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Monday, December 22, 2014

03. The Characteristics of Spiritual Ascension

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the third examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

The (Apparent) Arrogance of Thinking We Can Keep God's Commandments

"What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27 also see 3 Nephi 12:48).
That's a bold statement -- and one we often tend to discredit. After all, success is often not what we envision it to be. The path that we imperfect, error-prone, sinful, spiritually dirty, condemned, telestial beings take to God is littered with pitfalls, trials and challenges.

Fortunately, God doesn't look at you in terms of just one frame in the motion picture of your life. He who sees all things past, present and future before Him knows that
"It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fulness of the Father's glory. I believe the Lord meant just what he said: that we should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. That will not come all at once, but line upon line, and precept upon precept, example upon example, and even then not as long as we live in this mortal life, for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. 
But here we lay the foundation. Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection. It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today. Why? Because we are on that road, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our hearts to overcome the world." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, pp.18-19)

The Ingredients for Perfectly Keeping God's Commandments


Throughout the scriptures, the Lord describes the process of achieving perfection in different ways.
  • It's line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little (2 Nephi 28:30; also see D&C 98:12).  In fact, in keeping with what I explained in my previous post, 2 Nephi 28:30 goes on to say that
"blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."
  • It's "grace to grace" and "grace for grace"
"And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16
"And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.
And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;
And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace." (D&C 93:11-13, 20)
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 10:32
Now, let's combine those two concepts for a minute. Could it be that when you recognize and gratefully receive (2 Nephi 28:30) the grace (divine goodness and power) God has bestowed on you in your life, you're more motivated to give grace (perhaps via kindness and forgiveness) to others? And because you have freely done so, God blesses you with a greater abundance of His divine grace?

Is that what is means to go "from grace to grace" (D&C 93:11-13, 20) until you receive "a fulness"?

Could it be that going "from grace to grace" ensures that in the eternal scheme of things, there is no shortcut, no piecemeal approach, no faking or pretending genuine character growth?
  • It's "strength to strength"
"They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." (Psalms 84:7)
  • It's "faith to faith"
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:17)
  • It's "glory to glory"
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Let's examine these three bullet points. Could an organization or individual, who shares their strength (for example, financial strength) with those who have limited or no strength, be blessed with greater strength? When an individual or organization exhibits real faith in God on behalf of another, their own faith is strengthened? When you share the light (or glory) of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you are blessed with greater light?
  • "His paths are straight"
Even Dorothy stepped off the yellow brick road with the best of intentions; yet in doing so, her path to the Emerald City assumed predicted consequences. We're no different; all too often, our paths to God include precarious pit stops to wallow in our will, not God's. When we do so, we discover the still, small voice of the spirit is silent, and we're left alone to ponder the consequences of our divergent direction. Thus, staying on the path straight to God -- without any tangents -- is the safest and wisest course of action. 
"And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (Alma 37:12)\ 
"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:2
"For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land." (Alma 37:44
"Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face." (Psalms 5:8
"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
  • His course is "one eternal round"
"For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round." (1 Nephi 10:19
"Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever." (D&C 35:1
  • It's ever-expanding
As mentioned above, the Lord says

"blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more..." (2 Nephi 28:30)

Thus, it stands to reason that if one has faithfully received a few things, then they shall be given more things. If this continues ad infinitum, then the Lord's statement, "Endless is my name" (D&C 19:4,10; see also Moses 1:37:35) is accurate. His glory, dominion and kingdom endlessly expands.

"Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this." (2 Nephi 19:7

The Process of Ascension


Review those bullet points above for a minute.

Embedded within all these quotes is the process of ascension, and ultimately, achieving perfection.

Now, in 1982, author Stephen R. Covey published what I consider to be one of the most underrated, little-known LDS-aligned books ever: "The Divine Center." Aside from the Holy Scriptures, no other book has transformed my life as much as this book. I highly recommend you buy it.

Once you have it, skip ahead to chapters 7-9, which detail some interdependent actions which spiral us to God.

Personally, I've slightly modified Covey's diagram of these processes (found on pages 226-227 in Covey's first edition book). And in my next blog post, we'll examine how these interdependent actions mesh everything discussed in these posts on ascension -- as well as D&C 93 -- into one nice, neat pattern...

