Friday, March 5, 2010

Contact with Holiness Heals

35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of [Jesus], they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;
36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole. (Matt 14:35-36)
If you’ll pardon the pun, the touching thing about this story is that the people were so confident in Jesus’s power, they had faith that a mere touch of His hem would heal them.

But as I was reading through this story, I began to wonder just how touching Jesus’s garment could heal. Does holiness heal on contact? Is there some scriptural precedent for this idea?

So I went searching. Here’s what I found in Leviticus:
25 Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the Lord: it is most holy.
26 The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.
27 Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy: and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in the holy place. (Lev. 6:25-27, emphasis added)
The idea here seemed to be that you can’t touch something holy without being affected by it. In particular it seems very significant that the sacrifice for sin itself was a holy thing, since it tangibly represented a person’s desire to be forgiven of their sins. A holy desire is a holy thing and has power.

Even more significant, because of His innocence and since Christ was to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins, He was holy, and he was the culmination of that sacrificial holiness. No doubt this is what the mosaic sacrificial offering was meant to anticipate and point to. The people who touched Christ to be healed would have had to have faith in Christ’s mission and understand this parallel.

Our contact with holiness and holy people is healing. We learn love from them, we learn about our divine potential and destiny, we learn from their example how to live better lives, we learn to look at things from a more holy perspective.

One example of holiness that I basked in recently was that of my mom. I called my mom about a week before I started writing about this and I remember that at that time I was feeling conflicted and confused about something, though I didn’t intend to discuss it with her. I called her on a Sunday afternoon and I asked her what had happened recently and she told me she had given a talk in church just that day. Mentally, I sat up and took notice at this because I know the effort that my mom puts into studying the scriptures and learning about the gospel, and the things she says are always deeply nourishing and spiritually profound. I wished I could have been there. So I asked her what her talk was about. It was about obedience. She told me some of the things she talked about. She told me the approach that she took and the stories and examples that she used. It was all very good and I just loved it as I sat and listened to her because I was profoundly aware that behind all her words, she walked the talk. I could feel my heart softening and healing as I just listened. My heart had been all clenched up and tangled around my problem and it relaxed and opened up through her words until I felt that I could and should tell her my problem. So I told her about it. In response, she told me about when she had similar problem and about the process she went through to overcome it and how the Lord had helped her. Listening to her stories helped me see my problem from a new perspective and gave me hope that I could overcome it. Her example of love, courage, and holiness was very healing.

Even the slightest contact with something connected with holiness can have a healing effect on our lives. But naturally we do not want to go through life only slightly touching holiness. We want to be surrounded by it, we want to embrace it, we want to make it a part of us. If only the slightest touch heals, what would making holiness an integral part of our lives do? Make us a new person! We become holy! Then we are able to help others as we were helped! If our holiness is to heal others, we must mix with all types of people. Contact with holiness heals. Healing is a change. Even just being ourselves we make a very subtle invitation to change, to be healed.

I ran across an extraordinary example of this holiness-heals-on-contact principle at work in the Old Testament.
20 ¶ And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.
21 And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21, emphasis added)
The modern mind, when it hears this story will be inclined to say that perhaps the man was never dead in the first place. The idea that a man could come back to life on contact with a prophet’s bones is completely foreign to our experience. However, we must choose to believe that the ancients knew death when they saw it. What we want to examine is what this story says about the power of making contact with holiness. Does this say that we can take all our dead to the graves of the prophets, touch the bodies together, and expect a miracle? Maybe. I’m not going to rule it out. (I will say this--good luck finding the grave of an ancient prophet, and good luck getting permission to exhume the bones of a modern prophet.)

We could say that the words of the prophets in the scriptures are like their bones; they are all we have left of the teachings of these godly men. Contact with the prophet, even a dead prophet, brings life and mighty changes in our lives. This story could also represent how we want to end up with the prophets. If we follow the prophets, even to death, we will be raised up at the last day.

Okay. Let’s look at other scriptures that seem to invoke this principle that contact with holiness is healing.

Here is Jesus healing:
And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. (Luke 6:19, emphasis added)
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:3, emphasis added)
Here is Isaiah’s experience with repentance:
5 ¶ Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. (Isaiah 6:5-7, emphasis added)
Here is Jeremiah’s call to prophesy:
Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. (Jeremiah 1:9, emphasis added)
Here is the brother of Jared asking the Lord for a favor:
And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. (Ether 3:4, emphasis added)
Here is Jacob telling of the instructions of Nephi concerning the keeping of records:
And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people. (Jacob 1:4, emphasis added)
Here is Joseph Smith:
And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about. (D&C 76:19, emphasis added)
This suggests the Lord can touch our minds so that we can understand the mysteries of God. When we have been bound by the false traditions of men, the Lord’s touch can heal our minds with true doctrine and knowledge.

Something else I found as I searched for scriptures about touching was that there was also a complementing principle taught as well-- filthiness could contaminate on contact. There were warnings about touching (or getting involved in) unclean things.

Here is Isaiah giving his warning:
Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. (Isaiah 52:11, emphasis added)
Here’s Jeremiah lamenting the impurity of his people:
They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments. (Lamentations 4:14)
Here’s a scripture that profoundly influenced my view of the fall:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:3, emphasis added)
Here are the warnings of Moses:
Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the Lord, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. (Lev. 7:21)
Note that the peace offerings were supposed to indicate that the person was at peace with God. It was supposed to celebrate spiritual reconciliation, so if the person was not pure and participated as if they were pure, it represented solemn mockery of God and His commandments.
And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. (Lev. 16:26, emphasis added)
To put this in modern perspective, from time to time, I become acquainted with people who I find that I can’t be involved in anything they are interested in because I find it drives away the Spirit. A person’s media choices could be said to be on the outward fringes of who they are, much like clothes are on the outside of a person. If I can’t touch those outward fringes, what is at the inner core? Not that I think that a person is what media they choose, but certainly it can represent their desires. You could say that a person’s desires are their future self.

May we embrace the holy and avoid the filthy is my prayer.


Morgan Deane said...

This was an amazing post, thank you. I truly feel that as long as I stay close to the Lord my heart will be healed. And as interact with my soon to be ex wife we can heal our relationship, and with a miracle from the Lord he could take away the soon to be part. Thank you for this post.

Michaela Stephens said...

I'm glad this helped you, Morgan. My study on this topic made a big difference in my perspective of temple attendance, particularly the endowment.

Donna B. Nielsen said...

Wow. This is so beautiful that I got tears in my eyes reading it. The scriptures always reward the reader who looks for specific patterns.

The story of your Mom was especially wonderful--what a gift her example will be to many because of your words.

Thank you.