Talk: Conversion and Consecration

Alma 36 (to his son Helaman):

 12   I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.

  13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.

  14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.

This is how I felt five years ago.  I felt as if I had done everything wrong, I had messed up all the right things I did know, and I had left a path of destruction in my wake.  The only thing I did right was stay in school, and so I stayed in school all the way through my doctorate only because I didn’t know to do anything else right.  I was disconnected from my family, and seeking truth anywhere I could find it – often leaving me in an even bigger mess than I had been trying to escape.  I was ashamed, and very much alone.

  18 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.

  19 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.

I met the missionaries through my ballroom dance teacher and his wife, who befriended me and quietly exposed me to gospel principles over a year’s time.  They gave me a Book of Mormon for my birthday, and I stayed up all night reading it.  This changed everything.  It changed everything in my life.

The Lord gently brought me to the Gospel, and I learned – remembered – His plan, and that plan included the tender mercy of the atonement.  This is how I learned about repentance.  I had to be scrubbed clean from so much, and then had to learn what to do with myself once I was shiny-ed up.  I learned that getting rid of the bad stuff was not enough.  Following the rules was not enough.  It is more than just following the rules.  I had to be so completely changed so that I was not just not-doing bad things, but also producing good things.  It was mercy that God did not condemn me to whom I had been, but it was grace that He provided a way for me to become something more.

As I prepared for baptism and since my baptism, through repentance and by the atonement of the Savior, and through His work accomplished by the Spirit teaching me, correcting me, and guiding me, my life began to change. 

Isaiah 55:6-7:  Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

I also really love Isaiah 54, which can also be found in 3 Nephi 22:

4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

 5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

 6 For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.

 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.

 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.

Every piece of me has not only been redeemed, but is also being restored.  This is me, no longer condemned, but rather a work in progress.  Every piece of me, to the smallest of details, is being healed.  This is how complete and precise is the atonement of our Savior.  This was my experience of 3 Nephi 9:13 when it asks, “will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”

I do not have words in English to describe what I have become since being baptized.  I have become new.  I have become created.  I have become a spirit daughter of God.  These things I already was, technically, but they were rights-of-Being that I had not yet claimed.  I held within me, by design, those things, that divine nature, that origin – but I had not yet chosen to become those things or to begin the journey of fulfilling that potential.

Through repentance, and by the tutoring of the Spirit, I have begun the process of trying to become more like my Savior simply by doing what He says.  It is an effort of emulation, not just adoration.   D&C 35:21 promises that “they shall be purified, even as I am pure.”  And D&C 1:32 says, “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”

In President Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness book, he says (p. 362),

“There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change.  Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night.  When souls are reborn, when lives are changed – then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift.  When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death – when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth.”

This I have wrestled with a great deal.  I know, as Alma says, that I am nothing, and yet I am called to be something, someone.  I could not figure out how to reconcile this in my mind, and struggled with it in my studies for more than a year.  In D&C 43, both in verse 11 and verse 16, it tells us to “sanctify ourselves”.  I wondered how in the world I am supposed to do that, when I am the one who needs sanctifying?  And I am just a girl, with no keys to anything?  What authority do I have to be sanctifying my own self?

I found the answers in that same chapter, in those same verses.  When it says to sanctify myself in verse 11, it also says to purge out iniquity.  That is my job; my responsibility; my repentance process; my line-upon-line as I grow in the Gospel.  In verse 16, it says that as I sanctify myself, I will be endowed with power from on high.  This connected me back to verse 9 in the same chapter, where it there – finally! – outright defines what it means to “sanctify myself”.  Sanctifying myself is acting in holiness.

I have been given agency so that I might choose to return to my Heavenly Father, but that means I must choose to become like Him.  I will not be changed if I do not choose.  My choosing is an act of faith.  As I act in holiness, the Lord does make me holy.  As I bring that holiness to the Lord, even my very self, He does bring me into His house and make me one of His children.

