GOD IS THE POTTER AND WE ARE THE CLAY- A TESTAMENT OF THE MANY LIVES WE LIVE
How many times have we been here? Certainly we see the revolutions of the earth as being a testament of our daily renewal. When we go to sleep each night we again rise in the morning. So it is with the many probations we take on this Earth. We live, we die and we live again and all of this as a divine Gift from God to give us experience. God gives us all the chances that we could have wanted to improve ourselves the next day.
The scriptures are filled with examples of testimony that God has sent us here to live countless lives until we have learned the greatest lesson of all, the lesson of God’s divine love and how we can become like Him.
God has made us like the vessel of clay which turns on the wheel around and around until He is satisfied. The vessel is either perfect, ready for the fire to make it solid and beautiful so that it can be used for His purposes, or it is flawed with a hard lump or crack that renders it useless and fit to be thrown back into the mill, ground up and remade once again to be worked in the hands of the potter.
“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
We go through life and God shows us our imperfections. He sets up opportunities to improve our lives and gives us a chance to overcome our selfishness and pride and arrogance by giving us opposition. We may experience this as friction or an annoyance but it is God who is allowing these opposing forces to strike off the hard bumps and flaws in our character. He gives us a little water to make us more malleable and submissive to the will of the potter who in this case is the Lord.
Sometimes we ourselves become the opposition to others and as the Golden rule tells us to “Do unto others as we would have done unto ourselves.” (Matthew 7:12)
We build either a more refined nature in ourselves or a more calloused nature some would refer to as “karma”. God refers to this as generational sins or sins of this generation.
This generation is like a revolution on the wheel of the potter. One generation, is one turn on the wheel and two generations being two turns on the wheel and so forth. Every time God turns the wheel we have taken another turn on the wheel and this is how we live our many lives and our generational sins are the sins we continue to repeat when we reincarnate. These are the sins God places us back into mortal probations to work on. God gives men these weaknesses. In other words, He places them back into another situation time and time again to face their weaknesses until they finally triumph over them and are able to move on to the next lesson. All these lessons ultimately lead to the final lesson which is to gain the victory over death where we can return again to reign personally with Jesus Christ. We are then made in His image and have ultimately triumphed over all things which are our generational sins, the ones we kept on repeating in the past but have finally submitted ourselves to the will of the Father.
So yes, the parable of the potter is the testimony of the many lives we have lived in the hands of the potter.
“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Go down at once to the potter’s house, and there I will reveal My message to you. But the vessel that he was shaping from the clay became flawed in his hand; so he formed it into another vessel, as it seemed best for him to do.Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
‘O house of Israel, declares the LORD, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay? Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.’ At any time I might announce that a nation or kingdom will be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed. But if that nation I warned turns from its evil, then I will relent of the disaster I had planned to bring.” (Jeremiah 18:1-8)
THE SPIRITS PLEAD “SANCTUARY!”
A testament of our probations and the great condescensions of our God…
“…and behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescension’s unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he hath promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations, they shall become a righteous branch unto the House of Israel.” -2 Nephi 9:53
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” -Malachi 4:5-6
In 12th century medieval Europe it was provisioned that a wanted fugitive from the law could flee to the church to find protection from imprisonment and or death. The criminal therefore fleeing from pursuing officers would run into the church and cry “Sanctuary!” and the man or the woman would be given a period of time, typically no more than 40 days, to hide from their pursuers where the law could not touch them. There would always be a cost though. The criminal would have a couple of choices. He could either work out an arrangement with the persons he wronged for repayment or be effectively banished from the country unless he was able to get a royal pardon which was difficult to obtain. It is like this in the kingdom of Heaven.
The scriptures record that Jesus went and preached to the spirits who were sometimes disobedient in the days of Noah. To those who were wicked and rejected the truth Jesus did not personally minister. To those His face was not shown nor did they behold His presence but from among the righteous he appointed messengers to preach to them the gospel of liberty and of the redemption and resurrection. All excepting the sons of perdition were given the opportunity to be made free if they would choose to live God’s law. If they would agree they would be then made free from their prison.
“For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person; yet doth he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.” -2 Samuel 14:14
Hence the Lord preached liberty to the captives who were in prison. What would this freedom mean? Freedom from the grave and torments, and this was only realized by the new birth from death to life. Though they were dead with the full knowledge of their past sins, they could be given another chance to live according to the flesh, to prove themselves worthy this time. This time they would prove to their pursuing accuser that they are not what he accuses them of. This is part of God’s mercy, to give all men the chance to learn from their mistakes even when they lead to the death of the body.
