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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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 4: Get to Know Jesus Christ on a Whole New Level

It's a Sunday School class, and a man gets up to deliver his lesson. He starts by asking the class a question:

"What's Jesus like?"

People immediately reply with words like holy, pure, omniscient, obedient, loving, just, merciful, eternal.

"Those are all really good answers," the teacher says. "But if you'll remember, I didn't ask what his attributes are. I asked what He's like."

Suddenly, the teacher saw quite a variety of puzzled looks on the class' faces.

"Let me rephrase the question," he said. "What's Christ's personality like?"

More puzzled faces.

"I mean, when we take the sacrament, we acknowledge that we're willing to take upon us the name of Christ. That we'll always remember Him. That we'll keep His commandments. That we'll always have His Spirit to be with us. So, with all that focus on Christ, and because most of you have been renewing that covenant every week for I don't know how many years or decades, you should be able to tell us something -- based on your own personal experiences and not others' -- about His personality."

The class's members started looking down, or around, the room...anywhere but the teacher's direction.

Know the Lord

If this Sunday School lesson sounds fictitious, it is, and isn't. It's actually a paraphrasing of an actual speech given by the Prophet Joseph Smith at the April 7, 1844, conference of the Church in Nauvoo, Illinois. Here's what he really said:

"I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own hearts, what kind of a being God is? Ask yourselves; turn your thoughts into your hearts, and say if any of you have seen, heard, or communed with Him? This is a question that may occupy your attention for a long time. I again repeat the question-What kind of being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen Him, heard Him, or communed with Him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The scriptures inform us that "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)
It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being He is-if he will search diligently his own heart-if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle." (; emphasis mine)

Sadly, this situation has been around for quite a while:
"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." (Matthew 13:15)
And just who composed "this people"? As we read in Matthew 13:2, they were a "great multitudes were gathered together unto him" which "stood on the shore." Or, in other words, a pretty well-attended (and outdoor) Sunday School class.

Look -- You may be a member of Christ's church. You may have super duper important responsibilities. You may be the relative or descendant of a past or current church general authority. You may have read tons of books about the gospel. You may have the Gift of Prophecy. You may even be able to cast out evil spirits and perform other marvelous works. While that's all really cool, ALL those things may be considered iniquitous to the Lord, if you know Him not:
"And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity." (JST Matthew 7:32-33)
In Greek, the word "know" is pronounced ginosko. It occurs 246 times in 208 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV. It means "to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of perceive, feel." In Hebrew, it implies a highly intimate knowledge between a man and a woman. Ginosko is not some kind of passive, surfacy, unassertive, quick and immediate action verb; it is intimate, private, personal and highly, highly profound.

You know, it really does make sense. The earth is about to enter a terrestrial plane of existence. The terrestrial kingdom is governed by Christ. So, how can one count themselves as a credible terrestrial candidate if they haven't made Christ a focal point in their lives?
"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)
And when the Lord DOES begin to clean house on the earth, guess who He'll start with:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
" (D&C 112:23-26; emphasis mine)
Let's examine this for a minute. What is blasphemy? The church's own definition states, "Being irreverent toward God or claiming to be equal to God." And what does it mean to be irreverent? "Showing a lack of respect for people or things that are generally taken seriously." Therefore, all those who have claimed authority equal to God, and those who have shown a lack of respect for Him ("against me") -- within His house -- are first on the chopping block.

This perfectly correlates with three D&C verses:

Hearken or be cut off: "And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people." (D&C 133:63)

Hearken or not be gathered: "Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer." (D&C 29:2)

Hearken or die: "And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved." (D&C 45:2)

Look -- it's crystal clear, black and white, unambiguous, simplistic and repeated all over the place by Joseph and Jesus: Not knowing Christ is "iniquity" (Christ's words, not mine), and you will be cut off.

You will not be gathered with the righteous.

You will be left to die.

And in your dead state, you will not be saved.


Where to Start

(OK, let's now get this going on a positive vibe).

Want to get to know Christ in a truly personal way? No problem!  :)

Let's start a movie theater. Just you and me. The lights are low, and we're watching quick snippets of every movie you've ever seen portraying Jesus. As the scenes roll by, you notice that many of them depict Christ as a super-soft (almost effeminate), somber, serious, passive, introvert person -- hardly the kind of person who'd fashion a whip and start thrashing everything in the Jewish Temple (not once, but twice!)