Everything follows the pattern of the physical and the spiritual, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthood.  The Aaronic priesthood has always cared for the physical things, and the Melchizedek works the spiritual things.  So even at the Temple, when I see it say “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord”, I know it has both a physical and a spiritual meaning.  The Temple is a physical place that is set apart and consecrated as the Lord’s house, where we can go and meet with Him there and be in His presence.  But it also has a spiritual meaning of going there to become His children… which also implies leaving the temple empowered to act a little more like His child than before, each time becoming more like Him in being and in behavior. 

When we study the different royal families of Europe, we call them Houses.  Each family is a “house”, such as England’s current House of Windsor (name change!).  We are descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel.  We are of the House of Israel.  All of us, in all the worlds the Lord has created, are of the House of the Lord.  We go to His house, the Temple, to become of His house, his family.

But we must do this by acting in holiness.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

This is why we seek after righteousness.

The atonement has released me from the bondage of my past, and yet reconnected me to my real past – that divine spark that is within me, and has always been there, as a spirit daughter of heavenly parents, and that spark grows within me each time I act in faith or obedience.  This “growing larger” makes more of me than there was before, as His Spirit leads me higher, line upon line, climbing Jacob’s ladder one rung at a time… except the ladder is twisted, for I am always repenting, and so it becomes the spiral staircase designed within me, even my very DNA.  I am ever led forward and upward by His presence.  The same pillar of cloud by day, the same pillar of fire by night, that very same light, the Hebrew sheckinah itself that led the Israelites through the wilderness has led me through my own wilderness, released me from bondage, and set me free.  D&C 58:42 says “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.  By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”

It is my Saviour who does make me Holy.  D&C 60:7 says, “And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.

To be holy is to be set apart; it means to forsake the world, and to leave the past behind.  It means not being afraid to move forward, and to seek after righteousness with all my being.  The atonement makes this possible, and at my baptism I said I was willing to take upon me the name of Christ, but it is only at the Temple that I do so.  To become holy is to become at-one with my Father, through the embrace of the Prodigal Son. 

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

Recently, Elder Bednar taught us in an interview, saying that “through the atonement we are not only cleansed from sin, but we also receive strength to accomplish His work, no matter how ordinary we are… Every member has a testimony and knows what is true, but not every member is converted.  Being converted is more than just having a testimony of what is true.  The more you are converted, the more you become consistent and true to what you know.  It is one thing to know what is true, but another thing to be consistently true to what you know.  When you are converted, you will produce spiritual fruit that will be evident to others.”

This brings us to the Law of Consecration.

In our most recent General Conference, President Uchtdorf gave a talk entitled “Come Join With Us”, in which he states that “the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”  Consecration is our token of covenant keeping, our evidence that we accept the terms He has set and are grateful for what He has done for us.  Because of this, living the law of consecration often begins with being good stewards of the talents, gifts, and provisions we have been given.  Sometimes these are simple things, and sometimes these are hard things.

  It means sharing food storage with our neighbors when my friend’s husband was laid off work.

  It means caring for my father while he died of cancer, and inviting my mother to live with me once I reconnected with her after I was baptized.

  It means sharing food from my garden with those I visit teach, writing their names down for prayer at the temple, or going out for chips and salsa when they need some girl time.

  It means recognizing the great miracle in finding my precious husband, who is good and kind and treats me well, and grieving with him through one miscarriage after another, but knowing we are still called to experience parenting and be stewards of the temple space in which we live, and so opening our home to foster children for a time.

  It means working for LDS Family Services two days a week, to offer my service to the church and the many amazing people who come seeking help because they are brave and good and trying so hard to become themselves – their true selves, as children of Heavenly Parents.

   It means doing a post-doc in Hebrew and Jewish Studies, even if the only time to study is four in the morning, so that I can better serve my friends in Israel and Palestine as my mission is extended “indefinitely” after three years already finished.

