Sunday, June 29, 2008

Becoming a Spiritual Person

The only perfect person to walk on this Earth was the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the rest of us, me, you, the prophet of God, and literally everyone else on this Earth is fallible.

“Men have become carnal. They have become enemies to God. They are seeking for their own advancement and not for the advancement of the kingdom of God” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, Apr. 1952)

In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ the Prophet and King Benjamin taught:

“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” (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:19).

First, let’s define what “the natural” man is. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “The ‘natural man’ is the ‘earthy man’ who has allowed rude animal passions to overshadow his spiritual inclinations” (Ocean Currents and Family Influcences, Ensign, Jan. 1984).

Now that we know that the natural man is what allows temptations of the world to override our God-given, God-like spiritual qualities, how does someone put off the natural man and yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit?

Robert L. Millet answered when he wrote: “One does not put off the natural man by living longer. Nor does one change his nature simply by attending meetings. The transformation is accomplished only as one chooses to be changed through the mediation of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Ghost, by means of gospel ordinances” (Putting off the Natural Man: “An Enemy to God”, Ensign, Jun. 1992).

President Ezra Taft Benson put it this way: “The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (Born of God, Ensign, Nov. 1985).

Establishing what this “natural man” is, then understanding how to put off this natural man through the atonement of Jesus Christ, leads us to the final step, of how we are to be, going back to the verse spoke by Benjamin again: “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”.

In this world filled with ambition, it is very difficult to train ourselves to become “submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love”. Yet this is exactly what the Savior taught about 150 years after King Benjamin when he said “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (New Testament | Matthew 22:37 - 39) and when the Savior taught the Beatitudes.

As I examine these words, I am struck with how they actually turn away from ourselves and turn to others. Putting off the natural man is all about loving and being kind to others, “as a child”. Children are not only kind and submissive, but they love unconditionally. There is nothing I treasure more when I have arrived home from work than the looks my children’s faces as them come running to the door and upon reaching me, they wrap their arms around me. We would all be much, much better people living in much, much better society if we had that kind of love for each other, or in the words of Jesus, our “neighbour”. I share this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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