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” John 11:25-26
Bondage is the separation of the spirit from the body but Jesus came to declare liberty to the captives.
“For man is spirit, The elements are eternal, and spirit and element inseparably connected, receive a of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” (D&C 93:33-35)
How else can we be made free unless we are reborn in the process of Multiple Mortal Probations?
It is the tabernacle of flesh which sanctifies (challenges with the refiner’s fire) the spirit for Jesus said:
“You are fools and blind; for which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? O fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?” (Matthew 23:14, 16)
The rest of this doctrine requires the belief in each and every one of us having lived past mortal lives on this earth as well as other worlds as part of our eternal progression.
“For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.” (D&C 45:17)
The spirit can flee into the tabernacle and plead sanctuary. As spirits we know with a bright recollection all our past sins and transgressions. This memory of our sins causes our spirits to shrink from the presence of our maker. Our new birth is how He will give us a new heart and a right spirit within us so that we can come boldly to His throne. That’s what God really wants. He doesn’t want us to diminish away and die. He wants us to live but live unto Him. This is God’s mercy and His love for us. This is our next chance to progress and we desperately wanted to try again. Today is the day to prepare to meet God. Every day is the day to prepare to meet God. The only time we can make progress is while in the flesh and how many prophets rejoiced that in the flesh they would see God? How else could this be possible except through Multiple Mortal Probations?
When you are dead you have no cloak to cover your sins. Your new tabernacle of flesh is your cloak and your past is forgotten.
“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:22)
We know that babies come into this world innocent which is why we don’t baptize infants. The scriptures plainly teach us this but how is it they are innocent if they have lived past lives of disobedience? Because they have come into a new house, a new tabernacle of flesh made with the very elements of this earth in the image of God which has not yet sinned. In this way they are made innocent.
Our new lives are a whole new set of circumstances for us with their own new challenges. Our new mothers and fathers may have been our past uncles and aunts and friends and acquaintances but for the most part they have all been with us as our family. They are here to help us see what God is trying to teach us about ourselves and what negative aspects about ourselves we need to overcome. Sometimes they’re here to challenge us. By God’s divine providence we have all those past mistakes erased from our memories so that we can re-prove ourselves before God without all the burden of the memory of past failures. We are all born innocent (though we may be fugitives of a fallen carnal nature not strong enough yet for the spirit to sustain our little bodies) until we have arrived at the age of accountability.
If we continue to rebel in this flesh or if we commit murder will the elements of our flesh rise with us in the next resurrection? No they won’t. They will remain in the earth because we failed to raise them to a higher level of existence.
You don’t get the spoils of war when you lose the battle but you do get the experience and the wisdom.
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.” (Acts 2:29)
Yet David was able to exclaim by the promise of His God that:
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:9-10)
And David is the “Holy One” just as he testified before his Father and God.
David knew the truth and the truth set him free. Though David’s flesh remains in the grave, his spirit was set free by the merits of Jesus Christ who is the life and resurrection (rebirth) to claim sanctuary. No more can David’s pursuers come against him because in the final chapter, He won the victory over sin and death while in the flesh. That’s why this King of Israel told his disciples not to worry, we can have confidence in Him because he overcame the world in the flesh. When God forgives you, your sins are no longer part of you. Any past sins are forgotten as though you never committed them but by them you will have trials and refining fire so that you can be made “perfect”.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
THE EARLY BRETHREN WHO ALSO TAUGHT THE DOCTRINE OF REINCARNATION (MULTIPLE MORTAL PROBATIONS)
It wasn’t only George Patton who believed in reincarnation, that we live many lives while on this earth in our path of eternal progression. The brethren starting even from the Prophet Joseph Smith taught it as well. Why is it so important to believe it? Because if you recall, when the Lord Jesus Christ returned to Mary in his resurrected body, she did not recognize him. Mary thought He was merely the gardener. It wasn’t until he called her by name that her eyes were opened and saw who He was.
Likewise, when the Lord comes suddenly to His temple, few will be able to receive him because they will not recognize him. They will not recognize him because in life they never really knew Him even when He came and stood in their midst.
Heber C. Kimball taught the doctrine of reincarnation which I will also variably refer to as the doctrine of Multiple Mortal Probations which will distinguish it from the corrupted form taught in the far East.
