Brittany was kind enough to share her insightful talk given at her daughter’s recent baptismal service. We have blogged about the connection between baptism and birth before but I love how she connected each element together in her thoughts. I am looking forward to my son’s baptism in a few weeks so this talk was so timely for me. Thank you Brittany! —-Robyn
Eight years ago, you were born. That day was a special day. Today is another special day, because it is the day of your rebirth. In John chapter 3, Jesus taught that everyone must be born again, born of water, which is baptism, and born of the Spirit, which is receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
On the day of your birth, you started a new life. Today when you are reborn, you will start a new life as a covenant follower of Christ. In Romans 6, we learn that baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, when you go under the water the rebellious natural woman in you symbolically dies along with Jesus. Then you come up out of the water symbolizes Christ’s resurrection, which gives us new spiritual life today and someday, our own resurrection.
On the day you were born, you became part of our family. Today, you will become part of Christ’s family, which is His Church. In Mosiah 5:7, it says that when you are baptized, you become a Child of Christ because “your heart has been changed through faith on his name.”
When you became part of our family, we named you, and we gave you the same last name as us to show that we were family. Because you will now be part of Jesus’ family, you also take upon yourself His name, and will be called a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In Mosiah 18, the people Alma taught were ready to be baptized, and they were a lot like you, he saw they had faith in Jesus Christ, were willing to love their neighbors and willing stand as witnesses of God–they were ready to join Jesus’ Church family. So, like you, they were ready to promise to serve Heavenly Father and keep His commandments. When you are baptized, He promises to give you His Spirit and eternal life. The great part is, that these same promises are also part of the sacrament, so every week, even when you make mistakes, if you keep your heart open to change and following Christ, taking the sacrament is like getting baptized all over again.
I’m so proud of you for your choice to be reborn, to make covenants, and to become part of Christ’s Church family. I say this in the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.
But this morning I felt impressed to write about something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, and I’m not really sure why it has taken me so long to get around to it. What I want to talk about touches on some statements made by a couple of speakers last weekend:
Nothing relative to our time on earth can be more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth, the two prerequisites of eternal life. –D. Todd Christofferson
To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being “born again; yea, born of God.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf
During my senior year at BYU (2002, holy cow that was thirteen years ago), I completed an internship as a managing editor for an on-campus student journal Studia Antiqua. The journal was the brain-child of Matthew Grey, who was a student and editor-in-chief, and was supervised by S. Kent Brown, director of Ancient Studies at BYU. As part of my “training,” Matt gave me copies of the journal’s first issue, published before I joined the team. I still have my copy of that issue and treasure it. Truthfully, I only really treasure the last article in the issue, containing information I wished I had known before I attended the Provo temple to receive my endowment the previous year. The article I’m referring to is called “Becoming as a Little Child: Elements of Ritual Rebirth in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity,” by our editor-in-chief, Matthew Grey, now known as Dr. Grey, assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU.
As D. Todd Christofferson reiterated in conference, God has commanded us to teach our children what it means to be reborn and all of the symbolism involved in it. Until I became acquainted with Matthew Grey’s Studia Antiqua article about ritual rebirth, I didn’t realize that baptism wasn’t the only rebirth ritual we participate in as members of the Church. In ancient Israel there were specific acts performed each time a child was born. Matthew Grey outlined these in his research. These include: 1) a washing with water, 2) an anointing with oil, 3) clothing in a garment, and 4) receiving a name.
Matthew Grey shared excerpts from Ezekiel 16, where the Lord spoke to the people of their original “birth” and the elements that were missing: “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all” (vs. 4). Then the Lord described how they had been “birthed” of Him through their covenants with Him and how He had provided the important birth rituals they originally lacked: “Then washed I thee with water; yea I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work” (vs. 8-10).
The scriptures outline a similar ritual rebirth process for High Priests before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement each year. At the door of the temple, a priest would be washed with water, anointed with oil, and clothed with sacred attire. This sacred attire included a cap/mitre, also translatable as “turban” (Mitsnepheth in the Hebrew) or “crown” as described by Myers in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (see footnote 35 in Matthew Grey’s article). Following the washing, anointing, crowning and clothing, the priest was consecrated to the service of God with the the Divine Name inscribed on a plate of gold fitted on his head: “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36-38).