Now let's dial up the theater lights for a brief reality check: Jesus Christ -- Yeshua -- is none of those things! Here's how John described Him:
"In him was life; and the life was the light of men." (John 1:4)
Can't you see? Christ has ultimate life! He has ultimate light! On a scale none of us have! He is someone who loves to smile; after all, He's the author of happiness and joy, and His gospel is what? Good news (in Old English, it was translated as godspel -- god "good" + spel "news")! He's also someone who not only loves playing with children, He encourages us to be like them -- wide-eyed, full of wonder, inquisitive, innocent and most of all...playful! That doesn't sound like a passive, depressing, brooding, aloof person to me.

Now, let's stay in that movie theater, turn down the lights again and look at a movie of your life (don't worry -- you'll like these highlights). First up: The best friend you've ever had -- who was it? Do you see them in your mind's eye? Good! Now (even though you may or may not have known the following personally), we see the person who inspired you most in your life. Next -- Who made you laugh more than anybody else. Finally, who made you feel the Spirit more than anybody else in your life. Now combine all four of those people, and multiply their influence on your life by 100. That aggregate person, that combination of people multiplied by 100, might just be a close approximation of Christ's personality...and how much He yearns to be part of your life.

Know Christ's Personality

Am I done? Nope, I'm just getting started! Now, let's explore Christ's personality.

1. Ditch the smart phone and/or computer games, Netflix, watching college or pro sports for a while. Take into account what you read above. Show God that you respect Him and want to make getting to know Christ a higher priority than anything in the telestial world. If you have that desire, then just anticipate you'll be tested to determine whether you're serious or not about this. If you don't have that desire...well, it's obvious that there will come a day when you wish you had, and it'll be too late. Relationship building takes time.

2. Literally invite Christ into your home. Invite Him into your life. Being a perfect gentleman, He will not come where He is not invited. He WILL enter where He IS invited. So invite Him. Invite Him Invite Him Invite Him -- over and over again! Several times a day...everyday!

3. Get acquainted with His personality. To do that, get informed. Out of everything I've ever read, the one which best addresses Christ's personality is John Eldredge's book (or watch his Youtubes of) "Beautiful Outlaw". Here are the videos, in order:

Chapter 1: The Playfulness of God
Chapter 2: The Missing Essential -- His Personality
Chapter 3: Is Jesus Really Playful?
Chapter 4: Fierce Intention
Chapter 5: The Most Human Face of All
Chapter 6: Extravagant Generosity
Chapter 7: Disruptive Honesty
Chapter 8: A Scandalous Freedom
Chapter 9: Cunning
Chapter 10: Humility
Chapter 11: Trueness
Chapter 12: Beautiful
Chapter 13: Loving Jesus
Chapter 14: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- With You
Chapter 15: Clearing Away the Religious Fog
Chapter 16: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- Encounters
Chapter 17: Letting His Life Fill Yours
Epilogue: One Last Thought

In my January 7, 2016 post "Don’t Just Know About Christ…EXPERIENCE Him!" (the section entitled "Do What It Takes to Get to Know Him"), you have a book suggestion, a suggested video and several YouTube clips which (I believe) accurately describe Jesus's personality. There are also two accounts of what it's like to be in His presence. And finally, my testimony of He who rules the heavens and earth, yet knows and loves you far more than you'll ever comprehend.

My Lecture on Faith 3 Invitation

Lecture on Faith 3 is a terrific summary of God's characteristics, which are examined under the light of the scriptures (verses 9-11) then summarized (verses 13-18). These points provide us "with a sure foundation for the exercise of faith in him among every people, nation and kindred, from age to age, and from generation to generation" (v 25) -- a foundation equally had among the "Former Day Saints" and "Latter Day Saints" (v 26).

That's all cool, but in my book, there's only one "best" way to know Christ, and that's by "experiential learning" -- learning through experience.
"It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us..." (The Prophet Joseph Smith,; emphasis mine)
Know...converse...these aren't recommendations to go to some bookstore or class and just read about Christ! Do what President McKay said and "pass into the presence of the Lord" by meditating -- surrounding yourself, outside and inside, with peace. Then invite the Prince of Peace to join you. Invite Him into your life like never before, again and again.

