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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Blog Reader who Received their Calling and Election

The following is from a faithful reader of this blog.  I have known this person for a long time and can vouch for their spirituality.  Others who know this person would also not be surprised to hear this person had received the gift mentioned below, if they knew it.

It has been my observation that this person takes quite literally the Sacrament promise that they will "always have his (the Lord's) spirit to be with us" and is constantly seeking ways to receive and maintain the constant companionship of the spirit in their life.

And they are correct about one important fact: They do not have a high-ranking calling in the church, for that never has been and never will be a prerequisite to the blessing described below...
_______________________________________________

Dear Perfect Day subscribers,

I would like to bear my testimony to you of a doctrine that I hold sacred and dear to my heart.  One that has changed my life immeasurably.  One that is so beautiful, I do not have the words to describe it. 

I apologize for sending this to you anonymously, but as you will see, there is a reason for this.

On Sunday, March 4, 2012, I was blessed in a way that I had scarcely imagined and still do not fully understand.  On that day, I received an undeniable witness that my calling and election has been made sure.  I can't describe to you what happened or what I saw and heard; it is a sacred event.  The closest thing I could find in writing is how Elder Bruce R. McConkie described it when he said:
"To have one's calling and election made sure is to be sealed up unto eternal life; it is to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world; it is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father's kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is 'set down' with his 'Father in his throne' (Rev 3:21.)" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Bookcraft, 1973, 3:330–31).
The reason I am telling you about my experience is so you will know that it is possible for it to happen to you too. 

It is my understanding that there are some who believe that this is a blessing that is not granted to mortals at this time, or if it is, it is more than likely given to a General Authority or someone else in high standing in the church.  These conclusions are false.  God is no respecter of persons. 

Joseph Smith said:
"This principle ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, know ye the Lord; for all shall know him (who remain) from the least to the greatest. How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power, and the other Comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation." (Teachings, 149.)
This really rings true to me because I see myself as just that: one of the least of the saints.  The scriptures are true.  The promises contained in them can and do happen.

You who are reading this: I don't know you or what path the Lord has you on to receive this blessing.  But I can testify to you that He does grant, to even the least saints, the greatest blessings that God can give.

I testify that if I can receive this blessing, then you most certainly can as well.  It is my hope and prayer that you will receive it too in the due time of the Lord. 

Sincerely,

A Friend

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Seeing Christ -- Part 3

In "Seeing Christ Part 2," we learned how to use our eye of faith in visualizing the events portrayed in the scriptures.  Because the act of seeing with the eye of faith has precipitated profound, meaningful events in the past, there is every reason to believe God will honor the pure in heart with similar experiences today.

In this post, we'll turn this knowledge we have (about seeing with the eye of faith) into a tool, a method, in either better understanding or serving our spirit brothers and sisters.

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Go back and re-read "Seeing Christ Part 2" (here), and refresh your memory of what it means to visualize the scriptures.  Then listen to John 13:1-17.  Visualize the Savior washing his disciples' feet.  See in your mind's eye the creator of the universe girding himself with a towel and washing each disciple's feet in turn.  See Peter protesting. Christ teaching.  Peter overreacting.  Christ teaching again.  Now see yourself in a real situation, wherein someone is not giving you the treatment and appreciation you feel you deserve.  See yourself responding in a humble, service-minded, Christlike way.

Or try John 8:1-7.  See this woman as she is brought to the Savior.  See the contempt written on the faces of the men who brought her there.  See the Savior crouching down and writing in the ground.  See him standing, and taking a stand by saying "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."  See him stoop back down again while the men, one by one, leave the area.  What does that teach us about condemning others?  How did you visualize the Savior as he addressed the crowd of men who were ready to stone the woman?  

Now, one of my favorites: Ether Chapter 3.  See the Brother of Jared kneeling in prayer, with 16 small stones in front of him.  See him asking, "touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger."  See him continuing his prayer by saying, "O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men."  Then see a finger appearing before the stones, touching them one by one.  See the Brother of Jared falling down.  A discussion ensuing.  The Brother of Jared saying "Lord, show thyself unto me." The Lord asking, "Believest thou the words which I shall speak?"  The mortal reply, "Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie."  Then the Lord showing himself to him, and saying, "Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you."  What does it mean to you to mine your own rocks, then bring them before the Lord?  What does it mean to have enough faith to ask the Lord to touch your rocks...and more?  Finally, instead of offering rocks, could we offer other things, like our jobs?  Our church callings?  Indeed, our very lives?

