04 March 2009

Water, Blood, & Spirit

It has been my pleasure to visit the Museum of Art since I've been living on campus, and I wish I would have started going there sooner. Quiet meditation has proven to be very good for me--something I managed to forget after Christmas break because I've been too nervous and conscious about spending too much time alone. It should have occurred to me that Satan (or perhaps just my lack of good sense) would try to convince me that something that is actually very good for me would be a mistake.

But I digress.

This painting by Ron Richard illustrates a section in Moses 6 from the Pearl of Great Price that has weighed heavily on my mind since my Pearl of Great Price professor emphasized it in class not too long ago. The part I want to emphasize is in from verses 59-62:
Photo of Triplus No. 3, painted by Ron Richmond
On display at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
62 And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time.


I sat in front of this painting for a long time, contemplating the symbolism in what I was seeing, and how the image before me represented the Plan of Salvation, and the more I thought about the completeness of the representation, the happier I became because I saw how perfectly everything fit together--but more importantly because I could feel it was true.

In verse 59, it presents an ordered list of water, blood, and Spirit. The order of the list is relevant, both forwards and backwards, because of everything it illustrates. For the sake of simplifying my life, I'm simply going to list what I've come up with so far:

  • The Godhead - Spirit would obviously represent the Holy Ghost, and the blood Christ, but what I found to be profound was that Heavenly Father would be represented as water. So simple, yet so essential and inseparable from everything we are, and living itself.
  • Spirit birth - As it was explained to me in my Pearl of Great Price class, we simply do not know much about the birth of our spirits. Verse 59 states that water, blood, spirit, and dust became a living soul, and I won't pretend like I begin to understand what that means. It probably has something to do with the fact that bodies are referred to in the scriptures as tabernacles of clay, in which case the "clay" has been consecrated to be a "tabernacle." It seems that only when our spirit is joined with our body that this consecration is complete.
  • The Creation - Because the earth was created spiritually before it was created temporally, it has a spirit and must go through the same baptismal process as we do. Its baptism by water occurred at the flood, and by blood when Christ atoned for our sins in Gethsemane. When the earth undergoes baptism by fire at the second coming, it will be for the purpose of purifying the earth and preparing it for the work that will continue after His coming.
  • The Fall - The Fall was a necessary transition from the spirit world to the mortal world, or between Spirit and blood. Life does not end with mortality, however, and we must be cleansed through the blood of Christ's atonement before we can progress as purified beings and return to Heavenly Father's presence.
  • The Atonement - Much of the Christian community mistakingly thinks the Atonement took place only upon the cross at Calvary, which is why Latter-day Saints often get weird looks about not holding the cross as a symbol of our faith. In actuality, the Atonement began in the garden of Gethsemane where Christ took upon Him the sins of the world and bled from every pore. He gave up the protection of the Spirit, His blood, and His divinity in that moment in order to be the kind of sacrifice He had to be to save us all. Only "an infinite and eternal sacrifice" of a God would be able to atone for the sins of the world, and by giving up His Spirit, blood, and water, Christ was able to do that for us. (Alma 34: 10)
  • Baptism - Baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes many specific details that were restored to the earth in order that the ceremony and covenant would be in harmony with what it was supposed represent. We believe in baptism by full immersion; the entire body has to go under water to represent death to the natural man. Then, by the laying on of hands (a part of the body), we can be confirmed, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is then conferred upon us, and we can have that constant companionship, according to our worthiness.
  • Eternity - In Doctrine and Covenants 76, we learn that the kingdom of heaven has three separate kingdoms; the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial kingdoms.
    • The Telestial kingdom is the one I have the hardest time understanding because I'm not sure how to distinguish the Telestial kingdom from Perdition and outer darkness, but the Spirit part of this metaphor makes it a lot clearer. Outer darkness would be receiving none of God's substance. The Telestial Kingdom, however, would be like receiving of angelic ministry and spirits, but nothing more.
    • The Terrestrial kingdom will essentially be like the Garden of Eden, where God's children who were righteous temporally will no longer live in carnality or sin of blood and body, but will not have the fullest joy because they also cannot bear children.
    • The Celestial kingdom in the greatest glory that God can bestow upon His children, comparable to the exceeding brilliance of the sun's light. Only in this realm, we believe, can Heavenly Father's sons and daughters become gods and goddesses. What most people don't realize is that such a thought is hardly blasphemous because it isn't possible without Heavenly Father. Period. It requires all the purity of water, metaphorically speaking, and nothing less will ever get someone to that point. While we've all been given the choice to be that pure, and many still are being taught about the choices they have to make in order to inherit that grace, the bar is high because it's a matter of becoming, not a matter of passing the test until you can get through the door. Someone once expressed to me that most people probably won't be going there because of how hard it is to get there, and I believe that from what I've seen in my life. Purity is the highest law because it requires a complete transformation. To go from red blood to clear water would require nothing short of a miraculous transformation.

