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Sunday, November 20, 2016

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT and Lectures on Faith 4, Part 2: Why you may not be going to Zion

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Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah
and Merry Christmas from LDS Perfect Day

Why You May Not Be Going To Zion

We have become a people who won't admit it, but we do, in fact, elevate and exalt mortal leaders and teachers (be they LDS church members or not) to practical infallibility. We are silent if and when said leaders/teachers don't refute, and allow these beliefs in infallibility to become behaviors so the adoration, the praise, the deference and perhaps even the cash flow perpetuates unabated. Boy, do we love our rock stars.

We habitually justify mixing Babylon and Zion. We believe God smiles kindly on making a profit, while millions (even billions) live in abject poverty. We have become too engrossed in that which is temporal and fleeting. We prioritize sports above the scriptures and gold higher than gifts of the spirit. We proudly post Facebook pictures of our cruises and Diamond status in whatever organization while showing off our nice wardrobes, our gaudy homes, brand new cars and trucks. Yep, we are cool, successful saints! And as for that beggar in front of Walmart or other organizations (like the womens and childrens shelter)? "They probably deserve it. Somebody else will help them" (once heard in a Priesthood meeting lesson; it went unrefuted by past bishops/church leaders).

When we want something, we treat God as if He is a cosmic vending machine. We bargain with Him, saying, "If I do A, then can I get B? Please???? It's for ME, and I'VE been (or promise to be) so good!!!"

We exhibit blank stares when asked to explain the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon. Not only has the condemnation (regarding our taking the Book of Mormon lightly) remained, but we have likely added more condemnation upon ourselves as we take the priesthood lightly, our family responsibilities lightly, our work ethics lightly and even our covenants with the Lord lightly...often believing God's OK with it.

We steadfastly cling to our prideful interpretations of scripture (aka "doctrinal boxes"). Not only are we more than willing to destroy relationships in defense of our boxes, but we also say God has justified the destruction of said relationships. We are experts at mixing pride and arrogance with ignorance and feigned humility.

We prioritize, as high as possible, OUR Baptism of Fire, OUR spiritual gifts, OUR parted veil, OUR visions, OUR dreams, OUR conversations with angels, OUR Second Comforter and OUR Calling and Election. While these things are critically important, it's our prioritization of them -- our love affair with individualism -- which becomes the very reason why those blessings are often withheld from us.

We wonder, "When the crap starts hitting the fan, where will I go? What about MY tents and MY food/clean water supply? What about MY kids and MY loved ones?" We have become the poster children for the "I / MEMY" generation, and are baffled why successive generations which are even moreso.

And we've been this way for a very, very long time.


We honestly and sincerely believe that "When the crap starts hitting the fan", the Lord will pull it through for us, no matter what happens. Why? Because we've been baptized. We take the Sacrament. We go to church. We have the priesthood. And because we've checked off all the important stuff, by dangit, we're entitled to someday be part of a terrestrial society in which all are of one heart and one mind, dwell in righteousness, and have no poor among them (Moses 7:18).

So here's the truth:

If you think you can become eligible for Zion by focusing
on just little 'ol you, and your idols, think again.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6; emphasis mine) 
"O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways." (2 Nephi 12:5; emphasis mine) 
"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (D&C 1:16; emphasis mine) 
"None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10; emphasis mine) 
"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Ecclesiastes 7:20; emphasis mine) 
"They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." (Psalms 14:3; emphasis mine) 
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isaiah 64:6; emphasis mine) 
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23; emphasis mine) 
"And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds." (D&C 33:4; emphasis mine) 
"For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—" (D&C 38:11; emphasis mine)
If we find ourselves distanced from the love of God, He is not the one that has moved.

Orient Yourself To Zion

Despite these scripturally-substantiated facts, I refuse to believe Christ would have us remain in this state. I wish all of us could realize, first-hand, just how forgiving, just how eager He is for us to move onward and upward from the telestial to the terrestrial. I don't think we'll get there by trusting in the arm of flesh; He's condemned such justifications way too many times (see here and here). Instead, He wants us to turn to Him (see here).

1. Reorient yourself by losing yourself.

Did you ever see the movie "The Blind Side"? If you haven't, do it. Tonight.

It stars Sandra Bullock playing the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy. Leigh Anne met, then adopted, a 6'4", 309 lb high school boy who ended up being picked up as a first-round 2009 draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens. Michael Oher helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl in 2013 as its starting left tackle.

Now, when you watch the movie, I want you to pay close attention to Leigh Anne Tuohy from the first minute she meets "Big Mike" until the end of the movie. Not once do you see her thinking of herself. The entire time, she was focused on Michael. At one point in the movie, a friend of her's said, "You're changing his life, Leigh Anne", to which she replied, "No, he's changing me."

Leigh Anne Tuohy was (and still is) a tremendously successful person. In terms of the world, she's fully justified to point all her arrows to herself and say, "Look at how successful Sean (her husband) and I are! Look at how pretty I am! Look at how cool my kids are!" Nope. She got all those arrows and instead turned them to not only help another, but to also enlist others in helping another.

So, how about you? Where are all those metaphorical arrows (that are just outside your body) pointing? Are they all pointing inwards because, after all, it IS all about you, and what you need or want? Or are they all pointing outwards, and seeking to help uplift another soul?

It's fascinating that when you focus on others, you end up being benefitted in ways you could scarcely imagine. In my opinion, this is why the Lord says,
"He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39; see also Matthew 10:32–41; 16:24–28; Mark 8:34–38; Luke 9:23–26; 17:33).
And so it is with you: You can just keep plodding through life, focusing on your past, present and future self...or you can focus on others. It truly is a fact that when you have another's back, the Lord has yours.

The path back to God (the "means") begins with "end" in mind. Optimally, our "end" is God's, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). Logically, that should be your end, too. But I don't think God's work and glory is to save just one person. It's to save all of us.

