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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why the Word "Kintsukuroi" Means So Much To You

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation.

The Origin of the Repaired-Ceramics Artform 


We'll have to go back to mid-1500 Japan for that.  The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces.  Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick,  harsh temper.  Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.

This story goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights."  The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.  The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations.  In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold.  The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful (see here for more detail).

"Bruised, Broken, Torn for us..."


Almost 2,000 years ago, someone once was bruised, broken and torn...for you.  Shortly afterwards, His body was cast aside.  Even though He soon resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars -- for you -- remain.

It's because of Him -- Jesus Christ -- that we experience new vitality, new resilience and new life at greater heights.

Human Kintsukuroi


I have many friends who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up and kicked to the curb like trash.  Some, for years.

Yet they get up again, stand tall, and praise His name for His wonderful example of overcoming all things.

They have been healed with gold (the metal of the Celestial realms; D&C 137) and leave me with profound appreciation for their example, too.

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy).

It's the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

It's also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable to your Creator...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

16. Spiritual Land Mine #4: Building a Second Residence in Babylon

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 16th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

How serious you are about calling upon the Lord’s name (D&C 93:1)? If so, then I invite you to take a pop quiz.

Ready?  Set?  Go!

Your Pop Quiz About Your Seriousness on Calling on the Lord


Set of questions #1: Do you trust in the arm of flesh?  Do you adulate other mortals?  Do you accept (or extol those who accept) praise without redirecting it to God? 

Set of questions #2: If the Savior were to visit your home today (ignoring any messes), what would He say about the value of your home electronics, your jewelry, your clothes, your cars, your home(s)?  What about those “big kid” or family toys of yours?  How would you feel while showing him these “things?” Would He leave your property convinced of your humility?

Set of questions #3: How about the organizations that you are a member of, or promote? How about its products -- can you honestly say that they are not grossly overpriced? Do its corporate executives and top associates lead lavish lifestyles (and entice you with prospects of the same)?  Do those same corporate executives hold conventions and conferences, and distribute marketing materials, that link words like “elevate” and “inspire” with making more money?

OK, Pop Quiz is Over


So, how did you do?

If you got a less-than stellar score, may I ask: If you’re here to prove yourself to God, then what are you proving to Him?
“Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” (Herman Melville, “Moby Dick”)
True, “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25), but other scriptures repeatedly tell us that “the natural man clearly prefers perishable pleasure” (Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light, BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989).
“Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the place [of Babylon]. Even if we leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there...or we commute on weekends.” (Maxwell, ibid).
(Or, as Lot’s wife, we move our bodies in the direction of safety, but our hearts and minds are actually tied to that which condemns us).

As President Marion G. Romney described it, 
“Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.” (“The Price of Peace,” Brigham Young University Devotional, March 1, 1955, p. 7)
The Savior put it more eloquently:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24; 3 Nephi 13:24).
Hence, you and the Lord may be worlds apart: you and Babylon (and possibly your excuses why Babylon should have a toehold in your life), vs. the Lord (and His true disciples) who are “not of the world” (John 17:16).

Babylon Does Not Give Exit Permits Gladly

“Babylon is also a noisy, distracting place.  No wonder, therefore, some who live therein are called many times, and would not hear.  No wonder Jesus’ marvelous invitation to leave Babylon’s slums and join him in the stunning spiritual highlands goes largely unheeded.” (Maxwell, ibid)
Do not believe that you can continue your luxurious, materialistic lifestyle and hope to hear His voice, let alone effectively call upon Him with an expectation of being heard.  As stated in my previous post, our God is a jealous God, and if you are slow to hear His importunings to join Him, He will likewise be slow to hear your cries -- even in times of trial, tribulation and trouble (Mosiah 11:24; 21:15).

Take it from me: There are a few alive today who are amazed at how soon “all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88:91) immediately prior to His Second Coming.

Why will all people fear? Because they have procrastinated the day of their repentance, even until death (Alma 34:35).

Yet the Lord’s "...disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved..." (D&C 45:32; Psalms 16:8, 55:22, 62:2,6) because they have faith in Jesus Christ, have heeded His words and therefore know that He, too, will hear their prayers.

Indeed, real eternal glory requires real humility.

An Invitation


No matter how much you blew the above virtual exam, despite all your failure and flaws, relapses and rejections of Him, please know that a redeeming Jesus waits with open arms to receive you. 

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.

Therefore, I invite you to pass this virtual quiz by not only turning your back, but also running away from the philosophy of “...eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Nephi 28:7).

Ask God for opportunities to praise Him.  He will deliver...in spades.  Put Him to the test.

Stop confusing wants and needs.  Avoid the temptation to say “There, there, little luxury, don’t you cry. You’ll be a necessity by and by.”  Alter your lifestyle - today.  Sell those needless things “where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal” (3 Nephi 13:19) so that you can return to this virtual quiz and, perhaps, feel more confident that the Lord would find your lifestyle less like a cottage in Babylon and more like an appendage of the Temple.

Re-evaluate your allegiances. As one inspired blogger stated, “We've got to stop pointing our fingers at other people's materialism and recognize our own.”  Seriously question if "elevation" and "inspiration" are truly tied to money (because you can buy anything in this world with...what?).  Also seriously consider the fairness of selling products that are grossly overpriced. Avoid being accused someday as one who empowered someone else’s Babylonian lifestyle.

Instead, truly elevate yourself in the scriptures and in meditation (“one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord" -- Pres. David O. McKay). In return, you’ll not only find yourself far more elevated and inspired than you supposed possible, but also brought closer to the veil which separates you from God -- an accomplishment anathema to Babylon. 

Your spiritual task is to make God’s work your own, and not the other way around.

I promise you that as you do so, you will have taken a huge step in consecrating yourself to Him.  And you will be more confident in calling upon the Lord, because you will more easily hear His voice in your heart and mind.

Oh it is wonderful...wonderful to me.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

15. Spiritual Land Mine #3b: The REAL Heroes in Your Midst

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 15th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, 32:16, 32:21; Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 19:10, 19:14; Ezekiel 8:3, 36:5-6, 39:25; Nahum 1:2).  He is saddened when we praise, honor and glorify his creations, not the Creator:
"Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood" (Isaiah 10:15)
Conversely, He delights in those who delight in Him, praise His name and add glory to Him (Jeremiah 9:24; D&C 41:1, 76:5).  Indeed, It's been my experience that my ability to enjoy a meaningful relationship with Him is enhanced when I praise Him, and not others.

