Monday, June 8, 2009

Rolling waters as a metaphor for the purification of the saints

How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. (D&C 121:33)
How long can rolling waters remain impure? – I’ve always kind of wondered about this part. As my husband and I were reading through this today, I remembered something I had seen in a tour of the Reverse Osmosis DeIonization (RODI) water purification system in the Tech building of ASU’s Polytechnic Campus.

The thing I remembered was that after the water is purified, it is circulated through pipes at a rate of 3 feet/second to inhibit bacterial growth. 3 feet/second is the equivalent of 2.045 miles/hour.

Movement seems to be important to purification. Likewise, spiritual movement like seeking, repenting, asking, serving, meeting, pondering, praying, fasting, and teaching can inhibit those bacterial sins from taking hold.

I then went looking for other ideas about water purification involving “rolling” or circulating waters..

I found a patent online called “High Turbidity Waste Water Purification system”, US patent 6358407. (Don’t get scared; I’m just going to summarize.) It described a low speed circulation of water with coagulants [coagulants - something that causes change into a solid or semi-solid state]. Evidently, when water circulates (rolls?) at certain speeds, particles of a certain size do not rise above a certain level in a tank, but instead remain suspended. They then begin to clump together in a mass, and after a while those clumps begin to collect more of the impurities that are circulating in the water, essentially becoming a self-organizing filter (impurities cleaving to impurities) until they reach a critical mass. Then, in some special combination between gravity, low pressure, and something called the point eddy motion principle that I don’t quite understand, those clumps carry themselves out of the system into a collector located very nearby. Here is my favorite quote:
"As a consequence, the suspended solids and flocculent that are undesirable in the water become the filter for their own removal therefrom.” (High Turbidity Waste Water Purification system,, commas changed for clarity)
Is that an elegant method of purification, or what? (Any water treatment experts out there to take a look at that process and correct me on my mistakes?)

Let’s go back to the scripture we started with. “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” This was part of D&C 121, received when the prophet Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty Jail, when the saints were being persecuted and driven from Missouri.

Here’s some pieces from D&C 121, 122, and 123 that remind me of this purification method:
Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. (D&C 122:9, emphasis added)
This suggests the suspension of progress accompanying intractable impurity, which leads to an accretion or gathering of forces of evil.
…the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity.
8 It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell. (D&C 123:7-8)
And then the purification process begins at the critical mass.
5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring,..and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:5-7)
The phrases that stick out to me in these verses are “if thou are called to pass through” and “if thou art in” that seems to suggest ideas of filtration and purification. No wonder we are often told to depart from Babylon and touch not the unclean things. “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own…” (D&C 88:40) This suggests that there is also a gathering of righteousness that we can align ourselves with.

And when the fullness of iniquity comes..
12 And also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the times and seasons, and to blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness….
15 And not many years hence, that they and their posterity shall be swept from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall….
25 For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be. (D&C 121:12,15,25)
The gravity of their sins eventually pulls the wicked out of the picture, capturing them in a whirlpool of self-destructive behavior.


Well. When I started this post I never thought I would learn so much. I never thought that simple question “How long can rolling waters remain impure?” would turn out to hold the key to understanding what the Lord was trying to say to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. It was nothing less than a one-sentence summary of what the Lord was doing to purify His people. Likely it will be important for us to remember in coming days when we are called to pass through persecution and affliction. It’s so easy to talk calmly about affliction when we’re not in it; I really hope I can remember and hold on.
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (D&C 121:7-8)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I was just wondering about the significance of rolling waters to purification.

Anonymous said...

I love your teaching and enlightenment on these scriptures. The principles are VITAL in today's environment. The understanding and application is necessary to surviving ALL that is upon and around us.
Thank you for your intelligent and loving way of sharing your thoughts. Please keep going and bringing to us meaningful tools that really help our lives!
Love to all.

Tyler said...

I have been searching for ideas about that phrase (my Googling led me hear), and I deeply appreciate your analysis and thank you for sharing it. It is a beautiful metaphor, and your research greatly enhanced my personal study today. Thank you!

Michaela Stephens said...

Tyler, glad to help in some way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This phrase has been on my mind a lot lately and I thought to search it this morning for my studies. I appreciate your studying, work, and sharing. God bless!

Anonymous said...

I had understood that streams and rivers offer clean water when they are swift moving (as opposed to slow moving swampy areas), but I hadn't understood precisely WHY, even though I also understood that the impurities get filtered through the bottom soils and deposited beneath. I loved the images of the impurities swirling together to their own destruction while the water itself moves on, clean and unhampered. I am truly thankful for the read, as that phrase is one I was pondering. Thank you for the thoughts you recorded, I found them enlightening. --Holly <3