Referring specifically to the anointing aspect of these rituals, Matthew Grey explains: “In most cases, the act of ritual anointing serves to empower or enable the person to do what he was made worthy to do through the washing. In its most common application, anointing with oil was used in the coronation of a king or in the consecration of a priest” (p. 68).
These words from an Ensign article (published two months before I was born) seem particularly pertinent: “In the temple men are prepared for their roles as kings and priests, and women are prepared to become queens and priestesses” (Carolyn J. Rasmus, “Mormon Women: A Convert’s Perspective“). President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, “It is within the privilege of the sisters of this Church to receive . . . authority and power as queens and priestesses” (Daughters in my Kingdom).
Nothing is more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth Elder Christofferson told us. Our mothers have given us the gift of birth and our first naming. Christ gave us the gift of rebirth through baptism and offered us His name. We may experience other rebirths in our journey upward, but none is more sacred than the rebirth our Heavenly Parents offer to us: a rebirth as kings and queens, priests and priestesses, and the sacred naming given only to those who have overcome the world:
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written , which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Revelation 2:17).
Perhaps the essential purpose of all relationships is to create the laboratory in which we uncover our own divine nature and encourage theirs. -M. Catherine Thomas
In perusing the journal I wrote during my first pregnancy, I chuckled to myself when I stumbled upon these words (written September 10, 2003, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth):
Sometimes I almost wish for a trial or challenge to come so that I can be refined by its fire. . . . I almost hope that motherhood will be a challenge—Well, I know that it will be a great challenge. But I hope I will look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow every day. Because I do want so much to develop and become a better, more loving and more Christ-like person.
The very next entry wasn’t until two months later, November 21. I wrote this:
I said last time I wrote that I sort of wished for a trial to come. Well, it certainly came. The first few days and weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult of my life. I didn’t get any real sleep until after we came home from the hospital—which was two days after her birth. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the new role of mother. I was having difficulty breastfeeding—which made everything more difficult. . . . Plus I was trying to recover from childbirth (which left me with multiple tears and lots of pain). It was hard for me to do virtually anything because it hurt to move.
The remaining pages of that journal include a lot of venting about the challenges of caring for a very high-needs baby (who turned into a wonderful young lady, by the way). She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat well, she wanted to be held constantly, etc. etc. In June of 2004, I wrote down a passage from a book that helped me put things into perspective: “One of the greatest surprises, and greatest joys, comes as you realize that those have-to’s in your life actually got you where you wanted to be all along” (Emily Watts, Being the Mom). Indeed they have. My four children, and all the have-to’s that come with them, have done exactly what I hoped for as a soon-to-be mother: they have made me into a “better, more loving and more Christ-like person.”
Back in February I started Kundalini Yoga teacher training, so naturally I’ve got yoga on the brain. What is yoga? Here’s how Yogi Bhajan describes it:
Yoga is essentially a relationship. Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This originated from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean “to join together,” or “to unite.” Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has totally leaned on the Supreme Consciousness, which is God, until he or she has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self. That is all it means (The Aquarian Teacher, p. 14).
So the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. How do we unite with God?
Last weekend in teacher training, our instructor said: “Confront your ego/shadow self until you get to I am, I Am.” After saying this, she shared a story about her early years as a yogi in Brooklyn, NY, living in the ashram. Every morning before sunrise, she went to group sadhana [daily yoga/meditation practice]. She had grown up as an only child, so it was quite an experience being with all of those people. She said that life in the ashram was: constantly having people pushing your buttons, triggering your stuff. As she said those words, I thought: sounds like a family. Isn’t that why God gave us families? To help us confront our egos, our shadow selves, until we get to I Am?
Byron Katie has said:
The people we most need are the people we’re living with now. Again and again, they will show us the truth we don’t want to see, until we see it. Our parents, our children, our spouses and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves yet (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 165).
And Richard Rohr has said:
So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot or track our shadow self. They [others] are our necessary mirrors (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, The Godseed, p. 168).
