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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do You Have Spiritual AIDS? Part 1 of 2: Daily Spiritual Experiences

Access Podcast

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed shortly after take-off at an airport in Romulus, Michigan en route to Phoenix, Arizona. 156 people died, including two on the ground, in what remains one of the deadliest air disasters in U.S. history.

On board the flight was the Cichan family: the father (Michael), mother (Paula), a six-year-old (David) and four-year-old Cecelia, who emerged as the sole survivor of the crash. She survived because in her mother's final moments, Paula wrapped herself around Cecilia, preventing her from the shock of the crash. (You can read more about this fascinating story here).

A Breathtaking Promise the Lord Has Made to You


Jesus Christ is no different. He's told you (potentially hundreds of times) just how He intends to wrap Himself around you in a spiritual sense, and protect you from the destructive forces of a telestial earth (which is figuratively moments away from crashing):

"that they may always have his Spirit to be with them"...(D&C 20:77)

"that they may have his Spirit to be with them"...(D&C 20:79)

Just think about these promises for a minute! You have the very real potential to not only have the Lord's spirit with you, but to ALWAYS have it with you!

(Now, I know that "the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man" [2 Nephi 26:11]. Even though there are times when we don't deserve the Spirit [because of sin], there are times when we haven't done anything wrong and still can't feel the spirit. After all, the Savior trod "the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" [D&C 76:107]. Yet our Father was still with Him [John 16:32]. So, I look at it this way: When a parent is training their baby to walk, the parent will hold out their finger, which the baby will grasp as she takes a step or two. But after a while, the parent will remove their finger for just a bit, so the baby can develop confidence that they can still stand upright and walk. Even though the parent's finger may be gone, the parent hasn't gone anywhere. In my opinion, the Lord is very much like that with us. You...YOU are NEVER far away from his thoughts).

Lorenzo Snow said that it is the “grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint … to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives … [so] that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark” (in Conference Report, April 1899, 52).

Nephi taught this: “If ye will … receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5)

I believe that the Lord's spirit isn't a passive; it's an active thing. It's extrovertive, giving, loving, enlightening, intelligent, witty, forgiving, funny, consoling, sensitive, polite and so much more.

Here's how Elder Parley P. Pratt described it:
“The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.” (Key to the Science of Theology, 10th ed., Deseret Book Co., 1965, pp. 100–101.)
So, how often do you enjoy this sweet communion with God? How's that "always having His spirit" status going for you?

Time for a Reality Check


The truth is, none of us are doing a terrific job of enjoying His spirit with us.
"There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of God to signify to him His will, and to guide him and direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges" (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 75). 
"The gift of the Holy Ghost truly is one of the greatest blessings available to members of the Church. Actually, many gifts can come from the Holy Ghost. These are needed in every age and dispensation but certainly no less in the commotion-filled last days of the last dispensation. They are likewise needed at every stage and in every situation of life. ... Yet, for different reasons, many of us live far below, or are unaware of, our privileges!" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship, pp. 92-93)
"Members of the Church have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but in many it lies dormant-somewhat like the ancients who had received the gift but knew it not (see 3 Nephi 9:20). (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ", Ensign, July 2002, p. 56)
Now, although I may not know you, I'd be willing to bet that you don't deliberately live your live so you can't or don't enjoy His spirit with you always. I certainly could stand a lot of improvement in that respect.

So why are we so alienated from God that even the mere thought of always having His spirit to be with us is met with at least a little disbelief and incredulity?

What are we doing or not doing? What do we need to fix, correct or rectify so we can feel Him more profoundly, more often, in our lives?

I've made this a matter of prayer for the last several weeks. The answers have been sobering and humbling.

Here are three possibilities:

1. Apathy (AKA complacency, indifference, disinterest)


Are we a peculiar people, or, well, kinda sorta peculiar in a non-offensive way?

Just WHAT do we stand for?

In 2000, Pres. Hinckley published his book, "Standing for Something". In it, he discussed 10 neglected virtues -- Love, Honesty, Morality, Civility, Learning, Forgiveness, Thrift and Industry, Gratitude, Optimism and Faith.

To be honest, I wonder about how we saints (not all, but many, of us) are doing in these various virtues.

In the last decade or so, I've seen good, God-fearing people develop exceptions to these virtues. Many hesitate to, or no longer, take a stand on morality because our opinions may hurt others' feelings. Learning has taken a back seat to sports, video games, streaming tv/movies and playing on our gas-powered toys. Many go to sleep without thanking God for all the wonderful blessings of the day. Most have yet to develop (let alone understand) faith like the Brother of Jared. And many discussions in online groups, Facebook and text messages are unbecoming of Christ's followers.

I rarely see people jump whole hog into discounting these virtues. Instead, they start with small exceptions which grow bigger with each successive justification. It seems as though the phrase, "First you fight it. Then you tolerate it. Then you accept it. Then you embrace it" is definitely applicable.

I don't see this passivity, this apathy, in everybody. But it's inherent in enough people that it's obvious that Satan pacifies and lulls away unwary Saints into a state of apathy, which allows him to lead them "carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21).