This is just a list of what I have time to go into now, but I imagine you could take just about anything that God has made, any part of His plan of salvation, and these elements will be a part of it somewhere. Thinking ahead to the day when I receive my Endowment, I really do wonder how much of what I'm being taught will also be evident in those temple covenants. That knowledge is not the kind of thing I would ever seek before my time, but I do know that the Spirit has a way of teaching and preparing us ahead of time for many things that might have otherwise been overwhelming. For now, I am satisfied with the truth I have been given, and find great joy in pondering on it still.

I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to be in such a spiritual community where I can be worthy to receive such beautiful teachings. I also testify that if we will seek out the Spirit of God, it will teach us lessons that will bring us to an understanding of our Father's world and what marvelous, miraculous gifts He has given to us, His children. I testify of the joy he has given me, and my heart swells to know that an infinite and eternal deity, my Heavenly Father, would care so much about me to teach me of His artistry so that I can come home; because at the end of the day--after water, blood, and Spirit rest from His labors--that's the only place I want to be.

6 comments:

  1. I'm impressed by your testimony. It has been a long time since I've been able to say that to anyone. Fast & Testimony is usually agony for me.

    That said,

    I can't agree with your interpretation of the painting or the passage of scripture accompanying it.

    I see the painting as showing the necessary steps towards exaltation. The same with the scripture.

    According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in his final address at General Conference before his death, the suffering at Gethsemane was only the beginning. After Gethsemane and all the earthly tortures between, the same merciless pains suffered in Gethsemane RECURRED on the cross.

    The three elements are about the three pieces of life and Eternal life. Each is the fulfillment of a comenant. Sex itself is a covenant between a man and a woman. That is why it is so sacred. We make a covenant that we will care for each other and the child we are about to bear.

    We sacrifice some of our lives to provide & care for that child. He is born of water (amniotic fluid). A spirit enters the empty vessel and creates a living being. And if you've ever actually seen a birth, there is lots of blood.

    When we are born again (of the water and of the Spirit) we have three elements of the sacrifice present to give us a new life in Christ. All the elements are a continuation of the covenant.

    We make a covenant through baptism by water. The covenant is first that we will obey commandments and prepare ourselves to receive the Spirit. Once we do, we are justified (forgiven of sins). As we continue in the covenant, we will eventually receive the second witness. This is Jesus Christ Himself. It is then that our garments are washed in the blood of Christ. Notice the two colors of cloth in the background. When this happens, we are not just forgiven, but we are raised to a new level. We are transformed.

    It is the difference between cleaning steel vs. changing the steel into gold.

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  2. Thank you for your kind words. I'm always amazed, though, when people say they do not like Fast and Testimony meeting. It's one of my favorite meetings in the Church, and I try to participate every time I possibly can. There's nothing like the feeling of getting up there and losing sight of the congregation in front of you in exchange for a MUCH larger audience ;)

    That said,

    I must also thank you for your added insight into what I was trying to express, and also point out that the Plan of Salvation (my interpretation of the verse) ARE the necessary steps to exaltation. We're looking at the verses and seeing much of the same thing. I'm just exploring how complete the metaphor is because whenever Heavenly Father sets forth a metaphor, you can be certain that it is PERFECT on a very deep and layered level.

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  3. It is a micro-management / macro-management issue.

    The plan of salvation is the overall road map. But the verses only talk specifically about the fall and redemption.

    Where I think you go too far with the metaphor is when you equate water, blood, & spirit with the three degrees of glory or the Godhead. I read every word you said. But I just don't see the connection.