   It means forgiving the driver who killed my mom.

Consecration is not something we do.  It is something we become through the act of doing.  We are consecrated for a purpose (2 Nephi 32:9, Mosiah 6:3, and Alma 5:3), and that purpose is ministry (Exodus 28:41).  It is the act of ministering that changes us, so that the doing turns into the becoming.  It is what lifts us up as a people united together until we are a people of God.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

The Hebrew word for this process is “kadosh”.  It is the process of sanctifying.  It means the cleansing of what is not-holy for the purpose of proving oneself as sacred.  This separates us from what is not-of-God, and only then can we become holy.

It is like a paternity test, proving us to be His children.  In Hebrew, it is a literal transfer of power (Exodus 28:41, 29:22, 26; footnote on Leviticus 21:10).  The idiom is “to fill the hands”, meaning to be about the hard work of ministering.  This means to be both equipped and authorized to minister, and it implies that the more you minister, the more you are empowered to minister even more, until your hands are literally full.

This is different than just being busy.  Our busy-ness should be fruitful (Acts 6:2).  We should be fulfilling our consecration by accomplishing what we have been to do (1 Corinthians 12; Colossians 4:17).  This transfer of power always infers a fullness of power, meaning that there is sufficient for the needs of fulfilling a particular task or assignment.  We also do the work for which we are equipped (not running faster than we have strength, in Mosiah 4:27) and the work which we have been authorized to do through the proper lines of authority (Leviticus 21:10).  This would include the roles we have already been assigned to aside from callings, including caring for our spouses, our children, and those we home and visit teach.  In this way, as President Uchtdorf stated, “the church provides opportunities for doing good.”

We, of course, fail dramatically.  Only Christ met the demands for holiness, but in this new and living covenant He has consecrated for us, through the veil of His flesh, so that by His holiness we boldly approach (Hebrews 10:20; Hebrews 4:16).  This is the veil pattern, the point of His mortality:  that there is a discrepancy between who He has called us to be and who I have only been, but by claiming the atonement there is a transfer of power and we are able to become like Him – able to become who He has called us to be – able to be who He has said we already are.

This process of becoming, by the Law of Consecration, gives us an active way not just to believe in God, but to believe in what Heavenly Father has promised: that we can become something more than we now are.

And that this becoming is already in process.

This is why He gives us “opportunities” to transform “our talents, compassion, and time into good works” (President Uchtdorf).

My first assignment in the church was to start a blog and share my conversion process.  I was shy and often embarrassed myself, such as when it became known as “Housewife Class” because I didn’t know what Relief Society was called.  But he made my small talent into something greater, so that it was turned into an app, and then I was hired by Deseret News, and then asked to help write other things or reviews.  This I enjoy very much, but these were opportunities that would not have come had I not been obedient in the first place.

Sometimes offering your talents is very hard work, even if what you are offering is subtle.  Nathan and his composer pour their hearts into these creations for audiences.  But as producers and each new audience is exposed to their works, and as all the actors learn the lines Nathan has written, Nathan is teaching them true principles without using any church words.  It is a ministry, preparing audiences to receive gospel principles by teaching truth through music. It also gives him opportunity, through interacting with others in productions, to testify of family and other truths we hold sacred in a world that is more and more dismissive of them.

Sometimes the rewards do seem as great as the hard effort you put in to living the law of consecration.  My second job at LDS Family Services gives us a tiny paycheck that goes into savings for our senior mission someday.  Being good stewards of our sappy-happy family by fostering is one of the hardest things we have ever done, but it has filled our home with the delights (mostly) of children.

Nathan and I truly are disgustingly sappy-happy.  We know we are a miracle to each other, and that our marriage is a miracle, and we are careful not to take it for granted.  It would be easier to be selfish, but a consecrated marriage is one that sees marriage as an opportunity to serve the other person.  It requires a much more conscience and awake and alert effort than just waiting for someone else to treat us a certain way.

