It has been said that if we are alert, we can see a sermon in our surroundings.
There is something instructive about the gradual change in season that occurs this time of year in many regions of the world. With each passing day in the northern hemisphere, the sun rises higher and sheds its light and warmth longer, thawing the frozen ground. In response, tiny shoots from tulips and lilies, buried as bulbs last year, are poking up through the soil.
All around us, the very climate bespeaks the emergence of new life after the starkness of winter.
And it calls to mind Paul's words:
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
"For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:3-6).
This "newness of life" of which Paul wrote is a divine gift to anyone who worthily enters the waters of baptism, there to have his sins remitted and to come forth a "new creature" to whom "old things are passed away" and "all things are become new" (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Of course, the "new creature" is far from perfect. As with a newly germinated plant, there is a great deal of growing to do. This growth depends upon an individual's own choices and diligence in obeying the commandments of God, thus remaining worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the right to His constant companionship.
Through the ministrations of this third member of the Godhead, we attain the fulfillment of God's promise: "He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).
Arriving at that point is not an easy process. Among the obstacles we must overcome is our own mortal nature. Paul wrote of his "delight in the law of God after the inward man" but added, "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:22-23).
Some, having been baptized, languish in a state of spiritual dormancy until some event or influence in their lives calls forth some introspection and an inner motivation to progress.
Such a man was Amulek, Alma's missionary companion, who, in introducing himself to the people of Ammonihah, mused, "I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power," then added, as an afterthought:
"I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
"Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart" (Alma 10:5-6).
As it was with Amulek, so it is with some among us. Spiritual experiences might go unrecognized for a season, until, upon reflection at a later stage in life, one is able to look back and identify manifestations of the Lord's power and goodness that occurred unnoticed earlier. Can we, like Amulek, know the things of God yet not know?
As we receive increasingly greater light, we see our path more clearly, and we become less vulnerable to deception from the adversary, better able to distinguish the things of God from the things of the devil.
Moses, having talked with God face to face, having been shown the extent of His creation and glory, and thereafter having been left to himself (though not entirely), was confronted by Satan. Moses knew that the Spirit of God remained with him, for Satan could not deceive him. Moses declared to Satan: "Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God" (Moses 1:15).
May it be so with us as we walk in the newness of life and receive ever increasing light.