So, in my last post, we discussed our predilection to praise -- or to be praised by -- other mortals.  We do it by [1] seeking praise and the honors of men, [2] not openly seeking praise, but never turning it down when it's given, and [3] never redirecting that praise to the Father.  Those who consistently display such behaviors can be found in all walks of life -- even in places where you’d least expect them.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a different kind of personality -- those who typically display none of these behaviors. They shun praise and are quick to deflect it to God when they do receive it.

Interestingly, these “praise shunning” people often differ from the “praise embracing” people in another way: They have lived through some truly hellish experiences, and afterwards, they can be found quietly praising God.  And in most cases, you'd never know what they've gone through.

Rocky Balboa, Profound Philosopher
.

"Rocky Balboa" was the last of the Rocky series (well...so far; I don't discount the possibility there could be a future one where he battles Clubber Lang in a nursing home).  In it, Rocky is coaxed from retirement into an exhibition match against the heavyweight champ, Mason 'The Line' Dixon.  Before the match, Rocky has a little chit chat with his son, who is floundering in life. Rocky says:
"Let me tell you something you already know:
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.  It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.  You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life.
It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done!
Now, if you know what you're worth, then go and get what you're worth, but you have to be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t who you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that, and that ain’t YOU.  You're better than that."
I repeat: "It ain’t about how hard you can hit -- it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward."

The Heroes Who Really Aren't


I recently noticed that an anonymous LDS bookstore carries quite a few biographies.  Practically all of these mortal biographical subjects (who have been called a "hero" at some point or another) had impressive titles and/or sports stats, and brought about good works which were highly touted...chapter after chapter.

Yet, to a one, these people lacked an essential element most (fictitious and real) heroes exemplify: They never really were dealt some serious hits in their lives.  Accomplishments?  Ohhhh yes, they had oodles of those.  But true, devastatingly horrible, nightmarish events that impacted them to the very core?  Nope, not a one.  They either didn't experience such an event[s] or didn't share that (potentially inspiring) portion of their biography.

The Real Heroes


I think the time has come for us to "get real" and reevaluate who we consider to be true heroes.  In my opinion, heroism isn't about titles or biographies or awards or number of wins or anything even close to any of that "stuff."  Because that's all it is -- stuff!  Rocky was right: it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Try comparing those world-defined "heroes" with these friends of mine:
  • The woman who grew up so abused (in ways too horrific to mention), that she should have died long ago.  Yet she not only lives, but shines with a spiritual radiance that your soul can perceive it, even from a distance.
  • Another woman was raped in college one night after Family Home Evening by one of her FHE brothers.  After meeting with a college bishop, she was not consoled, but instead, instructed on the proper repentance steps she needed to take.  She was also denied the ability to take the sacrament for a year after her rape.  Today, she's still getting arrows slung at her...for showing unwavering, unashamed compassion to those who are also shunned.
  • One good (anonymous) man has been repeatedly, viciously, publicly, unjustly ridiculed, mocked, judged and condemned for his spiritual experiences, yet leads a very quiet, unassuming life dedicated to helping those in pain.
  • A man who followed his mother's example and led a drug-induced lifestyle as a teenager, and because of it, now suffers from a rare, highly debilitating form of manic depression.  Yet today, he spends his life trying to edify others and bring them to the feet of the Master.
  • Another woman told never to participate in church meetings because "she knows the scriptures too well."
  • A husband and wife who used to be drug dealers, but converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Shortly after their conversion, they were shunned by ward members.  Still, they would give their last dollar to someone in need, without hesitation or reservation.
  • A woman was raped repeatedly as a teenager by her stepfather.  Today, she is raising her sons in the gospel with so much enthusiasm, that they are truly modern-day stripling warriors.
  • Another woman who was violently beaten and raped by her (now ex-) husband, and now wonders each day if he will come to do more harm to her and her child.  She, too, is raising her son as a modern-day stripling warrior.

In all the church-based biographies I read the other day, not one of them even came close to describing the absolute hell that these real people went through (who came out the other side of the event[s] praising God and leading quiet, humble, unassuming lives).

Common Denominators


I've found that these friends of mine have some common denominators which have both inspired and humbled me:

Hold the praise: They don't seek praise, honors or awards.  They don't want them - at all.  In fact, they tend to shun spotlights and stages.  Any praise which does come their way is not met with silence or nice words, but instead, immediate, natural deflection to Heavenly Father.  They simply want you to honor and know He who has sustained them through all their years, and perhaps decades, of hell.

When they look hell in the eyes, hell blinks: They have walked (most often, on several occasions) the fiery hot coals of trial, tribulation and (in some cases) torture.  These experiences have been balanced with a quiet, sweet, serene, personal knowledge of (not belief in) the Savior, who has personally comforted them in a way that no mortal ever could.  They sometimes exhibit a soft-spoken, meek demeanor and voice.  But don't let their softness fool you; they also have a toughness, a rigidity, that not even the powers of hell can bend or break.

Genuineness:  They don't talk about humility.  They don't have a feigned, fakey humility. They ARE humble. They commonly don't have the biggest homes, the nicest cars, the fanciest clothes, the highest titles or offices.  They have little or no jewelry, motorcycles, ATVs or motor homes.  They often struggle to make ends meet.  Yet even in their less-than-prosperous circumstances, they share what little currency and coins they have on hand with a beggar.  They're prone to say, ”Hey, its not my money, its God's.  He tells me how to spend it.”  When they witness any degree of suffering, they expend a tremendous amount of compassion and sensitivity.

They're not of this world: They are commonly despised by others -- even church leaders/members and their extended families.  Those who are acquainted with them often falsely accuse them of sin, call them names behind their backs and look for ways not to include them in...well, anything - even family and church activities.  Those who don't know them are even more harsh, spewing judgment upon them in self-righteous superiority.  Yet these victims return the ugliness with forgiveness and prayers on their tormentor's behalf.

They have the right perspective: They know they must "go the distance" and "be strong," facing the harms of the world while traveling "down an unknown road."   They know it might take a lifetime, but they won't accept defeat.  Despite life's uphill slopes, they don't give up hope -- especially of one thing: a hero's welcome in their Heavenly Father's loving arms.

Perfection: Are they perfect in these behaviors?  No.  They struggle with consistency, and have as many imperfections as anybody else.  They are keenly aware of their inadequacies, and it bothers them to the core that they aren't more Christlike.