...a pattern which is replicated from the smallest to the grandest structures in the cosmos.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

02. Are You Truly Seeking Higher Truths?

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the second examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

Realizing the fulfillment of D&C 93:1 hinges on our desire and ability to receive greater and greater truths from God.

Indeed, receiving truth is, in essence, receiving Christ.

Let's Say You Don't Want To Seek After Higher Truths


It's sad but true: There are many good people who have no desire whatsoever to seek higher truths, or the mysteries of God. They've hardened their hearts to the concept. Regarding such a state, the Book of Mormon tells us that
"It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell." (Alma 12:9-11)
Now, if you're content with just receiving "the lesser portion of the word" of God, then it's simple: God says you have a hardened heart. How did this happen? Because you've chosen to follow Satan, who "was a liar from the beginning" (D&C 93:25) and seeks always to "turn...hearts away from the truth" (D&C 78:10), partly by enticing people to become liars and deceivers themselves (D&C 10:25). Your fate? Equally simple: You'll know nothing concerning God's mysteries. You'll be taken captive by the devil. You'll be led by Satan's will down to destruction, and you'll know all about the chains of hell.

As the Prophet Joseph Smith elaborated:
“When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law.” (History of the Church, 5:555; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 27, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards and William Clayton
“Knowledge is necessary to life and godliness. Woe unto you priests and divines who preach that knowledge is not necessary unto life and salvation. Take away Apostles, etc., take away knowledge, and you will find yourselves worthy of the damnation of hell. Knowledge is revelation. Hear, all ye brethren, this grand key: knowledge is the power of God unto salvation.” (Quoted by Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, reporting a discourse given by Joseph Smith on May 21, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, Notebook, Church Archives; emphasis mine)

Passively Seeking Greater Truths


Now here's an interesting question: What if you have a "testimony of Jesus", yet aren't valiant ("possessing or showing courage or determination") with it?

We learn in D&C 76:79 that those who eventually obtain Terrestrial status
"...are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God."
Just being a good person (D&C 76:75), yet having a passive awareness of facts, doesn't mean you're seeking truth or that you have knowledge. Being valiant means that you are being active with the truths and knowledge you have already received. This is because
"For us, knowledge is understood to be an active, motivating force rather than simply a passive awareness of facts. Indeed, certain truths must be understood and applied because they are essential for salvation and eternal life (see John 17:3; 1 John 4:7–8). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity' (History of the Church, 4:588; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 10, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff). His words build on the Savior’s commandment: 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32)." (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=11347)
Now, if you ask me, being "brought into captivity" and experiencing "the chains of hell" sound a lot alike.

Harsh? Perhaps. But when it comes to seeking after greater truths, you can neither be hot nor cold:
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Let's Say You Do Want To Seek After Higher Truths


Brother Joseph was a passionate champion of the truth. He said that
"One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may." (Joseph Smith, Jr, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199) 
"Knowledge saves a man; and in the world of spirits no man can be exalted but by knowledge." (Joseph Smith, Jr, TPJS, p. 357; emphasis mine)
There it is, plain as day! Truth and knowledge are not only symbiotic, they're also salvific. When we embrace truth and knowledge, we are saved.

If you seek to know -- and receive -- the mysteries of God (or, you do not harden your heart), and you "impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him", you'll be given the greater portion of the word, until you'll know the mysteries of God "in full."

Wow! Did you read that?

Seek the mysteries! Be responsible with what you've received! Then keep seeking! The result? You'll eventually know them "in full"!

(And lest you believe that's a blessing that's reserved for the faithful in the afterlife, please note that neither Alma 12:9-11 nor D&C 93:1 say anything about such blessings being reserved until after we die.)

Knowing the mysteries of God "in full"..."see my face and know that I am"...

Two doctrines -- two truths -- that co-exist very nicely next to each other.

A Process Emerges


If we can come to "know the truth of all things" by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:5), then isn't it natural to conclude that we can come to a first-hand knowledge of Jesus Christ the same way?

How did Christ obtain a fulness of truth? Was He just born with it? No.
"And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first." (D&C 93:13-14).
If Jesus Christ is the way, then the processes He went through should be our way, too. If He went from grace to grace, then so should we.

And how is THIS done?