MULTIPLE MORTAL PROBATIONS TAUGHT BY HEBER C. KIMBALL:
“Joseph always told us that we would have to pass by sentinels that are placed between us and our Father and God. Then, of course, we are conducted along from this probation to other probations, or from one dispensation to another, by those who conducted those dispensations” -Heber C. Kimball ( Journal of Discourses 6:63)
“We have come here to become inured to work and build temples, and improve upon the elements that God has placed around us, that we may become more skillful tomorrow, through the experience of today. What I do not today, when the sun goes down, I lay down to sleep, which is typical of death; and in the morning I rise and commence my work where I left it yesterday. That course is typical of the probations we take. But suppose that I do not improve my time today, I wake up tomorrow and find myself in the rear; and then, if I do not improve upon that day, and again lay down to sleep, on awaking, I find myself still in the rear. This day’s work is typical of this probation, and the sleep of every night is typical of death, and rising in the morning is typical of the resurrection. They are days labours, and it is for us to be faithful today, tomorrow, and every day -Heber C Kimball (Journal of Discourses 4:329)
JOSEPH SMITH ALSO TAUGHT THAT GOD HAS LIVED MANY LIVES:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret” (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg 262)
“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. (King Follet Discourse- Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith p 263-264)
“The scriptures inform us that Jesus said, as the Father hath power in himself, even so hath the son power- to do what? Why what the Father did. The answer is obvious- in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. Do you believe it? If you do not believe it you do not believe the Bible. The scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom and all the combined powers of earth and hell together to refute it. Here, then, is eternal life- to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me.” (King Follet Discourse, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith pg 263-264)
BRIGHAM YOUNG TAUGHT THE DOCTRINE OF MULTIPLE MORTAL PROBATIONS
From Brigham’s journals he wrote the following:
“Brother Willard Richards and I wrote a lengthy article on Election and Reprobation for the Millenial Star” (Journal of Brigham Young Friday January 1, 1841)
“I preached at the Music Hall twice, on Election and Reprobation” (Journal of Brigham Young Sunday January 24, 1841)
And then in his discourse on intelligence, October 9, 1859 in General Conference, Brigham Young proclaimed:
“Many of you, no doubt, have concluded that the doctrine of election and reprobation is true, and you do so with propriety, for it is true; it is a scriptural doctrine.” (Journal of Discourses 7:282-290)
“I might enumerate many more instances, and say that they are all right so far as they go in truth. The doctrine of freewill and conditional salvation, the doctrine of free grace and unconditional salvation, the doctrine of fore ordination and reprobation, and many more that I have not time to enumerate, can all be fully and satisfactorily proved by the scriptures, and are true” (Journal of Discourses 7:282-290)
ORSON F WHITNEY
“8 Jun 1899. During our talks he (Lorenzo Snow) told me that his sister, the late Eliza R. Snow Smith, was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation and that she claimed to have received it from Joseph the Prophet, her husband. He said he saw nothing unreasonable in it, if it came to him from Lord or his oracle.” -Diary of Orson F. Whitney, quoted on p. 78.
EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS
Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 – c. 253) was one of Christianity’s greatest systematic theologians. He wrote some 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology, being one of the most influential figures in early Christian theology.
Origen was a believer in reincarnation and it was principally his teachings which led to a great debate on whether or not that doctrine was going to be accepted as orthodox. Even though that debate ended with the rejection of reincarnation, let us look at some of his teachings which, due to them having been purged, exist only in fragmentary quotations.
Perhaps his best known quote on this subject is the following:
“The soul has neither beginning nor end. They come into this world strengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats of their previous lives.” (Origen, de Principiis)
This matches what the Lord has revealed in the latter days, but using the more precise English word “intelligence” for what is translated “soul” from Origen:
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. — D&C 93:29-30
So what does this all mean? It means that God has given us innumerable opportunities to draw nearer to Him by exhibiting the lessons we have been taught by God in our own lives. That if we wind up failing miserably in one existence, we have had many other opportunities to grow and progress.
Does it mean that this life is not the time to prepare to meet God? Not in the least. If we understood the condescentions of our God, we would understand that already we have met Him many times but did not know Him because he cloaked his glory in mortal flesh. While those who mocked Him said “We know his father and mother, how then can he say he came down from heaven?”
Well now we know.
We can also know that God does not delay His coming, that the great disappointment spoken of by the Millerites who expected to see the Lord in 1844 who were preaching in Nauvoo at the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, had met the Lord, but simply didn’t recognize Him and went away disappointed. Though they received great revelations and had manifestations of the Holy Spirit, they never knew him. In the same way, the members of the church who have not opened their hearts and minds to the Holy One of Israel, they likewise will not know him and be turned away disappointed.