I thought I would share pages from a book I've been writing about Sanctification.
I hope it is not TOO lengthy.
This book is about sanctification; what it is, what happens to us, and how it happens to us.
The LDS Guide to the Scriptures says that sanctification is the "process of becoming free from sin, pure, clean, and holy through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." (1)
In his book "More Holiness Give Me", Robert L. Millet has this to say about sanctification:
"Only in and through the Savior can we be changed and renewed, made clean and free from guilt and shame, relieved of the anxiety and unhealthy dread associated with fearful living. As we properly confess our sins and forsake them, the blood of Christ sanctifies us from worldliness and from a stilted view of things. The more pure we become -- and this purity comes only through Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost -- the more clearly we are able to see things as they really are. When we continue in sin, we are unable to see things clearly; we see things as we are, not as they are in reality. But the power of the Atonement give us a new heart and a new mind and new eyes with which to see things. We feel and think and perceive an entirely new realm of reality." (2)
From the definition and quote just cited, some important truths emerge regarding sanctification:
1) It is a life-long process.
2) It is powered by the Atonement of Christ and administered unto us through the Holy Ghost.
3) Through this process we become more like Jesus Christ. We literally become new creatures!
Millions of members of the Church, especially new converts or previously inactive members, can attest to the power of God working in their lives; changing attitudes and behaviors from the inside out. They remember how they used to be. They know that they are different now. But the process -- what happened to them -- seems to be a mystery. They know that God was involved, but they don't know what He did to them or how He did it. They know only that the change within them is real and that the human tongue has no way to express adequately their profound gratitude!
Perhaps the most widely known scriptural example of this "mighty change" is the conversion story of Alma the Younger. He and the four sons of Mosiah were going around seeking to destroy the church. Because of the righteousness of his father, an angel appeared unto Alma and commanded him to stop his wickedness. Alma fell into a comatose state, and for 3 days was racked with the pains of a damned soul. He relates what happened in his own words:
"And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there. But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God. Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." (Alma 36:16-24, emphasis added)
I submit that the reason why this "change of heart" is not evident or measurable is because this process is not really observable "in the moment". While with Alma the Younger it was quite dramatic, with most of us it happens so gradually that from day to day we may not even notice the changes. The important thing to remember is that the changes we experience are just as real as Alma the Younger's, and just as crucial to our eventual exaltation.
The closest comparison to the process of sanctification, as it happens for most of us, would be the growth and development of my own children. Because I am with them every day, the changes in their physical appearance and their behavior are not so evident to me. It's like watching corn grow. Measured daily, you can barely tell a difference. But when we take a short road trip down to St. George to visit my grandparents, they are amazed at how much our children have changed! It is interesting for my wife and me to hear comments from them like "Oh, look how your son has sprouted" or "Goodness how your daughter's face has changed!" To my grandparents, who have not seen their great grandchildren for several months, the changes are readily apparent to them. Our own sanctification process works somewhat like this. Because we are the ones experiencing it, we do not detect or cannot readily identify the changes within us. But they are no less real, and probably would be very noticeable to those who knew us before we experienced those changes. Another example of this can be found in return missionaries. These young men and women leave home at a young age and return after 2 years of serving the Lord, often with dramatic changes having taken place concerning their testimony of the gospel.
In the pages of this book I am going to attempt to explain the "how" of this gradual sanctification process. It is my contention that Heavenly Father has revealed to us some marvelous truths regarding sanctification and how it works. I think that all we lack is knowing where these scriptures are and then reading those scriptures in the right light.
I am of the opinion that it does not offend or bother the Lord in any way when we undertake to "peek behind the magic curtain" of His power and understand how He operates! I believe that He wants us to be not only recipients of His power, but also understand the actual process itself.
Parts of this book, especially the chapter "By Small Means", are possible only because of some ideas I was exposed to while listening to a talk by the late W. Cleon Skousen. His talk, titled "A Personal Search for the Meaning of the Atonement", was given to a group of missionaries in Texas back in 1980. His talk goes into great detail on the subject of eternal law and the source of God's power. I am going to present many of those same concepts in the chapter I just mentioned, but in a way that lays the foundation for discussing the sanctification process.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The ideas in this book, except where otherwise noted, are my own. The concepts I am exploring in this book are nothing more than my attempt to understand and share my feelings about some important doctrines that I believe to be true, but I certainly do not do so in an official capacity. I do so only as a humble layperson who loves the Lord very much. Hopefully the ideas I present will complement what the scriptures and the Brethren have revealed, not detract from them. I invite each reader to take from these pages only that which uplifts and edifies.
2. Millet, Robert L. More Holiness Give Me, p 177.
I AM CONSIDERING REMOVING THIS CHAPTER FROM THE BOOK. WHILE IT TOUCHES ON IMPORTANT THINGS, I AM NOT SURE HOW WELL IT FITS. MAYBE AS AN APPENDIX?
