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:
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;
Photo of Triplus No. 3, painted by Ron RichmondOn display at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art
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.