    You yourself had to FORCE a connection with water and Heavenly Father. A metaphor that needs to be forced is generally not a good one, and not one our Father usually gives.

    I wonder, do you have access to Ron Richard? Couldn't you ask him what he meant by the painting? See if your interpretation holds "water"?

    Regarding fast & testimony meeting:

    I can't speak for everyone (although I've heard plenty of people say virtually the same thing I'm about to write). I find it difficult to sit through because I never feel a true testimony come from the pulpit.

    I hear:

    Random preaching opportunitites. Travel logs. Thank-i-monies. And testimonies that are memorized rather than expressed.

    Can we PLEASE share the Spirit during these meetings? Apparently you've experienced different things. You're very blessed.

    I've been in a little over 100 wards in my life. And I've rarely found an exception to my assessment.

    I would REALLY like to say that I got to feel the Spirit from someone sharing their testimony over the pulpit. But they just don't do it. Why NOT?

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  4. This is the only way I can think to do this, so I'm just gonna go for it. Hope you don't mind ;) I want to break down verse 59 piece by piece so I can show you were I see what I see.

    "That by reason of transgression cometh the fall..." -- obviously the Fall

    "...inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became a living soul..." -- spirit birth

    "even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven" -- baptism

    "...of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin..." -- this is where I see the representation of the Godhead and the Atonement

    "...and enjoy th words of eternal life in this world..." --the earth and creation

    "...and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory." -- the idea that the creation isn't finished, and the connection to Eternity

    Read the whole verse as a complete sentence and you will see that all of these things are connected. By the water, blood, and spirit are ALL of these things brought to pass. Then look to verse 62 and see that it says "This is the plan of salvation," referring back to everything that was outlined in verse 59. All I was doing was taking each part of the Plan of Salvation and connecting it to the ordered list of water, blood, and spirit because that's what the verses said to do.

    I also want to point out that I never said that I forced any part of the metaphor in relation to the Godhead. You should understand that I didn't force any part of this experience. I did not figure this out by myself. I've read that verse I don't know how many times, and I never picked up on any of this. It wasn't until I was sitting in front of that painting that it made sense at all because the Spirit was teaching me.

    Because of that, it doesn't matter what Ron Richard's intentions were. Audience interpretation of a work is just as valid as (if not even MORE valid than) authorial intent. When that interpretation is brought about by personal revelation, I'm sure that's the kind of experience Ron Richards was actually going for.

    We have to be careful not to read the scriptures too literally, or with too much attention to face value, because then the Spirit will never be able to provide us with their deeper meanings through personal revelation.

    And of course, by all means, disagree with everything I say. It doesn't make a bit of difference to me because we are different people, learning different lessons in different ways. The fact that we disagree proves that agency is alive and well :)

    And as for testimony meetings, there's a reason I get so much out of them, and it has nothing to do with whatever ward I'm in at the time. It has everything to do with the attitude I bring to the table.

    I can choose to think I'm a more articulate speaker, that the Spirit in what I'm trying to say is more focused and proper over what someone else is trying to say, OR I can choose to hear what other people are trying to convey to me and to God, and truly find the spirit in what they say.

    This was hard for me to learn how to do. I still struggle sometimes,and I still find myself correcting people in my head for their word choice because it has gotten to the point where I'm beginning to hear more and more of what they're actually trying to say. But regardless, Fast and Testimony meeting is my favorite meeting because it's where I've learned the most about people. During talks and lessons, people try to put their best face forward, but fast and testimony meeting is where you get to see the good, the bad, the ugly, the REAL things in a person's life. So what if all they do is complain about their health, their trials, their everything? It lets me know, in clear-as-day terms, how I can be of help to them, what kind of encouragement they need.

    When you let Fast and Testimony meeting be about someone else's testimony, the Spirit THEY feel, and how you can learn from THEM, it really does become a humbling and enlightening experience.

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  5. Hello fellow fMh reader...I assume you are attending BYU. It's nice to know one isn't alone.

    jddaughter

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  6. Paradox, I really enjoyed the conversation between you and Carborendum as you discussed your post - My heart smiled at your sense of the Living word of Heavenly Father and how truth can be found in text, art, and the narritive written upon our lives :0)

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