So, if you want to qualify for Zion, then it's high time you show God that you deserve to live with those having one heart and one mind, dwelling in righteousness and no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)

You must quit focusing on yourself and start focusing on others.

Although this isn't scripture, this quote rings true to me:
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Joseph Smith echoed Dr. King's sentiments:
"The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. … If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 241).
This responsibility to lose yourself, your obligation to humankind, is an absolute. True, focusing on others isn't an easy choice. It means being willing to sacrifice individual wants. Sacrifices are almost always necessary for the larger good. Many of us resist this path.

But here's the payoff: As you do so, you'll see others as God sees them. As you seek to lift their burdens, Christ will lift yours.
"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." (Psalms 41:1-3)
Life takes on a whole new meaning as you spend it caring about others more than yourself. You become an active, enthusiastic partner with Christ in helping to build our Father's kingdom:
"And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." (Mark 16:20)
Dr. King again:
"The surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others."
How do we apply this counsel? Here's what the Lord told Lyman Sherman in D&C 108:7:
"Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations and in all your doings." (D&C 108:7)
The word "all" appears four times in that verse. It doesn’t leave much room for exceptions.

2. And be careful how you point those arrows towards others.

We love to say, "I know the Book of Mormon is true!" Yet in many cases, we fail to be
"...humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive." (Alma 7:23)
So, in our zeal to promote truth, we publicly "correct" those who aren't doing what we believe is correct. Instead of loving and healing and helping to save one another, we often spiritually (and often publicly) attack or mortally wound one another. And then have the gall to think/believe/say Jesus is just fine and dandy with our behavior.

How often do you hope for celestial ends by using telestal means? Online? At work? At church? In your family? With your spouse?

It amazes me how many people who focus on the future -- say, economic collapses, call-outs, earthquakes, floods, tent cities, mobs, invasions, plagues, pestilences and wars -- yet tend to neglect focusing on developing their "Zion muscles". We mortals are proficient at omitting "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" (Matthew 23:23)

So...what's your focus? If you aren't prioritizing, above all else, the development of Zionlike behaviors now (when things are relatively peaceful), what makes you think that -- bing! -- you'll suddenly have them when the heat is on?
"When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Love of God", October 2009 General Conference).
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)
"And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing." (D&C 18:19)
“to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9)
Ironically, sometimes, we do our level best to express sympathy to others who are having a rough time. While sympathy is nice, empathy is better. This can be very hard, especially when it may be impossible to understand someone else’s struggles. It's OK to say, "I have no idea how that feels. I am so sorry."

3. Understand what would be the greatest worth to you right now.

Now, don't get me wrong -- having an awareness of the future is important, so we're not caught unaware and considered a foolish virgin.

But in terms of priorities, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- exceeds the worth of a human soul. Or, to be more specific, being part of God's work in helping to bring His children back to Him.
"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" (D&C 18:10, 13-16)
So, I guess the question you need to definitively answer is, what are you doing to help bring souls unto Jesus Christ? Start with yourself. Your spouse (if you're married). Your family. Those you associate with. And, perhaps, those you don't even know. Could you be doing more? How? (Hint: That's an awesome question to ask Father -- the kind He loves to answer; see D&C 4)

When you get your definitive answer, and you're doing it, you're employed by God. You're no longer a believer. You're no longer a follower. You're no longer a disciple. In fact, you're even beyond just being a friend of Christ; instead, you're a partner with Him (Mark 16:20; also see here) in helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).

4. Once you have the proper orientation, seek to obtain the word, power and authority of God to further your efforts.

"Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this isn't all; they had given themselves to much prayer:" (Alma 17:2)
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48)
They also gave themselves to much fasting.
"Therefore, they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.
And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him." (Alma 17:2-4)
I find this passage pretty fascinating. Note what the sons of Mosiah did. They didn't search internet forums or websites for the truth. They didn't turn to another flawed, imperfect mortal. They went to where? The scriptures! Also note they didn't just read the scriptures. They didn't just study them. They studied them diligently. And after all that, even then, it doesn't say that they knew the word of God. For that, they added prayer (and I'll bet you anything these just weren't ordinary, everyday prayers; they had heart and passion in them, too) and fasted. In other words,

They studied.
They sought.
They sacrificed.

And for that, they were blessed with "the spirit of prophecy" and "the spirit of revelation." "And when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God."

5. Then your tongue will be loosed.

Sometimes we start off with the best of intentions. We tend to declare God's word **before** we actually obtain it. We need to reverse that process:

"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men." (D&C 11:21)

Again, the Lord says we shouldn't turn to the words of others. We should first seek to obtain HIS word. The sons of Mosiah got an A+ in this task. How about you?

6. Then you're ready to teach, preach, expound and exhort all to come to Christ.

At this point, when you're able to obtain God's word, you're clinging to the word of God, aka "the iron rod." When you're doing so, you ensure that you will not spiritually perish. Satan's temptations and fiery darts have no power over you (see 1 Nephi 15:23-24).

About Those Who May Make It

I'd like to say one thing about a different set of people: those who I believe will, indeed, be blessed to enter the gates of New Jerusalem, of Zion, in this lifetime. This is my opinion, and my opinion only:

These people have incredible weaknesses. They have fears which conflict with having a total, complete trust and confidence in the Savior. They are often unrefined, crass, tasteless, tactless. They're the poster child for "the least of these, my brethren (or sisters)". No one is more aware of their sins and flaws then they.

Still, despite the mountains of muck they often create for themselves and walk through, they have at least one deep-seated, immovable, genuine characteristic: their hearts are not set upon the things of this world. They ponder Jesus Christ, His Gospel and His Father constantly. They have, either knowingly or unknowingly, taken upon themselves His name as they implement the Beatitudes in their lives. They go to sleep pondering ways to help people, often those they haven't met. Their prayers begin not on thoughts about themselves, the powerful, the esteemed, the exalted. Instead, they plead, with time and tears, for the poor, the sick, the hopeless, the helpless. They voluntarily choose to have their hearts "swim in deep waters" so they can touch another life.

