August 27, 2007

Testimony In a Leaky Vessel

Ezra T. Benson February 16, 1853 Elder Ezra T. Benson, great-grandfather of later president of the Church Ezra Taft[1] , gave a discourse on the necessity of opposition at a seventies conference in 1853. He began by expressing gratitude for the Holy Ghost; a means by which God reveals His will to us:

And what a glorious idea it is to know that we are in the Church and Kingdom of God, where there is a fountain of knowledge, of light, and of faith, where there is an inexhaustible fountain of matter and experience to work upon, so that a man is not trammelled in performing any one good thing... Who is trammeled in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is there one person? No, not one. Are you debarred from getting revelation? No, not at all. Light and intelligence are placed as free as the air that blows.
Things seem clear when we have the influence of the Holy Ghost, but as was discussed in an earlier post, the "mists of darkness" still often cloud our view. Additionally, light and truth can be taken by the evil one if we are disobedient to the things already revealed to us:
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one... And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men... (D&C 93:36-39).
Living according to the light we have received is critical if we wish to receive more from God. Alma, while contending with Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon contains a warning, as well as a promise:
And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full (Alma 12:9-10).
Elder Benson explained the loss of knowledge to Satan by disobedience in these words:
If you suffer the Spirit of the Lord to leave your hearts, and the devil comes along and finds an empty house, he then enters in, and inasmuch as we are under transgression, be lays his hand upon us, saying, "You shall be my tool for me to work with, you have transgressed the laws of God, and my spirit shall lead you about…
In 1839, a letter to the Saints written by Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail also detailed the process of losing knowledge of gospel truthfulness, saying our actions can cause the "heavens to withdraw themselves," the Spirit of the Lord is "grieved," and we are chillingly told we can be left unto ourselves to "kick against the pricks" (see D&C 121:37-38). This process seems more likely to occur gradually than suddenly. Elder Benson warned the Saints against allowing their faith to leak:
If ever we are clipped of our Priesthood, our glory, and our crown, it will be when we cease to faithfully preach the Gospel, cease to keep the commandments of God enjoined upon us, cease doing good to this people. Then, at once, the principles of "Mormonism" will be contracted in us; we shall become leaky vessels in the principles of the Gospel, while we ought to retain every good thing we receive.
When our faith wanes, or the Spirit of the Lord seems distant, Elder Benson mentions one effective way to open the heart to communicate with God again; serving others:
When I feel like blessing my brethren, like lifting them up, and exalting then in my feelings, I feel first-rate myself; but when I feel like dragging then down, I feel contracted in my feelings, my mind does not expand in the principles of 'Mormonism'; but when I feel to bless everybody and do right by night and day, I feel like blessing everybody, and strong like a young lion sallying from his thicket (Journal of Discourses 2:347-354).
My mission president made a theme of "filling our buckets;" that is, learning the gospel in such a way that the Holy Ghost could bring what we had learned to our memory if needed. This principle applies well to preventing our buckets, or as Elder Benson said, our "vessels" from leaking to a state of emptiness. To remain firm in our testimony, then, requires not only obedience to what we have already learned, but a striving in which we add to our knowledge by study. Joseph Smith received this nugget in a revelation at Kirtland in 1832:
Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man D&C 84:85).
By treasuring up the truths of the gospel continually, following what has already been revealed, and seeking the Holy Ghost through service to others, our vessels will continually be refilled, and we shall not want for gospel knowledge; only to increase in it. Footnotes [1] Ezra Taft Benson, born Feb. 22, 1811 in Mendon, Massachusetts, was baptised July 19, 1840 in Quincy, Illinois. He was ordained an apostle on July 16, 1846, replacing John E. Page. His great-grandson Ezra Taft Benson became President of the Church in 1985.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very good post.

the idea of keeping filled vessels or filled buckets is such a neat analogy. this is something that we complacent saints need to have in mind.

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