Just look around you. Many are generally satisfied and pacified with today's pre-Zion status. There is little genuine zeal for the true Zion, which many look upon as little more than an abstract concept, with little relevance for our time.

It's been my observation that a general spiritual apathy prevails amid passive, stagnant activity in which people attend church regularly, but don't become committed to an in-depth knowledge of the gospel, or the principle of learning by faith and revelation. Instead, most rely almost totally on the tedious "line upon line" method of digging it all out of books and manuals. Most just continually ruminate and re-digest the first principles of the gospel without ever growing into the more mature principles essential to being born again, receiving the baptism of fire, the more sure word of prophecy, etc. This pervasive state never results in excommunication, but it most certainly prevents true, meaningful spiritual growth and (likely, in my opinion) one's membership in the Church of the Firstborn.

Want proof? How many members have an in-depth knowledge of the Church of the Firstborn?
"For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13)
Want more proof? How many have -- or are -- studying Isaiah diligently (see 3 Nephi 23:1-2), which the Savior commanded the Nephites (and therefore, us) to do?

(It continually boggles my mind how some can be truly, sincerely dedicated to receiving further light and knowledge when they haven't even received what's already been given them, and thus, are unaware how severely they are doctrinally stumbling).

The Savior understood this situation well when He said,
"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear." (JST Matthew 13:13-18)
The consequence of this apathy?
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)
Now, granted, I have no idea what it means to be spued out of the Lord's mouth. But I think I can say without too much argumentation that it isn't good. Surely,
"The peril of this century is spiritual apathy." (Elder David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1907, p. 62)
"The most dangerous threat of all comes from the disinterested-that great group of otherwise intelligent people who shrug off any responsibility for public affairs" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 628).

2. Ignorance


These days, it seems as if many -- if not most -- Latter-day Saints are:
  • Ignorant of the principles of meditation, which Pres. David O. McKay said is a key to entering the presence of God.
  • Ignorant of the principles of (and Lectures on) Faith, and what it takes to develop "Superfaith" which rends the veil between man and God.
  • Ignorant of the Book of Isaiah's importance, especially in light of headlines which even today are on the front page of newspapers and internet news sites.
  • Ignorant of spiritual gifts -- not only how to develop them, but also to realize what their current and potential gifts are.
  • Ignorant of what we Gentiles idolize and prioritize above God.
  • Ignorant of what God's really like -- His personality, His character traits. What makes Him laugh, what makes Him cry, what makes Him angry...even what it's like to carry on a conversation with Him.
  • Ignorant of how much Heavenly Father, Mother and Jesus wish to be part of their every day lives.
What's especially frustrating: I often hear of people who have lightly read something. But because they don't understand it, don't relate to it or the information isn't written by a church authority, they place it on the shelf of mysticism, apostasy, heresy, the devil, a previous dispensation or a future age. Instead of diligently studying, investigating and pondering a concept -- making an informed decision -- they give in to their pride (that their perspective is, of course, 100% correct) or fears (of what they don't understand), summarily stamp it as evil, throw it in the trash and tell others to do so, too.
"One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Joseph Smith, quoted in History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nded. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1949), 5:499.).
Make no mistake: untruths do grow alongside truths (see "False Prophecy 101"). And you are duty bound to ascertain the truth of the things you read. But how often do you pray for discernment prior to reading things? How well do you understand the dynamics and nuances of discernment? What experiences has the Lord sent you through to better understand discernment? Is there a chance, a possibility, that you may have inadvertently trashed something that will eventually be found as true?
"And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation." (D&C 93:31-32)
"Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst" (Isaiah 5:13).
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6)
What must we do to not be counted among the ignorant? I can't and won't give you specifics, because that's someone else's job:
"Revelation, light, and knowledge come through the power of the Holy Ghost. The words of the Master as recorded in John are expressive. 'But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you' (John 14:26). And again, '… he [the Holy Ghost] will guide you into all truth … and [shall show] you things to come' (John 16:13). In fact, we can neither teach nor learn gospel truths without the Holy Ghost." (Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., "Ignorance Is Expensive", April, 1971 General Conference)

3. Distraction


1 Kings 19:12 says that when God spoke to Elijah, it wasn’t in an earthquake, wind or or fire; it was in a gentle whisper.

Moral of the story: If you want to hear God, be quiet.

Contrast that with the average daily American routine: We wake up, stressfully rush to and from school or work, rush our chores, rush dinner, watch TV/surf the internet/play video games, then rush to bed so fast and late, that we're often too tired for prayers. And Sundays? We (again, stressfully) rush to church, then rush to Sunday School, then rush to Priesthood/Relief Society, then rush home.

And all the while, your mind is often crowded with thoughts, worries, fears and plans. You may always have the radio or TV on, or the phone constantly against your ear or in your hands.

With all this, how can God possibly get through to us?