He waits for you to do this. He really, really yearns for you to reach out to Him, and solidify and deepen your relationship with Him. Just take a step towards Him, and He'll take a step to you. As you do, you'll begin to remember Him. Over time, you'll sense words entering your mind which are clearly not your own (and you won't be hallucinating). Then, over time, you'll be as familiar with His voice and personality as you are with your spouse or best friend. You'll know -- not hope, not guess, not wish, but know yourself -- how close He is to you, and how much He loves you.

And then...and then, over time...He will humbly, meekly introduce you to another voice which is greater than His.

This is my testimony.

And my wish...

...for you.

Special Announcement: A Request To Help A Family

There are many people I consider good friends who are struggling to make ends meet. It would be unrealistic to mention all of them. However, there is one family, whom I consider part of my (unofficial) extended family, who has extremely limited income for the next couple of months. They really need your help.

This couple is unable to cover October's rent ($750), gas and groceries. Additionally, the wife is facing upwards of $2,000 in dental bills. Although several other families have helped this specific family out already, they cannot in good conscience continue to rely on their friends who have already done so much.

Please ask the Spirit if you should help this family out. If so, then send me a message via my contact page (here), and I'll get back with you on how to help out.

Thanks, and God bless you.
"And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants." (Mosiah 4:16-26)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 3: Try this when you can't hear God

"I can do it myself! I'm a big kid now."

Have you ever watched a two year-old begin to experience independence? "I can do it myself" and "I'm a big kid now" are pretty frequent phrases as they learn to put on their own clothes, go potty and feed themselves.

So it is with us grown-ups. We've fine-tuned and perfected "I can do it myself" and "I'm a big kid now". True, we may not say them, but we certainly think and do it our way. All. The. Time.
"Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way."
(Frank Sinatra, 1969)
And so we tend to live life on our terms. We may do things which drive the Spirit away, or don't do things which would invite the Spirit. Pretty soon, we're no longer tuned into K-GOD, but static. Even worse: We may be totally unaware that we've tuned God out, or allowed counterfeit signals (which are easily heard and always ego boosting!) to take over.
"...why counsel ye yourselves, and deny the God of heaven?" (Moses 6:43)
Then eventually, when life throws a challenge "our way", we may pray to God that He bless OUR efforts with success. Then when OUR way doesn't work out, we pray and ask what the deal is. When we receive no answers, we get frustrated and even a little faithless.
"My testimony is that the Lord is speaking to you!  But with the deafening decibels of today’s environment, all too often we fail to hear him." (Elder Graham Doxey, "The Voice is Still Small", October 1991 General Conference).
All because we were determined to do it OUR way.

Why Christ wants you to say "So Long" to yourself

A story is told of the devil meeting a Christian. Satan said, "You say, 'I'm a servant of God.' What do you do that I don't? You say that you fast; so do I. I neither eat nor drink." After listening to a long list of Christian things that Satan did, the Christian said, "I do one thing you don't: I deny myself." The Christian's wisdom on that very point beat the arguments of Satan.

So it is with you. If you want to experience the divine, you must first practice self denial. When you approach God and abandon self-idolatry and self-prioritization, you're casting away any other gods in your life. You're truly living the First Commandment.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
When you deny all the ungodly things (including you) before God, when you make God a higher priority in your life than you, you receive His grace:
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 10:32)
Look at some of the words and phrases in Moroni 10:32: "come unto Christ"..."deny yourselves"..."love God"..."grace sufficient for you"..."perfect in Christ"..."the power of God".

This is so exciting! You approach God and take no thought of yourself. In return, God blesses you with sufficient grace and an infusion of power into your life -- a better life than the one "big kid" you is able to envision. And even better, it's actually do-able!
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24)
"He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (JST Matt 10:34)

Enthusiastically embrace THE strategy to "...pass into the presence of the Lord"

President David O. McKay gives us some sound advice how to lose and deny ourselves in a truly meaningful, powerful way: meditation.
“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; emphasis mine).
Now, regarding President McKay's comments, I seriously doubt he was spotlighting the kind of meditation where one is chanting words, while rocking back and forth, with incense gently wafting in the background.

The scriptures contain no royal road, no step-by-step instruction sheet, which tell you how to come unto Christ while denying yourself through meditation. There are, however, some key concepts scattered throughout the scriptures which, when interconnected, make a lot of sense. Because I've blogged about these concepts in the past, here are some (colored text) links for you:

1. Understand what meditation is, and how it differs from pondering. The two are quite different, yet can be interrelated.