When we study how the Lord dealt with his children in the scriptures, we will better understand how he deals with us.  We also better comprehend how we should treat others. 

As I stated earlier, I have found studying the four gospels and 3rd Nephi -- and visualizing the events therein -- as most helpful, because those are the sections which contained direct interactions of Christ with mere mortals.  Other sections, like Ether 3, contain rare but poignant examples, too.

Other sections hold similar promise.  For example, you could visualize David facing Goliath, then after seeing that, praying for newfound, rejuvenated faith to meet your own Goliaths.  Then later, bearing testimony to others that they, too, can overcome their fears and obstacles. 

Or turn to 2nd Nephi Chapter 4.  See the anguish Nephi is experiencing.  Then see him saying, "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."  Then bear testimony of what you saw to another who is similarly struggling and is placing too much trust in the arm of flesh (you would be amazed and astounded as to the extent this occurs today).

While reading the scriptures is good, visualizing them can often be better by turning the scripture's black type on white paper into technicolor visualizations.  Could it be that visualizing the Savior and other events in the scriptures, then bearing testimony of the things we have seen and learned, be even better?

If so, what's next for you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seeing Christ -- Part 2

In "Seeing Christ, Part 1" (here), we summarized the concept known as the "Eye of Faith."  We read how those who exercised their eye of faith spiritually created circumstances which were later physically created, including seeing the Savior.  This visualization is a powerful mortal process which perfectly meshes with the definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11:1.  Finally, we got a hint on how to exercise the use of the "eye of faith" by nourishing "the word".

In this post, we'll explore one possible method of seeing with the eye of faith.  We will experiment with it by nourishing the word of God (via the scriptures) while simultaneously implementing Alma 32 and 34.  We will will awake and arouse our faculties, and have enough faith (even if it's no more than just having a desire to believe) to plant the word in our hearts.  We'll observe this planted seed to see if it swells and sprouts, and begins to grow.  If so, we'll know that the seed is good.

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Several years ago, I bought the scriptures on cassette tape.  I consider this the best $7 purchase I have ever made from Deseret Industries.

At first, I would listen to the cassettes in the car during my morning commutes (after all, which is more enlightening -- listening to radio's unenlightening news stories or unworthy music or...the scriptures?).  I actually liked the spirit these audio scriptures would bring to my day.

I eventually got the idea that I would experiment with raising the level of my scripture studies.  Before bed, I would listen to a chapter of one of the Four Gospels or 3rd Nephi -- books where the Savior actually ministered.

The results were transformational...even life-changing.

I started with a word of prayer, thanking Father for the scriptures as a method to come to Christ.  I asked Father for help in understanding and applying them.  I asked in a believing attitude and in the name of Jesus Christ, with a full expectation that Father would deliver that which I was requesting.

I remember laying down in my bedroom, with no sounds, lights or distractions existing to take my mind off my task.  My cassette player was by my bed.  I closed my eyes imagining 3rd Nephi Chapter 11, where Jesus Christ showed himself to the people of Nephi, as the multitude were gathered together in the land Bountiful, and ministered unto them.  Before I hit the play button, I visualized the environment which could have existed immediately prior to the Savior's visit.  In my case, I saw/felt partly cloudy skies, not-cold-but-not-warm "windbreaker" temperatures, trees and people milling about.

Then I hit the play button.

I next saw many gathered together, around a large stone structure.  While they were speaking an unknown language, I heard some words spoken -- a soft, gentle male voice -- from an easterly direction.  I couldn't make the words out because it seemed like they were spoken into a loudspeaker system far away.  Less than a minute later, the voice spoke something again -- closer, but not close enough that I could hear the words.  Within about 30-45 seconds later, I heard the male voice clearly and distinctly: "Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name — hear ye him."

As I turned my head in this visualized state I was in, I saw -- in my mind's eye -- the events that transpired in 3 Nephi 11:8-12.

