He Did Deliver Me from Bondage
by Colleen C. Harrison
I [WAS] DESIROUS THAT MY FAMILY SHOULD PARTAKE (1 Nephi 8:12)-Part 1
Step Twelve: Having experienced a mighty change and having awakened unto God as a result of our sincere repentance demonstrated in taking these steps, we were willing to become instruments in carrying this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. (Alma 5:7; Mosiah 27:36-37; Moroni 7:3)
Principle Twelve: The experience of being born again, of being changed from the inside out, causes two spontaneous reactions in me: (1) an irrepressible desire to share with others the good news of God’s reality and availability, and (2) an ever-increasing willingness to practice these principles in every area of my life.
Here we are with only one more principle to discuss! It seems as if we’ve barely begun this journey and now we’re nearly finished. As we’ve turned to the Book of Mormon and written our way through the scripture study exercises, we’ve experienced some amazing changes in our sense of the Savior’s nearness and availability. Leaning on His grace, we’ve plunged into the depths of humility, explored the inner places of our own hearts, made a personal pilgrimage to God’s altar with the things we found there, and finally, admitted our total need for the Savior and His atonement in our lives. Hopefully, we have experienced a huge paradigm shift, making us 100% dependent on Him and His strength, His wisdom and His love. At the very least, we’ve come to realize that there is no other name, way or means (power) that can take us all the way to a state of healing and peace equal to the challenges of life in these last days.
If you’ve been involved in a study-support group such as Heart t’ Heart or LDS Family Services recovery groups, you’ve been blessed by the friendship of other LDS people who have also been learning to practice these principles in their lives. You may have already done some personal inventory (Step Four) and some Fifth Step work. It’s my hope and prayer that you’ve not only read this book, but have turned to the Book of Mormon and allowed it to bring you closer to Heavenly Father and the Savior as you’ve pondered, prayed and written your way through the “capturing” exercises. And now, here we are so close to the end of our journey together. I’m afraid I don’t do goodbyes very well. I’ve put off writing this discussion for that very reason. How do I wind it up, cap it off, say “I love you” one last time?
I can only exercise faith and continue on. And so, though I am sad to be so close to the end of this chance to share with you, I will plunge ahead and address this final step. It actually consists of three distinct gospel principles, two of which we are very familiar with in the Church. First, there is carrying this message to others who still suffer (what we are used to calling “member-missionary work”) and second, there is practicing these principles in all areas of our life for the rest of our lives (similar to the prophets’ entreaty to “endure to the end”). The third concept, however, that of having a “spiritual awakening” of such a magnitude that it could be referred to as being “born again,” or having a mighty change of heart, is unfortunately a little more obscure to many members of the church, even though the prophets, throughout the scriptures, have described it as the culminating and most essential experience in every disciple’s life.
For many years, before I personally experienced this undeniable and monumental awakening to the reality and goodness of God, I was only “walking through the motions” of much of my activity in the church. I desperately wanted to know enough and do enough so I could make the promises of the Gospel come true for me. Nevertheless, year after year I came away from talks on concepts like “being a member-missionary” and “enduring to the end,” more bored than born again. Today I realize this was another example of “spiritual dyslexia” on my part (See “Benjamin’s Promises” A-5). I was putting the “cart” (the work to be moved along) before the “horse” (the power to move it.) It was only when I stopped trying to fix myself and admitted my need for the Savior that I began to experience such love and kindness, such empowerment and redemption from Him, that changes-heart-deep changes-began to happen. With this much love-His love-pure love for and from Christ, I had to share this message of His reality and availability to all who would live these principles.
In all humility, I can say that the following words of President Joseph F. Smith perfectly express the truth of my own testimony:
My brethren and sisters, I desire to bear my testimony to you; for I have received an assurance which has taken possession of my whole being. It has sunk deep into my heart; it fills every fiber of my soul; so that I feel to say before this people, and would be pleased to have the privilege of saying it before the whole world, that God has revealed unto me that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world. (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 501)
Practicing these principles in the format of the Twelve Steps as adapted for LDS people and originally presented through Heart t’ Heart (www.heart-t-heart.org) has opened this degree of witness to my mind and heart.
YE MUST REPENT unto a remission of sins
Repentance comes in more than one form or degree.
There is the minimal form or degree of repentance that a person manifests simply because he or she is caught in the act of wrong behavior. This is a surface repentance and basically amounts to being sorry that you got caught and were forced to stop your incorrect behavior, temporarily. On the opposite end of the spectrum there is a full repentance that is genuine and heart-deep. The scriptures contain many references to this degree of repentance. (See Topical Guide under “Remission of Sin.”)
