Monday, September 6, 2010

Cleansing the Inner Vessel

During the April Conference of 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “we must cleanse the inner vessel, beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church.” We could do this, President Benson taught, through converted hearts, avoiding sexual sin, using the Book of Mormon and humbling ourselves before God.

After reminding us of the many programs and resources of the Church, President Benson counters, “We don’t need changed programs now as much as we need changed people!” The adversary will seek to pacify and lull away the people of the latter days that he may lead them away carefully down to hell (2 Nephi 28:21). We must awake, “awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell… awake… [and] put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust” (2 Nephi 1:13, 23).

With changed hearts, we must then avoid sexual immorality. “This, the Prophet Joseph said, would be the source of more temptations, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the elders of Israel than any other… If we are to cleanse the inner vessel, we must forsake immorality and be clean.”

We must also say and do more with the Book of Mormon. Quoting President Marion G. Romney, President Benson taught, “By [reading the Book of Mormon] we will fill and refresh our minds with the constant flow of that ‘water’ which Jesus said would be in us—‘a well of water springing up into everlasting life’ (John 4:14). We must obtain a continuing supply of this water if we are to resist evil and retain the blessings of being born again… If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with and call them back to the things of the Spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by reading the Book of Mormon…” Reading and heeding the teachings in the Book of Mormon will lift the condemnation of God pronounced on the Church (D&C 84:56-57).

Finally, President Benson expresses “grave concern” over the “universal sin” of pride. “Essentially,” President Benson explains, “pride is a ‘my will’ rather than ‘thy will’ approach to life… Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention… It is the fear of man over the fear of God.” Pride is how the devil became the devil.

We are to combat pride with the opposite of pride-- humility. Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. As our perfect example, he said, “not my will, but thine be done.” In the last days the proud will burn as stubble. The humble will “be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge (D&C 1:28), for the Lord is “merciful unto those who confess their sins with humble hearts” (D&C 61:2).
President Benson concludes, “As we cleanse the inner vessel, there will have to be changes made in our own personal lives, in our families, and in the Church. The proud do not change to improve, but defend their position by rationalizing. Repentance means change, and it takes a humble person to change. But we can do it… We must first cleanse the inner vessel by awaking and arising, being morally clean, using the Book of Mormon in a manner so that God will lift the condemnation, and finally conquering pride by humbling ourselves.”

You and I remain bound to these words, these scriptures given to us through a modern prophet. May we cleanse our inner vessels, prerequisite to the development required of us for eternal life, through conversion, sexual purity, studying and applying the Book of Mormon and adopting selfless humility.

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