PERHAPS AN APPENDIX ON FAITH, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM and GIFT OF HOLY GHOST AS WELL? ERRRR....
Before we begin our discussion of sanctification, I would like to talk about an event of great importance in our spiritual progression. This event signifies the actual beginning of true discipleship; the rebirth, or "baptism of the Spirit."
The rebirth is what happens to us when we actually receive the Holy Ghost. You will recall that after baptism, we have hands placed upon our head and are confirmed members of the Church. Furthermore we are instructed to "receive the Holy Ghost."
Elder David A. Bednar said:
"Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement 'receive the Holy Ghost' in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit." (1)
What I understand this to mean is that even though we are directed to strive for the baptism of the Spirit, we may not actually receive the baptism of the Spirit until many years after our actual baptism. While we have the Gift of the Holy Ghost right from the day of our baptism and confirmation, we have not received the baptism of the Spirit. When we finally do receive it, we experience a complete remission of our sins, which is the rebirth.
It is possible that you have already experienced the rebirth and didn't realize it. If you have consciously put the Lord first in your life, if you feel great joy and peace in your life from day to day, if reading the scriptures and praying to your Father in Heaven feels as necessary to you as food and water, then you have experienced the rebirth and did not know it.
As you read the following passages of scripture, search your own heart and ask yourself if you feel these same feelings.
"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19, emphasis added)
"And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought 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, emphasis added)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
If you feel these same feelings within you, then you have experienced the rebirth. These feelings are the fruits of the rebirth. As with all godly attributes they begin as tiny seeds and will need to be nourished in order to grow and mature "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ"(Eph 4:13).
All Saints who seek to enter the Celestial Kingdom must undergo this change:
"And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3, emphasis added)
"And the Lord said unto me: 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 27:26-26, emphasis added)
"Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness." (Alma 7:14, emphasis added)
I would like to take a minute and explain the relationship between Faith, Hope and Charity. The Lord has said:
"Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness." (Ether 12:28, emphasis added)
From this verse we can see that faith, hope and charity do something very specific. They bring us unto Christ. Their importance cannot be overemphasized! We can find these 3 specific attributes listed together in several other passages of scripture. (see Moro. 7: 1, 44; Moro. 10: 20-21; 1 Cor. 13: 13; Moro. 8: 14; D&C 4: 5; D&C 6: 19; D&C 12: 8 and D&C 18: 19)
We are to partner with the Lord in order to nourish and strengthen our faith, hope, and charity. Faith, hope and charity are intertwined and build upon each other. When exercised, faith is rewarded. When faith is rewarded it is increased. The increased faith is exercised anew and the process repeats itself over and over again. In time, our faith become unshaken, specifically, our faith in a glorious resurrection. Because we love and trust the Lord and His promises (due to our obedience having been rewarded) we come to know that our resurrection will be glorious. This is what it means to have hope. Hope in Christ. We simply cannot have our faith rewarded without having our trust in the Lord increase and our hope in a glorious resurrection become sure and certain. This increased Hope gives us peace of mind regarding our own salvation and allows us to focus on others. Thus it leads us to charity, for we seek that others may also be similarly blessed!
Now, if you do not feel that you have experienced this rebirth yet, then it is because you have not yet put the Lord FIRST in your life. We must each examine our hearts with care, and determine if the Lord truly comes first.
In other words, if the Lord has a place of importance to you, but He does not come FIRST in importance, then you will find the rebirth to be difficult to achieve. Critically examine your life as it stands right now and resolve to follow the promptings of the Spirit as your receive them. As you obey what you are prompted to do, more promptings will come. This is what it means to put the Lord first in your life. By placing a premium on the Voice of the Lord, or the promptings of the Holy Ghost! Do this for long enough, and you will find the rebirth will not be far distant. There is no magic formula for this. You will know when you are putting the things of God first in your life, for the Lord will whisper to you that such is the case. If you feel no such assurance, then a few moments of quiet reflection is usually all that is needed to find out what you lack.
It is impossible for someone who has experienced the rebirth to describe adequately how it feels to another person. The human tongue has no way to form the words needed. All I can say is, it is necessary, and you will understand it when it happens. Place the Lord first in your life. The rebirth will happen sooner than you think and it will be breathtaking.
Part of the reason I am describing and emphasizing the need for this rebirth is because I feel it is essential to have experienced it prior to reading this book. The reason is this: Those who have been reborn are new creatures. Because they are new creatures, they place a premium on the things of the Spirit that their old "man of sin" did not. I can think of no topic that is more closely tied to the Spirit than that of sanctification.
This is no supposed arrogance on my part as to the complexity of the subject. It is more about personal revelation than my ability to describe the topic at hand. Those who have been reborn already understand that no clever combination of words will convey the message, no matter how skillful and articulate the author!
