There is an image from my childhood that still haunts me. It was in a storybook my mother read to me about Hansel and Gretel.
As a young boy I almost wept, listening to how those poor children were abandoned by their parents, leaving breadcrumbs to mark their path so they could find their way home through the forest, only to have the wicked crows come down and eat the crumbs.
Without the trail of breadcrumbs to guide them, the children were lost.
Lost, alone, scared . . . much like I felt.
Of course, crows are everywhere. And getting mixed up with crazy old witches in gingerbread houses is easier than you'd expect.
But in Hansel's case, what I found particularly horrific was the way the witch locked him in a cage and fattened him up because she meant to eat him.
I think one of the reasons I am so passionate about freedom is because I abhor the thought of someone sticking me in a cage to satiate their spiritual cannibalism.
Every morning the woman crept to the little cage, and I imagined the terror Hansel must have felt as she cried, "Hansel, stretch out your finger that I may feel how fat you've become."
Hansel took a little bone he found on the floor of his cell, and stretched out the bone for her to feel. The old woman, whose eyes were dim, thought it was Hansel's finger.
That is the image - a young boy holding out a bone - that sticks in my mind.
Liberty and Carthage
I can picture Joseph Smith huddled in Liberty Jail where he could not stand up, being told:
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit; yea; by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now.
I can picture him another jail, Carthage, on the night before his death, when in the middle of the night he heard gunfire and laid himself on the floor between Dan Jones and John Fullmer, saying, “Lay your head on my arm for a pillow, Brother John." (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 601)
A month earlier Joseph had said,
Let the penitentiaries be turned into seminaries of learning, where intelligence, like the angels of heaven, would banish [darkness]. ‘Amor vincit amnia.’ Love conquers all.
(Times and Seasons, vol. 5, No. 10, p. 532, 15 May 1844)
There are worse prisons than those made of cement, steel and stone. The prisons of hate, anger, and sinfulness. Who will set us free? Who will unlock the door to this narrow cell? Who will deliver us from the wicked witch?
Christ holds the key.
I'll Huff and I'll Puff
A key is an interesting device:
it can lock others out and lock us in -or- it can be used to let others in and let us out.
So a key a prison makes . . . or breaks. It depends on how you use it.
The Lord gave Peter the keys to the Cadillac:
I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in in heaven.
But look at what Jesus said immediately before:
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Fact: Hell has a gate. (D&C 10:69)
Fact: The gates of hell have a lock. (Revelation 20:3)
Fact: The Lord has a key to unlock the gates of hell. (D&C 138:18)
Fact: The Lord sometimes lets men or women borrow his keys (as long as they remember to fill up the tank with gas on the way home). (D&C 65:2)
Question: If you have these keys, should you use them to lock people in hell or to let them out of hell? (Asking for a friend)
Well, I suppose sometimes you gotta seal up the rebellious and unbelievers. But . . .
[Jesus] entered into a village . . . and they did not receive him.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
And he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know what what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
Rainbows and Bones
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel described the glory of the Lord as a rainbow.
The appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about.
It is impossible to find the end of a rainbow, and so it is that there no end to God’s infinite love.
We are each faced with our own valleys of dry bones, desperately needing the pure love of Christ to restore our desiccated hearts.
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
We are all Hansel, sticking out a bone through the cage bars, pleading to God, "Can these bones live?" Sometimes on Sunday when I partake of the broken bread, I am reminded that breadcrumbs mark the way home for all of us.
From the dust and ashes of death the Lord’s love calls forth new life. Our weary, arthritic bones will become young as we love as little children.
But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer.
When Ezekiel beheld the glory of God, he wrote, “I fell upon my face” (Ezekiel 1:28). When I was young and naive, I wanted to learn what love was and how it worked. I mean, on a molecular level. What is the atomic weight of love? It didn't take long before I gave up.
Why? Because we don't learn to love by studying how to love; we learn to love by coming to know Christ.
We don't find the record of God's love written on papyrus paper or upon gold plates but in the fleshy tablets of our hearts whereupon God has written and sealed His name forevermore, and it is Love.