Saturday, April 16, 2011

Putting off the Natural Man

Shortly after my accident I received my first computer along with some voice recognition software. Personal computer technology was not highly developed at the time, nor was voice recognition software. It was very frustrating to try to write or get the computer to respond to the commands the voice recognition software user manual instructed me to use. One embarrassing problem manifested itself almost immediately. To shut down my voice recognition software, the manual instructed me to say the word "close." However, almost every time I said "close" to my computer it would interpret it as "clothes," and immediately the Victoria's Secrets website would pop up on my screen. Somehow the computer was programmed in such a way that it was far easier to access Victoria's Secrets then to get rid of it.
Then there was the unforgettable afternoon that Jo Anne left me home with my youngest daughter Jackie who was a teenager at the time. Because I am on life support I can never be left alone outside of earshot. Jackie was in her bedroom upstairs and I was in my office downstairs working on my computer. We have a good baby monitor system in the house. The transmitter was in my office and Jackie had a receiver in her bedroom. For some reason the afternoon in question found my voice recognition software and computer unwilling to work for me. Whatever command I gave it wouldn't respond and whenever I tried to dictate, the words came out garbled. I had a self-imposed deadline of some kind I was trying to meet and time was slipping by quickly. I don't know how many minutes went by but suddenly I was shouting at the top of my lungs at my computer and using the dreaded "D…" word. Really, I am not in the habit of swearing but somewhere deep down in the dark recesses of my soul the "D…" word surfaced. A second or two later the door to my office burst open and Jackie came marching in. She said, "Dad, did I hear from you what I thought I heard?" I meekly and humbly muttered, "Yes." She responded, "I thought so, and you a patriarch!" With that she turned on her heel shut the door to my office and marched upstairs. I hope President Goodman doesn't read this or our Stake may be getting a new patriarch soon.
I hate to report that the natural man is apparently still well and alive in me. Just when I was thinking I was doing pretty well and maybe was even in line on certain days to be "twinkled," the natural man in me raises up his ugly head. I have a strong testimony and am prime evidence of the truthfulness of what King Benjamin taught his people: "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord…" [Mosiah 3:19]
I believe that maybe I am not so different from most people however. It will probably take a lifetime and more to completely put off the natural man through the atonement of Christ the Lord and become a saint which can only happen as we continually yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit each day of our lives.
I do have great faith that through the help of the Lord a purifying and sanctifying process can take place in all our lives. Let me share an analogy with you regarding the purifying and sanctifying process that can take place in all of us as we strive to put off the natural man.
I grew up in a little copper mining company town, Ruth, Nevada. As soon as we were old enough to qualify, if our fathers worked for Kennecott, the company would hire us each summer so that we could earn money to attend college in the fall. My brothers and I all worked many different jobs for Kennecott during the years and the jobs they gave us were always so unpleasant and physically labor intensive that it was one of our primary motivations to return to school full-time each fall. There was no way we could envision spending a lifetime working, for example, on the track gang in the Liberty Pit for Kennecott. I drove truck, worked on a drill, the track gang and various other jobs through the years prior to my mission, usually the graveyard shift (11:30 PM to 7:30 AM) because Kennecott was a 24-hour, seven-day a week operation. Upon returning from my mission however, the only jobs in available were in McGill -- the smelter.
It was from the mining, milling, and smelting process that I began to more fully understand the concept of conversion and putting off the "natural man." I had much experience watching and participating in the digging of ore out of an open pit. The Liberty Pit in Ruth was advertised as the deepest man-made hole in the world which I have always believed to be true. The ore dug from the pit would be hauled by truck, dumped into huge railroad cars, and sent 20 miles from Ruth to the mill and smelter in McGill. Copper ore is gray in color and most of the time tons of waste material holding no ore would have to be removed to get at the true stuff. It arrived in McGill at the mill and the ore cars would dump their loads of raw ore into an enormous machine called the CRUSHER. This machine was aptly named as it began to pulverize rocks and huge boulders into something resembling sand. In the mill a flotation process of some kind was used to skim off much of the impurities (having never worked in the mill I am not sure of all that occurred there). I do know that it eventually left the mill looking like gray damp sand. It was moved on a large conveyor belt to the smelter and dumped into the tops of massive blast furnaces made out of brick.
