If you look around in a typical LDS ward, you will see people who are striving to do the right thing. We come to church in right attire, men in white shirts and suits, women in modest dresses. We present the right image of being clean and pure. On occasion, we talk of repentance as a necessity, but something done in private away from the prying eyes of our fellow saints who distain evil and vice. We speak of shunning sin as though we have accomplished the feat. But how accurate is the public image we have chosen to present?
Aren’t we all broken? Do we not all have sin and evil in our lives? Not all of us wear the odor of our addiction on our clothes as smokers do. But what if this was the case? What would our environment be like if the addiction to pornography, or to drugs, or even to material possessions and worldliness generated an odor that could be sensed by those around us? What would our church be like?
What would the recognition of the fact that we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) do to our religious community?
In Ether 12:27 we read that we, all, have weakness:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
The Lord tells us that we are given weaknesses, the inability to withstand all sin and temptation, in order for us to be humble. In my opinion, pride is the antithesis of humility. Humble is not having anything hidden. Humility is not doing anything that we place ourselves above another.
Nephi demonstrated this openness when he told us in 2 Nephi, chapter 4:
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
What would our reaction be if one of our leaders today were to make a similar statement?
Pride means we must project and protect our image; whether it is a fine home, an SUV or a lifestyle. Self righteousness is a blatant form of pride. We can easily fall into a mode where we become proud of our circumstances or accomplishments and look with distain upon others who are not at the same ‘level.’ Christ referred to people who wear an external appearance of good but were rotten inside as ‘whited sepulchres”
We read in D&C 121 what impact this has on one who holds the priesthood.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
A priesthood holder can lose his priesthood authority by covering his sins. Does this mean that any attempt to keep our sins secret negates our priesthood? Is this why Nephi was so candid? How many truly hold priesthood authority if the simple act of sinning and hiding the fact disconnects them from the priesthood?
This type of candid self assessment by anyone in the church is almost shocking. What if the Lord expected us to be this open to those of our religious community?
In Moroni 6:2 we read:
Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
How many of our new members have stood before the church and witnessed that they have repented of all their sins before they were baptized? Moroni states this as a prerequisite to baptism. What would the atmosphere be like if we all witnessed unto the church of our degree of sinliness? I will let you go first…
After King Benjamin delivered his sermon at the temple, the people had this reaction found in Mosiah, chapter 4:
1 AND now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
How much of our own pride would we need to dismantle before we would see ourselves as ‘less than the dust of the earth?’
The people of King Benjamin were blessed with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost and were sanctified because they reached this state.
3 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.
These people received a remission of their sins as a group of the followers of Christ. They had the burden of sin removed from them and had received great joy. They did it as a collective membership of the church. What would it take to have this same experience among us today? Would we be willing as a ward to lay ourselves open to all, to be stripped of all pride and view ourselves as nothing? The prize would be to truly receive a remission of our sins.
This is the same result as defined by Moroni regarding the prerequisites to church membership.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
As we read here, it was not until AFTER the person had been baptized by water and cleansed and sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost that they were admitted into the membership of the church.
This is the same result as the people of King Benjamin. They also were cleansed of all sins. I believe this is significantly different from coming out of the waters of baptism and immediately having a confirmation where we are told to receive the Holy Ghost. This simple act does not garner a remission of sins. It is not until we have had the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that we can be truly clean, that we can be truly sanctified.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if we desire to have membership in his spiritual church (as opposed to the corporate church) and administer with true priesthood authority, we must be willing to bear our souls. We must be willing to leave no sins hidden. We must strip ourselves of all pride and ambition in any degree of unrighteousness in order to be cleansed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
Are we individually and collectively willing to truly approach God with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ to bear our souls as an open book, and seek to be cleansed by the Holy Ghost as required in Moroni 6?
What think ye?