The Lord's Definition of a True Hero


It's an eternal principle (and the central theme of the Book of Isaiah): He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. I think Rabbi Nachman put it best:
“Spiritual descent is necessary for spiritual ascent:
When a man has to rise from one level to the next, prior to his ascent, he must first undergo a descent. The paradox is that the very purpose of the descent is the ascent. From this you can see how much strength is required in the service of God. Even when you fall or descend in any way, you must never allow yourself to be thrown off balance to the extent that you come to look down upon yourself or to hold yourself in contempt.” (Rabbi Nachman, trans. Avraham Greenbaum, Likutey Moharan, “Restore My Soul” [Monsey & Jerusalem: Breslov Research Institute, 1980], p. 16-17).
The ultimate exemplar of this is Jesus Christ, who descended below all things.  He was born in the lowliest of circumstances.  He went among the sinners, was despised, betrayed and ultimately killed.  "He comprehended all things" by suffering every individual act of frustration, sadness and pain ever experienced in the history of earth so He could know how to help us rise above our daily difficulties (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8).

In so doing, a magnificent outcome emerged: he ascended above all things...to the right hand of the Father.
"Therefore, let us not resent those tutoring experiences which can develop our own empathy further (see Alma 7:11-12).  So being admitted fully to 'the fellowship of his sufferings' requires the full dues of discipleship (Philip. 3:10; see also 1 Cor. 1:9)." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope", April 2001 General Conference)
So it is with us.

True, we don’t seek out tests, trials and tribulations.  Life provides us with just the right amount for our needs.

But those who are dealt the severest tests, trials and tribulations -- yet overcome them with their faith intact, praising God and seeking His will -- qualify them as "more than conquerors" with "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" with He who overcame all:
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

"These things remain to overcome through patience, that such may receive a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, otherwise, a greater condemnation. Amen." (D&C 63:66)
I love the words of Paul:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:35,37; emphasis mine)

An Invitation


Man has always defined praiseworthiness by those who get the most awards, the most honors, the most touchdowns/rebounds/home runs, give the most philanthropic donations or get a building named after them.  We count these people as our examples.

But somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of who the true heroes are.

Tonight, before you go to bed, I'd like to invite you to ponder true heroes.  Then thank Heavenly Father for bringing them -- the people who really take some (spiritual) body blows in life, yet keep moving forward -- into your life.

Then, from that moment on, commit to always keep in mind who true heroes praise and glorify: God.

As you do that, in that moment where mortality meets eternity, where there are no cheering fans nor autographs, your light -- and the light of that hero -- will burn even brighter before He who is the source of all light.

Monday, December 2, 2013

14. Spiritual Land Mine #3: Encouraging or Accepting Adulation

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 14th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

About two years ago, I was traveling down one of Utah's interstate highways when I recognized a very interesting trend:

About every sixth billboard praised a particular BYU basketball player.

Because I frequently needed to travel this stretch of highway, I passed by these billboards over...and over...and over again (I think the Latin term is "Ad Nauseum").

The billboards (kind of) worked.  I researched this player, and discovered he had worked extremely hard and clearly had a lot of talent.  He even signed -- and publicized -- a self-contract to do what?  Draw closer -- and bring souls -- unto Christ?  Do proxy ordinances for his dead ancestors?  Support and do missionary work?  No.  It was to play in the NBA.

Bookstores which specifically catered to LDS customers converted this basketball player's fame into five star-rated hardcover books, paperback books, e-books, DVDs, documentaries, LDS magazine covers and posters.  Sweatshirts, jerseys, t-shirts, book chapters, hats, stickers, custom iPhone cases, endorsement deals, autographed basketballs and pictures, trading cards (using the term "immaculate" in their descriptions) and more followed.  I highly doubt these efforts (in general) would have proceeded without this player's permission or foreknowledge.

All these "things" featuring a man who describes himself -- and wants us to consider him -- as "just a normal guy."

Despite the aforementioned basketball player's "good works" (and I admit, his stats are impressive), there are other good works which motivate many to praise others...

...for example, doing the works of righteousness.

The True Definition of Alms You've Probably Never Heard


In Matthew 6:1-8, the Savior gave true workers of righteousness a terrific strategy: "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."

The word alms is mentioned in three of the Standard Works (D&C 88:2; 112:1; 3 Ne. 13:1-4; Matt. 6:1-4).  The giving of alms is most often associated with money, such as an offering or donation to the poor.  However, the Greek word for "alms" means something more universal: righteousness or acts of religious devotion (see the footnote for Matthew 6:1b).

Christ's injunction is unmistakable; our alms (any act of religious devotion, including fasting or prayer) should be in private, not shown off in pious exhibitionism.  Our focus can be on God or mammon, but not both.  We lay up treasures on earth or in heaven, but not both:
"Notice how often the word reward is repeated in [3 Nephi] chapter 13. Verse 1: If you give your alms before men, you'll have your reward here, but don't expect any reward there. No reward of your Father in Heaven. Next verse: "Verily I say unto you, they have their reward." He doesn't resent their having it. If you want rewards for being famous-if you want to become renowned in Hollywood or something like that-you're welcome to it. But that's all you're going to get; you're not going to get anything further out of it." (Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon--Semester 1: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University, 1988-1990, p. 97)
In other words, true greatness belongs to humble people.

So, as a people, how are we doing (in terms of our humility)?  Well, if the Lord's observations in Doctrine and Covenants are still applicable (which I think they are), we're not doing too well:
"The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which speaks of people in the last days, gives a description that seems to include those who serve for hope of earthly reward of one sort or another: '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.' (D&C 1:16)" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Why Do We Serve?" Ensign, November 1984
"In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had — in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition most repugnant to the Lord."  (Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, "The False Gods We Worship", Ensign, June 1976)

Latter-day Almsgivers, Their Publicity and Praise


"It seems as though only an exceptional few put their hands to the plow and move forward without reaching back to grab a reward for efforts expended (Luke 9:62)." (Elder Carlos E. Asay, "The Seven M's of Missionary Service: Proclaiming the Gospel as a Member or Full-time Missionary," Deseret Book, 2011).

Those who seek honor and gain for themselves in doing the Lord's work are guilty of what the scriptures call priestcrafts.  They "preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." (2 Ne. 26:29; emphasis mine)  These efforts are often preceded by the "sound [of] a trumpet" before them (Matthew 6:2; 3 Nephi 13:2) -- which I suppose in today's world could include a pretty well-orchestrated PR effort like TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail pieces, e-mail and websites.

In referring to priestcraft, Elder Oaks continues:

"Unfortunately, not all who accomplish works under that heading ["seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion" -- D&C 6:6] are really intending to build up Zion or strengthen the faith of the people of God. Other motives can be at work."