In my next post, we'll discuss the process of ascension, 
where we continually receive grace to grace until we receive the fulness.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

01. Are You Truly a Truth Seeker?

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the first examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

In the last three posts, we've discussed the concept of a "Spiritual Joystick" which each of us has:
  • Move forward too much, and you're overzealous. 
  • To move backwards is, well, it's sin. 
  • Excessive movement to the left is to have an unhealthy preoccupation with your past, and 
  • To the right may mean that you have an unhealthy preoccupation with the future.
By maintaining a divine center in your life, you'll find yourself grounded in non-zealous, righteous, present-oriented truth -- right where God has told us we should be.  Stay divinely centered, and you'll find it easier to keep God's commandments -- D&C 93:1's last requirement to knowing God lives.  Do more or less than that, and you're in Satan's power.

The Key To Understanding D&C 93:1 -- Context!


It's interesting to me how many people read D&C 93:1, but never read the rest of the section.

So, I'm going to pause my blog post here so you can read it -- all of D&C 93. In fact, I'll make it easy for you -- here's the text link. And in case you're not in a reading mood, no problem! Here's the audio file.


D&C 93:1 gives us kind of a formula so we can see His face and know Him -- I mean REALLY know Him.

But the remaining 52 verses tell us more.

Below is a Wordle chart of D&C 93 in its entirety. What words stand out to you?


Painful Truths


Let's focus on the most frequently mentioned word (18 times) in D&C 93 -- "truth" ("fulness" = 15 times).

We learn in D&C 93:24-25 that
"truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning."
Some time ago, I asked God about the truth of some things. I felt prompted to really seek for the answers. I did. Over time, the answers came and were confirmed and reconfirmed in truly divine ways.

Yet, in receiving those answers, in coming to a knowledge of the truth, paradigms were shattered. Relationships with others (who were entrenched in their belief of non-truths) crumbled. I found myself more alone than I was before I sought the truths. Yet one relationship actually strengthened and amplified -- my one with Jesus Christ.

I can remember several times when, in the stillness and silence of the night, I would cry as I reflected upon the pains I endured as I learned the truths of many things. Without fail, He has always -- always -- been there to listen to me, comfort me and love me.

Jesus Christ is love. When we seek the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), we are in essence seeking Him. And in the course of our journey, we not only discover greater truths, but also greater manifestations of His love for us. 

Is "embracing truth" synonymous with (or tantamount to) embracing Christ?

If so, then how badly do you want to embrace truth -- especially truths which may make you feel a little uncomfortable at first, or which may estrange you from others? 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

10. Walking and Talking with God, Part 9: The Perfect Alignment, Part 3

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the ninth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

In my last two posts,we explored the concept of a "Spiritual Joystick" which you control. We exhibit overzealousness when this joystick is too far forward, sin when it is in reverse, and an unhealthy preoccupation with the past when it tilts to the left.

A Few Notes On Moving to the Right


As the events of the last days confront us in increasingly starker clarity, I believe it's only natural for people to develop a fascination and interest in the future.  We seek facts, answers and reassurances that can potentially ensure our temporal and spiritual survival in the last days.

Unfortunately, many people misprioritize their sources of information and insight regarding the future.

They may place a tremendously weighty significance on others' experiences or insights. They read books and listen to tapes of what the future may hold.

Personally, I have no problem with reading such books and listening to such tapes.  In fact, I praise God that He has given such experiences to a few, so that many can benefit.  However, in my opinion, we should not make such books pre-eminent over the revealed word of God.

Instead, in His wisdom, the Lord gave us His guidebook for the last days.

The Book of Mormon’s end-time scenario is grounded in many events predicted by Isaiah.  Perhaps this is one reason why the Lord said,
"And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah." (3 Nephi 23:1)
Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. He was also the most quoted prophet in the Lord's statements while in mortality. It makes sense to me that if Isaiah was of preeminent importance to Him, how much so should it be with us?

And while we're at it, what of Jeremiah, Daniel and Revelation?

The more you read and understand those prophets, the more knowledge you have about the last days.

Knowledge is one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost (John 14:26; 16:13; D&C 34:10; 121:26–33) and one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8; Moroni 10:10; D&C 46:18). Peter lists knowledge along with faith, patience, kindness, and virtue as necessary acquisitions for one who would seek for a divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–9). Since no one can be saved in ignorance of the gospel (D&C 131:6), and one progresses only as fast as he gains knowledge (HC 4:588), it follows that the person who gains knowledge will have “the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

Indeed, "whoso treasureth up my words shall not be deceived" (Matt. 24:44)

Another Spin on Right-Joystickedness


A preoccupation with the future, while neglecting weightier matters (Matthew 23:23; D&C 117:8), can be equally dangerous.

