March 31, 2009

The Holy Week: Introduction

The Holy Week is the most significant period of time in all of history. During this single week, all of mankind was freed from the cold chains of death and enabled to overcome all things, including sin. During this week, we learn more of the Savior and of His true attributes than during any other period of His life. Though He was born of miraculous circumstances, though He healed the sick and raised the dead, yet no other event in His life stands in comparison to His atoning sacrifice that he performed during this week of weeks. Thus, with this in mind the next several blog posts will be devoted to this Holy Week and how we can learn more of the Savior and become better followers of Him through the study of the Holy Week.

March 24, 2009

Becoming One with the Master Conductor

I have on a few occasions had the chance to attend the performances of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Orchestra at Temple Square. Their music is beautiful and uplifting. Voice and instrument are combined to create a harmony that is indescribable. Hundreds of individuals combine their time and talents to bring us this heavenly music. Though they may spend thousands of hours in practice, a critical event must take place prior to every concert; the tuning of the instruments so that they may be one in voice. Without this tuning of every instrument, the entire performance can go down in flames. Without this attunement it does not matter how good the conductor is or how well trained the performers are, the show will not succeed.

Our lives are no different. We must learn to attune our lives with the master conductor, even Jesus Christ. We may say that by doing so we lose our freedom, or we may lose our ability to be an individual. Just imagine if a highly trained musician said this in regards to being in-tune with the orchestra. He or she would never be hired to perform, they would lose all ability to create such beautiful music, they would eventually become alone. Sure, beautiful music can be created by one instrument, but this can never compare to that of a full, well trained, orchestra. As we learn to align our will with God, as we learn to become attuned with Him, we will be able to become far more than we ever could while on our own. As we learn to do this, we truly will be able to have the powers of heaven in our lives.

March 16, 2009

Hallelujah, Christ is Born in Bethlehem

When I was about 17 years old I wrote this song about the birth of the Savior. In a land far away He was born. Two thousand years have passed, yet the power of His birth, life, death and resurrection are just as powerful as they were that first Christmas eve. While in Jerusalem, I was able to sit on the hills that overlook the small town of Bethlehem. As the sun began to set, and the night sky filled with small sparks of light, my thoughts turned to that night when angels came to herald the birth of our King and Redeemer. Hallelujah, they sung! Christ is Born in Bethlehem!

Though I was not there on that night, I hope to be able to raise this same voice of praise and joy. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

March 9, 2009

Baptism By Immersion

It is often asked why members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in baptism by immersion, when many modern churches practice baptism by sprinkling. The most important reason is because that is how Jesus was baptized (as the root of baptism means to immerse). However, there is also beautiful symbolism that lies behind baptism by immersion.

Baptism by immersion represents the death and resurrection of Christ and our own death and resurrection unto eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the body is laid to rest in the cold dark tomb, the waters of baptism envelope us as we enter in and then by the power of one holding authority we are raised from that same tomb. He who holds the authority of the Priesthood acts in behalf of the Savior and thus it should be interpreted to mean that as we fall into the grasp of spiritual death by our own doings, it is the Lord and only He who raises us up and lifts us from the depths of sin and sorrow. It is He who in reality takes us by the hand and lifts us to the heights of heaven that we may partake of His glory and redemption. It is likewise only through the Savior’s infinite power that we are raised from death unto life that we may live eternally with the Father.

Baptism in and of itself is not enough to save one from spiritual darkness; baptism must be accompanied by true repentance and a desire to follow the Savior. Baptism only represents the change that we must go through in order to truly be born again. When we are baptized we symbolically reenact the process that we ourselves must go through to completely be born again. As mentioned before, to enter the water represents our own spiritual death, but it also represents the reliance we put upon a higher source to pull us from these depths. He who is officiating stands above the other and lowers them unto death and again unto life, just as we must allow Christ to lower the old man of sin unto death, so as to put an end to our old ways and habitats. We then must likewise allow the Savior to lift us from this death of the old man and allow Him to make of us a new person filled with His spirit, lifted up by His own hand. This complete reliance upon the Savior is a critical part in making Him the center of our lives.

March 2, 2009

Whom Will Ye That I Release?

The Jews stood around watching as Jesus was brought forward on the stone balcony that overlooked the court of the mansion of the governor of Jerusalem. Pilate looked over the crowd with disdain in his eyes. He did not like the looks of these so called Jewish elite that had gathered there early this morning. As he scanned the faces of the small group he raised his voice, declaring: "Whom will ye that I release unto you? Jesus Barabbas or Jesus which is called Christ?" (see Matthew 27:17)

In the earliest of the Greek texts of the Gospel of Matthew, Barabbas is named Jesus Barabbas (it appears that later scribes deleted his given name of Jesus and only kept his surname so as to differentiate him from Jesus of Nazareth). Thus Pilate was really asking the people 'Who should I release? Jesus son of the father (Barabbas in Hebrew) or Jesus the Son of God, the Christ?' From what we can tell, Jesus Barabbas (or Barabbas as we now know him as) was a revolutionary of sort. It appears that he sought to break the Roman yoke of bondage from off the Jews by force. He in a sense was a redeemer of sort, in that he sought to free the people from bondage. Yet, this freedom would not last, this freedom was only a worldly freedom, a freedom from law and from man. A freedom that could not release man from death and hell.

Each of us is faced with this question on a daily basis. Whom will we choose? Will we choose worldly freedom; so called freedom from law and consequences? Or will we choose freedom from sin and death. Many in the world today proclaim that they teach freedom. They say that if we will but follow them we will be free. They teach that, for example, that relying upon outdated traditions of marriage only bind us to a form historical slavery. They claim we must release ourselves from these shackles that hold us to the past. They teach that by allowing all to marry whom they please, we are proclaiming freedom and liberty for all man. Yet, one must ask: what do they teach of freedom after this life? What is it that they teach of freedom from death? They are silent.

It is only Jesus Christ who came to proclaim true freedom. A freedom from oppression, death, sin, sorrow and pain. No other teacher has ever claimed to have this power. It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we may learn of true freedom. A freedom that will last beyond this life into the next.