Because love can move mountains, I believe they will someday not only move mountains, but also subdue principalities and powers, defy powerful armies, divide the earth, move rivers out of their courses and break every band. Because they believe in God, and have the gifts of God as fruits of their devotion to Him, they will indeed stand in the presence of God....while in the flesh.

Isaiah mentions a "strange work" and a "strange act" to be performed by the Lord (Isaiah 28:21). We can only conjecture what those are. My bet: that the Lord will use these incredibly weak souls to help establish Zion. Earth's history is replete with stories of incredibly weak people who helped accomplish miraculous things because they were meek and cared more about others than themselves.

Look: We don't have a lot of time left. Please, please re-read the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12; Luke 6:20–23), then live your life as one who takes them seriously. Elevate the Lord's sheep above TV, sports, internet forums and other temporally-based trivialities.

You control your own destiny. Now is your time to shine...because one of these days, the Lord's going to hit the reset button, and the days of your preparation will be everlastingly too late.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Lectures on Faith 4, Part 1: Experience the God Who Far Exceeds Expectations!

The Parable of the 2005 Impala

(Quite possibly the only Impala parable you'll read in mortality)

In 2011, my friend, Rick, was driving his maroon, 2005 Impala car. At the time, it had around 160,000 miles on the odometer. Unexpectedly, the car died outside a small city. He spent the night there, and the next morning, the car was examined by two auto mechanics. Both confirmed the sad news: the car needed a new transmission. He hardly had any money, and certainly not enough to fix the car. Later, when he was alone with the car, Rick said a prayer: "Father, you know I don't have the money to get this car fixed. You're literally the only person who can make it work. Please, Father, make this car run." Rick was prompted to turn the car's key in the ignition. It started. It was driveable. In fact, so much so, that Rick's put an additional 40,000 miles on the Impala since then. That's right -- on a transmission which two auto mechanics had declared dead, 5 years and 40,000 miles ago.

The Parable of the DNA Test

A close family member, Molly, was adopted by a good family 46 years ago. Although she always knew she was adopted, and loved her family very much, she wondered about her birth father and birth mother. About eight weeks ago, she sent in a vial of saliva to Ancestry DNA. Three weeks ago, she got the results back, which gave her some partial pedigree charts of her birth parents. A few days later, after considerable research and deductive work, she contacted a woman she strongly identified her birth father's sister. The woman didn't understand Molly's explanation for her call, and said Molly shouldn't count on having her number forwarded to the man she believed was her birth father. Within 24 hours, he called her. Within a week, she also spoke with her birth mother, whom she just met two days ago. Molly has a terrific, growing relationship with both birth parents' extended families, and her adoptive parents have been kept fully informed and are happy for Molly.

(We'll examine the significance of these stories later in this post)

For The Love of God

The most transcendent thing anyone has ever done for you was accomplished by Jesus Christ. His infinite atoning sacrifice, the ransom -- for you (and the rest of humanity) -- took Him to the greatest depths anyone has or ever will experience. He did this knowing full well that many, if not most, people would never take advantage of His sacrifice. There were no conditions, no "I'll do it if XX% of people will repent", no "If people will do XYZ, then I'll go through with the atonement." Nope, not even close.
"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent" (D&C 19:16)
He did it because He loves you. And no matter how often you neglect His atonement, no matter how often and how deeply you neglect Him, will never hide, erase or negate the fact that He accomplished the atonement.
"It [divine love] is infinite because the Atonement was an act of love for all who ever lived, who now live, and who will ever live. It is also infinite because it transcends time." (Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Divine Love", Ensign, Feb. 2003).
That supreme act of divine love has no conditions. It's offered freely to all -- saint and sinner, repentant and unrepentant alike. In fact, if God didn't love the wicked, He would never send true prophets to warn us that we will be destroyed for our wickedness if we don’t repent.
"Divine love is infinite and universal. The Savior loves both saints and sinners." (ibid)
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
That's why Christ taught love, without any conditions, requirements or caveats, during His mortal ministry. He said,
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35)
"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44)
Although the phrase "unconditional love" isn't found in the scriptures, His disciples have clearly used it in teaching about God's love for you:
"In moments of quiet, we reflect upon His matchless life and His unconditional love for each of us." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, LDS Church News, Dec. 11, 1993, p. 4).
"Faith [in the Lord’s will] turns us toward the Savior, his life, and his unconditional love for us." (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding Peace in Our Lives", Deseret Book, 1995, p. 177).
"His grasp is galactic, yet he noticed the widow casting in her mite. I am stunned at his perfect, unconditional love of all. Indeed, 'I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.'" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King," Ensign, May 1976, p. 26)
"That we may share His eternal, unconditional love with our brothers and sisters everywhere, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." (Elder Robert D. Hales, October 2008 General Conference)
"[God] demonstrated to us that His love was unconditional and sufficient to encircle every person." (Elder Marvin J. Ashton, April 1981 General Conference)
Christ's unconditional love for you has even been included in our Family Home Evening manuals. Indeed, as parents, are we taught that we must love our children conditionally? That we should tell our children that we won’t love them (or we won’t love them in love’s highest form) if they disobey us (or gospel principles)?
"Remind your family that Jesus' love is unconditional. That means he loves us no matter what we do and say. Explain to your family that if they are to truly love one another as Jesus commanded them, they need to love each other in this same way. Have family members define what is meant by unconditional love. They may wish to give examples, such as "I will go on loving you even if you do things I don't like," or "I will love you whether you love me or not." Discuss the examples given, and help them to refine and clarify their definition of unconditional love.
Have a scripture search for examples of unconditional love. As you find scriptural examples, draw parallels for your own family so that family members can see how divine unconditional love can be applied in their own lives. Emphasize that this doctrine is not vain and idealistic, that we can learn to love our enemies and have compassion and charity for all if we will exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and apply his teachings." (Family Home Evening Resource Book, Family Home Evening Lessons, 17: Love at Home, p. 74)
Thus, we, too, should have unconditional love for others, just as the Savior has for us:
"To love completely with a wholeness even as Christ loved, to manifest a mature and unconditional love in all human relations, would minimize many fears." (First Presidency Message: With an Eye Single to His Glory, Ensign, Dec. 1971)
"We cannot, my dear brethren, condition our love by a beard or beads or habits or strange viewpoints. There have to be standards and they must be enforced, but our love must be unconditional." (Elder Marion D. Hanks, "Love Unconditional," Ensign, Dec. 1971, p. 104)
Even science has validated the overwhelming benefits of unconditional love. Professor Mario Beauregard, of Montreal University’s Center for Research into Neurophysiology and Cognition, led a study about the effects of love on the brain. He said, "The rewarding nature of unconditional love facilitates the creation of strong emotional links. Such robust bonds may critically contribute to the survival of the human species” ("The Greatest Love of All,", Apr. 2009).

