comes most powerfully when we are telling people of our own experiences with the Atonement in our life, bearing our own testimonies and bearing our own witness to them
They make a commitment to be obedient and learn as they are obedient they feel better. It starts as a commitment to pray or to read the Book of Mormon and as they keep that commitment they feel something. They may not be able to define it in words, but they feel better and that gives them the desire to be obedient in more ways.
Then they strive to be like him. They begin to do unto others as he would do to them. They desire to follow his example and cling to his word.
Through all of this a wonderful thing happens, we experience a mighty change of heart, we come to know Christ and more and more we desire to be like him, we come to know him.
So lets talk about some common potholes we fall prey to as we strive to become more like Christ.
How about envy, it comes in a lot of forms, its totally human.
A common tale of envy comes from the scriptures. There was a householder who went out early to hire labourers. He employed the first group at 6am, returned with another group at 9am, then at 12pm and again at 3pm.
At the end of the day all were paid the same wage. The ones who had worked all day complained, hey that's not fair, we worked all day they worked a couple hours. Elder Jeffrey R Holland explains that no one was being treated unfairly, each worker had agreed to the wage, each worker was paid that amount. The householder explains; my friends, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage. You were very happy to get the work, and I am very happy with the way you served. You are paid in full. Take your pay and enjoy the blessing. As for the others, surely I am free to do what I like with my own money. Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?
He goes on to teach us something probably a little closer to what we all experience at once time or another.
Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt and certainly not to feel envious when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.
Elder Holland reminds us that this isn't just a story, it's about God's goodness, patience and forgiveness and of course about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It's a story about grace and mercy, generosity and compassion.
He says, it underscores the thing God enjoys most about being God, the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don't expect it and often feel they don't deserve it.
Moroni 7: 45
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Another pothole is forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive one another. Sometimes that is hard! Sometimes we feel justified in how we judge another but the apostle Paul said
that those who pass judgment on others are inexcusable! The moment we judge someone else we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin. And refusing to forgive is a grievous sin.
President Uchtdorf taught us this principle in two words, STOP IT!
He goes on to say
It's that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thought and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don't know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging other with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, don't judge me because I sin differently then you.
We must recognize that we are all imperfect, that we are beggars before God. Haven't we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven't we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy, to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves?
Forgiving other is not easy, it requires a major change in our attitude and our way of thinking. Again, it requires a mighty change of heart! If you think you have no problem with forgiving, just wait, it's an important principle to learn and sooner or later we are all given the opportunity to learn to forgive.
Christ taught us to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. We will not be asked to endure what Christ did and some of the last words he uttered before his death was a plea to the His Father to forgive those who had crucified him.
What possible excuse do we have not to forgive?
Another pothole I want to address is to remain teachable. As I've said before testimonies are a living thing, they are either growing or dying, so thinking you know it all or there isn't possibly anything else you could learn is a slippery slope.
The prophet Abraham tells us why he believed he was so greatly blessed, he said, he lived a life desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God.
Desiring to receive instructions is more than being willing to listen, it's a willingness to learn and then make the changes that are needed in our lives.
Joseph Smith appeared in a vision to Brigham Young shortly after his death and gave him this instruction; Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom.
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time
Be thou humble; and the Lord the God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to they prayers.
Being teachable means being humble. King Lamoni said, I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead and be saved at the last day.
I once heard a talk based on that statement, can't remember who gave it. They talked about all our everyday sins, nothing big, nothing earth shaking, but the little everyday things we do. Then they made a list of what some of those might be, gossiping, judging what our neighbor looked like at the bus stop, being envious of the brother in laws new car, lying about how much something cost, watching an R rated movie, reading a slightly but really good suggestive book, a whole bunch of things. We were asked, how closely do you hold these sins? Would you be willing to give them all away? Which ones will you hold tightly to?
Being teachable also means being obedient to the instruction we receive.
Elder Marion D Hanks tells of a time that he was touring a mission and had decided to interview each of the missionaries. He asked a sister missionary how she felt about being a missionary.
She told Elder Hanks about her father, a humble farmer who had always sacrificed much for the Lord and his kingdom. He was already providing for two of his sons as they served on missions when he came to her one day and talked with her about her unexpressed desires to be a missionary and he explained to her how the Lord had helped him to prepare to help sustain her.
He had gone into the fields one day to talk with the Lord. He explained to him that he had no more material possessions to sell or sacrifice or to use as collateral for borrowing, so he needed to know how to help his daughter be able to serve.
He felt the prompting to plant onions. He thought he had misunderstood. Onions would not likely grown well in this climate, no one else was growing onions and he had no experience growing onions.
He wrestled with the Lord for a while trying to make him understand these things, but the Lord told him again to plant onions.
So he borrowed money from the bank, purchased seeds, planted and nurtured and prayed over his onions.
The elements were tempered that year, the onions prospered. He sold the crop, paid his debt to the bank, the government and the Lord and put the remainder in an account under his daughters name, it was enough to sustain her throughout her mission.
She told Elder Hanks with tears in her eyes, I don't have any trouble believing in a loving Heavenly Father who knows my needs and will help me according to his wisdom if I and humble enough.
So Humble, teachable and then act upon what we learn.
Can we come unto Christ? Can we become more like him?
read your scriptures
if you have not made covenants, make them
if you have made them and broken them, repair them, repent, try again
immerse yourself in the good word of God and his gospel
follow Christs example, love, serve, teach
avoid potholes, another blessings do not diminish you
be humble, be teachable – if you will not learn, he will keep trying to teach you and the lessons get harder! This life is our school, we were sent here to learn to be like him, be teachable!
act upon what you learn
line upon line, precept upon precept, the more you learn and act, the more you will be taught, the more you will know him, the more you will be like him.
I will give away all my sins to know thee, may we all be willing to do so