There is a myth about a bird that lives hundreds of years. When this bird approaches the end of its lengthy life it builds a nest, then sits upon the nest. This bird then erupts into flame, leaving an egg – surrounded by ashes – in its place. This egg then quickly hatches and the bird is reborn. The new bird is not a child of the old bird – it is the same bird. The bird is known as a firebird, or, more commonly, a phoenix. Its plumage is usually described as gold or purple or other royal colors. It’s a bird of beauty and purity. The phoenix is not only known for its miraculous rebirth cycle but also for its ability to heal others with its tears. When it dies, this bird arises, reborn, out of the ashes. It awakens to a new life.
The great Book of Mormon prophet and teacher, Jacob, pleaded with his brethren. “O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death” (Jacob 3:11). Many times throughout the scriptures we are commanded to awaken, to stop mindlessly sinning. We need to get up, rub the sleep from our eyes, cleanse ourselves, and get ready for the dawn of a new day of righteousness. We should arise and be ready to greet Him who is the Son of God, the light of the world.
The prophet Isaiah also preached using this theme. “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (2 Ne. 8:24-25; see also Isaiah 52:1-2). Nephi, in his beautiful psalm, similarly pleaded, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (2 Ne. 4:28). Lehi pleaded with his wayward sons: “Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men” (2 Ne. 1:21).
Again Lehi pleaded with his sons, “Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust” (2 Ne. 1:23). Not only did he command his sons (and all of us) to awaken, but also to array themselves in battle armor. We need to remove the bonds of sins and step into the light. We need to shake the dust off ourselves and be “clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C; 133:5; see also Isaiah 52:11). All of us, who have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost or the priesthood or any responsibility within the Lord’s kingdom, need to be worthy of the vessels, the responsibility, we bear.