Several years ago, I subscribed to a website devoted to preparing people for the future. At first, I was fascinated by the voluminous amounts of information people shared in this forum. More was being added everyday.

Yet over time, I became disturbed by the actions a few of the website's leaders displayed.  When a conflict would arise, they often lacked persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love and kindness.  Instead, they were unabashedly, unapologetically sharp, quick to exercise control, dominion, compulsion and especially judgment.  And they more often than not took great pride in such behaviors, justifying them by saying "This is how families are.  If you can't hack it, then leave" (that's an exact quote by the way). Not surprisingly, the spirit left that website in short order.

Let me crystal clear on this point: You can't use telestial means to bring about celestial results.  

And we are fooling ourselves (at best) and others who do or will depend on us (at worst) if we believe we can somehow qualify for Zion while consistently displaying and justifying such appalling behaviors.

In Conclusion


As you can see, it's incumbent upon yourself to not veer to the left nor to the right, but straight.  Indeed, we know that we should pray, "make thy way straight before my face" (Psalms 5:8; 2 Nephi 4:33) because "his paths are straight" (Alma 37:12) -- "a straight course to the promised land." (Alma 37:44).

Indeed,
"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:2
"Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." (Proverbs 4:25)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

09. Walking and Talking with God, Part 8: The Perfect Alignment, Part 2

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the eighth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

All of us -- including you -- have a "Spiritual Joystick".

Move it forward too much, and you're overzealous.  Move it in reverse, and you go backwards in your spiritual journey, distancing yourself from God via sin.

Yet, like any other joystick, you can also move your joystick too far to the left or to the right.

A Few Notes On Moving to the Left


I'd like you to imagine something with me.  Imagine you're one of the Israelites in Moses' time.  You are, with your family, crossing the Red Sea.  Envision what would have happened if you had veered to the left.  Undoubtedly, you would have walked right into a wall of water!  Veering to the right would have produced the same result.

Just as it's easy to see the futility that comes from hitting a wall of water, we can well imagine what would happen if we become preoccupied with knowing who we were, and what we did, prior to our mortal birth here.

Frankly, I'm disturbed by reports I hear of "blessings" people give to others which spend much time, and provide great detail, into supposed aspects of a person's pre-mortal life.  Even worse is the effect such "blessings" often have on a recipient, as they are led to believe fantastic, superhuman claims that would boggle the imagination.  True, priesthood blessings (including patriarchal blessings) may mention something about a person's premortal status.  But they neither dwell on, nor preoccupy the recipient, with ego-enhancing, "positive energy" details for dozens of minutes or paragraphs.

Why not?

It's simple.  A preoccupation with our past makes us less likely to focus on today.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:34)
The same words, in Hebrew, are used to express the same thought in the Rabbinic Jewish saying "dyya l'tzara b'shaata (דיה לצרה בשעתה)" or, "the suffering of the (present) hour is enough for it". (Tr. Berakhot 9b)

In my opinion, anything that seeks to divert your focus from today to yesterday is doing you a grave disservice.  Don't you have enough to deal with today?  Don't you have the toils and troubles, as well as joys and blessings, that the day may bring upon you?  Don't you have the responsibilities of Christian service, and the ever-present battle with temptation?

Another Spin on Left-Joystickedness

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" (John Greenleaf Whittier)
If there's one thing we humans are good at, it's reorienting our focus onto the skeletons of our past.

