Friday, October 31, 2008

Learning through Symbols

This week, my New Testament class visited the Museum of Art on Brigham Young University campus for one of our class periods. I really enjoyed the visit and loved learning from the art. I like this method of learning because it is different from what I am used to and it requires me to stretch my brain. I'm not a particularly visual person, but I do think there is great value to be gained from learning from symbols. Tomorrow, I will be taking out my endowments in the Twin Falls temple and I am very excited for the chance to learn more about the power of symbols.
In preparing to go to the temple, I read a quote by Elder Widstoe that said, "No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand." The Bible Dictionary further elucidates that "Ceremonies and ordinances are symbolic in their performance, and all bear record of Jesus Christ." So I decided that I wanted to start looking for Christ in the symbols around me. As we looked at the picture of Jesus's birth where He is depicted as just a small baby and the focus is rather the swarm of angels above Him, it made me think of all how of us are symbols of Jesus. Every person I see everyday is a symbol of the Savior's love. I could look into the eyes of everyone and say, without reservation, "Jesus died for you." Could it be that one of the best portraits of Jesus would be a picture of the people that He saved? What represents Him best? This is kind of a double-edged question; we represent His love, and then, how well do we represent Him? Do people think of the Savior when they think of us? These are some of the questions I've had on my mind lately, and I'd love to hear what anyone else thinks about it. What do you think best represents Jesus?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Christ Sees the Life in Us

In my New Testament class at BYU, our professor talked about how, in Jewish culture, touching a dead body had come to represent the ultimate in uncleanliness. When Jairus asked Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead, Jesus did not hesitate to enter right into the house where her body lay. In fact, he even called into question the very fact that she was dead. He said, "She is not dead but sleepeth." Christ could still see the life in her, even though to the others she was an unclean corpse.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, the man beaten by theives was left "half dead." I can only imagine that this was probably the main reason the priest and the Levite passed him by. From their point of view, he must have looked dead and they didn't want to risk dirtying themselves with a corpse. But then the Samaritan came; he, like Jesus, saw not the man's bedraggled state, didn't think about the possible personal consequences of helping him, but rather saw the life in him.
To Jesus, none of us are ever dead. None of us are ever past hope, or too dirty to touch. It doesn't matter what we've done, how much grime of life we have dragged ourselves through. Christ sees the life in us, even when we don't. And since He does that for each of us, I want to do that for all of my brothers and sisters. I want to see the hope in them; I want to see what Jesus sees.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ten Virgins-Extra Oil of the Atonement

In the parable of the ten virgins, I have often wondered if the master's respone, "I know ye not" was a little bit harsh. As I read it this time, I looked up a cross-reference in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 26:24-28. It describes the Second Coming and says that, at the second trump, "then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me." Already I started to see the situation in a different light. These people never knew him; this new perspective was different that they idea that He just didn't know them. Verse 26 of Mosiah continues: "Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed." The master didn't know the foolish virgins not because he didn't put forth the effort, but because they weren't ready to accept him as the master when he came.
Within the parable, we can implicitly infer that the foolish virgins didn't bring any oil at all. They had some, but only what was in their lamps (if their lamps had gone out, it must have meant that there was originally oil there). But the wise virgins "took oil in their vessels with their lamps." By having this extra oil, they were ready when the bridegroom came and he knew them.
What can this extra oil in the vessels represent? I believe it is the Atonement of Christ, the blessings of which we must be willing to receive. In 2 Nephi 25:23 it tells us "that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." How often do we stop at the step of doing all that we can and forget to apply the grace of God? We forget to receive the gift. We have some preparation, the oil in our lamps, but we forget to use the power of the Atonement, the oil in our vessels. Think of the best we've ever done- now think how much better it could be with the power of Christ's Atonement augmenting it! We can't just have the oil of our own efforts- we need the Atonement to help us.