Ritual Rebirth in Ancient and Modern Practice

April 8, 2015 in Atonement, Baptism, Heavenly Mother, Jesus Christ, Lani, Old Testament Women, Priesthood, Rebirth, Rites of passage, Savior, Symbolism, Temple

I enjoyed so many beautiful moments in conference last weekend. Part of me wanted to write about Linda K. Burton’s beautiful talk. While listening to her words, my cheeks ran with tears as I was completely overcome by an overwhelming gratitude for the man who has stood by my side and held me up through so much pain and darkness. I also wanted to write about saints and sinners, enduring to the end, and Mother Teresa’s intense battle with darkness.

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.

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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).

Born Again

November 13, 2014 in Atonement, Depression, Divine nature, Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Rebirth, Savior

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.

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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.

I adore this passage from F. Enzio Busche’s amazing talk, “Truth Is the Issue“:

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.

my phoenix shirt

my phoenix shirt

Chainbreaking and Rebirth At Its Finest with Abe Lincoln, Joseph Smith, and More

February 12, 2014 in Felice, Rebirth, Uncategorized

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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.

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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.

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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.

I have shared a few testimonials from others before on this blog, and you can read and watch more here. All I can say is that it works. And it works fast. You can break the chains of addiction, of ancestral heritage, of Satan. You can be reborn.

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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!