We regret, we kick ourselves, we demean ourselves, we condemn ourselves.  And in the process, we (literally) add insult to injury by ignoring the commandment to judge not. Even if we have repented of a wrongdoing, we still beat ourselves up over it -- and in the process, we totally ignore the Lord's statement that "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." (D&C 58:42)

Last week in church, I was in on a discussion about the need for us to regularly perform a self-introspection, a self-assessment of our spiritual status. I agree that such status checks can be worthwhile.  However, I also happen to know that when it comes to spirituality assessments, we tend to be our own worst enemy.
"Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which he has given to the world for the salvation of men." (Pres. Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 371–72)
And how do we "overcome that enemy first"?  We start by recognizing that
"Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Point of Safe Return", April 2007 General Conference)
We proceed on that path of healing and sanctification as we let God perform that miracle in our lives.  As you "empty your cup" and "return and report" to Him -- in fact,
"As you kneel in humility before our Father daily, tell him openly of your progress, and also of your fears and doubts. As you draw near to Him, He draws near to us. He gives us peace and encouragement. He heals our souls." (Bruce D. Porter, "Searching Inward," Ensign, Nov. 1971, 65; emphasis mine).
"Though I am weak, yet God, when prayed,
Cannot withhold his conquering aid."

In the course of my life, I have been extremely blessed to associate with some who have been in the literal presence of our Advocate, Jesus Christ.  Without exception, they described how they felt totally unworthy to be in His presence.  Yet He who is the source of light and love was reciprocally enthusiastic, and proactively forgave them of their sins.  If these friends wanted to dwell on their sinful state, the Lord would essentially encourage them by saying (and I paraphrase), "That's your choice if you want to go there.  But I think it would be best if you keep moving forward and not look behind you anymore.  I took care of all that 2,000 years ago.  But the future is up to you."

In my next post, we'll examine how easy it is to let your Spiritual Joystick veer to the right, and what you can do about it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

08. Walking and Talking with God, Part 7: The Perfect Alignment, Part 1

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the seventh examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

If there's one thing that today's generation knows, it's how to use a joystick.

When I was a teenager, I was "so-so" at games that required a joystick.  Now, even my expert-level friends in their prime would be no competition to the joystick jockeys of today.

As I proceed in life, I've come to realize that all of us have a "Spiritual Joystick" as well, which we control per our own desires.

In my last post, I described one direction of our "Spiritual Joysticks" -- forward.  I'd like to briefly return to that direction, and add one more joystick direction to the discussion as well.  Your responsibility will be to see just how well-aligned and well-balanced your joystick truly is.

A Few Notes On Moving Forward


In my last post, we explored a peculiar dynamic among those who profess to want to do the will of the Lord: the tendency to display overexuberance, overenthusiasm and overzealousness which can often lead to disastrous results. Brother Joseph realized this tendency when he said,
"A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of be cause the things of God Are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out."(TPJS p. 137; emp.byui.edu/hammondt/341supch16libertylet.doc)
This is a fascinating statement!  To understand the things of God, we must live by a kind of Celestial Algebra:
   Time
+ Experience
+ Careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts
___________________________________________
= Finding out "the things of God"
It is amazing to me how often I have seen, over the span of many years, people who embark on new directions in their lives without having first spent meaningful amounts of time, without awaiting the tutoring experience that comes from the Lord, and without Spirit-inspired pondering that cannot be forced. Or, if they do spend time on an issue, it's usually measured in minutes, hours or a few days.

Perhaps this is why the Psalms also implore us,
"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning." (Psalms 130:1-6)
(It's also amazing how relevant verses 1 and 2 are to those who have been endowed).

Clearly, if we are wanting to hearken (understand and do) to the Lord's will at a far deeper level, we must accept the fact that:
  1. The things of eternity cannot and will not be rushed (we must repent and make our timetable conform to the Lord's).
  2. Divine timetables vary from person to person (the Lord's timetable for you and I, regarding the same thing, may in all likelihood differ).
  3. Divine timetables also have a certain predictability as well.  For example, the Lord expects us to choose Him over anything/anyone else in short order (Joshua 24:15), yet the process Joseph Smith used in determining which church was correct took time, experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts (JSH 1:8).

A Few Notes On Moving Backwards


Nor can we afford the luxury of moving our "Spiritual Joystick" in reverse.  I suppose in spiritual terms, going backwards might be considered "sin".

From the best to the worst of us, all are drenched in a sinful, fallen, unprofitable state every minute of our lives.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities." (Isaiah 64:6-7)
"They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12)
"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:21)
Many people often choose to look at themselves and, at least to a certain extent, resign themselves to their sinful state. Why? Because over time, many have come to believe that repentance is a painful, punishing process.  We equate words like "suffering", "punishment", "confession" and "remorse" to repentance.  And so, we delay or event neglect to repent.

And all the while, Satan laughs (Moses 7:26).