Mortal words cannot describe, no tongue can articulate, the awesome wonder that transpires by even beholding, in your mind's eye, the presence of Jesus Christ.  As I saw him, he was far and beyond anything ever written about him.  The light that emanated from him was well-described by Joseph Smith as being a brightness above that of the noon-day sun.  It was also very penetrating, affecting every cell in me.  Although I wanted to look at him, my body -- and my soul -- instinctively bowed in his presence.  As I hit the stop button of my player, my bedside was soaked with tears of a humbled, yet strengthened, believer in Jesus Christ.

This simple visualzing event was, as I said earlier, transformational. Life-changing. Life giving.  It caused me to rejoice in Christ, love Christ and worship Christ at a level I had never experienced.

Other Lessons Learned

Since then, I have had a many more experiences with seeing Christ through my eye of faith.  I have also discovered that visualizing the scriptures right before I go to sleep left me more open to and better prepared for divine influences while I slept.  It has left me astounded at how eager, how giving, our Father is to make the Gift of Dreams available to us for our instruction and edification.

Yet, mornings can also be an excellent time to visualize the scriptures.  I believe the Lord is serious when he says for us to "retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated". (D&C 88:124) This is currently a weakness of mine.  I hope someday to make it a strength.

Please note three things:
  • I am not saying visualizing the scriptures is for you, right now.  If the Lord would rather you study the actual written word, then do that.  Or, do both.
  • I have not been shown these actual events visually, so I readily admit that my own biases may have crept into what I visualized.  Nevertheless, the effects of these visualizations in terms of my reverence and adoration of the Savior, and my acknowledgment of my own guilt before Him, are unmistakable.
  • It is an error to believe that the only ones who have a right to visualize the events portrayed in the scriptures are those who hold a significant priesthood office.  The scriptures aptly testify that seeing with the eye of faith knows no gender, calling nor priesthood office.
Now, It's Your Turn

Sometime when you're inspired, I challenge you to:
  • Visit the church's website here and download mp3s of the Four Gospels and/or 3rd Nephi.  Actually you could download any or all of the Standard Works; I just like those 5 books because it's easier to visualize the Savior in them. Import them into your smart phone, MP3 player, tablet or laptop.
  • Pick a quiet, peaceful time to visualize. Although the time and circumstances of your visualizing might be different from mine, I do recommend finding a peaceful time and place where the kids aren't fighting or you have to go home/visiting teaching in 15 minutes.  "Peace" is a prime prerequisite of the spirit.
  • Pray expecting God will grant you a heightened awareness of what you are about to hear, and thank Him for the opportunity.
  • Visualize what you've downloaded. 
  • Click the "Comment" link below (even anonymously) and let me know how it goes. You never know when your testimony might make a tremendous difference in the lives of others.
Now, these are just some general guidelines I've found helpful to me.  The Spirit may amend them for you by deleting, adding or changing what's appropriate for you.

Next, in Part 3 of this series of posts, we will see how seeing (visualizing) Christ in the scriptures can help you become a better disciple of the Master.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Seeing Christ -- Part 1

One of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced is seeing my Lord and Savior in my mind's eye, doing what He does best: healing lives and making all things new again.

I learned many years ago, quite by accident, how I could see Jesus Christ through the eye of faith.

By the end of this series of posts, you will, too.

First, what is the eye of faith?

In Ether 12:5, Moroni teaches:
"And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not."
They would not believe his words because they could not see the things he was prophesying.

In verses 18 and 19, Moroni goes on to say:
"And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore, they first believed in the Son of God. And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad."
Interesting verbiage here.  To me, these people strongly hoped for something they had never seen (Hebrews 11:1).  This belief "in the Son of God" was so strong, that they first beheld Him with an eye of faith (their spiritual eyes).  This faith evolved to where they were able to pierce the veil, and behold the Son of God with their physical eyes.

First spiritual, then physical.

Is there a precedent for such a sequence?  Absolutely.  Go mark up Moses 3:5:
"For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth."  
(Note I said "mark", not look.  The implications of Moses 3:5 surpass the contents of perhaps 10 blog posts).

How can we spiritually create seeing the Son of God?

In the September 1974 Ensign, author Stephen Covey described a terrific way we could spiritually create things while nourishing the word of God.  The technique is based on one word: Visualizing.
"This means to see in your mind’s eye the characters and events portrayed in the scriptures. Such an empathetic effort will help you understand the situation that produced the teaching. Then you can relate that situation to yours and distill the universal principle that may apply in both.