I won't soon forget the first day I walked into the smelter and felt the heat and noise emanating from those blast furnaces, along with the smoke and what seemed to me total confusion, as groups of men ran back and forth performing their duties. Each furnace had two openings near the bottom, one being a number of feet higher than the other however. These openings were closed with large hunks of clay called dollies. I was assigned to a gang whose job it was to tap out (remove) these dollies (big hunks of clay) several times each shift. This was accomplished by one of us, usually me, holding a long steel bar against the dolly while my friends would take turns hitting the end of the steel bar with a large sledgehammer. Holding the bar sounds dangerous doesn't it? It was and you just had to trust the guy with the sledgehammer that he would always hit what he was aiming at.
When the top dolly was tapped out, molten slag which consisted of the impurities in the ore which had risen to the top under the intense heat of the furnace would flow down a long trough out of the smelter and down the hill to the slag dump. Picture the aftermath of a volcanic eruption with volcanic rock and ash spread out everywhere. There were acres and acres of slag dumps him around McGill and no high-powered PR firm or Chamber of Commerce could ever make you believe that McGill was really picturesque and beautiful.
Eventually the bottom dolly would be tapped out and a more pure substance would run down a large trough dumping itself into vast buckets which a crane, suspended from the top of the smelter, would hook and transport quickly to the other side dumping its contents into a piece of equipment called THE CONVERTER. The converter was a super furnace that was able to apply more heat and pressure to the molten substance it received into its belly than even the blast furnaces. In this final process all impurities would be burned-out and when the converter eventually emptied its contents into special molds for shipping back East it consisted of bars of pure copper laced with gold and silver. Enough gold and silver came out of this process to pay for much of the operating costs to process the ore. I will leave it to you to flesh out the analogy or metaphor as it applies to the conversion process and the putting off of the natural man as you are inspired to do so.
My own take on this entire mining and smelting process is that it applies directly to the conversion that must take place in all our lives. As I watched the process of mining and smelting through the years, and especially while working in the smelter at the side of THE CONVERTER, I came to understand, as I am sure you all do, that true conversion is not just believing or thinking or knowing, it is literally becoming transformed from the raw material called the natural man and into what? I believe that Elder Oaks gave a beautiful answer to that question when he said:
"In teaching the Nephites, the Savior referred to what they must become. He challenged them to repent and be baptized and be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, “that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Ne. 27:20). He concluded: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27). Ultimately we want to become like Christ! Elder Oaks went on to say: "Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call “the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10; 1 Ne. 20:10). Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become." (Elder Oaks, Ensign, November, 2000, 32).
THE CONVERTER ultimately is life itself and through constant repentance and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost we can ultimately be converted from a natural man to a Christlike state.
"Who is righteous? [Who is like Christ?] Anyone who is repenting. No matter how bad he has been, if he is repenting, he is a righteous man. There is hope for him. And no matter how good he has been all his life, if he is not repenting, he is a wicked man. The difference is which way you are facing. The man on the top of the stairs facing down is much worse off than the man on the bottom step who is facing up. The direction we are facing, that is repentance; and that is what determines whether we are good or bad." (Hugh Nibley)
With the help of Christ we can be refined and turned into pure copper, gold and silver. It will be done over a lifetime and will undoubtedly include being thrust eventually into the crucible of affliction or into "THE CRUSHER AND THE CONVERTER."


ionamin-W8FW8 said...

I chuckled over your story of using the D word. And your daughter's very good response! I can so relate! Just when we're feeling like we're making progress, we get humbled! Yes, putting off the natural man is definitely a life long pursuit. It's a good thing the Lord is patient, isn't it? Diane

Cam said...

I *always* enjoy reading your blog postings, Jack. They inspire me to be my best self. Your present hospitalization represents yet another turn in the CONVERTER, which will serve to remove the minute amounts of remaining slag to further expose the refined gold within. We pray for the Lord's wisdom and will to be accomplished in your life.

Your friend and fellow servant in the work of the Lord,
Cameron Hess