Sunday, October 2, 2011

Look Up And Live

When I was in Oregon over the summer, I drove along the coast and stopped at several locations where lighthouses overlooked the rocky shore. They stood as silent sentinels to guard against a treacherous shoreline; friendly beacons that would light a dark night and guide ships to safety.

I love the imagery of a lighthouse; a guiding light when all around is dark. Often in life I feel like I'm on a boat in the middle of a stormy ocean. Surrounded by boisterous waves, it's hard to take my eyes off the frightening depths beneath me. But when I remember to look up, it's then that I can see the brilliance of the lighthouse, and I know that I will live if I follow it's shining beacon.

There are numerous examples in the scriptures of times when salvation came from looking up. In Numbers, we read the account of the Israelites as they are journeying through Canaan. They complain, again, about not having bread or water and so "the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." (21:6) The children of Israel were sinning against the Lord and suffered the consequences of their disobedience. But because the people began to repent, "the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (21:8-9)

The Lord has compassion on his children. He knows that we will make mistakes. And so He has prepared a way for us to be healed from sin in our lives through the Atonement of His Son. Repentance can be as healing for us as looking to the brass serpent was for the Israelites. But we read in 1 Nephi 17:41 "He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look ; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished."

All that was required was to look! But because of the easiness of the way, many would not look and perished. How often do I refuse to look to my Savior because of pride, stubborness, or doubt. If we can believe that we will be healed by looking, why not look? Nephi taught, "And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal." (Helaman 8:14-15)

Another Nephi taught, "And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them...I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved." (2 Nephi 25:20)

If we can look up at our Savior, and exert our faith in repentance, then He will exercise His atoning power to heal us from the sins and afflictions that are keeping us from being whole. The Savior's life was set as an example for us to look to; to know how to live to return to our Father in Heaven.

In the vision of the Tree of Life, the angel repeated told Nephi to "Look!", and Nephi "looked and beheld" the tree of life, the Lamb of God and Christ's mission upon the earth, the iron rod, and the sacrifice of the Savior for our sins. Because Nephi looked, he beheld and understood how Christ could help us gain eternal life.

When Christ came to the Americas after His resurrection, the people were gathered at the temple in Bountiful. It is recorded, "And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven...And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

"And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name- hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven...and he came down and stood in the midst of them." (3 Nephi 11:3-8)

The people listened and when they understood the voice, they cast their eyes up towards heaven. Once we can understand the Spirit that prompts us to look to our Redeemer for life, we too can look up and behold the marvelous healing power of the Savior.

In the middle of a tumultuous ocean storm, a lighthouse can break through the darkness and bring a vessel safely to harbor. Likewise, in life there are times when it feels as though the darkness is all encompassing, everlasting, and unrelenting. But if we can lift our eyes from the depths of our sorrows and pain, we too can see the light of our Savior illuminating for us the way back to His light.

My testimony echoes the words of John: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:14-17)