Yogi Bhajan called marriage between a man and woman the highest yoga: “Male and female make a union and this complete union is the greatest yoga” (The Master’s Touch, p. 138). Indeed, marriage provides ample opportunities for confronting our shadow selves, refining our behavior, and drawing closer to God. Perhaps it’s because I married a very kind, easy-to-live-with guy, but marriage hasn’t been my highest yoga. For me, it has been the yoga of motherhood that has tested and refined me most of all.
Yogi Bhajan taught that it was the job of a yoga teacher to “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate.” If that is the case, no one has been a greater teacher to me than my children. No spiritual practice has done more to purify my soul than motherhood. Yogi Bhajan said: “The ocean is a very calm thing, but when the winds are heavy and high, then it’s very choppy. The wind represents your ego—the higher the ego, the choppier is a person’s life.” Clearly I came to this world with a whole lot of ego to process through. My teachers have had quite a job to do, and they have done it very well.
Being a mother has required more discipline, patience, endurance, sacrifice, strength, selflessness, service, intuition, love, and reliance upon God than anything I have ever done. Mothers partner with God in a way that no one else can. I put this slideshow together as a tribute to the divine yoga of motherhood.
One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”
True. Dogs are lovely companions. But we’re in this life to be refined into godliness. Yoga is the “sacred science of god-realization.” I thank heaven for my four excellent yoga teachers who “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate” me daily.
This morning I was rereading some of my favorite book, Light in the Wilderness by M. Catherine Thomas. Chapter ten is about being transformed and born again, swallowed up in Christ. For some, like Alma the Younger, this transformation happens in a dramatic and instantaneous way. For most of us, however, “we are born again by degrees,” as Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said (p. 217). The latter has definitely been true for me.
Looking back, I can recognize pivotal times of transition throughout my life when I moved from a lower to a higher plane… when I was baptized, the first time I felt God’s love wash away my heartache as a teenager, starting college, receiving my endowment, giving birth to each of my children, starting my blog, moving to Arizona, writing The Gift of Giving Life, grieving my grandmother’s death, learning to meditate, surviving this year. Sometimes the process was relatively painless, but other times it was steep and intense. The end result was always the same, however. Joy. Every time we are born again, our capacity for joy is heightened.
This past Sunday I had a taste of the heightened joy that is my reward for my most recent transformative rebirth. I have sat through thousands of Sacrament meetings in my thirty-four years. I have felt the Spirit thousands of times while sitting in those Sacrament meetings. Feeling the Spirit was as familiar to me as feeling hungry or cold. But for most of the past six months, my ability to feel and recognize the Holy Spirit was virtually gone. I felt cut off from heaven, truth, light. This is a byproduct of mental illness for some of us. And it’s absolutely horrific. I think it’s fair to say that this inability to feel the Spirit has been a small glimpse of the bitterness of hell. These words describing hell from Life Everlasting by Duane S. Crowther brought this point home to me a few days ago:
What is the darkness in which these spirits dwell? It appears that it is a complete absence of the light, guidance, truth, and inspiration of Christ.(p. 160).
I was grateful to be reminded by Truman G. Madsen recently that Christ has personally seen and felt that horrifically dark place. “He was ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ (Paul), with ‘temptations of every kind’ (Alma). How low then can we go in our thoughts? Not as low as he in the contemplation of evil. He was tempted through ‘the darkest abyss’ and ‘descended below all things'” (Christ and the Inner Life, p. 35). It was quite an epiphany to realize that if I had been tempted to end my own life, Christ himself was also tempted to do so.
So having spent six months inhabiting a body that no longer felt the Spirit in the ways I was used to, seeing a dark and hellish abyss, sitting through Sacrament meetings devoid of any “warm fuzzies” or “burning in the bosoms,” you can imagine my surprise and delight when I felt something last Sunday in Sacrament meeting. And I didn’t just feel a little something, my entire body was on fire. And I cried and cried and cried. And I felt the Spirit burning away months of ache, jump-starting my spiritual instruments, blazing them to life again. And I cried and cried and cried. Bliss. That. That is what bliss feels like. And I think it’s fair to say that I have now had a small taste of what heaven feels like.