In between these two forms of repentance, I have discovered there is a “half-measure” degree of repentance. This form of repentance is more than just being sorry we got caught, but it’s not quite deep enough or sincere enough to turn us to the Lord and away from sin. It’s a sort of “half-baked” repentance. It’s like saying, “Well, okay. I’ll stop doing this, but I don’t want to get rid of the possibility entirely. I’ll just lock it up in the back of my heart and mind, but I don’t want the Lord to actually eradicate it completely. You never know. I might need to return to it some day.”
This degree or level of repentance might be the most pitiful of all-even worse than that of the obvious backslider or reprobate. Why? Because this repentance holds a person in “limbo”-not really out there being a prodigal, but also never able to enter into the Lord’s living presence and feel of His reality and peace. This is the degree of repentance I practiced almost exclusively for the first 25 years I was a member of the Church. Good as far as it went, but it just didn’t go far enough. It didn’t go deep enough.
This “half-measure” repentance was fueled by my power, and therefore destined for eventual failure. The abstinence it brought to me was a constant, white-knuckled struggle to maintain. My addictions still lurked in the back of my heart and mind, creating a sense of foreboding that some new situation or turn of events would unleash it. I developed more “coping devices” (a nice expression for bad habits or addictions) to take the edge off my anxiety. But gradually, my efforts failed and I realized I couldn’t live in this half-measure effort to repent. I thank God that I was brought to this state of “failure.” Not only did I have to turn away from my foolish, sinful, faithless behavior, but I finally had to turn to the Savior-even one Jesus Christ, a Son of God (Alma 36:17). By doing this, I came down into the depths of humility, accepted my foolishness and admitted it before God, bringing my weaknesses to Christ (Ether 12:27). Only then was I prepared to receive His gift: a remission of my sinful nature, a complete change of disposition and desire to do harm to myself or others (Mosiah 5:2; Alma 19:33).
Heart-deep, full repentance takes a person out of the cycle of repentance and brings a remission of sin, such as Enos experienced when he received the testimony of Christ concerning his own salvation (Enos 1:5-6). This is the most precious testimony of Christ any one of us can ever receive. It is the witness from Christ that your life is redeemed and has been made acceptable to the Father through the Savior’s individual love and atonement for you. And every one of us, without exception, can exercise this degree of repentance and receive this remission of sin. We can be encircled about in the arms of safety from sin because of His last and great sacrifice (Alma 34:15-16). That’s what this course of study and change is about!
And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4:3)
As President Benson once said:
When we awake and are born of God, a new day will break and Zion will be redeemed.
May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again. (Ensign, July 1989, p. 5; emphasis added)
This is His greatest gift to us, our greatest reward! To preach repentance to people and encourage them along its path without also teaching this amazing gift of remission of sin-of loss of desire to do evil, of rebirth as its intended destination-is sort of like giving a person a map to a treasure without an “X” marked on it.
“Men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25; emphasis added)
We need to realize that while feeling joy comes from repenting, having joy, possessing it as a permanent resource in our inner being which no external circumstances can affect comes from being born again in Christ. We have to get over our fear of these kinds of expressions, fear of sounding like born-again Christians. We need to start sounding like born-again Christian Mormons.
And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come. And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of Christians.might be favored. (Alma 46:15-16)
There is not a soul, who desires to return home to the God who gave them life, who can or will circumvent or avoid this process or experience of being born again as a child, a new creature in Christ. Baptism, even by proper authority, is not its equivalent, neither is confirmation or any other physical ordinance. All the ordinances, absolutely essential as they are, are but actions to pattern us, guideposts to guide us along the path to our eventual awakening to Him (2 Nephi 11:4).
And be born again, BECOMING HIS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
I would pray with all my heart that we who have thoroughly studied these materials no longer cringe at the concept of being born again, but realize it is the very bulls-eye, the very core of God’s purpose for His children and the central message of the Book of Mormon.
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters. (Mosiah 27:25)
“Becoming his sons and daughters?” If you’re like me, you may have read that phrase and wondered at the seemingly strange way to describe being redeemed. Aren’t we already sons and daughters of God since before the world began? Then how is it that the scripture says that this process of being born again causes us to “become” the children of God? I believe the following verses of scripture clear away the confusion.
