Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mortal Life Teaches of Christ's Life

A few years ago, I attended a BYU Religion class taught by Todd B. Parker. He gave a lesson that has always stuck with me. It was based on 2 Nephi 11:4, which teaches us that "all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him." This is something Wade touched on in a post in July (well worth the read). I wanted to expand upon Wade's post to discuss how not only elements of the gospel, scripture and so forth testify of Christ and His life and mission, but also how we can find Him in our day-to-day lives, and in the world around us. Life can teach us about His life--which encompasses not only His years in mortality, but includes His characteristics, and His eternal roles and mission.

It is my hope that in reflecting on this topic, we might find it easier to keep from having the Savior be "a stranger … far from the thoughts and intents of [our] heart[s]” (Mosiah 5:13). Looking for symbols, types, and shadows in daily life can help us "always remember Him."

Let me begin by sharing a few thoughts from Brother Parker. Consider the process of going to bed each night and getting up in the morning. Our bodies are designed to wear out by the end of each day. Symbolically, each night, as we fall into bed and (gratefully) succumb to sleep, we die. [Ideally (especially if we go to bed with a calm mind and heart), isn't that a state of "rest, as state of peace, where [we can] rest from all [our] troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:12)?] When we awaken, symbolically, we are resurrected. [Could this be one reason why we are encouraged to arise early, that our "bodies and...minds might be invigorated" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124)? (Spoken like a true morning person, which I am NOT.)]

Adding to that, what can the darkness of night and the break of dawn and warmth of the sun teach us about the Son and His roles as Creator, Savior, Restorer of Truth, and Light of the World?

Consider what Elder Maxwell once said:

Whether in the structure of the atom or of the galaxies, or in the truths about temples and families, for those who have eyes to see, all things “from the beginning of the world” (2 Ne. 11:4) “bear record of [God]” Moses 6:63). [Let me insert that entire verse: "And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me."] They are designed to point us to Christ, typifying Him, so that we might follow Him, have faith in Him, and keep His commandments. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Called and Prepared from the Foundation of the World,” Ensign, May 1986, 34)

What might we learn about Christ from things on the earth? In the earth? Above and beneath the earth? [Is it any wonder He commands us to learn about all of these things (and more)!] What can we learn from the earth's revolution around the sun? What about the order and motions of other planets? What about the seasons? Look at creations such as the butterfly or the redwood tree with its intricate, interconnected root system. Or, on the other hand consider other types of trees with deep root systems. How can these things help us turn our thoughts to Christ, His teachings, His life, His roles, His mission, His gospel? Can we even number the things God has created that testify of Christ? Mountains, rocks, valleys, rivers, oceans, planets, seeds, trees, roots, fruits, branches, the sun, stars, animals (e.g., eagles, hens, lions, donkeys (to name a few))...even the sands of the sea--all things that God has given us testify and teach of Christ.

How can family life help us understand Christ's life better? What do we learn about the Savior from marriage? The miracle of life surely evokes reverence and spiritual experiences. Can it not also call our minds to the need for spiritual birth? What do our parental roles teach us? Fathers, what do your daily tasks teach you about the Savior? What does your daily work for daily bread teach you? What does the servant leadership of priesthood teach you? Mothers, of course we can consider the Creator when we consider the unspeakable blessing of creating life within our bodies. But do we look to the Savior's life and roles as we nurse our babies, kiss skinned knees, succor sick children, change diapers, and cook so that our families "should hunger not, neither should they thirst" (Alma 31:38)? We do things our children cannot do for themselves! Can we not remember His grace as we perform our sometimes seemingly mundane (and seemingly endless) tasks?

Although our divine roles are different as men and women, they all can point us to Christ, for He emcompasses all of the qualities and gifts that our roles are designed to help us develop (with His help, of course). His life is the perfect example for all of us, regardless of age, gender, or stage in life.

What about the children? What can they teach us about Christ? Can they not help us reflect on what our relationship with the Savior should be like--and what His relationship with His Father is like? He is both the perfect parent-figure and the perfect child, even the Father and the Son.

For those who are not yet married, what can your life teach you about the Savior? As you wait for your beloved to come into your life, and it may feel that he/she delays his/her coming, might that be something that can turn your thoughts to the Bridegroom who tells us not to worry when it appears He has delayed His coming? Trusting in God's timing is hard, but looking to truths that teach that "all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" (2 Ne. 2:24) can help bring peace and perspective. To all those who struggle in singleness for one reason or another, look in your life for the meaning and for those things that can point you to Christ. You may not be bound to someone in this life in covenant, but being bound to the Savior means that He can and will fulfill all of your dreams. He is your "high priest of good things to come."

How can our daily routines teach us of Christ and His purpose and mission? One example is the fact that we (and those around us!) may suffer consequences if we don't regularly shower. We are more healthy and happy when we are clean. Is there something to be learned as we then clothe ourselves? What about when our clothing is filthy? Can we learn something about Christ when we then wash our clothes? Certainly, we know we should wash our hands and surroundings regularly to protect ourselves from invisible enemies that might put our health at risk. What can we learn from these things about spiritual health and about He who cleanses and protects? What about our daily, constant need for nourishing food and drink (especially water)? What can that teach us about the Living Bread and Living Water?

What do our bodies themselves teach us about the Savior and coming to Him? How do our eyes, ears, tongues, hands, feet, minds, hearts, lungs, cells, blood, bodily processes (e.g., cell death and regeneration; digestion, transmission of nutrients, and elimination of waste; healing) help us understand Christ and His life and His role in our lives?

Last but not least, consider what trials, pain, blood, sweat, tears, death and irony teach us about the life of the Light and Life of the World. We know that these things help us learn how to find His healing power and peace. But consider also what Elder Keith R. Edwards said in his talk in the last General Conference:

As we are called upon to endure suffering, sometimes inflicted upon us intentionally or negligently, we are put in a unique position—if we choose, we may be allowed to have new awareness of the suffering of the Son of God. While Alma tells us that Christ suffered all that any of us will ever have to suffer that He might know how to succor us, the reverse may also be true: that our suffering may allow us insight into the depth and magnitude of His atoning sacrifice....

Although suffering may provide insight, we must be careful not to compare but rather to appreciate. There will always be infinite differences between us and our Savior. His comment to Pilate, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee," reminds us again of the willing and voluntary nature of His sacrifice. We can never endure the depth, the exquisite nature, or the magnitude of His suffering, "which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit." But like Nephi, we can have a greater appreciation for that which He did, and we can feel His spirit succoring us, and we can know the Savior in a very real sense, "and this is life eternal, that [we] might know" Him.

Even as I have written this, I have become aware of more things in my daily life that can help me learn of Christ and point my mind and heart to Him. The links included here don't begin to scratch the surface of the scriptural references that support this idea that all things testify of the Savior. I encourage us all to find Him not only in the gospel and in our Church activity, but in all aspects of our mortality.

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