Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birth symbolism

A few thoughts about being born again. This is more a journal entry.

The word rebirth relates the idea to a physical birth.  Something each of us has experienced.  Water, blood, and Spirit are the elements of a birth, and a spiritual rebirth.

Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, a Master of Israel, didn't understand being born again. He had to seek out Jesus during the night alone to ask Him about it. (John 3:1-9). If he was a leader of the Jews and didn't understand it, it makes you wonder what he was teaching the people?  Can you teach what you do not know? He wondered how to enter back into a mothers womb and be born again. Christ replied that he needed to be born of water, and of the Spirit and later asked how this master in Israel did not know these things. Being a leader, and holding a high title did not automatically guarantee his understanding of the topic, nor guarantee he had experienced the teaching personally.

Speaking of the experiences of those in the scriptures.  If we live how they lived, believe as they believed, have the faith they had, why then would we experience any less? Why would we be limited to dummbed down versions of the experiences? With time wouldn't we be privileged to the same promises?  What for them was a meaningful event sometimes gets redefined for us readers until it is no longer even something you can recognize, but is instead more of some vague imperceptible process that everyone can relate to.  It's ok if we realize we are living below what God has offered.  The mistake is not realizing it, and then redefining the words and experiences of scripture to fit our lack of experiences.  

Elder Bednar has described being born again with an analogy involving the process a cucumber undergoes to become a pickle (conference 2007).  Elder Bednar and Elder McConkie have both also stated that events in the book of Mormon and bible involving peoples spiritual experiences and rebirth are not typical and do not typically occur all at once.  That may be the general experience of mainstream church members, however that does not mean that is the only way to view the subject.  Scripture authors say "many" are having the same experiences the authors were having, in other words, it's not necessarily atypical from a scriptural point of view. (Either 12:19, Alma 36:26).  Again if we live how they lived, should we not be able to have the same kinds of experiences?  Sure, the words of scriptures had to be condensed and experiences retold in short fashion since they had to etch it onto metal plates; but should not the experiences be the same ones available to a latter day audience?

Christ described being born again using the idea of a birth.  As I ponder on that teaching I've noticed there is a reason it's called "born again".  It resembles a birth.  It's an unmistakable moment. It's not labor, it's not pregnancy, it's just when a baby goes from the Garden of Eden of the womb, into mortality.  The dictionary defines birth as "the act or instance of being born". Something important has occurred, a fetus leaves the womb, breathes air for the first time and becomes a newborn baby. We mark the time and date and they are remembered.  There is joy, relief, and the newborn will soon receive a name and a blessing and hopefully lots of love. The newborn has passed from one state into another, and it's names goes from "fetus" to "baby". It's typically a time of joy.

In Mosiah 5:7-9,12 it talks about a large group of people of various ages gathered around the temple who were born again. They, like a baby were to receive a new name, and experience newness of life. There are many similarities to a birth. The physical birth involves water of the womb, the blood of the mother, and the spirit of the individual. The other involves ordinances, the water of baptism, the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Christ (Moses 6:60). Both births share the common elements. The two types of birth I think can shed light if we look at them as symbolic.    

The experience in Mosiah 5 above doesn't say this event was the completion of the peoples journey, it makes sense that such a thing wouldn't happen all at once. The words of the scripture do clearly communicate something mighty had happened that day.  Going back to the physical birth analogy, it seems to me pregnancy is a process, the fetus developing is a process, labor is a process, the child growing up is a process, learning and gaining wisdom is a process. But birth is defined as the act or instance of being born, it's a moment in time when something important happens. It's not the end, there is much more to come, growth, maturity, and progressing by degrees over time, but is not being born a memorable moment? One that is joyous, meaningful, with newness of life for child and newness for parent?  Would it not make sense that this physical truth would parallel the spiritual truth?  There is at minimum a milestone that can be recognized.

When I read church history and the testimonies of early Saints I notice "typical" in the early days of the church is not the same as "typical" now. To me that is worth some thought and personal reflection.  The work of God didn't change....

Spiritual rebirth is what God says it is, not what man tells you it should look like, and is like, and what's typical.

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