This is that place where the conversion and the rebirth of the soul are happening. This is the place where the prophets were before they were called to serve. . . . This is the place where sanctifications and rededications and renewal of covenants are happening. This is the place where suddenly the atonement of Christ is understood and embraced. This is the place where suddenly, when commitments have solemnly been established, the soul begins to “sing the song of redeeming love” and indestructible faith in Christ is born (Alma 5:26). This is the place where we suddenly see the heavens open as we feel the full impact of the love of our Heavenly Father, which fills us with indescribable joy. With this fulfillment of love in our hearts, we will never be happy anymore just by being ourselves or living our own lives. We will not be satisfied until we have surrendered our lives into the arms of the loving Christ, and until He has become the doer of all our deeds and He has become the speaker of all our words.
I clap my hands for joy and exclaim with King Benjamin’s people: “This is the desire of my heart!” I want to be changed from this carnal and fallen state, become a new creature in Christ, a branch on His vine, the hands and voice that do and speak His will in every circumstance. My brother reminded me (when I was feeling hopeless) a couple of weeks ago that it’s my choice, that I can achieve the future I yearn for simply by choosing it every day. I choose to believe that I will get there someday.
I have had this passage on my mind for quite a while now,
And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.
2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 17:1-4)
I recently moved a few months ago from a home that I had lived in for thirteen years. Going through the process of relocating has had me thinking about the last time I had moved. I had just had my first baby. We were living with my parents in transition after leaving our apartment before our house would be ready for us to move into. We were experiencing a lot of change all at once. I know I’m not the first woman to move while in the childbearing cycle. I have actually noticed a lot of women doing this.
I come in contact with a lot of women and families as they have babies through my work as a childbirth educator, doula, and midwife assistant. And over the years I have noticed a pattern of change, transition and rebirth as women go through the childbearing process. There is usually more than the change of a new life coming into a family that takes place. I have also noticed a lot of families move during this transitional period either right before or after a baby comes. This is actually not unusual, even in the scriptures as noted in the scripture passage above.
Nephi talks about the women of his family bearing children in the wilderness and being in the process of moving for “the space of many years, yea even eight years” (1Nephi 17:4). That is a long time to be have your life up in the air. I thought moving was difficult but I am sure it would it have harder for me to be doing it for eight years. Why so long? Nephi explains that they did “wade through much affliction” however, “so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings“ (1 Nephi 17:2). The process was intended to make them stronger and to bring them to a place where they no longer complained. I’m sure they had plenty of reasons to complain, these women had left comfortable homes with servants. They would likely have had midwives to attend them. Here in their journeys, they became each other’s midwives and did all of the menial tasks their servants would have done. God was in the process of teaching them. This transitional period became one of rebirth and refinement.
Have you beared children in the wilderness? Or in other words, have you ever moved while pregnant or with a newborn?
What tips would you give mothers who are moving while pregnant or with a newborn?
I came up with a few ideas. Please add to my list!
Reach out and make friends. Create a circle of support. Find online groups and in person play groups. The ward, or even La Leche League are a few ways to get in contact with other mothers. (Don’t forget those more seasoned mothers and grandmas nearby. They are often aching to hold a baby for a few hours or engage in meaningful conversation while taking a walk.) Shortly after we moved we became friends with a family who had four children already. The mother became the one I went to with questions and watched her example as she patiently raised her children. I still look up to them and try to model many of their parenting choices.
Ask for help or accept help when offered. If you are pregnant or still healing from birth you have to be aware that you should not be doing it all. Physically it is different for a time. I was healing from a cesarean birth and felt blessed that my mother came with me and helped with unpacking and setting up our new home.
Take your time. Your house does not have to be perfect yet. It takes me months (or more) to get pictures on walls. I didn’t have a newborn this time and I’m still working on that three months later. First things first. Take care of you, baby and family and the rest will follow.
Let the process refine you. Just as God reached out and blessed the women of Nephi’s camp, God will reach out and help you. It is your promise. He is aware of you and wants to help you while you transition. In this last move I felt very emotional. I had become so attached to the home itself, five of my children had been born there, along with many other treasured memories. While we were not moving all that far, it was far enough. It was a different neighborhood, ward, and stake. I loved my neighbors and ward. But we felt “called” to go elsewhere. We knew it was where we were supposed to go and we are seeing the blessings and tender mercies that have come with this change.