Yet these words above are not repentance.

To see what true repentance is, feel free to check out my post here (and in subsequent posts, listed below).

D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 1) -- Re-Learn What Repentance Is (and Is Not)
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 2) -- The First Three (Out of Four) Steps of Repentance
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 3) -- Drop Your Stones
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 4) -- The Daily Return and Report
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 5) -- How Do You Know You're Forgiven?
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 6) -- The Oft-Neglected, Final Step in Having Your Sins Forsaken
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 7) -- Crying Repentance Without Tears

There, you'll see that true repentance is "shube".  It is "Metaneoeo".  Contrary to what Satan would have you believe, these aren't painful, punishing concepts. They're joyous, marvelous and wonderful.

About three months ago, I discussed these two concepts with a friend.  Since then, it's been an absolute thrill for me to see him turning to the Lord in ways I hadn't even anticipated.  As he has turned to God, it appears to me that God has exceeded my friend's expectations of divine sensitivity, understanding, mercy, forgiveness and love.
"For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end." (D&C 76:5
"Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy avows.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." (Job 22:21-28)
You may think that you have no worth, or that you're unredeemable.  That God is nowhere in sight.

But little do you know that He is there by your side.  He is guiding you closer to Him, and you may not even know it.

He calls you chosen, free, forgiven, wanted, child of the King.  You are His forever, held in treasure, loved...



In Conclusion


Today, you read about two directions of your Spiritual Joystick.

You can move it forward a bit too much, or backwards a bit too much.  Both actions get you "out of alignment" with God.

And both misalignments can be quickly and easily corrected.

In my next post, we'll examine how we move the Spiritual Joystick left or right -- with equally detrimental consequences and equally gratifying correction.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

07. Walking and Talking with God, Part 6: The Perfect Timing

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the sixth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

In 1855, the large backlog of needy LDS converts awaiting passage from Europe and reduced tithing receipts at home persuaded Brigham Young to instruct that the "poor saints" sailing from Liverpool to New York to take the train to Iowa City, then "walk and draw their luggage" overland to Utah (link).

Many of these LDS converts came from factory towns in Great Britain and Scandinavia.  Because they were too poor to purchase wagons and oxen, they piled their belongings onto handcarts and pushed them across the prairies.  Unfortunately, these emigrations were handicapped from the start:

  • Most people were not used to the strenuous work required to propel a loaded cart over hundreds of miles.
  • Carts were made of green wood, which easily split and broke as the pioneers pushed them across prairies and mountains. 
  • In the case of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, information (to Salt Lake City) that they were on their way either was never sent, never arrived or was misinterpreted.  Promised resupplies never materialized on the assumption that "whatever more emigrants there might be would be detained in the East until the next season -- a matter that President Young later made clear." (Howard A. Christy, "Weather Disaster And Responsibility -- An Essay On The Willie and Martin Handcart Story", BYU Studies, Vol. 37 No 1, 1997-98, p. 26; https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/6433/6082)

In 1856, five such handcart companies were organized to make the 1,300-mile trip on foot from the western railroad terminus at Iowa City to Salt Lake City (link):

The first two companies (totaling 486 immigrants pulling 96 handcarts) arrived safely in Salt Lake City on September 26, 1856. They accomplished the trek in under sixteen weeks.  The third company, and presumably the last of the season (320 persons pulling 64 handcarts), arrived on October 2.

The two remaining companies started dangerously late.  James G. Willie's left Iowa City on July 15, crossed Iowa to Florence (Omaha), Nebraska, then, after a week in Florence, headed out onto the plains.  Edward Martin's company departed Florence on August 25.

As we well know, leaving this late was an ill-fated decision for both companies.  They were caught in brutal Wyoming and Utah mountain blizzards. The results: The Willie Company started with 404 people; about 68 (17%) died by the time the rescue parties arrived.  The Martin Company started with 576 people; over 145 (25%) died in their company before the rescue.

In my opinion, these tragic results didn't need to occur.  Melvin L. Bashore, a senior librarian in the Church History Library, found that among all Mormon handcart companies:


Why did those two companies incur such heavy losses?  In my opinion, they left too late. Brigham Young and the other members of the First Presidency had consistently pointed out that departure from what is now Omaha, Nebraska needed to happen by the end of May to safely make the journey. (Howard A. Christy, "Handcart Companies" in Daniel H. Ludlow, "Encyclopedia of Mormonism", Macmillan Publishing Company. pp. 571–573; "Weather, Disaster and Responsibility" (see link above)).