When you visualize, you’re exercising faith. Visualizing is a powerful mental process, one of man’s unique endowments. Most of us neglect this power. Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Most of life’s battles are lost in this private phase."
Later, in his book "The Divine Center," Covey went on to say that "I believe that most of us horribly neglect this creative power within us. We live too much out of our memories, too little out of our imaginations. Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual (mental) creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Always begin with the end in mind. Most of life’s battles are really lost in private, not in public."

Alma (who was also a pretty big fan of the eye of faith) said:
"And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life." (Alma 32:37-40)
Hmmmm, cool. Looks like we have a hint: if you will nourish the word, and look forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, you can pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.  And like Lehi and Nephi, you will be glad.

In my next blog post, we'll describe a possible scenario where you can try this principle out for yourself.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Make Lehi's Experience Yours by Praying for Others

The scriptures prove that praying for others can unlock tremendous spiritual manifestations and outpourings.

In this blog post, we'll read how we can literally recreate those opportunities in our own lives, and the lives of our families.  You'll also learn why a new word -- "diptych" -- could help you accelerate such opportunities.

Make Lehi's Experience Yours

"Petitioning Heavenly Father for the blessings we desire in our personal lives is good and proper. However, praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord.

We learn a vital lesson from the example of Lehi in the Book of Mormon. Lehi responded in faith to prophetic instruction and warnings concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. He then prayed unto the Lord 'with all his heart, in behalf of his people' (1 Nephi 1:5; emphasis added). In answer to this fervent prayer, Lehi was blessed with a glorious vision of God and His Son and of the impending destruction of Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 1:6–9, 13, 18). Consequently, Lehi rejoiced, and his whole heart was filled because of the things which the Lord had shown him (see 1 Nephi 1:15). Please note that the vision came in response to a prayer for others and not as a result of a request for personal edification or guidance." (Elder David A. Bednar, 'Pray Always', October 2008 General Conference)

How The Early Christian Church Prayed for Others

In the early Christian church, a diptych (Greek: "folded double") was a sort of looseleaf notebook or folded parchment placed on an altar.  It contained the names of persons whom the people in a circle of believers wished to remember. The practice of laying names on the altar is of unknown origin though it is very old and, it is agreed by historians, probably goes back to the days of the apostles. (Stegmüller, "Diptychon," 1138, 1147; Cabrol, "Diptyques," 1051)

When the diptych was placed on the altar, people would say a special prayer (called a litany, or a special appeal for certain persons) for the people on the list. "By litanies one intercedes for certain classes of persons."(F. Cabrol, "Diptyques (Liturgie)," in DACL 4:1050.)

How Diptychs Were Prayed Over

As Cyril of Jerusalem explained it, "In the circle we pray for those who are sick and afflicted; in short, we pray for whoever is in need of help." (Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 496–98; cf. 439–40.)

One also prayed for "all my relatives and close associates (consanguinitate vel familiaritate) and for all the Saints of the Church of God, as well as for those who died in the faith, who are recorded in my Book of Remembrance."  In fact they would say, "We pray for ourselves, our brothers and sisters . . . and for those who have paid their due to death, whose names we have written down or whose names appear on the holy altar, ". . . and all who stand in the circle with faith recognition, with devotion and honor to thee." (Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 3–4; cf. OTP 1:255.)   

The prayer uttered for those whose names were on the altar was not a fixed formula, to judge by one old rubric giving instructions: "He (the leader) joins hands and prays for a while (no set limit); then he proceeds with his hands stretched out (extensis, extended): and all those standing in the circle join in." (Augustine, Letters 237, in PL 33:1037–38.)

At first the list of names was read aloud before being placed on the altar, but as that took up too much time (one of the surviving lists has over 350 names) the reading was phased out; "the list could be placed on the altar without any vocal reading of the names." (Ibid., 3:1147, citing the famous Bobbio Missal.)

What Happened to Diptychs

Gradually that practice of reading the names out loud was given up, and the priest merely referred to all the faithful whose names were written down on the diptychs or the leaves taking the place of diptychs."(Cabrol, "Diptyques," 1061.)