"Some may serve for hope of earthly reward. Such a man or woman might serve in Church positions or in private acts of mercy in an effort to achieve prominence or cultivate contacts that would increase income or aid in acquiring wealth. Others might serve in order to obtain worldly honors, prominence, or power." (ibid)  

Does this mean that there is a danger of priestcraft within Christ's church?  Absolutely.  Here are two examples:

  • Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: On July 23, 1837, the Lord gave a revelation to Thomas B. Marsh (who was at this time President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) via the Prophet Joseph Smith.  In it, the Lord said that Marsh's alms had "come up as a memorial before me" [D&C 112:1].  Marsh's deeds at the time included prayers of unity among the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, over which he presided.  Yet later in this revelation, the Lord repeatedly warned Marsh to check his motives and stay humble:
3 "Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted..."
10 "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers."
15 "Exalt not yourselves..."
  • Martin Harris: 16 months after being baptized and two months after he was made a High Priest, the Lord (through the Prophet) told Martin Harris that he needed to repent, "for he seeketh the praise of the world."  (D&C 58:35,39)
If we are not careful, we, too, may be turned by the praise of the world and lose not a manuscript, but our humility and perspective.

Question: How did the Savior consider those who publicized their good works, or permitted them to be publicized?

How To Spot Adulation-Seekers (and Prevent Giving Them What They Want)


Elder Oaks outlined some things we can be aware of in preventing ourselves from engaging in -- or enabling -- priestcraft:

"Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest.
A gospel teacher does not preach 'to become popular' (Alma 1:3) or 'for the sake of riches and honor' (Alma 1:16).
He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which 'the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner' (Alma 1:26). Both will always look to the Master." (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Gospel Teaching," Ensign, October 1999 General Conference)

Here are some more factors to consider:
"I have many times turned aside from the company of those who were highly esteemed in the world, and sought the society of the poor and humble, those who loved the ways of the Lord better than the praise of the world." (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 17-18). 
"Those who choose not to follow Him are sometimes quick to say 'Follow me'; they enjoy being a light, and the accompanying recognition and reward are not unpleasant." (Neal A. Maxwell, "Plain and Precious Things," p. 87) 
"When we seek to serve others, we are motivated not by selfishness but by charity. This is the way Jesus Christ lived His life and the way a holder of the priesthood must live his. The Savior did not care for the honors of men." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Lift Where You Stand," October 2008 General Conference
"It is never about me and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as an instructor that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self — in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor — is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost." (Elder David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning By Faith," Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion, February 3, 2006)
Additionally, those who receive praise or adoration should be quick to redirect that praise to the Father (in other words, all credit belongs to the Giver of Gifts, not the receiver):
"To come to earth with such a responsibility, to stand in place of Elohim - speaking as He would speak, judging and serving, loving and warning, forbearing and forgiving as He would do - this is a duty of such staggering proportions that you and I cannot comprehend such a thing. But in the loyalty and determination that would be characteristic of a divine child, Jesus could comprehend it and He did it. Then, when the praise and honor began to come, He humbly directed all adulation to the Father.
'The Father … doeth the works,' He said in earnest. 'The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever [the Father] doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.' [John 14:10; John 5:19] On another occasion He said: 'I speak that which I have seen with my Father.' 'I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me.' 'I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.' [John 8:38, 28; John 6:38]" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Grandeur of God," October 2003 General Conference
"We must be meek even in our minor developmental successes. A difficult situation may have actually been resolved by the grace of God 'after all we can do.' To recognize this fact inwardly is good, but to confess it openly is even better.    
After His moment of great personal triumph and of supernal service, when in supreme success Jesus had "descended below all things" and "below them all," in order to comprehend all things (D&C 88:6; 122:8), when He had "trodden the winepress alone" (D&C 76:107), He nevertheless said, "Glory be to the Father" (D&C 19:19). He claimed no glory for Himself.    
By our giving the honor, praise, and glory to God, we are actually being intellectually honest; unprofitable servants had best not claim too much credit. Similarly, giving deserved credit to others not only enhances our graciousness but it also can help us to steer the narrow channel between the dangerous rocks of self-adulation and destructive self-criticism." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Men and Women of Christ," p. 29; emphasis mine)

In Summary


We bring onto ourselves a certain amount of condemnation whenever we praise, promote, highly esteem or elevate another OR when we choose to follow someone who shows no interest in deflecting such adulation.
"Most of us do not engage in priestcraft, which Nephi defined as the practice of setting ourselves up for a light to get gain and praise of the world. But some of our attitudes and behaviors may fall dangerously close to the practice of priestcraft, for priestcraft is surprisingly easy to embrace." (Elder John K. Carmack, "The Zeezrom Syndrome", A Bright Ray of Hope: The Perpetual Education Fund).
While we can't know the motives behind others' actions, and although we may not be embracing priestcraft, we can certainly avoid it -- or avoid those engaged in it -- by taking the apostolic statements (above) seriously.  Using their words (not mine) as a guide, and hearkening to the Holy Ghost as a testifier, we may recognize active priestcraft when a teacher or leader engages in any of these actions:
  1. Directly or indirectly trumpets their good works.
  2. Seeks not the welfare of Zion, but instead, preaches "to become popular" or "for the sake of riches and honor."
  3. Is sometimes quick to say "Follow me."
  4. Accepts (or allows) "recognition and rewards," praise or adulation, without redirecting the praise to whom it should rightfully go: the Father.
  5. They become highly esteemed in the world while not being "poor and humble."
  6. Their pride is fueled and ego enlarged to where they consider himself/herself (or allow others to consider them) as better (even more Christlike) than the hearer or learner.
  7. The light of "self-promotion or self-interest" -- in the messages they present, in the methods they use, or in their personal demeanor -- obscures others' view of the Master. 
"Praise of world a bad sign. It is no good sign for us to be beloved by the world, and to be spoken kindly of by the world, however pleasant it may be to us, and however much we may shrink from the opposite condition of affairs, and dread its manifestation, and wish that it could be otherwise - and it is natural to human nature to shrink from these trials - nevertheless, it is one of the worst signs for us as a people to be spoken well of by the world, and to be free from threatenings, from opposition and from hatred. It is not the true condition for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be in, to be petted by the world, to be fostered by the world, to be spoken well of by the world, to be welcomed by the world, to have favor showered upon it by the world, because we ought not to be of the world, God having chosen us out of the world." (George Q. Cannon, "Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon," Jerreld L. Newquist, ed, p.305; JD 24:360)

"look to God...and live." (Alma 37:47)


Thursday, November 21, 2013

13. Spiritual Land Mine #2b: An Important Post Script


"Hand in Hand" by Greg Olsen
(the text on the left is mine, not Greg's)
As I stated in Land Mine #2, all too often, we turn away from the Lord -- just as he is inclined towards us -- and seek knowledge from others when He is silent and not immediately forthcoming with answers and insights.

