Sunday, June 22, 2014

Vision Four

“To sacrifice is to give up something valuable or precious, often with the intent of accomplishing a greater purpose or goal. Sacrifice has always been a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the Atonement of Christ, followers of Jesus Christ—by His direction—began to offer instead a “broken heart and contrite spirit” a willingness to repent of sins and a desire to follow Jesus Christ and align one's life with His commandments.”

1) When the Lord accomplished His work, the meaning of “sacrifice” changed. It was “done away” and “fulfilled.” The old definition of sacrifice (as pertaining to the Law of Moses) was reformed. No longer were we to offer up sacrifices and burnt offerings. The Lord told us those things should be done away and that He would not accept them. The new meaning of sacrifice given was “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” This is the offering that would bring on “baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.”

2) It is important to understand exactly what is meant by “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Nephi uses it in his prayer to the Lord, asking that his stumbling block is removed and that the “gates of hell shut continually” before him. Moroni describes how baptism did not occur for an individual until they had shown that they had “truly repented of all their sins.” Moroni also tells us that the Gentiles can rend the veil of unbelief, “hardness of heart, and blindness of mind,” call upon the Father in the Lord’s name and have the revelations be unfolded before them. Clearly, “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” has to do with repenting and purging from the pollution, and being open to another story… willing to be childlike and receptive to something different.

The common belief is that we now should sacrifice or give up the things we cherish for the hope that something else better will come along. Even with the new meaning of a "broken heart and contrite spirit," we dwell in a place of desolation and scarcity.

From the Lectures on Faith:

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.

And Joseph Smith said:

As it is generally supposed that Sacrifice was entirely done away when the great sacrife (sic) was offered up—and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of Sacrifice in future, but those who assert this, are certainly not aquainted (sic) with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood or with the prophets. The offering of Sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. It began with the prieshood (sic) and will be continued untill (sic) after the coming of Christ from generation to generation—We freequently (sic) have mention made of the offering of Sacrifice by the servants of the most high in antient (sic) days prior to the law of moses, which ordinances will be continued when the priesthood is restored with all its authority power and blessings. Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of this priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and delive (sic) the Keys of this priesthood in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness It is performing “ordinances of the gospel” which make us “heirs of the covenant and the seed of Abraham.

When we apply the old meaning of sacrifice to the new commandment and ordinance given to us (the “sacrifice of all things”) alarms go buzzing off in our heads (at least they do mine) as if to say, “Something isn't right! Why would we be required to give away something good for the promise of something better? Does Heaven operate this way? I thought the Gospel was offered to us “without money and without price”? How is it even possible to offer up “all things?” Does this mean we need to leave our worldly pursuits behind, and even our possessions and families? It just doesn't make sense!”

Our refusal to search for the higher meaning of sacrifice causes us to shake, and either we are stirred up to anger or repentance. Let us see what repentance looks like.

I don’t like pulling up Webster’s Dictionary to be the answer to our definition problem because meanings can be tainted, but in this case it is a useful experiment, and for me has saved the day. What exactly is the etymology of the word “sacrifice,” and how can a shift in our understanding make everything clear?

sacrifice (n.) -  from sacra "sacred rites": ("sacred;"  or "holy") + root of facere: ("to do, perform"). To "perform holy," or "to do holiness."

Could it be that simple? A sacrifice is simply an act, a work or a performance which is sacred or bestowed to God? In other words, we dedicate everything we do towards God’s will -- bringing to pass His work (the immortality and eternal life of man). This stems from our faith in God and our desire to come to know Him, as the Lectures on Faith 2:55 points out:

Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God, who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge respecting his character and glory will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until, like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face.

To simplify even further, this is how I would explain it: The Law of Moses was about performances… doing things in repetition which symbolized “real” principles. Once the Lord came and offered the “great and last sacrifice,” everything became new, and it centered on the heart. The thing that was in similitude (sacrificing at the altar) became dead. What the Lord is after now is the real principle: charity. If I have faith in God, and I believe He is talking to me through the Spirit (via dreams, visions, whispers in my mind, or other gifts) then my faith will “move” me to act. The things I do are unique to me, but they demonstrate that I really DO believe in God. The proof is in the pudding. If I really do believe, then my dedicated actions will show it. I am “anxiously engaged” because having repented and turned towards Christ, He has changed my desires. They are the same as His, so “doing” the will of God (or “doing holy” “all things”) is a natural endeavor. It is “light” and “easy” and indeed enjoyable.This is the “baptism of fire” because the faith is living within me, like a flame.

When we are consumed in this holy fire, all our thoughts center around seeking God. Every breath and thought become a prayer to Him. Everything we behold is a testimony of God’s mercy and goodness. Truly we can speak with the tongue of angels, because we have received the Holy Ghost, and the words of Christ tell us “all things” what we should do. And if "consecrate" means to "make holy," then "sacrifice" means to DO holiness or righteousness.