"How Deep Is Your Love"

But God's love doesn't start and end there. Nope. It's just the beginning.

God invites you to share in a deeper, more fulfilling love with Him. On His end, He manifests it in different ways: closeness, clearer dialogue, trust, unity and blessings. On our end, we manifest our desire for this deeper love by obeying "every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God" (D&C 84:44). Some might categorize this as "conditional love".
"many verses [of scripture] affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us — and certain divine blessings stemming from that love — are conditional." (Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Divine Love", Ensign, Feb. 2003).
This deeper love is articulated in Lehi and Nephi's vision of the Tree of Life, where they saw "other multitudes pressing forward" "continually holding fast to" "the rod of iron", which "was the word of God". They did this "until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree", in which the tree "was a representation of the love of God" (1 Nephi 8:30, 11:25).

A second example: In the parable of the prodigal son, the father still welcomed back and loved the prodigal son. But the other son, who was faithful and obedient, inherited all that is father had.

Finally, a third example: If your teenage son gets caught drinking and driving, that doesn't negate the fact that you love him as one of your children; that doesn't cease. However, the son likely forfeits experiencing deeper expressions of love (like trust) from you because of his choices.

As you obey "every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God", you are establishing and solidifying a loving relationship with God, which (naturally) requires reciprocity. As we do this, we "abide" in His love.
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." (John 15:10)
"If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness." (D&C 95:12; emphasis mine)
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:23)
Unfortunately, some believe that this deeper love of the Father and the Son is offered regardless of personal behavior. Here's how Nehor put it:
"And he [Nehor] also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life." (Alma 1:4)
"Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws. The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love." (Elder Dallin H. Oakes, "Love and Law", October 2009 General Conference)
Knowing that God has unconditional love for you is no excuse to justify sin. Because God does not love evil unconditionally, mercy cannot and will not rob justice (Alma 42:25). Just because mom and dad love you doesn't mean they're eagerly giving you the car keys back after disobeying the rules.

So, in the final analysis, God loves all His children. He always feels compassion and concern even for the vilest, most unrepentant sinner. However, it's you who decides to abide in God's love or not, and to have a loving, ever-increasing relationship with Him.

And nowhere is your selfish refusal to abide in God's love more pronounced than your denial of a gift He's offered you, and your disbelief in a promise He's made to you. Repeatedly.

How's that "I can solve this problem myself" thing working out for you? 

As you read this, you -- or someone you love -- is hoping and praying for relief from grief, loneliness, fear, anxiety, abuse, neglect, helplessness or hopelessness.

So we wait and wait for God to make it all better. And when that resolution never comes, or at least not as quickly or thoroughly as we'd like, we begin to wonder how long God's going to take. Still no resolution? Then we decide to put on our big girl or big boy underpants and say, "I can do it myself!" Not being wanted, and being a perfect gentleman, God steps back. As things get harder and tougher, your reciprocal relationship with Him becomes strained, and indeed, you're left to solve the problem yourself. It seems to me that more often than not, such scenarios seldom have the happiest ending possible.

Or maybe we feel we don't want to burden the Lord; He's already done more than enough for us. Perhaps we just don't have faith in Him to begin with.

It's no wonder so many feel God is distant in their lives. But truth be told, it's more than likely not God's fault. It's ours.

This is why God, and His prophets, have repeatedly told us that we live far below our expectations. Because we refuse to let Christ far exceed our expectations.
"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" (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!" (Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship, pp. 92-93).
"The overall gift of the Holy Ghost truly is one of the greatest blessings available to members of the Church. We all need to stress -- for ourselves and for those whom we teach -- the vital connection with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. These gifts are vital at every stage of an individual's life and in every situation of life. 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 Ne. 9:20)." (Neal A. Maxwell, "The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ," Ensign, July 2002, p. 56).
This spiritual box we place around ourselves is taller, wider and stronger than any of the boxes mentioned in my previous post. Despite being very comfortable in this box, it's no cakewalk. In fact, it's horrible inside of it. And the longer you stay inside of it, the greater the chances your relationship with God deteriorates. And in the process, other things -- like other relationships, your sanity, your happiness, your health and maybe even your life -- may also deteriorate.

The Savior clearly understood our proclivity to want to do things ourselves, and to entomb ourselves in these self-made boxes. So, all throughout history, He's [1] promised that He solves our problems better than we can, [2] told us how to cast our burdens upon Him and [3] showed us what happens we do.