The solution is simple: Stop trusting in the arm of flesh.  Quit thinking that solely following some mortal will save your soul.

Sing a new mantra: "Follow the Savior.  He is the way."

Because even when you have turned away from Him -- even when you seek others for answers and perspectives -- His mind and heart never leave you.  

Ever.

Monday, November 18, 2013

13. Spiritual Land Mine #2: Trusting in the Arm of Flesh

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 13th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

As we read in my previous post, as you wait patiently for the Lord to manifest his voice and, ultimately, a fulness of his presence in your life, he will incline himself to you.

Unfortunately, while we are waiting on the Lord, we all too often hear nothing but silence or static.  The supposed inactivity on our side of the veil naturally leads us to believe that there is inactivity on the other side of the veil.

Rats!


Dr. Michael Evans, in his book called "The Light," includes this in the book's introduction:

"Scientists in a laboratory attempted an experiment to measure the power of attitude in rats. They wanted to see how attitude affected the will to live.
One rat was placed in a large tub of water with sides so high it could not get out. The tub was placed in a dark room. They timed how long the rat would keep swimming before it gave up. The rat struggled to survive for a little over three minutes; then it gave up.  
The researchers then placed another rat in the same tub. This time, however, a bright ray of light was allowed to shine into the room. The second rat swam more than 36 hours, 700 times longer than the rat with no light.  
Why was that? The rat with no light had no hope. He saw only darkness. There was no reason to keep swimming." (Source: http://www.thelightbymikeevans.com).
That's often what happens when we don't hear anything from God.  We expect words, phrases or sentences from him, and often hear or feel nothing.  We then lose our passion, our enthusiasm, our faith and our belief in he who loves us most.

In many of these cases, when those solutions don't emerge from the Lord, to whom do we often turn?

Another mortal.

Let's Talk Specifics


In my opinion, it's pretty tough to hear the Lord's voice if you're trusting exclusively in another mortal, not him.  Consequently, many Latter-day Saints have become experts in creating exemptions and exceptions to the following words from God:
"Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (2 Nephi 12:22, Isaiah 2:22)
"With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah." (2 Chr. 32:8)
"Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." (Jer. 17:5)
"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." (2 Ne. 4:34)
"Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Ne. 28:31)
"The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh." (D&C 1:19)
These scriptural statements are just the tip of the iceberg.  Our tendency to trust in the arm of flesh has been a consistent concern to many apostles and prophets from Old Testament times to today. (Click here for a 5+ page compilation of all quotes I've found regarding trusting in the arm of flesh, in rough chronological order.  If I've missed one, e-mail it to me here).

Let me make this abundantly clear: No matter if a person is a prophet or disciple, if they have seen Christ or not, speaking in an auditorium or meeting room, we are ALL fallible.  ALL of us make mistakes.  And if the statements by the Lord, his prophets and apostles are any indication, we are cursed -- or in jeopardy of being cursed -- if we trust solely in the arm of flesh:
"[Joseph Smith] Said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall--that they were depending on the prophet hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves--envious toward the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy." (Eliza R. Snow, Instruction to Nauvoo Female Relief Society, Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes, May 26, 1842) 
"How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand?" (Brigham Young, JD 8:59; emphasis mine)
Why?  Perhaps trusting solely in the arm of flesh:

1. Is a form of idolatry (which we'll explore with more depth in a subsequent post), because we express faith in a mortal, and not God, thus taking away honor from God and giving it to men.
"The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law." (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 322)
2. Is a form of ingratitude for the gifts we have been given.  We've been given a spirit, a brain and more to see if he will develop and use them.  We don't if we just blindly heed what any leader or teacher says.
"So long therefore as the people rely upon their leaders, they are not manifesting that degree of faith, they are not in a position to think and reflect for themselves as they should." (Moses Thatcher, JD 26:328)
3. Takes away our agency and potentially our salvation.
"Serve God and trust in Him. You cannot serve man, nor make flesh your arm, for your salvation." (Pres. Wilford Woodruff, Coll. Disc. vol. 2, Apr. 6, 1890)
I love this picture of the Lord
smiling while carrying what?
The black sheep.  Yep,
even the black sheep
get his personal attention.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

"Joseph Smith said to this people, that all the wisdom he had was received from the hand of the Lord." (Brigham Young, JD 1:78)
There are many ways in which we can turn to God while avoiding trusting in the arm of flesh.  Below are two of them (please use the comments box below to submit more):

Strategy #1: If You Find Faults, Leave Any Possible Managerial Decisions To The Lord


Brigham Young -- who was no stranger to Joseph Smith's imperfections -- once commented:
"Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults.  It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances or not.  He was called of God; God dictated him, and if He had a mind to leave him to himself and let him commit an error, that was no business of mine.  And it was not for me to question it, if the Lord was disposed to let Joseph lead the people astray, for He had called him and instructed him to gather Israel and restore the Priesthood and kingdom to them.  
It was not my prerogative to call him in question with regard to any act of his life. He was God's servant, and not mine. He did not belong to the people but to the Lord, and was doing the work of the Lord, and if He should suffer him to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray. If He should suffer them to be chastised, and some of them destroyed, it would be because they deserved it, or to accomplish some righteous purpose. That was my faith, and it is my faith still." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 4:297-298)
Elder George Q. Cannon also stated:
"Nevertheless, God has chosen these men. He has singled them out, … but He has selected them, and He has placed upon them the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and they have become His representatives in the earth. He places them as shepherds over the flock of Christ, and as watchmen upon the walls of Zion. And He holds them to a strict accountability … for the authority which He has given to them, and in the day of the Lord Jesus they will have to stand and be judged for the manner in which they have exercised this authority. If they have exercised it wrongfully and against the interests of His work and the salvation of His people, woe unto them in the day of the Lord Jesus! He will judge them...” (George Q. Cannon, "Gospel Truth", p. 276; Spencer W. Kimball, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet," Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 34-35) 
"[T]he officers of this Church … are responsible to God. God chose and nominated [them], and it is for him to straighten [them] out if [they] do wrong." (George Q. Cannon, Deseret Weekly, May 21, 1898, p. 708; Spencer W. Kimball, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet," Ensign, Jan. 1973, p.33)

Strategy #2: Investigate What You Learn


I love what one friend said:

"The Gospel is not about our relationship with the church or with our church leaders. The Gospel is about our relationship with Christ, and until we meet Christ Himself, that relationship is enhanced through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost. We must constantly be seeking confirmation for the significant decisions in our lives. If we are not, we subject ourselves to slavery, which is, in my mind, an abomination in the sight of the Lord in that it contradicts the essential doctrine of agency."