2. Start pondering the already-revealed word of God. Go here and here to better understand what it takes to tune into God, and here to help your pondering evolve into meditation.

3. Empty your cup! This is, far and away, the most crucial action item for effective meditation, because it helps you be still and know God (Psalms 46:10).
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments." (Helaman 10:4; emphasis mine)
4. Find your own, personal Sacred Grove -- a place where you can consistently, clearly hear God's responses to you. A friend of mine who has ADD told me that she really struggles to hear God in quiet places. The channels of her mind keep switching! However, when she goes walking through her neighborhood, she hears God a lot better. Another possibility: Go to where you can listen to God's symphony -- the birds that sing, the wind rustling in the leaves, the trickle of water. One does not necessarily need to visit the temple in order to escape the telestial and embrace the divine. The bottom line: Experiment! Seek out the places where you can consistently hear Him, then return there. Often. Click here to read a testimonial of this concept.

5. Find a still time. Perhaps walking through the neighborhood or spending time in nature doesn't do it for you. That's OK. Maybe the key is to wait for a quiet time, in your own home. For example: if you have little ones, it's while they're taking a nap or away at school. Maybe it's before anybody in the house is awake, or in the evening while they're asleep (this is what works best for me). Again, experiment. Discover the time that works best for you.

6. Calm your body. Staying in that best place and time makes it a whole lot easier to get yourself into a peaceful state.

7. Calm your mind. Once you're in that best place and time, and have calmed your body, you're now better able to calm your mind. Cast away any thoughts about you and your life. Just flick them away, one by one. Empty your cup!

8. Once your cup is empty, wait for inspiration from the Lord.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him..." (Psalms 37:7)
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: 'Be still, and know that I am God.' (Psalms 46:10; emphasis mine) And the promise, 'You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.'" (D&C 36:2; emphasis mine). (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 21).
Sometimes, I may feel myself pulled or motivated to say something to God. More often than not, it's via expressing gratitude. Thanking Father for this moment with Him. For life. For my family and friends. And most importantly, for His Son. When I begin contemplating these blessings, sometimes the Spirit takes over and places words in my head which I then utter. And invariably, I receive a response.
"And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire." (3 Nephi 19:24; emphasis mine)
9. Understand how inspiration will come.
"Another manifestation of revelation is the unspoken word, a good illustration of which is given us by Enos. He says: '...while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying' (Enos 1:10). Then he tells us what the voice of the Lord put in his mind. This is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one's mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted." (Marion G. Romney, "Revelation", April 1964 General Conference, emphasis mine).
" a still, small, and whisper-like voice. It is one that is felt more than it is heard. It comes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and impressions. To hear such a voice, you must be still and quiet in your own soul, laying aside your excess laughter and light-mindedness. While it may not seem easy to so discipline your life, hearing the precious, loving voice of the Lord will sustain you in every circumstance and is therefore worth every effort" (Elder James J. Hamula, "Winning the War against Evil", October 2008 General Conference; also see 1 Kings 19:12; Helaman 5:30; 3 Nephi 11:1-7; D&C 85:6; D&C 88:69, 121; emphasis mine).
10. Give all of this some time. Don't rush into things, and don't expect things to go "from zero to 60" overnight.
"How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!"
"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:295–96; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to Edward Partridge and the Church, Mar. 20, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri; parts of this letter were later included in the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 121, 122, and 123; emphasis mine).
"Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is like learning a language, the language of revelation. Learning any language takes time. It takes repetition and practice. It takes an immersion in that language. And it takes learning the rules that govern the language. If we were learning Portuguese or Chinese, we would not only have to memorize vocabulary words but learn syntax and grammar as well. Similarly, as we set out to better learn the language of revelation, there are guidelines and rules to govern us." (Sherri Dew, "No Doubt About It"; emphasis mine)
What we leave behind in our lives may help someone else find the way.

OK, now it's your turn!

Something tells me that you -- yep that's you! -- have had some experiences that have helped you better hear and experience God. What have you done that's worked? Please (personally or anonymously) share your insights in the comments below.

After all, you never know...

"What we leave behind in our lives may help someone else find the way."