Now, isn't this a much more exciting and animated definition of “sacrifice?” Doesn't it help us to shake off the dust and want to awake and arise to discover how our unique talents play a part in His will? The Book of Mormon speaks in general about what He would have us do: repent, come to know His true points of doctrine, and eventually bring the truth to the Remnant of Lehi, Joseph and Jacob. But not only that, it is to have "charity" for those who are suffering, and to use our "talent" to become the "fountain of all righteousness" for them. This can only be done out of the desire of our hearts, not by way of commandment:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
What is the “reward” of one who does charitable things of their own free will? It is knowledge and an understanding of how the heavens operate.

The Vision
I was on the island of Hawaii and there was an imminent volcano eruption. I could see the glowing red in the cracks leading up to the cone. All around me people were trying to get away, as was I for a time. Driving my family in a car, we ascended to a bluff overlooking the moving flow. I hopped out of the vehicle and then received the feeling that I should JUMP IN the lava! I faced my family and told them to wait for me and then reluctantly turned around.

Just then, the side of the mountain exploded, with the molten river headed my way. I took a running head start, and leaped into the fiery lava below. The vision ended as was falling, not knowing my fate or the fate of my family.

Years later, the rest of the vision was given to me. I picked it up where I left off: falling after jumping from the cliff. However, instead of landing in fire, I was immersed in the water of the ocean. The plunge had sent me so deep that there was no chance of swimming to the surface to get some air, so I held my breath as long as I could. Finally, my lungs gave out and I inhaled. What I found then was that I could not only breathe in the water, I could also move about freely.

I went to and fro, enjoying the liberty, even though I was in a normally restrictive environment. As I swam (if you want to call it that), I noticed an underwater cave. It was glowing red, and I wanted to investigate. Entering the tunnel, I discovered that it was lava from the erupting volcano, but before I could think about it, I was moving through it the molten rock, unharmed! My momentum seemed to start accelerating, and the course I was traveling changed from horizontal to vertical.

Suddenly, I burst from the magma chamber through the cone of the volcano, and I floated in the air above the island. To my amazement, I found that I could fly and I was impervious to fire or drowning in the sea. After checking out the landscape below me, I noticed that off in the distance there was a group of people calling for help. Hoping that I could assist them somehow, I flew their direction and the vision was concluded.

The Song
Pele was born to Haumea and Kanehoalani in Hapakuela, a far distant land at the edge of the sky. Her days had been long and adventurous, often filled with passion and mischief. But being older and wiser now, she desired to make contact with those humans who had received her bounteous gifts. The problem was that the mortals had become so concerned about their own selfish existence that they did not bother to search where they originated, or for that matter, where their kindred went when they died. Pele had much to teach them, if they only would listen.

Ages earlier, when Pele set out on her original journey, her parents gave her the sea to go with her and bear her canoes onward. So she sailed forward, flood-borne by the water, until she reached the islands (which were a vast waste at the time). The fresh water brought life to the area, and it was not long before fish, birds, animals, flowers and all sorts of fruit trees flourished in her presence.

She was also given by her parents the gift of fire and earth. With this power, she created new ground for the people (and often got into trouble). The modern occupants of the land respected and acknowledged Pele, but for most, it was based either on fear of being destroyed or on desiring to receive the treasures and wishes that they thought she could grant them.

One day, Pele could take the loneliness no more. She awoke from her bed in Kilauea and moved across Mauna Loa towards the western side of the island, hoping to visit with those who lived in the village there.  As she did so, the people became very frightened (for as you know, when Pele moves, she brings fire and earthquakes with her). “The end of the world is here!” they exclaimed.

Making her way to the town, she noticed a man who seemed to be hesitating. He had collected his family and placed them on a tall bluff, and then returned to face the burning lava which had been closely pursuing them. Sensing he could understand her, she said, “Come to me. I will not hurt you or your family if you can only trust me. I long so much to share what I know!"

Summoning confidence, the man turned to his relatives and said, “I must go meet Pele. I will be back for you soon. Do not fear, my beloved family.” With that, he turned and sprinted towards the approaching inferno. Reaching the edge of a cliff, he stopped for a moment. Below him was a fountain of liquid fire.

He said to himself, "If the gods know that I am here, and am in this dreadful condition; and if nothing happens without Their appointment, They have appointed all this to befall me.  If I am going to die by fire, it will have been appointed to me." With that, the man leaped into the blaze. As he was falling, the thought came to him, “I know that I will not be consumed. Rather, I will be filled with light, finally understanding my purpose and many mysteries as well! I must soon return to tell the people not to be afraid, so they can learn too.”

And he did.

Thus, we see that fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.


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