Elder Charles W. Penrose said,
"President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect and venerate him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when 'Thus saith the Lord', comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill." (Elder Charles W. Penrose, Millennial Star Vol. 54 #12 p. 191)
We investigate truth by turning to the one and only infallible source: God.
"The best of men will fail us, . . . but our God can be trusted to the very utmost." (Elder George Q. Cannon, Des. Weekly, Mar. 1891, p. 374) 
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) 
"O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name." (2 Nephi 9:41)
 Brother Joseph summarized how we can come unto the Lord in at least two ways:
"[1] Search the scriptures--search the revelations which we publish, and [2] ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them." (TPJS, pp. 11-12; brackets mine)
In other words, we turn to:

The Revealed Word to Mankind (aka "The General Commandments")
"We cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256; emphasis mine). For more about the importance of focusing on the scriptures first, please click here.
The Revealed Word to You (aka "The Personal Commandments")
"How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves. That is your privilege." (Brigham Young, JD 4:368)
Sometimes, I wonder why our leaders have also repeatedly stated that "we live far beneath our privileges" in having the Spirit of God signify to us His will, and to guide and direct us in the discharge of our duties, in temporal as well as spiritual exercises (see here for more).

I think the reason is simple: We "seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way" (D&C 1:16).  Therefore, you should:
"Go to your secret chambers and ask God and plead with Him, in the name of Jesus, to give you a testimony as He has given it to us, and I promise you that you will not come away empty, nor dissatisfied; you will have a testimony, and light will be poured out upon you, and you will see things that perhaps you cannot see and understand at the present time..." (Wilford Woodruff, Conf. Rept., Oct. 6, 1890)

In Summary


When we trust in the Lord, we depend upon him with the same trust that a little child has in his father.  This covers all areas from one's daily life to eternal life.

The revealed word of God -- through the scriptures and prayer -- provides us with a solid, iron-like foundation that prevents us from stepping onto land mine #2:



"While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation's pow'r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev'ry hour.

Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
'Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
'Twill safely guide us through.

And when temptation's pow'r is nigh,
Our pathway clouded o'er,
Upon the rod we can rely,
And heaven's aid implore.

And, hand o'er hand, the rod along,
Through each succeeding day,
With earnest prayer and hopeful song,
We'll still pursue our way.

Afar we see the golden rest
To which the rod will guide,
Where, with the angels bright and blest,
Forever we'll abide."

So please, avoid land mine #2...

Stop making excuses to trust solely in the arm of flesh.  Stop it now.

"look to God...and live." (Alma 37:47)

Monday, October 28, 2013

12. Spiritual Land Mine #1: Poor Timing

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 12th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".


Yep, timing is everything...

Timing is Everything


In a prior post, I mentioned how all to often, we desire a righteous blessing while minimizing the behaviors necessary to attain it.  We find it easier to "dream" than to "do".

Knowing this, Satan can and definitely does play off our impatience for a blessing -- especially profound ones. 

Some people have an enthusiasm to actually see the Lord in mortality.  Perhaps more strongly desire to actually hear his voice in their hearts and minds.

Both are righteous desires.

Yet in some cases, the enthusiasm, the zeal, to experience such blessings overrides true knowledge of the blessing, and the proper application of that knowledge (aka "wisdom").

We often forget that the Lord’s pattern for revealing truths to us is "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30).  Not even the Prophet Joseph Smith learned all the fundamental truths of the restored gospel at once in the Sacred Grove.  These priceless treasures were revealed as circumstances warranted and as the timing was right.  Knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.
"And behold, I, the Lord, declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not fail, that they shall obtain it.  But all things must come to pass in their time."  (D&C 64:31–32; emphasis mine)
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith means trust — trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable.  We should not try to impose our timetable on His.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said,
"The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing.  If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?  The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes. ("Even As I Am" [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982], p. 93).
Elder Maxwell also said,
"Since faith in the timing of the Lord may be tried, let us learn to say not only, ‘Thy will be done,’ but patiently also, ‘Thy timing be done’" (April 2001 General Conference, p. 76; also “Plow in Hope,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 59).
Indeed, we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing.


Balance Your Spiritual Timing


Zeal


Brother Joseph was aware of our tendency to be overly-enthusiastic when he said,
"Many, having a zeal not according to knowledge, and not understanding the pure principles of the doctrine of the Church, have, no doubt, in the heat of enthusiasm, taught and said many things which were derogatory to the genuine character and principles of the Church; and for these things we are heartily sorry, and would apologize, if apology would do any good." (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 2:255).
Knowledge

Although it's good to have zeal, it must be balanced with knowledge.  Our search for knowledge should be ceaseless -- open-ended, never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements.  Hugh Nibley stated,
"The quality in which the Saints have always excelled is zeal. Zeal is the engine that drives the whole vehicle, without it we would get nowhere. But without clutch, throttle, brakes, and steering wheel, our mighty engine becomes an instrument of destruction, and the more powerful the motor, the more disastrous the inevitable crack-up if the proper knowledge is lacking." (Hugh Nibley, "Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless", p. 266-267)
If more people could only understand this point:
"True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge, but zeal often does." (Hugh Nibley, "Zeal without Knowledge", Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, 2nd Edition; I highly recommend reading this classic from Brother Hugh)
Wisdom

Zeal and knowledge must be balanced with wisdom:
"...man's eternal salvation - God's greatest gift to man - is dependent upon his knowledge; for it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6).  Wisdom is the right use of knowledge and comprehends judgment, discrimination, prudence, discretion, and study. 'To know is not to be wise,' says Spurgeon. 'Many men know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool.  But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.'" (Pres. David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1968, p.8)

Wanna Bend the Lord's Ear?


The engine of Zeal.  The brakes of Knowledge.  The driving judgment of Wisdom.

As you keep those three virtues in balance, as you exhibit real patience in God, you're not only exhibiting faith in Him, but also His will and timing.

And in so doing, He will do something in return to you: He will incline himself to you.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined [Hebrew, natah: to stretch out, extend, spread out, pitch, turn, incline, bend, bow]* unto me, and heard [Hebrew, shama: to hear intelligently; to understand] my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1–3; comments and emphasis mine).
By avoiding this landmine of adverse timing, you will go far in eliminating the barriers which delay or prevent your ability to meaningfully dialogue with the Lord, and more.