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters, for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. (Mosiah 5:7-8; emphasis added)
The whole reason our Heavenly Father sent us here was to reconfirm our relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. It is not offensive to the Father, or incorrect in His sight, for us to establish this loyalty, this friendship, even a parent-child intimacy with His Son. In fact it is the only thing that will save us. Christ must become our head, not just someone whose name we use as we brush past Him on our way. He is our way.
[Another] sense in which Jesus Christ is regarded as the “Father” has reference to the relationship between Him and those who accept His Gospel and thereby become heirs of eternal life. .
That by obedience to the Gospel men may become sons of God, both as sons of Jesus Christ, and, through Him, as sons of His Father, is set forth in many revelations given in the current dispensation [see D&C 11:28-30; D&C 34:1-3; D&C 35:1-2; D&C 39:1-4; D&C 45:7-8] (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 40.)
Again in the Book of Mormon, we read:
And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord-I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed,. (Mosiah 15:10-11)
In allowing the principles of truth in this course of study to lead us through heart-deep repentance and preparation to receive the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives, we are each, individually, answering the inquiry of Mosiah 15:10, “And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?” with this declaration: I will declare myself a part of “His generation.” I will accept the offer of His soul as a sacrifice for all the sins from which I have suffered-my own and others. I will be “His child”-“His seed.”
One family in christ-THE motive for carrying the message
With Christ as our father-figure, divinely appointed to that role by our equally universal Father in Heaven, and each of us changed by Him, Lehi’s words spoken as he partook of the fruit of the tree of life take on new meaning:
And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceeding great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit. (1 Nephi 8:12; emphasis added)
In that time before being born again in Christ, we may have been content or maybe even overwhelmed at trying to teach the gospel to our immediate family, but now we have been born again with a new heart and a new spirit-Christ’s own. I believe that each of us in our own way, with our own unique talents, will awaken to the desire to participate in this great effort to help others come to Him and acknowledge His complete supremacy.
As the Prophet Joseph Smith expressed it:
Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons [or daughters] of God. A man [or woman] filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his [or her] family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. (History of the Church, 4:227)
This desire to carry the message to others who still suffer-those who still do not know the Savior’s reality-is essential to those who have been redeemed. In the original Twelve Step program, Bill Wilson, A.A.’s founder, realized that along with applying all the other principles that were to eventually become the basis for the other eleven steps, he had to also carry the message to others or he would lose his own sobriety.
I add my testimony to his. It is an absolute fact: if we do not share our new life in Christ in one way or another, we cannot retain it. In giving it away and watching others begin to recover, our recovery is continually renewed.
And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me. (Alma 29:10)
Twelfth step work blesses our immediate family, too
Does this mean that we use our recovery work as another excuse to neglect our immediate family? Sometimes it may seem that way, at least at first. If our previous style of interacting with our family was to be enmeshed-caring or controlling beyond righteous bounds-our newly mended definition of “family” might actually be a blessing. It might give our closest loved ones some much-needed space in which to practice their own moral agency. When we put God and His will first in our life, how much we need to be there for and do for our immediate family, and how much God would have us extend ourselves to help our Eternal family, begins to fall into place also. Here again, as in all other areas of our life, we must turn our will and life to God and trust His direction in all things-including this.
I have experienced this phenomenon in my own life. As I have done “twelfth-step work” (carrying the message) with others, I have witnessed a miracle in my home. It is an absolute fact that when I go out to do this work (as opposed to just “getting away” for money or for pleasure), I come home a more Christ-centered person, a far more sober person. I come home to my family with the words of eternal truth in my mind. The kind of spirit that possesses me and its effect on my household is perfectly expressed in these words by Nephi:
Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away. (2 Nephi 8:11)
There is no way to describe the difference in the spirit that fills my home since I have dedicated my life to this work. There is now peace and joy where there once was a spirit of sorrow and mourning. The dreadful abuse my children lived with from both their parents has ended, and a gradual but steady healing is taking place.
If I did not share the good news of Christ’s power to do these things, I know it would gradually slip away from me. I would lose it, and my family and I would be right back where we were before-I would be “drunk” and they would be neglected and abused. It is the nature of this telestial sphere to wear away at our commitment to God if we do not continually remember and renew it through sharing it with others.
And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words. Amen. (Alma 42:31)
The second half of this chapter will be posted next week.
He Did Deliver Me from Bondage can be found at most LDS bookstores or purchased online at www.rosehavenpublishing.com
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