1. Get relief from the storms of life.

Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, the Lord has repeatedly said to one and all, "As long as we all must bear some burden and shoulder some yoke, why not let it be mine? My promise to you is..."
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
"I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18)
"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." (Psalms 55:22)
"For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall." (Isaiah 25:4)
Some might hesitate taking Christ up on this offer, perhaps believing that they can handle things just fine thankyouverymuch. Or they don't want to add to His burdens. Or that they've already burdened Christ enough. Yet as far as I can tell, He didn't place any conditions, limitations or boundaries on His invitation. It's open-ended, unconditional and freely available to all. To deny His gracious offer is to deny a gift He paid a heavy price to obtain.

Accepting this gracious gift doesn't mean your life will be burden-free; that's unrealistic. What it does mean is that (1) He'll resolve your burdens better than you can, and (2) through Him, your ability to withstand the burdens of life will be enhanced.

How? Quite likely through means unknown to you (either through divine intervention, the assistance of others, or both), giving you "strength beyond [our] own" ("Lord, I Would Follow Thee," Hymns, no. 220). After all, He says "my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

Taking Him up on His offer/promise reaches out into the darkness and counts on His holding His hand out to you. It's a superlative act of faith and trust in Him, which God can -- and will -- reward.

So now, I'd like to invite you to take a quick inventory of your life:
  • What burdens are you're facing? Which could be cast upon the Lord?
  • What burdens are others facing? Could you encourage them to cast those burdens upon the Lord?
  • I mean, what do you have to lose?

2. Put God to the test.

Admittedly, it takes real courage to give your burdens to God. We naturally want to solve problems ourselves, and solve them now.

Fortunately, God has buttressed his request with an encouraging point: You don't need to start with huge, gargantuan problems. He's perfectly content with our casting our little problems to Him. In other words, put Him to the test (see Alma 32:26-43).
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Or, as Amulek put it, "try the experiment of its [the word's] goodness." (Alma 34:4)

As mortals, we've learned through sad experience that it's irrational, harmful and even physically and spiritually deadly to put our trust in another. Yet because God is Omniscient (LofF 4:5), Omnipotent (LofF 4:6), Just (LofF 4:7), Judgmental (LofF 4:8), Merciful (LofF 4:9) and True (LofF 4:10), He's more than deserving of your unqualified trust.
"By a little reflection it will be seen, that the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity, is necessary to enable any rational being to exercise faith in him. For without the idea of the existence of these attributes in the Deity, men could not exercise faith in him for life and salvation; seeing that without the knowledge of all things, God would not be able to save any portion of his creatures; for it is by reason of the knowledge which he has of all things, from the beginning to the end, that enables him to give that understanding to his creatures, by which they are made partakers of eternal life; and if it were not for the idea existing in the minds of men, that God had all knowledge, it would be impossible for them to exercise faith in him." (LofF 4:11).
Not only do His attributes engender trust in Him, but His eagerness, enthusiasm and liberality in granting you greater wisdom practically begs you to put Him to the test:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones." (Proverbs 3:5-8)
3. Watch what happens when you give it all to God.
"But what does trust mean? It does not mean carelessness or indifference. Just to let things go and say, 'Oh, I guess it will come out all right,' is not trusting. Just drifting heedlessly with the tide is not trust. Neglect is not trust. Trust is something positive. It is a real something, not a mere happen-so or maybe-so. It is a definite attitude of soul and mind, a realization of our own need and of God's sufficiency. It is the reaching out and anchoring of ourselves in God. 
The soul who really trusts is not driven about by every wind. The waves beat against him as they beat against the anchored ship, but they can not dash him upon the rocks; for he who trusts in God is strong, because he has the strength of God. 
Trust does not mean shutting our eyes to facts. There is no such thing as 'blind faith.' Trust looks at things as they are. It sees the dangers that threaten, and assesses them at their true value. It sees the need, and does not try to disguise it. It sees the difficulties, and does not discount them. But seeing all this, it looks beyond and sees God, its all-sufficient help. It sees him greater than the needs or the dangers or the difficulties, and it does not shrink before them. 
There is no fear in trust: the two are opposites. When we really fear, we are not fully trusting. When we trust, fear gives way to assurance. Fear is tormenting. How many there are who are constantly agitated by fear! They fear the devil, trials, temptations, the wind, lightning, burglars, and a thousand other things. Their days are haunted by fear of this thing or that. Their peace is marred and their hearts are troubled. For all this, trust is the cure. I do not mean to say that if you trust, nothing will ever startle you or frighten you, or that you will never feel physical fear in time of danger; but in such times trust will bring to us a consciousness that the Lord knows and cares, and that his helping presence is with us. 
When John Wesley was crossing the Atlantic from England to America to become a missionary to the Indians, the ship on which he was sailing encountered a terrible storm. It seemed that those on board would be lost. Many were much alarmed and were in deep distress. Wesley himself was one of this number. In the midst of the storm his attention was attracted to some Moravians who sat calm and undisturbed by the dangers about them. Wesley greatly wondered at their untroubled appearance. He inquired why it was. Their reply was that they were trusting in the Lord and that they had in their souls the consciousness of his protecting presence and care. They felt no fear because there was nothing threatening that a Christian had need to fear. Mr. Wesley did not have such an experience, but what he learned from those simple-hearted people caused him to seek a similar experience. 
There is no worry in trust. When we worry about anything, we have not committed it to God. Trust takes away the anxiety. So many people use up a large portion of their energy in worry. There is always something troubling them. Their days and nights are full of anxiety. Worrying becomes a fixed habit with them. Peace and calmness and assurance find but little room in their lives. The cure for all this is trust. Trust brings confidence. Trust whispers to our souls that there is no cause to worry. It tells us that God holds the helm of our vessel. It bids us to be of good courage, assuring us that God is our refuge and strength, that our lives and all are in his hands, and that he will work out for us the things that are best. 
In trust there is peace, the peace of God which passeth understanding. There is calm in the soul of him who trusts. There is no doubt in trust, for doubt is swallowed up in assurance, and assurance brings calmness and peace. 
It is safe to trust in the Lord. Isaiah says, 'I will trust and not be afraid' (Isa.12: 2). That is the way God wants us to trust. He would have us be confident in him. But sometimes we get to looking at circumstances, and they loom up so threateningly before us that in spite of ourselves we tremble and shrink before them. We believe that God will take care of us and help us, but we can not quiet our fears. Our feelings are very much as they are when we stand just outside the bars of the cage of a ferocious wild beast. We know it can not reach us; we know we are safe from those powerful teeth and claws; but still we can not help having a feeling that we should not have were we somewhere else. When he comes to our side of the cage, we shrink involuntarily, but still we trust the iron bars and do not run away. 
The Psalmist tells us what to do when we have such fears. 'What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee' (Psalms 56:3). Still keep trusting. God will not chide you for the fears you can not help, but only for those that come from unbelief. Trust in God. It is the safest thing you have ever done; and he will never fail you." (Charles Wesley Naylor, "Heart Talks",