We have had many instances of people trying to dismiss our happiness, saying we were only sappy because we are newlyweds or because we didn’t have children yet.   This is false.  We are sappy-happy because we work hard at caring for each other.

In our first year of marriage, we grieved the death of my father from cancer, Nathan survived hurricane Sandy and then was laid off at Christmas, we had a whole handful of miscarriages, my mother was killed, and we have had six foster kids at a time with fourteen children thus far that have come and gone, and one that we may be adopting.

We are not sappy-happy because we are new, and shiny, and life is easy.

Life has not been easy at all.

We are sappy-happy because we work hard at serving each other, because we pray together, and study our scriptures together, and prioritize temple worship.

This is what President Uchtdorf was talking about when he said that “our daily walk with Jesus Christ leads to peace and purpose in this life and profound joy and eternal salvation in the world to come.”

In my life with Nathan, I have profound joy.

As we continue to keep our covenants, including the Law of Consecration, we will be led to eternal salvation, even that of exaltation… not because of what we have done, but because of who He says we can become… because of who He says we already are (and so we should act like it).

Orson Pratt once said that consecration is a matter of stewardship (JoD, 1854, vol 2, p. 58).  Brigham Young said consecration is also a privilege, and that not for ourselves: “He owns all we possess.  He has dealt it out to us, but also uses us as ministers to others to bestow on them as well” (JoD, 1855, vol 2, p. 303).

One of the hardest things I have ever done was invite my mother to live with me.  Moms are hard.  Daughters are not always very nice.  We had big lessons to learn, mom and me.  But we did it.  We came out on the other side, and what seemed so hard at first became easy.  We became friends, even, and sharing my life with her became a joy.  I was shocked when she was killed last year, and yet could not deny that we had been fully prepared and were at peace with each other.  Together, by giving all we had and sharing everything, we were made more perfect.  I owe my very life to her, and in a month’s time – out of humble gratitude for her loving me as no one else dared – will take her name through the temple, and my brother and I will be sealed to our parents.

That’s how small and simple things bring about great things.  It’s a simple thing, really, to share your food or home or friendship or talents.  But by doing so, lives are changed.  That’s consecration, letting Heavenly Father use those provisions to minister to the people around you.

And He promises that if you do, life will never be the same.

“Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies,” President Uchtdorf promises, and “we will all become better as a result”.

I am a convert.

My husband grew up here, in a Bartlesville ward.

Neither of us anywhere near perfect, we are now sealed together, humbled by weakness and exhausted by the trials and challenges of life, we offer what we little we have – we offer who we are – knowing that by the atonement, something will be created out of the chaos.

In this church, there has been a place even for me.

President Uchtdorf said, “The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.”

This week is my fifth anniversary of coming to church, and I really can’t believe it.  It seems like yesterday, and seems like always, all at once.  My life is entirely changed, and for the better.  What seemed like impossible sacrifices at the time are now a faded memory of nothing difficult, and I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.  He has rescued me, and I do not want to go back there, even though I know I have so much yet to become.

 “I have learned,” to quote Brigham Young, “that of myself I have no power, but my system is organized to increase in wisdom, knowledge, and power, getting a litter here and a little there.  But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord and I have power in his name.  I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing” (DBY, 84).

I testify that we are children of Heavenly Parents, who love us deeply and know us intimately.

I testify that our Savior lives.  He died innocent in place of our guilt, and now He is resurrected, and He lives.  He is the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten of the Flesh, and He is my Redeemer.

I testify that the Spirit will correct, instruct, and guide us to the degree that we will respond.

I testify that He has set prophets as the flaming sword that guards the path to the Tree of Life, and that Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today.

I testify that as we study the teachings of the prophets, ancient and modern, we will be led along that path, and that we will find life – if only we will HEAR. 

I testify that temple ordinances have been restored along with the restoration of the priesthood, and that “the divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally” (Family Proclamation).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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