How Is Christ Like a “Refiner’s Fire” and “Fuller’s Soap?”

Christ in a Red Robe,” by Minerva Teichert.

Last week, I wrote about how Isaiah used parallelisms to clarify his message. The prophet Malachi also used this technique in his writings. In a passage which was quoted by the Savior during His visit to the American continent, Malachi asks a question about the Savior’s Second Coming:

  • “But who may abide the day of his coming,
  • and who shall stand when he appeareth?”

Then, he explains why he is asking this question:

  • “For he is like a refiner’s fire,
  • and like fuller’s soap.”

(3 Nephi 24:2, Malachi 3:2)

How is the Savior like a refiner’s fire or like fuller’s soap?

A refiner’s fire is an extremely hot furnace (1,600–1,800˚F) in which gold and silver were melted. Impurities would rise to the surface, making it easy for the refiner to blow or scrape them away, leaving the pure metal.

A fuller’s soap was used to whiten wool, so that it could be dyed and used in cloth. The Hebrew root of the word “fuller,” kabas (כָּבַס), means “to wash” or “to tread.” The fuller would use a strong soap and would beat or stamp on the wool until the impurities had been removed. (See “Refiner’s Fire and Fullers’ Soap,” Ensign, September 2016.)

The Savior paid the price for us to overcome our impurities and return to the presence of the Father. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He paid a price which we could not pay. But that doesn’t mean that the process of accepting His gift will be easy or painless.

When our family moved to Charlotte a few years ago, I was struck by a sentence from the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints,” which the Mormon Pioneers sang as they crossed the plains after being driven from their homes in Illinois:

‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive
(Hymns, 30).

I asked myself, “What are those ‘useless cares’?” I began to see how, by facing significant challenges, my soul was being purified. Activities and thought patterns which had previously been attractive or tempting to me, but which were basically a waste of my time, were no longer part of my life. They had been displaced by more meaningful activities and thoughts. The difficulties I faced were actually helping me to focus my mind and my heart on the things that really mattered. The “useless cares” of my life were being driven away. I was being purified through the trials I was experiencing.

Elder Quentin L. Cook said:

The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God (“The Songs They Could Not Sing,” General Conference, October 2011).

Today, I will be grateful for the trials I face. I will remember that those trials and challenges can help the Savior accomplish His purposes in my life: to remove the impurities so that I can be prepared to return to the presence of my Heavenly Father.

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