Put it all together, and you see a God who far exceeds expectations

Years ago, I learned something that has forever imprinted itself on my soul. I believe it's the Lord's favorite characteristic.

I call it "Far Exceeding Expectations." God gets an absolute thrill, and is truly overjoyed, to have opportunities to demonstrate how eager and willing and anxious He is to far exceed our puny, mortal expectations.

These scriptures put it into context:
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
"I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days." (1 Kings 3:13)
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Make a broken Impala transmission run for an extra 40,000 miles over five years? Ha! Piece of cake.

Reunite a woman with her birth father and birth mother within two weeks, with the relationships far exceeding her own expectations, after 46 years of waiting and wondering? No problem.

I look at history, and see how He turned "but a lad" who was "slow of speech" and hated by "all the people" (Moses 6:31) into a man who made people and even the earth tremble at his words, who made the mountains flee, could change the course of rivers and, in summary, made "all nations" fear him (Moses 7:13).

I think of the Brother of Jared, who climbed Mount Shelem and moltened out of a rock sixteen small stones, carried them to the top of the mount, and expected the Lord to light them. Not only did that happen, but through his exceeding faith ("for never has man believed in me as thou hast"), he also was brought into the presence of the Lord, and was ministered by Him (Ether 3)

I think of a man with a barren wife, who -- because of his faith -- became the Father of Nations, with his ancestry multiplied as the stars of heaven (Exodus 32:13).

I think of Rahab, a prostitute, who -- risking her life -- saved two spies who had been sent by Joshua to gauge the defences of Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7). When Joshua attacked Jericho and the walls came tumbling down, Rahab and her family were saved (Joshua 6:12-25). But that's not the end of her story. It is said that Rahab ended up marrying Salmon, and through their union sprang David, Solomon and ultimately, Jesus Christ. Thus poor, muddy, defiled Rahab became a fountainhead of the River of the Water of Life which flows out of the throne of God.

I think of a simple fisherman who straightway forsook his nets, and followed Christ...and the millions, perhaps billions, who were forever influenced by his steadfast love for the Savior (Mark 1:18).

I think of Jairus and his wife, who asked the Lord to heal their terminally-ill daughter. More than a granting a cure, Jesus restored the young girl’s life (Mark 5:35-42).

I think of a man, lame from birth, laying every day next to the temple gate, begging for whatever he could get. Then one day, he asked for help as Peter and John passed by him. The man expected a few coins. Instead, Peter blessed him with sound legs and ankles through the healing power of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:2-11).

I think of a simple teenager who went out into a grove not far from his home to ask God which church he should join...and how the world's history changed with just that single prayer.

All these instances -- and many more which I didn't mention -- started with someone making an outrageous request. In response, God reciprocated by pronouncing an unexpectedly huge blessing.

Take some time to imagine what God's intervention into your situation could result in.

Then take time to ask Him for it.

Rest in the truth that God's power exceeds your expectations.

Brand New

This is the Jesus I know.

A God who sees above our spiritual despair and decay, and bids us to follow Him. To cast our burdens upon Him. To let Him transform us into a totally brand new being in a way, and to an extent, we didn't even realize was possible.

Throughout history, He has delighted in lifting those with absolutely no skills, no hope, no significance and no vision into the brightest lights in the history of our world.

Yes, none of us are worthy. None of us are righteous. We all say and do stupid things which divert us from Him. But in classic Jesus fashion, He's quick to say, "Yeah, but I already took care of those things. Let's look and move forward. Together!"

He longs for your request to have Him clear the barnacles of stupidity and sin off of you, and elevate you to new, and even greater, spiritual heights. He who is the author of resurrection longs to resurrect your heart and soul everyday, so they can burst forth from your self-built telestial caves, without obstruction and with unparalleled luminosity and life.

I've seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn't ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I've seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That's what faith can do.

It doesn't matter what you've heard
Impossible is not a word
It's just a reason for someone not to try
Everybody's scared to death
When they decide to take that step
Out on the water
It'll be alright
Life is so much more
Than what your eyes are seeing
You will find your way
If you keep believing...

...believing in He who absolutely delights in frequently demonstrating His favorite characteristic:

The God Who Far Exceeds Expectations.

(What about you? What are some examples in your life, or the life of another, which clearly demonstrate God's love of exceeding our expectations?)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 5: Could you be in a doctrinal "box" and not even know it?

If you want to be more like the Lord, you're going to invariably mirror his passions -- one of which involves smashing down the barriers between man and God.

You need to invite Him to smash the barriers between you and God, too. If you don't, then you're wanting to have a relationship with Him on YOUR terms. And often, those terms involve choosing to remain in a spiritual or doctrinal box -- composed of prideful interpretations of scripture --  of your own making. As with all things, YOU are the reason why there's a barrier between you and God.

Hmmmmm, doctrinal/spiritual boxes...each a prideful interpretation of scripture...

Could you really have one, or even several? Could you actually be handcuffed to "truths" which aren't actually true, to opinions not based on facts?

