You may remember a general conference address in which Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles compared the process of conversion to the process of pickling a cucumber (Referred to as, “The Parable of the Pickle” in “Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign,May 2007). For many of us this was a new and powerful object lesson, but Elder Bednar wasn’t the first Apostle to make this comparison. President Lorenzo Snow shared a similar insight 150 years earlier:
“Place a cucumber in a barrel of vinegar and there is but little effect produced upon it the first hour, nor in the first 12 hours. Examine it and you will find that the effect produced is merely upon the rind, for it requires a longer time to pickle it. A person’s being baptized into this church has an effect upon him, but not the effect to pickle him immediately. It does not establish the law of right and of duty in him during the first 12 or 24 hours; he must remain in the church, like the cucumber in the vinegar, until he becomes saturated with the right spirit (Teachings: Lorenzo Snow, CHAPTER 3: LIFELONG CONVERSION: CONTINUING TO ADVANCE IN THE PRINCIPLES OF TRUTH).
Although Elder Bednar may not have been the first to use “the parable of the pickle” as an object lesson of true and continual conversion, he did elaborate on it with more power, and authority, clarity, and completeness than I could ever hope to offer. I commend his words to you below… (Keep scrolling though, I do have more!)
These pages are an invitation to CHANGE in the same way! When the Church was threatened by internal contention and wickedness (see Alma 4:9–11), Alma knew that true reform could only come through a mighty change in the hearts of Church members. Alma gave up the judgment seat so he could focus his efforts on strengthening the Church. As the High Priest of the Church, Alma began his mission to reclaim the people of Zarahemla by “bearing down in pure testimony against them” (Alma 4:19) and calling on the people to repent. Alma began his mission by reminding the people of Zarahemla that the Lord had delivered their ancestors from physical and spiritual bondage. He encouraged them to prepare for the judgment of the Lord by having faith in the word of God and evaluating the spiritual condition of their hearts. As Alma continued preaching in Zarahemla, he warned the people that their decision to hearken to or reject his words held certain blessings or consequences. Alma also compared Jesus Christ to a good shepherd who called after them and desired to bring them back to his fold. He encouraged the people to repent and avoid the unclean things of the world so they could inherit the kingdom of heaven. After setting the Church in order in Zarahemla, Alma went to the city of Gideon.
One of the classic stories that I feel illustrates Alma 5-6 well is “HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”, by Dr. Seuss
What exactly was the Grinch’s problem? The same thing that Alma has noticed with his people (and perhaps us)–Heart Disease! Elder Gerald N. Lund, who later served as a member of the Seventy, taught that when the word heart is used in the scriptures, it often refers to “the real, inward person” (“Understanding Scriptural Symbols,” Ensign, Oct. 1986). How is a “mighty change of heart” different from the other ways in which people may change?
One way to express that someone has had a mighty change of heart is to say that they have been “born of God” or “born again”–the change that a person experiences when they accept Jesus Christ and begin a new life as His disciple.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“You may ask, ‘Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me?’ You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality” (“Born Again,” Ensign, May 2008).
President Ezra Taft Benson also explained that experiencing “a mighty change of heart” is most often an incremental process:
“Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair. But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said ‘were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not’ (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added)” (“A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989).
CHART YOUR HEART!
In medical practice a cardiogram is a chart that doctors use to evaluate the status of our physical hearts. It helps identify conditions that need treatment. Study the verses from Alma 5 that are listed at the bottom of the spiritual cardiogram below. What does your SPIRITUAL CARDIOGRAM look like?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught us this about CHANGE:
“Here the most crucial challenge, once you recognize the seriousness of your mistakes, will be to believe that you can change, that there can be a different you. To disbelieve that is clearly a satanic device designed to discourage and defeat you. We ought to fall on our knees and thank our Father in heaven that we belong to a church and have grasped a gospel that promises repentance to those who will pay the price. Repentance is not a foreboding word. It is, after faith, the most encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. Repentance is simply the scriptural invitation for growth and improvement and progress and renewal. You can change! You can be anything you want to be in righteousness.
“If there is one lament I cannot abide, it is the poor, pitiful, withered cry, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” If you want to talk about discouragement, that is one that discourages me. I’ve heard it from too many people who want to sin and call it psychology. And I use the word sin to cover a vast range of habits, some seemingly innocent enough, that nevertheless bring discouragement and doubt and despair.
“You can change anything you want to change, and you can do it very fast. Another satanic sucker punch is that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. That’s just not true. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say, “I’ll change”-and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend-indeed, you had better spend-the rest of your life proving your repentance by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as they did for Alma and the sons of Mosiah. Even if you have serious amends to make, it is not likely that you would qualify for the term “the vilest of sinners,” which is the phrase Mormon used in describing these young men. Yet as Alma recounts his own experience, it appears to have been as instantaneous as it was stunning. (See Alma 36)” (However Long and Hard the Road, p.6)
President Ezra Taft Benson taught how people who have had a “change of heart” want to live:
“When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed. … The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human behavior. …
“Men [and women] changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ (Acts 9:6.) …
“Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.)
“They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.)
“Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him.
“Enter their homes, and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians.
“They stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9.)
“They have Christ on their minds, as they look unto Him in every thought. (See D&C 6:36.)
“They have Christ in their hearts as their affections are placed on Him forever. (See Alma 37:36.)
“Almost every week they partake of the sacrament and witness anew to their Eternal Father that they are willing to take upon them the name of His Son, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. (See Moro. 4:3.)” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1985).
Are You Saved?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event . . . or as conditioned upon a future event. . . . But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ” (Ensign, May 1998). The following are summaries of the six different meanings of which Elder Oaks spoke:
We are saved from the permanent effects of death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected.
We are saved from sin through Christ’s Atonement and by following the gospel plan. Repentance is an important part of being saved from the consequences of our sins.
We are saved when we are “born again.” This happens when we enter into a covenant relationship with Christ by accepting baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and taking Christ’s name upon us. We must also faithfully keep and renew that covenant relationship.
We are saved from the darkness of ignorance as we learn about the gospel plan. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings light into our lives.
We are saved from the second death, which is final spiritual death, because of Christ’s Atonement. Everyone, except for those few who become sons of perdition, will enter into a kingdom of glory.
Our hope is that we will be finally saved in the celestial kingdom. In addition to the other requirements, this salvation, or exaltation, also requires that we make sacred covenants in God’s temples and remain faithful to them.
“HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
The Grinch hated Christmas!
The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were to tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason,
His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.
“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer.
“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!”
For, tomorrow, he knew…
…All the Who girls and boys
Would wake up bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would start on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast
Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
They’d do something he liked least of all!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing!
AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Grinch thought of the Who-Christmas-Sing
The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming!
Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!
GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what to do!” The Grinch Laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need is a reindeer…”
The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch…?
No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his dog Max. Then he took some red thread
And he tied a big horn on top of his head.
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a ramshakle sleigh
And he hitched up old Max.
Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!”
And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whos
Lay a-snooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house in the square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Grinchy Claus hissed
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.
“These stockings,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”
And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove
When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Who daughter
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head
And he got her a drink and he sent he to bed.
And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took
Was the log for their fire.
Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire.
And the one speck of food
The he left in the house
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
He did the same thing
To the other Whos’ houses
Much too small
For the other Whos’ mouses!
It was quarter past dawn…
All the Whos, still a-bed
All the Whos, still a-snooze
When he packed up his sled,
Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
He rode to the tiptop to dump it!
“Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”
“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,
“That I simply must hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then…?
Well…in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
The Grinch carved the roast beast!
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