A few weeks ago I had a visit from Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln. I was carried away in the spirit, or as I sometimes call it, the imagery state. I was also in a lot of pain (epic headache) and I realized that they had come to bless me. I was half delirious but clearly heard every word they said. My intuitive friend who was with me in the imagery state also witnessed every word. Neither of us can repeat what they said. We try, but we just lose all the words.
Shortly thereafter, my migraine diminished and I was left to ponder the possible meanings of this visit. I knew the migraine was the result of an emotional contraction. I have been birthing another book/manual. It’s titled Awake As in Ancient Days: The Christ-Centered Kundalini Yoga Experience. It has been a wonderful wild ride. Like TGOGL it has been divinely guided. But I have had much less time to write this one. (The Gift of Giving Life took 3 years and 5 authors—this one has been 5 months and 1 author, although I have had lots of help.)
This God-given time crunch has forced me to face some deep issues about time. Not long ago I healed some old issues about prosperity/lack when I embraced that my Dad (God) is rich, and have let him provide for me in miraculous ways. It would take too long to list them, but let’s just say it has been 1000x better than having a real life millionaire father. Healing my beliefs about time is the last piece of this healing.
Time, like money, is not exactly real. But it is how we reckon things. For the most part, we travel through it linearly. But God is not bound by time. All things are present with him (ref), which means that in a way we don’t totally understand, he can see past present and future all at once, and so technically he time travel.
I’ve been totally on board with time travel for a while—obsessed actually—and I often communicate with past and future self in the imagery state. But my obsession with time has a shadow side. The issues go back to birth and before. I was born on my due date (less then 5% of babies are!) and from my earliest memories I have always felt extreme pressure to be on time. It physically pained me to be late. I don’t mind so much anymore if others are late, but if their lateness caused me to be late, it would drive me crazy. I have ended friendships over it in the past. All these issues started to come up as I wondered how I ever could write the kind of book God needed in such a short time.
I consciously believed God could expand time. I understood that He was infinite and that all would work out. But I had a huge burden of emotional stuff to release. The overall theme of this emotional stuff was: other people will die or suffer if I am late. I think it has a lot to do with my sacred contract, which I have always known on a soul level, even if I didn’t remember it. And I know I had some pre-mortal worries that I took into this life about fulfilling that contract in time.
Proceed forward in time now to my bedroom. I have an icepack on my head. A whole day of work on the book is lost. Two men reach out through time and history and space and give me a metaphysical blessing. Their visit was unexpected. I have never had a visit from either of them before (that I know of). My visitors are usually ancestors. As I pondered their legacies and what they had in common I realized that both of them had huge sacred contracts. Both knew on some level what they had been foreordained to do, and that they had to do it sooner rather than later. Some would say that they had their time “cut short.” Yet their legacy holds more than their years can explain, unless they were on God’s time.
Joseph’s contribution may be less known the world, but one day all will know that he was midwife to the rebirth of Christ’s church on the earth, and Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in the rebirth of our nation. A rebirth out of the dark age of slavery and prejudice. Both freed people in chains, some physical, some metaphysical. Both prepared the way for the unborn to fulfill their own missions. They prepared the way for me.
My own heritage includes Mormon pioneers on my mother’s side and African American slaves on my father’s side. I am deeply indebted to them both for having the courage to do what they were inspired to do.
There is one other man of similar stature in my eyes, to whom I am indebted. The man affectionately named Yogi Bhajan. He has never visited me in his astral body, but I hear his voice in my mind often. He was the highest living Kundalini Yoga Master and the first one ever to break with tradition and not only teach it openly but to train teachers. The secrecy of this science had kept it pure for many thousands of years, but Yogi Bhajan realized that the time had come to restore it to the world so that we could be ready for the age (right now!) that would usher in the millennium.
Kundalini Yoga and Meditation is the ancient science of unfolding your divine potential. It is sometimes called the sacred science of God-realization. There is evidence from multiple sources now (scrolls from Tibet) that show that Jesus may have spent his “lost years” in India studying this sacred science.
As a tribute to these men (Abe has a birthday today!), and to the idea of rebirth, I am teaching a 6-week rebirthing series that officially starts February 26, 2014. You can stream it to your computer wherever you are, whenever you are. More info is here. There is also a free e-book there and free podcast. Enjoy! Happy rebirthing!