This may be why Elder Richard G. Scott observed, "Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction." ("First Things First," Ensign, May 2001, p. 7).
"Satan tempts us with alluring distractions, attitudes, and circumstances, which appear on the surface to be harmless; but as one partakes of them, the spirit slowly suffers, creating a weakened condition which can produce eventual alienation from God. Jesus told his disciples in ancient America to 'watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat' (3 Nephi 18:18)."  (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., "Second Nephi: The Doctrinal Structure," p. 302).
The key, of course, is to take some time out of your day, every day, and meditate. Most people think meditation is thinking about something, like the scriptures. Ummm, that'd be wrong. That's pondering. When you meditate, you empty your proverbial cup, and let the Lord pour His spirit into you.
"In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation – even thoughts of timeless truths?" (Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "The Race of Life," April 2012 General Conference)
“I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion.
In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation.
Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord" (Pres. David O. McKay, “Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life,” Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80–82).
"I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways." (Psalm 119:15)

The Good News


When you place these three characteristics (Apathy, Ignorance and Distraction) side-by-side, you get an acronym: A I D.

I know discussing A I D is a downer. I get that. In fact, I personally relate with all of them. I, too, am frequently silent when I should be a passionate champion for these virtures. I am ignorant of so many important things. My time is too easily eroded by distractions which profit me little.

There is so much about the Savior I do not know. But I do know this: He is excited, overanxious, enthusiastic to forgive you of your sins. Are you apathetic? Ignorant? Distracted? He will literally and figuratively move heaven and earth so that those characteristics can be minimized and eventually eliminated.

Even then, with all that apathy, ignorance and distraction you have packed away within you, to any degree, Jesus Christ is still -- still! -- holding His hand out, pleading with you to invite Him into your life.

All you need to do is believe...and watch Him work magic in your life.

The Second Comforter: "Want To Take a Ride?"


Personally, I don't think anyone can be 100% non-apathetic, 100% non-ignorant and 100% undistracted.

Yet there are some who are passionate about seeking God and repenting often in order to stay close to Him. They "get" what a friend describes as "the stairway to becoming like Christ":
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Because they are on this path, they've been inspired to seek for, search for, yearn for, one of the greatest blessings one can have in this life: A personal audience with the Savior Himself. Although such a blessing is not unattainable, they experience frustration, discouragement, disappointment and even doubt when months and years of effort bear little or no fruit.

Why?

I'm sure every person's situation is different. Maybe they're not quite ready to pay the price that needs to be paid for such a blessing. Maybe they have some aspect of 2 Peter 1:5-7 or D&C 93:1 that needs to be addressed. Maybe they're still stuck within layers and layers of doctrinal boxes.

Personally, I think a huge reason why they haven't had their Second Comforter yet is because they still struggle with the fourth and last letter in the A I D acronym -- "S".

Now, I won't tell you what "S" is yet; I'll do that in my next blog post. But I can say that overcoming S takes considerable effort, but with the Savior's help, it's much easier. By casting aside S, you break free of the spiritual tricycle many (if not most) are accustomed to, and engage hyperdrive right smack dab into a collaborative, engaged, lively and definitely exciting partnership with the Master himself.

If you're one of those seeking the Second Comforter, or just want to hear His voice, and wondering why the heck the heavens are brass when you feel you're doing everything possible in going for the gold, there may be some light in the darkness.

In the immortal words of one of my favorite fictional characters, "Contact" (the movie's) S.R. Hadden, "Want to take a ride?"

Go find your hyperdrive seatbelt.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Background Behind "Why the Word 'Kintsukuroi' Means So Much To You"

Access Podcast

NOTE: As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been wanting to publish podcasts of some of the more significant posts done here on LDS Perfect Day. Through the generous, volunteering spirit and talents of a friend, here's the first one. I'll continue to podcast new posts; she'll be voicing the podcasts of past posts.

Background:

When I published "Why the Word 'Kintsukuroi' Means So Much To You" on December 28, 2013, I had no idea it would become one of the most popular posts of this blog.

All of us are broken vessels before God. Yet when you invite Christ into your life, He replaces your brokenness with a sense of beauty, honor and self-worth you'd never be able to obtain for yourself.

One of the things that motivated me to publish "Kintsukuroi" was a dream I had many years ago. In it, I witnessed what I believe was the woman caught in adultery, as narrated in the New Testament. She was ashamed, sad, and scared at the circumstances she found herself in. Yet when Christ entered the scene, His presence was such a stark contrast with those of others, who were primed and ready to stone her to death. His love overruled their judgmentalism. His peace superseded their violent dispositions. His gentleness, his profound compassion, made idiots of the dudes holding rocks.

It's my prayer that all of us can better recognize the rocks in our hands. If your "inside information" about another is disparaging in any way, shape or form, then highly consider just dropping your rock...right where you stand. Drop it. Instead, do as the Savior did...with gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and kindness (see D&C 121:41-42).

I testify that this is the Jesus Christ I know. Not "I believe"....not "hope for"...but know.

He is not only a real being, but also the Prince of Peace, the God of Love...and the Savior of Broken Things, who is -- if anything -- overly anxious to turn the brokenness of your life into living kintsukuroi.