In fact, the effects will be so noticeable, so apparent, that "many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."

Yes...

Timing is everything.



* Natah (inclined) is also used in the following verses, which (especially the first one below) sound vaguely familiar for some reason...

Psalm 130: 2 -- "Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." 
Psalm 116:2 -- "Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
Daniel 9:18 -- "O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies."





Monday, October 21, 2013

11. Are Your Eyes Wide Open?

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 11th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

As I contemplate the doctrines promised in D&C 93:1, I ponder the steps needed to get us to our final destination, the fulfillment of the Lord's promise.

It also reminds me of the efforts I often see online intended to get us to another destination: Zion.

Confusing Righteous Means and Righteous Ends


For years, I have frequented many LDS-related prophecy forums and/or websites.  Some are populated with anywhere from a few to thousands of subscribers.  Their objectives are always the same: to help prepare people (especially Latter-day Saints) for the Second Coming.

Yet on a few, I've seen several instances where discussions take place, opinions are formed, contentions arise, feelings are hurt and judgments are exacted - sometimes under the seemingly innocent guises of "just wanting to understand you" or "We're family here, and families fight - no hard feelings though, pardner!"

I don't buy it.

Time and again, the persecutors are emboldened as the persecuted leave...while being told (in so many words) not to let the barn door hit them on the way out.

It's paradoxical to me how some, in mortally-appointed positions of cyberjudgment, believe they have the behaviors of a Zionlike person yet perpetuate and/or fuel contention (not compassion) and walk all over the reputations of those they have never met...while singing church hymns, at that.
"Even though it is true that there must be an 'opposition in all things' [2 Nephi 2:11], none of us has the personal obligation to provide that opposition." (Neal A. Maxwell, "All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience," p. 108)
Could those who find it easy to add mortally-decreed exceptions to "Judge not, lest ye be judged" be jeopardizing their ability to obey (with exactness and honor) the commandments and covenants of God?

Nobody ever has, nor ever will, achieve a righteous end by using unrighteous means.  Never.

Thus, we see why it's the province of man to often focus on the desire for a righteous blessing, not the behaviors necessary to attain it.  It's far easier to "dream" than to "do".

I, too, have learned by sad experience that I could miss a lot by focusing too much on my righteous desires, and not enough on the challenges of the day.  Regrettably, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34).


Spiritual Landmines on the Way to the Savior's Presence


Do you honestly think that Satan would just let you effortlessly, merrily skip to the Savior's presence without opposition?

Quite the contrary -- the sinisterness and subtlety of the opposition only increases!

On our way to seeing his face and truly knowing him, we often inadvertently either (1) step on some "spiritual landmines", (2) miss enjoying truly profound, personal experiences with the Savior himself, or (3) all of the above.

In fact, I dare say just about every man or woman I've met who had such a goal has struggled, at one point or another, with at least one of these commissions or omissions, thus increasing their frustrations at not seeing the Lord.

I'll Leave You With This


In my next post, I'll start detailing some of those landmines, then we'll talk about a little-known doctrine we often forget in helping us to obey Christ's voice...

In the meantime, I'll ask you this:

What do YOU think some of these ultra-subtle landmines might be?



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10. A Primary Catalyst in Parting the Veil

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 10th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

In my prior posts, you'll see that visualizing  -- or utilizing the "Eye of Faith" -- was and is a means whereby the righteous can not only look forward to the future, but also shatter barriers to the veil and (in the case of at least one person), thrust one directly into God's presence.

A primary catalyst?

"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9; emphasis mine)

Ahhhh, faith. Exceeding faith.  "Unprecedented Faith"...a principle of action that's powerful enough to part the veil! 

The Greatest (Mortal) Expositions Ever Given on Faith


The Lectures on Faith are a series of seven theological presentations made to the School of the Prophets in the winter of 1834-35 in Kirtland, OH. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2nd ed). 

That Joseph Smith intended their inclusion in the D&C is clear:
"During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling" (History of the Church, 2:180).
The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of the volume entitled "Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (better known simply as the Doctrine and Covenants)". The Lectures were selected for that volume by a committee appointed on September 24, 1834 by a general assembly of the church to arrange the doctrines and revelations of the church into a single volume. That committee of Presiding Elders (consisting of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) stated that the Lectures were included "in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation," and that the Lectures, together with the church-regulatory sections that followed, represent "our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body." (Preface, D&C, 1835 edition, p. iii)

The book was presented at the August 17, 1835 General Conference.  Records indicate that "several priesthood leaders were apparently given unbound copies to read ahead of time. They were then able to testify at the conference to the truthfulness of the revelations. After hearing the testimonies, the whole conference voted, first as quorums, then as a congregation, to accept the book as arranged" (Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Dec. 1984).  The body of the church accepted the committee's compilation as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." (History of the Church, 2:243-6).

The record is crystal clear: Joseph intended the Lectures' inclusion in the D&C, and they were properly sustained into the D&C by a valid, recorded and unanimous vote of the Church collectively (see D&C 28:13).

The Lectures on Faith were included in subsequent 1844 and 1876 editions (source).

44 years after their original publication, they were included in a new 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.  However, this time, Apostle Orson Pratt questioned the Lectures' inclusion in the new publication, which he was preparing.  Quorum of the Twelve President John Taylor responded:
"The Lectures on Faith were published with the sanction and approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith and we do not feel that it is desirable to make any alteration in that regard at any rate not at the present" (John Taylor to Orson Pratt, 25 April 1879, retained copy in John Taylor letter book, 16 August 1878 to 27 May 1879, pp. 710– 13, at the LDS Church Archives, cited in Robert J. Woodford, "Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:87–88).
(Wow, "published with the sanction and approval" of the head of this dispensation.  Talk about validation!)

Yet in late 1921, the Church printed the Doctrine and Covenants without the Lectures.  An interesting explanation was given: the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons." (See Introduction, 1921 edition).

It's not my desire to scrutinize the debate regarding the canonization/decanonization of the Lectures.  Still, one fact remains untarnished: even modern-day theologians and church leaders find tremendous value in the Lectures on Faith.  In addition to Pres. Taylor's comment above, we learn that:
"They were considered to be very excellent expositions of the doctrines contained therein" (Pres. Charles W. Penrose, Member of the First Presidency, 1921; emphasis mine).