The practice of praying over names in a diptych survived to the 4th century, where the work for the dead was something special and apart. "We remember the dead," wrote Epiphanius in the 4th century, "(1) by performing ritual prayers, (2) by carrying out certain ordinances, and (3) by making certain special arrangements (oikonomias)." (Odeberg, 3 Enoch, ch. 1, p. 4; ch. 10, pp. 27–28. Cf. OTP 1:263.)

From the 5th century, we find the following from the so-called Liturgy of St James:

"Remember, O Lord, the God of Spirits and of all Flesh, those whom we have remembered and those whom we have not remembered, men of the true faith, from righteous Abel unto to-day; do thou thyself give them rest there in the land of the living, in thy kingdom, in the delight of Paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our holy fathers, from whence pain and sorrow and sighing have fled away, where the light of thy countenance visiteth them and always shineth upon them." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_for_the_dead#New_Testament)

Today, the laying of a small tablet containing the names is the practice in the Western Syrian church (Stegmüller, "Diptychon," 1147; cf. 1144—46.)  Aside from that, usage of diptychs was forsaken as people chose to pray in silence for those they wanted to remember.

Latter-Day Diptychs

In May 1842, Joseph Smith taught the Endowment to several of his closest associates; and a prayer circle group was formed on May 26, 1843, with Joseph Smith as its leader. This prayer circle, referred to in many early records as the "Quorum of the Anointed," to which others (including women) were gradually initiated, met and prayed together regularly during the last year of Joseph Smith's life and continued after his martyrdom in June 1844 until endowments began to be performed in the Nauvoo Temple in December 1845. (George S. Tait, "Prayer Circle", Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

The prayers given at these prayer circles have had no set text, but are, "among other things, an occasion for seeking the Lord's blessing upon those with particular needs whose names have been submitted for collective entreaty."  (George S. Tait, "Prayer Circle", Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

Indeed, in the temples of the Church throughout the world, "frequent prayers are offered for those who are sick, bereaved, or in need. The names of those afflicted may be placed upon a temple prayer roll by request of family or friends. This practice derives from abundant scriptural counsels regarding unity in prayer-'Be agreed as touching all things ye shall ask' (D&C 27:18)-and the conviction that the modern temple, as anciently, is a house of prayer (D&C 109:8). United prayer and fasting, sometimes by an entire ward or stake and in some historic instances by the full world membership of the Church, is occasionally advocated. This is the fulfillment of a divine admonition: 'If ye are not one ye are not mine'" (D&C 38:27). (Nephi K. Kezerian, "Sick, Blessing the", Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

Unofficial Diptychs

A close approximation to diptychs (or prayer rolls) continues to exist outside temples.  Those conducting LDS sacrament meetings, especially Fast and Testimony Meetings, often refer to those who are sick or afflicted in the business portion of the meeting; members are encouraged to remember the person or persons in their prayers.

LDS Church leadership meetings, particularly ward or stake leadership meetings, often include prayers of those who are sick or otherwise afflicted.  The person assigned to say the prayer may ask for suggested names to be included in the prayer, to which others in attendance may suggest a name for inclusion.  Names are written down, then mentioned during the prayer.

Personal Diptychs

One could find tremendous personal spiritual growth by maintaining their own personal diptych, or prayer roll. 

For example, one could write the names of those who need special prayers into a notebook, over which the person would say their personal prayers by imploring God to send those on the list comfort, peace, healing and enlightenment. 

Smart phones (iPhones, Androids and Blackberrys) also enable people to maintain an "e-diptych" anywhere, anytime.  One could literally refer to the names recorded in their e-diptych during their prayers, exhibiting the same charity, clean hands and pure heart as they would in any temple. 

By maintaining and actively praying over one's e-diptych, one could quickly find that their own prayers become more meaningful as they pray for others with real intent and a sincere heart. 

Taking Diptychs to Higher Levels

Does your family engage in daily prayer?

If so, does it remember the names of those who could use a prayer?

Knowing the benefits of such prayers (as elaborated above), what benefits could your family enjoy as it maintains its own diptych?  Could a literal "Prayer Roll" be maintained in a consistent, central place where family members could record, then later pray over, those who need our prayers?

Should such prayers be limited to just those on this side of the veil, or could they be integrated with family history efforts?  Could our prayers have an effect on removing the barriers often faced in obtaining more complete biographical information with which names could be submitted for temple ordinance work?

What else could we do with our own personal (or family) diptychs?