When We Put God Outside Our Self-Built Box

Old Testament prophet: In the Old Testament, we read about the prophet and judge of Israel, Samuel, who restored law and order and regular religious worship in Israel. By all accounts, he had what it took to correctly understand the Lord's perspective of things -- even at the age of 12 (1 Samuel 3:10). Yet when he first faced the boy David, he instantly pegged David as the wrong guy to take down Goliath. Here's how the Lord bulldozed Samuel's box:
"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Yes, even the great prophet Samuel (who most people probably/easily considered infallible) was stuck in a box. Incorrectly, I might add. If Samuel made this mistake, what do you think the chances are that you could, too?

Book of Mormon prophet: In another instance, Lehi's dream included what anyone would want: a man wearing a white robe. Sounds like a godly messenger to me! This man bade Lehi to follow him to what was inevitably "a dark and dreary waste". It took Lehi "the space of many hours in darkness" to pray out of that box (see 1 Nephi 8:5-8).

Lehi thought the white-robed man as good. And who wouldn't? Yet Lehi's pre-conceived notions were based on incorrect assumptions. He placed himself inside that box, and it took effort to get out of it. How about you? If Lehi made this mistake, what do you think the chances are that you could, too?

Restored Church: Let's fast forward to a little less than 200 years ago. Another prophet -- Joseph Smith -- recognized the Saints' tendency to falsely judge (like Samuel) and believe untruths (like Lehi), and told them to break down their own boxes:
"There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 309; History of the Church 5:424).
"I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, You will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions." (History of the Church, 5:554; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 27, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards and William Clayton.)
"It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (History of the Church, 5:529–30; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 13, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.)
"Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther. Did Abraham when called upon to offer his son? Did the Savior? No." (Notes of James Burgess from a sermon in the temple grove 27 August 1843, The Words of Joseph Smith, p.243-248)
"There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40]." (History of the Church, 6:184–85; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Jan. 21, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 331)
The astounding thing here is that Joseph was speaking specifically to and about members of the church who, because of their prideful interpretations of doctrine, immediately flew to pieces like glass whenever a new revelation, a new articulation or new clarification was given to what had already been "established" in their minds. They didn't want their boxes demolished.

So, what do you think? Did such behaviors continue after 1844? Could we also have the same tendencies today?

Without. A. Doubt.

I see it all the time online, and even in conversations. Like Samuel, we may place ourselves in doctrinal boxes with high walls, believing OUR way of thinking is the only way, that OUR beliefs are right, and others' are wrong. Like Lehi, we may be merrily skipping down a path led by who we believe is God or God's servant, never knowing that we, too, are headed straight for "a dark and dreary waste" which may not take hours, but perhaps days, weeks, months, even years to get out of.

Even worse: As these teachings often go unchallenged and are allowed to survive, they become what's known as "false traditions" -- the very thing the Savior spiritually, mentally and even physically fought against.

A Huge Box: Latter-Day Miracles

One of the most profound boxes evident among church members involves miracles -- divine interventions without any other explanation.

"Consistent with the teachings of the scriptures, we hold them [miracles] sacred and share them only when the Spirit prompts us to do so."  (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Miracles", Church Educational System fireside, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 7, 2000)

Unfortunately, many members have gone overboard with this advice. Several times, I've seen miracles treated as being so sacred, they can never be discussed with anyone. Wanting to be obedient, members comply. And over the years, because the topic of "miracles" is a forbidden topic, many members begin thinking miracles were and are fictitious, the stuff of fantasy.
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:4)
What happens when you deny water and sunlight to the seed of faith? It dies. Dies, dies, dies.

What happens when you deny water and sunlight to many seeds of faith? They all die, too.

What happens when you tell others to withhold water and sunlight to many seeds? Condemnation and curses.

This widespread reluctance to mention (let alone acknowledge) miracles at all has led to generalized silence, and silence to disbelief, and disbelief to spiritual estrangement from God. And you can't tell me this doesn't happen, because I've seen this happen in my own family (hence my lament over "Why Don't We See Spiritual Gifts Very Often"). In fact, something tells me I'm not alone in this observation:
"What is being valiant? I believe that John, in the book of Revelation, says something about valiancy. He is speaking to the people at Sardis, one of the cities which Paul had proselyted. He is speaking to the Saints, mind you, not to the people in the world. He says: 'I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.' (Revelation 3:1)
There are many people in this Church today who think they live, but they are dead to the spiritual things. And I believe even many who are making pretenses of being active are also spiritually dead. Their service is much of the letter and less of the spirit." (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1951, p.104-105)
"The idea that events are brought about through divine power is rejected by most irreligious people and even by some who are religious. All of us have known people who have what Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once called 'the anti-miracle mind-set.' This rejection of miracles in the last days was prophesied. The prophet Nephi foretold that the Gentiles would 'put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain' (2 Ne. 26:20). He also prophesied that churches would be built up in which persons would teach with their learning, deny the power of God, and tell the people that if someone should “say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles' (2 Ne. 28:6).
Some people reject the possibility of miracles because they have not experienced them or cannot understand them. In contrast, President Howard W. Hunter declared, 'To deny the reality of miracles on the ground that the results and manifestations must be fictitious simply because we cannot comprehend the means by which they have happened, is arrogant on the face of it.'" (Elder Oaks, ibid).
Here are two facts about miracles:

1. God doesn't say to "shut your trap" when it comes to discussing miracles. He tells us to use our common sense and consult the Spirit before we speak and share:
"Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit" (D&C 63:64).
Note that God didn't say "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must not be spoken of" or "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must only be shared with the proper priesthood leader". In fact, He didn't say, "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and can only be accessed through properly ordained priesthood holders". So if you believe any of those things, repent. They're lies.
"I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness." (Elder George Q Cannon, Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260-61)
2. As we grow closer to Christ, we become believers, and manifest signs which underscore that discipleship. Why? Because miracles are a sign of true belief. Christ said so in Mark 16:17. He said so in D&C 63:9. And He said so in D&C 84:65.