"In my own judgment these Lectures on Faith are of great value and should be studied...I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Seek Ye Earnestly", p 194; emphasis mine).

"In them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character perfections and attributes of God; on faith, miracles and sacrifice.  They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars"  (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 439; emphasis mine).

"In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language - that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University, Jan. 4, 1972; emphasis mine).
"Joseph Smith said that “faith [is] the principle of action and of power” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 72)" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character", October 2010 General Conference).
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness' and that it is also 'the principle of action in all intelligent beings' (Lectures on Faith [1985], 1)" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith", April 2008 General Conference).

Read the Lectures on Faith...Today!


I believe no meaningful discussion regarding faith can occur without at least having invested time and deep, ponderous thought regarding faith...including the doctrines elaborated in the Lectures on Faith.

So, I invite you to read the Lectures on Faith.  What do you have to lose?  They're a fairly quick read, and you'll never look at the doctrine of faith the same way ever again (because you'll understand it better).

To facilitate this, I offer you the links below, and look forward to hearing your comments regarding the Lectures on Faith.

Free Download/View of the Lectures on Faith

HTML
HTML (Hint: This can easily be copied and pasted into a Word or Google doc)
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants (which includes all the LoF, which begin on page 13) 
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants
PDF (Based on original photos; 8.5 MB)

History of the Lectures on Faith


What of the Lectures on Faith?

The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Journey to the Veil"


As most of you know, for months, John Pontius' wife, Terri, has been working very hard on getting John's newest book to press, Journey to the Veil.  She titled it that way because John wrote his UnBlog while he was fighting cancer and making his mortal journey to the veil, and she wanted a way to capture his thoughts and life experiences while there was still opportunity to do so. 

Journey to the Veil is now completed and has gone to press.  It will be on bookshelves and available through Amazon and other booksellers on November 12, 2013.  You can pre-order the book at Amazon.com right now by clicking here.

The book is a fun read, as it includes lots of John's intriguing stories that will make you laugh and then cry.

Below is the introduction which Terri wrote for Journey to the Veil, so that you will understand where she was coming from as she approached this wonderful task. 

Feel free to spread the word about this upcoming book. 

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Introduction


Five months ago, my Johnnie left me.

He didn't mean to.  He didn't want to.  It was just his time.  We both freely acknowledged, and discussed endlessly, the exciting and glorious mission awaiting John on the other side.  I called him my Captain Moroni . . . he would prepare both sides of the veil for the latter-day Zion!  Oh, but he was sick, so very sick.  And because he was my best friend, and we always did everything together, I unwittingly made his sickness my sickness, too.  In the everyday busyness of serving this extraordinary dying man, I couldn't quite make myself believe that our earth life together was really coming to an end.  I have no excuse for such indulgence; six years to prepare should have been long enough.

But I was brave.  I told him, "Don't you worry about me!  I am going to be just fine.  I have my priorities straight:  I know in Whom I trust.  Go on, get out of here, and have all that spiritual fun on the other side of the veil, while I suffer and grovel down here!"  I loved to tease him, because his tired, brown eyes lit up when I teased.  Then I would kiss the top of his bald head a dozen times while my eyes filled with tears.  I always tried to hide the tears, but he knew.

We spoke endlessly about--everything.  When your husband has cancer, you have many bitter-sweet hours to talk about life, and what lies beyond.  These conversations, much to John's chagrin, were almost always late at night.  I'm a night owl; he isn't.  Right after I would give him his final morphine shot and fix his pillows and blankets just right, the "talkies" would kick in for me, just as his sleeping pill was kicking in for him. 

"You have to come back and see me!" I'd tell him.

"I don't know if I will be permitted."

"Well then, gosh John, beg!  Come on, you've been so good . . . surely Father will let you!"

He eyes were gleaming now, but his voice was too hoarse to reply.  I persisted, of course.

"At least--you gotta come back and give me a sign!"

He smiled as best he could, and brushed my cheek with his warm, now trembling hand.  "I will ask."

Then we would call our two daughters at home to come for Family Prayers.  As we three girls knelt by his bedside, their Daddy John would pray.  During the last weeks of his life he always wanted to be the one to pray.  His faint voice would suddenly grow stronger as he boldly called down the angels, cast out our fears, and consecrated his all to God.  The power in the priesthood that flowed mightily from John's pain-racked body and cracked lips was miraculous.  Our weeping hearts were healed for yet another day.

Weeks passed, and the end was growing nearer.   One night I had an inspiration.

"Do you know what I'm going to do after you're gone?  I'm going to compile the UnBlogs into a book.  They are just too wonderful not to publish!"

("UnBlog My Soul" is a blog that John had begun in 2010 when he was told he had only six months to live.  In this forum, John recorded his powerful witness of Christ and of the gospel he loved, initially intended only for his family and closest friends.  But the blog became growingly popular, because its humble writer had such a unique gift for gospel clarity and expression.  The UnBlog Family was born, and soon thousands of UnBloggers enjoyed the posts that John wrote almost daily, despite his ongoing chemo treatments and failing body).  

But John resisted the idea of publishing the posts.  "That's too big of a job.  There are over five hundred of them! You'll kill yourself doing that."

"No I won't.  I have edited all your other books; how hard could it be?  Everything's already been written.  Come on, Honey, those are amazing posts!  You never know how it could touch a life."  I knew that would get to him; he had only one burning desire--to touch lives for his Savior Jesus Christ. 

Finally John gave his permission rather reluctantly, with the caveat that I never tout either him or the UnBlog, but that I give whatever praise or good that came of it to the Lord.  That was John; always his focus was on giving all thanks and any credit to God. 

Then just before Christmas 2012, my Johnnie was gone.  I mourned wretchedly for months, wondering how I could have been so naive as to ever think I could live without him.  Finally a few months afterward, I found new energy and joy in compiling this book.  I also know without a doubt that John has personally and intimately assisted in this work.  It's been a delight to sit here at John's desk using his well-loved computer, with him unmistakably by my side, and those thundering horses (my favorite painting of his) charging overhead to urge me onward.

I have arranged the blogs according to subject rather than chronologically, so I decided to omit the posting dates. There were so many excellent blogs to choose from that it was a daunting task to decide between them.  If you'd like to read additional blogs, you are welcome to go online to "UnBlog My Soul" where you will find any that are not included in this book.  Also, please note that most of the names of persons referenced have been changed.

I will dance between the chapters with the personal story of John's final mortal journey home.  As you read these blogs penned by a man who was nearing his journey's end, it is my prayer that you may find truth and clarity for your own journey. 

--Terri J. Pontius