But the more important reason I encourage the reader to participate in the process and experience it is because it is required of all men and women before they will be allowed to enter the Celestial Kingdom! While quoting Joseph Smith, Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve said (1):
"You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost" (History of the Church, 5:499). We were baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in the Spirit of the Lord, "and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost" (2 Nephi 31:17).
That you may experience the rebirth in your life is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen!
1. David A. Bednar, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign, May 2006, 28. Emphasis added.
2. David A. Bednar, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign, May 2006, 28
BY SMALL MEANS
The God we worship is a God of miracles. The miracles that are recorded in scripture demonstrate God's love for His children. They show that He has the power to bless His children, heal His children, provide for their needs and even protect them from utter destruction. Miracles are called such because we cannot explain their origins as being other than divine; beyond the power of mortals.
One such miracle that Jesus performed at the beginning of His ministry was turning water into wine (see John 2:1-11). As "mere mortals" we do not have the ability to perform this transformation. I would like to showcase this miracle; I want to analyze it and see what we can learn from it. I hope to show the reader how this miracle sheds light on the source of God's power and thus explain the means by which our own sanctification is brought about.
In turning water into wine, there are some fundamental challenges we would face. These same challenges did not hinder the Lord at all. Let me list a few points of interest that came to mind as I pondered this miracle:
1) Chemically, water is a much different substance than wine. Water's chemical representation is H2O. Wine's chemical representation is: C6H12O6 — 2CO2 + 2C2H5OH (Sugar Carbon Dioxide Ethyl Alcohol) (1). Even a non-Chemist such as myself can tell that the wine is more complex chemically. Water is missing the needed Carbon atoms present in the wine.
2) Jesus was able to produce what was described as a very good wine in a very short period of time. Normally, a good wine takes several years to ferment properly. But in the description of the miracle record in John, I got the impression that the water changed into wine virtually instantaneously! We know it was a very good quality of wine because the governor of the feast complained that the best wine had been saved for last, instead having been served first as was customary.
3) From the description of the miracle, it seems Jesus invoked the transformation of the water into wine by mental telepathy. He thought the thought and it just happened!
So, to be able to duplicate this miracle, one would have to be able to:
1) Command the elements at a subatomic or particle level.
2) Accelerate the fermentation process (speed up time, or not have it be an issue).
3) Do these things telepathically.
Clearly, any one of these 3 abilities is beyond the power and comprehension of most people. Yet Jesus did it effortlessly. I propose that there does exist a valid scriptural explanation for how Jesus was able to turn water into wine. It has to do with intelligence and element and how they relate to one another.
Now, I did not just pull this concept out of thin air. As I stated in the Introduction there is a talk by a famous LDS author, W. Cleon Skousen, that sets forth this relationship between intelligence and element. Brother Skousen specifically talks about how water being turned into wine is an example of this relationship between intelligence and element.
The scriptures do not talk about intelligence and element with great regularity. You have dig a little bit to find the verses, but they are there. One such passage is D&C 93:29-30.
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Let's list the concepts that are brought forth from these 2 verses:
1) We have existed for as long as God has. Both God as well as ourselves are classified as intelligences. Intelligences cannot be created or made. The difference between God and ourselves is that God has reached His exaltation, while we are still seeking to obtain it.
2) We are independent entities, free to act for ourselves. Were it not structured this way, the universe would not exist.
To really bring this home for the reader I would like to quote a series of verses from the book of Abraham that describe the creation of this earth. I am going to emphasize in bold the phrases that demonstrate the concept of agency as it relates to intelligence.
Abr. 4: 10, 12, 21, 25
10 And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.
• • •
12 And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.
• • •
21 And the Gods prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters were to bring forth abundantly after their kind; and every winged fowl after their kind. And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good.
• • •
25 And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey.
When we see a phrase like this repeated in scripture over and over, it is done for a reason. It is God's way of saying, "Pay attention, this is important". That is what is happening in the above scriptures. Over and over we see the phrase "and saw that they would be obeyed."
What is being suggested here is that the elements had the ability to obey the commands of God, and by inference, disobey His commands as well!
Now, in and of itself, dirt has no ability to obey. It is just element. It is just dirt. But if you attach intelligence to it, now you can accomplish something. You can talk to that intelligence and it will obey. It drags the element it is attached to along with it.
So if we apply this concept to the miracle of turning water into wine, we arrive at this conclusion:
Water alone = no capacity to obey.
Water + Intelligence = capacity to obey.
An analogy that demonstrates this relationship is the difference between the locomotive and the box cars it pulls along behind it. Without the engine, the box cars cannot move. But once you attach the engine to the cars, they can be moved. So if we extend this analogy to our current hypothesis, the engine would be the intelligences, the box cars would be the elements.