So, let me set the record straight for you:

Miracles ARE happening, right under our noses, that are very much a continuation of the miracles we read about in the New Testament. Here are a few real examples:

Healing plants: A (female) friend of mine recently contacted me with this account: "My grandparents have a muscadine vine in their yard that is about 15 years old and it has never produced. Last fall as I was walking by the vine I had a memory come to my mind of a story I was told about my Great Grandmother commanding a walnut tree that never had any walnuts to start producing. Sure enough it did. Well, after having the memory, I was told to command the vine to fulfill the measure of its creation and produce fruit. My boys came in today [Tuesday, 9/13/16] with muscadines and I asked where they got them from, when they told me I was completely in awe! It is completely loaded with muscadines!!! My grandmother was excited because earlier in the year she had asked my dad to cut it down because it never produced but he still had not gotten around to taking it out, she was in complete shock. I'm full of gratitude!"

Healing the lame to walk: A friend of mine has two teenage daughters. Recently, both were attending a meeting which was also attended by a lame man, who needed a cane to walk. After the meeting, in a very private setting, the girls were prompted to approach the man and ask if he wanted to be healed. He did. At that point, the girls laid their hands on the man and, in the name of Jesus Christ, commanded the leg to heal, and be restored to its proper frame and be whole. It was healed that very minute, and his cane was rendered unnecessary.

Healing the lame to run (!): Another friend recently stated, "Today at church we had a powerful service where many of us received a new revelation of what we are called to do for God. I had powerful confirmation of the call to lay hands on people and heal them. As I type this, my son, who has been limping significantly on his right ankle for a week, just got back from being outside, running. (He LOVES to run, and being a gimp has really taken a toll on his usual goodnaturedness.) I laid hands on his ankle, and it was made whole. God has told me to heal. And I'm just getting started."

Raising the dead: In the aforementioned talk by Elder Oakes, he mentions two modern-day examples of people who were raised from the dead -- the first, witnessed by Elder Matthew Cowley, and a second under the hands of a true disciple of Christ, Iohanni Wolfgramm. If you haven't read these accounts, please do so; they're compelling.

The gifts these disciples manifest are personifications of the Lord, who is reclaiming ground on this telestial earth. Every healed lame man, every renewed muscadine grape vine, every dead person who's raised, is an extension of He who makes all things new and whole. It is the Lord working subtly, yet unmistakably, at pulling down the strongholds of Satan and re-establishing His rule and reign here. And, I can say with a high degree of confidence, that "you ain't seen nothing yet"!

The miracle of this whole thing is that He's succeeding in ways we wouldn't ordinarily expect. He's shattered the box that says only adult men can exercise spiritual gifts:
"The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons." - (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, “Magnifying Our Callings in the Priesthood,” Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 66).
“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things, men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61; emphasis mine)
He's also broken out of the box that says that only priesthood leaders "with keys" can exercise spiritual gifts:

"It is not position in the Church that confers spiritual gifts. . . . Rather it is personal righteousness; it is keeping the commandments; it is seeking the Lord while he may be found. God is no respecter of persons." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Rock of Salvation", Improvement Era, December 1969, p. 85; Acts 10:34).

No, it's not church calling nor gender that determines who can or can't break out of our biggest, strongest boxes. It's the weak things of the world who have faith in Jesus Christ coursing through their veins. The Lord, in His infinite mercy, is subtly raising up others you would hardly expect to counterbalance self-importance, unbelief and faithlessness with humility, faith and righteousness. Truly, the wheat and tares are growing alongside each other, and truly, the Lord deserves boundless praise for using unorthodox means to bring about unbelievable results.

The Indescribable Joy Of Breaking Out Of Your Box

You and I have something in common: we both want to be counted among the wheat, not the tares. That requires us to allow God to mold us, shape us, craft us into a being far better than what we could ever imagine.

Case in point: The real-life Giordano Bruno. Please watch this video to see how God literally lifted one man out of his box to breathtaking vistas.

Yes, sometimes breaking out of that box may hurt physically, or emotionally. I know what that's like; I've lived most of my life under such conditions. As God has demolished many, many boxes of things I once really believed in, friends and loved ones (who still clung to their self-made boxes) shunned, ostracized and even attacked me. I ached (and still do) for these lost relationships.

Yet I can also tell you that Father has been way, way overly generous in counterbalancing it all. There are parts of that Giordano Bruno animation I can relate with. On the other side of my box (or outside of my curtain), I have found a Savior who actually really knows me very well, is extremely personable, mind-blowingly humorous, superbly sensitive and overly generous. He gives far, far more than I ever expect. And forgiving...whew, too forgiving.

Even moreso, I have rediscovered a Father and a Mother outside that box/curtain as well, who live in a universe which transcends endlessness and eternity and is filled with life in ways we dare not imagine, let alone verbalize to others.

And it all starts by sincerely, incessantly asking Christ to break down your boxes (which you quite likely don't even know exist). That may include renouncing and revoking every limit you've ever placed on Jesus. Then ask Him to forgive you for restraining Him in your life. Give Him full permission to be Himself with you.

Tell Him, "I want you -— the real you. ALL. OF. YOU."

If you do this, and you really mean it, and do it over and over again, I can guarantee you a couple of things:
  • Christ will take you up on your offer.
  • You'll be tested to see if you really mean it.
  • Eventually, you will know -- through and through -- what it's like to have the Savior of the world smile at you, and to be truly thrilled and enthusiastic about you.
And just behind Him, two other people whose smiles are brighter than a thousand suns.

Special Note: Thanks to all who responded to my "Request To Help A Family" request (here). You have made a breathtaking difference in others' lives, for which they, too, are profoundly grateful.