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In early summer of 1977, I walked out of the Broadway Theater in downtown Salt Lake City with a new goal in life—to be a Jedi Knight when I grew up. The latest blockbuster movie had left a definite impression on me. I wanted to learn how to use the powers of “the force” to move and control the material objects around me. However, years of swinging a plastic lightsaber never yielded the desired result of being able to control external matter using the mind. I would never become a Jedi Master.
Later in life the words of the Creation became significant to me as I read these words in Abraham: “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: we will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (Abraham 3:24).
We know that the one who “was like unto God” was the great creator, Jesus Christ. He created the earth by using the power of the priesthood to command and organize matter. We also know that Michael the Archangel and other faithful spirits who were with him in the premortal world participated in the creation of this earth by the power of the priesthood. When commands were given in the name of Jesus Christ the matter obeyed, forming mountains, oceans, streams, trees, vegetation, and all varieties of animals.
As I realized this, I wondered if perhaps I had been one who was with Christ in the premortal life and had participated in some way in the creation of the earth. While the Lord Jesus Christ created and moved mountains, perhaps I was able to command and move pebbles. When the Lord created the oceans, perhaps I had the opportunity to create puddles. Participating in the Creation in even a small way would have been a wondrous privilege. The work that was accomplished in creating this glorious earth and giving it life far exceeded the powers of any mythical Jedi Knight.
The ability to command and control external matter by the power of the priesthood may have been one of the stages of our eternal development that we learned and experienced in the premortal world. Participation in the creation of the earth may have been our master’s thesis in that stage of our learning. But our Father in Heaven had an even greater vision of our eternal progress.
In order to become like our Father, we needed to do more than just command and control external matter. We would have to clothe our spirits in flesh and become one with the matter. We would have to train our spirits to overcome and control carnal matter from the inside rather than merely command obedient matter from the outside. The body and the spirit together would become a living soul. Furthermore, the matter and the spirit would no longer be subject to the commands of God, but this living soul would be given its own agency and freedom to choose. Our souls would have the freedom to choose the desires of the flesh or the will of the spirit. This precious gift of agency was given to us to determine whether the natural man would win control over our spirits or if our spirits could subdue and tame the natural flesh. This is the ongoing struggle of this earth.
The interaction of our bodies and spirits are an integral role of our Heavenly Father’s plan for our progression. In order for us to regain His presence, our spirits must subdue the will of the flesh. This is done by incremental and repetitive action wherein the determination of the spirit learns to overcome the desires of the flesh.
The spirit of a newborn baby has little or no control over his body. His arms and legs may flail about incessantly with no direction. Over time the spirit placed in this tiny body begins to control the motions of the fleshy matter that surrounds it. The tiny baby learns to control the eyes, arms, hands, legs, and feet as muscles become subject to the spirit. The child and the parents both rejoice in each small step as the spirit of the child gradually learns to move and control the body that encompasses it. Through the repetitive, mundane movements, muscle memory becomes built into the body such that the spirit can command it to run, jump, climb, throw, or any number of other physical activities, and the matter obeys. Over time and with repetitive motions, the spirit can train the body such that people become talented musicians, accomplished artists, or great athletes. In others, the spirit may engage the mind to become great thinkers or accomplished teachers.
Faith is likewise built using repetitive, mundane acts of submitting our soul to the will of God. The story of the brother of Jared is an amazing record of a man who progressed from a state of inactive faith to standing in the presence of God. But how was this accomplished? What were the steps the brother of Jared made that brought about this incredible change of heart? What changed the Jaredites from being a content and idle people on the seashore to a people of great faith who witnessed miracles and obtained the promised land? The answer appears to lie in the mundane, repetitive physical acts of building the barges. Elder Juan Pablo Villar said, “Just as reading and learning about muscles is not enough to build muscle, reading and learning about faith without action is insufficient to build faith.”
When Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden, he was informed that “by the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). Far from being a curse, this was a blessing by which he and all of us, as his posterity, could show and develop our faith. In the instance of the brother of Jared, that work was building the barges by “the sweat of his face,” despite the worldly evidence that the barges were dysfunctional. The commandment from the Lord to “go to work and build barges” was really a command to go to work and build faith. The brother of Jared would awake every day and testify to his family that despite the obvious and unanswered flaws, building the barges was the work of the Lord. Then he would set the example by laboring with his might to build the flawed vessels. Each physical action of cutting a tree or driving a nail was an act of spiritual muscle memory where his body and soul were trained in acts of obedient faith. This repeated physical action demanded that his mind and his flesh learn submission to the will of God.
Like physical muscle memory, spiritual muscle memory is obtained by exercise, or more specifically, exercising our faith. This spiritual muscle memory is obtained by submitting our physical bodies and our eternal soul to the work of building the kingdom of God. Thus, exercising our faith is best accomplished by physical acts that discipline our physical body and soul according to the will of God. While we know the work of our hands cannot bring salvation, the work of our hands can subdue the natural man and increase our faith in Him who has the power to save.
**The following is an excerpt from the book Building Faith Like The Brother of Jared currently on sale at cedarfort.com