It’s common at church to talk about activity. If a person is active, they attend meetings and activities, and fulfill responsibilities. They’re dedicated. But Christ goes beyond this: He speaks of being quickened. Quickened contains the idea of activity, motion, or an increase of speed, but at its centre is the idea of life or animation. Being quickened is a spiritual process – John teaches that “it is the [S]pirit that quickeneth” and that the way to become quickened is through the words of Christ, which are life and spirit (John 6:63). The Lord speaks often of being the source of life:
I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
I am the true fountain.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
I am the vine.
Ye are the branches.
I am the life.
Without me ye can do nothing.
Truman Madsen explains that the term quickened, and the question that comes from it – “Are you a lively member?” – is the real, burning one. Am I alive? It’s not about whether you or I have read all of the scriptures,
but whether the light and life in them has somehow passed through the very skin of your bodies and enlivened you. It isn’t whether you say your prayers in a proper fashion and position and time, but whether you open up honestly what is alive and more or less dead within you to the Source of life and stay with it and with him until the return wave of life enters you (“I Am the Life”, in The Highest In Us, p.26).
Being quickened is being born again, being able to “sing the song of redeeming love”; having your heart changed within you. It’s opening up to a new, brighter, deeper way of life. And if you’ve once felt that quickening, that enlivening, do you feel it still? This is the source of Alma’s questions, and of Nephi’s teachings about “pressing forward” in the strait and narrow path of Gospel living. Being once quickened by the Spirit is not sufficient; if my greatest source of light and life was the full-time mission I served, or some other marvellous experience back in my past, I am spiritually on a sort of ventilator; maintaining vital signs but not lively. John, Alma and Nephi teach that once is not enough; I must be continually pressing forward, increasing in light and truth, regularly feeling that enlivening influence of the Spirit, always singing the song of redeeming love in my heart and mind – because I am connected to the vine, that great source of life and light, Jesus Christ. As Nephi taught, the only way I got there in the first place was by “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 31:19), and that is the only way I will be able to continue (see vv. 20-21).
These themes run in images through the scriptures: God, and particularly Christ, as the source of life (through light, food, water, and healing), and our need to be enlivened (fruitful, thankful, born again, feasted, productive).
To those of us, then, who thirst, I plead, Come to him. He turns no penitent one away. Would you, if you had paid so much in suffering? Would you ever give up? All doors that are locked against the Lord are locked by us. He is always waiting, promising life where there has been death, healing where there has been sickness, forgiveness where there has been sin. And sin is poison [(the opposite of life)]. … The offer of forgiveness….brings flowing, living water to the famished soul (Madsen, p. 30).