Lehi described this relationship in 2 Nephi 2:13-14:
13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.(2)
Lehi is presenting the "building blocks" concept of all of creation.
Things that act. (intelligence)
Things that are acted upon. (element)
God understands this relationship between intelligence and element, and uses this relationship to accomplish His purposes. Lehi explained that without this relationship there could have been "no creation of things" and that "all things must have vanished away".
To summarize, when Jesus turned water into wine, He commanded the intelligences which were attached to the water. He commaned the intelligences to re-arrange the water into a new substance. In this particular case, the new substance Jesus asked for was wine. But the new substance could just as easily have been oil or vinegar or gasoline or lemonade. It was the intelligences which obeyed, "dragging" the particles that formed the water along with them (so to speak).
This answers the "how" of the miracles. Not just turning water into wine, but the parting of the Red Sea, returning sight to blind, hearing to the deaf, beautiful pink skin to the lepers, and even the restoration of life to the dead.
But why do intelligences obey Jesus? Do they have a choice in the matter?
The answers to these questions also reside in scripture.
In pre-mortal councils, Lucifer asked God for His power in a very unusual way. Let us read the verse that documents Lucifer's request and pay careful attention to what Lucifer asks for:
And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
Lucifer asked for God's honor, meaning, His honor that he has with the intelligences of the universe. The intelligences that are the foundation of our existence. They obey God because they respect and honor Him. They can do this because God obeys eternal law. His obedience has placed Him in a position of honor and respect with these intelligences.
This honor that God has among the intelligences of the universe is why the water was able to be turned into wine. This is why agency plays such a crucial role in the Plan of Salvation. Eternal law dictates that we must chose exaltation or damnation. It cannot be forced upon us.
Eternal law works both ways. We know that not all of creation honors God. A full third of the hosts of heaven decided to follow their own course, to follow the alternate plan outlined by Lucifer. As a necessary and unavoidable consequence of that decision, they were cast out from the presence of God and their progression was damned for all eternity. Again, not because the Father does not love them, but because He must honor our agency! Eventually these disobedient spirits will face total dissolution. They will be cast out into outer darkness and will return to their native element (2). While we are free to choose our course and to act according to our will, we are not free from the consequences of those acts. This universe is a universe of cause and effect. Those who obey are exalted through the merits of Christ and receive a Kingdom of Glory. Those who disobey are not. They are exposed to the full weight of Justice. It has to function this way. No use trying to change it. We can accept it, reject it, or even try to ignore it, but none of that does away with the reality of it!!
So, God commands the intelligences of the universe. Those intelliegences can attach themselves to elements. Because they are attached to the elements, miracles become possible, such as turning water into wine. We are organized intelligences. It stands to reason that if God can turn water into wine, then He can perform similar miracles with us as well. Understanding that this is true is important to our understanding of the process of our own sanctification. We'll spend a lot more time on this relationship in the next chapter.
2. D.H. Wells, Jounal of Discourses, 5:42.
CHANGES ARE HAPPENING
The human body is an amazing construct. It has the ability to adapt to circumstance and behave differently depending upon how it is acted upon. To know this is true, think about the process of body building. Over time, a muscle that is repeatedly worked to exhaustion, torn-down and healed, torn-down and healed, grows larger and stronger than before. It does this in order to compensate for the demand being placed upon it. This is a natural law.
Our spirits have the same ability, but the underlying spiritual laws at work are slightly different.
For our spirits, what causes us to adapt and respond and behave differently comes from being acted upon not by physical force, but by being acted upon by God. This is God's grace.
What are our spirits comprised of? Intelligences. Those tiny building-blocks of the universe we discussed in the last chapter! The same building-blocks that were present in the water when it was turned into wine. Except in our case, those intelligences are organized. They are organized into a spirit body. But that body is still comprised of intelligence, is it not?
So if God can turn water into wine, doesn't it stand to reason that he can turn pride into humility, hate into love, fear into courage or anger into happiness? Of course He can! He does it by re-ordering the intelligences that comprise us, such that we begin to think and act differently. The intelligences do so because of the honor that God has with them. Over time that change becomes permanent. We find that we have indeed become new creatures!
When God speaks of His ability to change our hearts and our natures, if we will but ask Him to do so, this is what is happening. He is speaking to those intelligences and He is asking them to re-arrange such that our desire to sin is first reduced, then taken away completely. And it happens. We can no more describe the changes in us than we can see with our naked eye the water turning into wine, but the process is the same, and the results no less miraculous. We become new creatures because God has reached in and changed our make-up. The intelligences were finally able to align themselves with his will. Our fledgling obedience made it possible to qualify for it, but only God's honor with those intelligences made it take place. This is why obedience is what God asks of us. Our obedience is what God requires to do His part. That is how our obedience brings His blessings upon us.