In James Willie's case, right before his company's fateful departure, he promised that God would be with his company.  He scolded those who believed they were leaving too late in the year and felt that many would die along the way if they left that late.  He said they lacked faith, and put the late departure to a vote.  Most of the group responded in the affirmative.

"Time and Experience and Careful and Ponderous and Solemn Thoughts"


This post isn't about the decisions made by church or handcart leaders.  In the final analysis, every family had a choice to proceed to Utah late in the season or stay in Omaha (where most immigrants had no money, supplies or shelter).

Instead, it's a stark reminder of letting zeal and over-enthusiasm override common sense.

I don't think many of us have faced a situation where we had to cross 1,300 miles to safety.  However, in these last days, we are practically forced to discern and make increasingly complex doctrinal decisions.

Almost five months into his miserable and legally unjustifiable detention in the Liberty Jail, Joseph Smith penned a poignant letter to the Saints.  After counseling them to avoid pride and trifling conversations, he burst beyond the jail's walls with these expansive words:
"A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of be cause the things of God Are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. thy mind O Man, if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation must stretch as high as the utmost Heavens, and search in to and contemplate the lowest considerations of the darkest abyss, and Expand upon the broad considerations of Eternal Expanse, he must commune with God. how much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart, none but fools, will trifle, with the souls of men" (TPJS p. 137; emp.byui.edu/hammondt/341supch16libertylet.doc)
President Spencer W. Kimball echoed these thoughts when he said,
"Any intelligent man may learn what he wants to learn. He may acquire knowledge in any field, though it requires much thought and effort. It takes more than a decade to get a high school diploma; it takes an additional four years for most people to get a college degree; it takes nearly a quarter-century to become a great physician. Why, oh, why do people think they can fathom the most complex spiritual depths without the necessary experimental and laboratory work accompanied by compliance with the laws that govern it?" (Brigham Young University, September 6, 1977).

It's One Of The Virtues


As one friend stated,

"If you want to know all the mysteries of God, He is willing to reveal them. Not to the impatient, demanding and immature. But to those who develop a firm mind in every form of godliness, including patience, persistence, faith and sacrifice. (Moroni 7:30.)  These things are not won cheaply.  But they are won."

Hence, the Lord's counsel for us to "be still and know that I am God" (D&C 101:16) is more than just an admonition to shut up.  It is a millennia-proven strategy that instills patience, which in turn is an exercise in faith in the Lord's timing.

  • Joseph Smith received the First Vision.
  • Joseph F. Smith saw the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.
  • Nephi saw the Lord in vision.
  • Nephi (the son of Helaman) received his calling and election.
  • Abraham was promised children.
  • Anna and Simeon were promised they would behold the Lord's Messiah.

The common denominators?  These were not emergency situations, where a snap judgment was required.  The participants were careful, sober and solemn.  They deeply pondered and meditated on the things of God...not just for a few minutes, hours or a couple of days.  They unwaveringly waited on God.

Even Christ (who was "more intelligent than them all"; Abraham 3:19) learned and exercised patience (Heb. 5:8).  How are we qualified to know, better than the Lord, when a blessing should come?  How much would we learn if the Lord always responded to our self-absorbed timing and impatience?  What makes you think you are entitled to rush ahead without paying a similar price to develop the necessary patience in waiting on the Lord?

Timing always has been and always will be the domain of God.  Although there are many times when we may know what we must do, it is the Lord alone who decides when an assignment or task is to be performed, or a truth or mystery revealed.

We ask.  We seek.  We knock.  Then having done so, we put the concept, teaching or doctrine on a shelf, and wait for Him to lower it, if at all.  This is active waiting.  It is enduring well.

If He waited, how much more should we?
"I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard 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." (Psalms 40:1-3).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

06. Walking and Talking with God, Part 5: The Perfect Start

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the fifth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

After A Two and a Half Month Hiatus...A Dream


This morning, I had a vivid dream (12 hours later, I still remember it as if it happened an hour ago). Here, I'll share it with you:

In my dream, I was in some kind of fighter pilot morning briefing.  There were pilots and co-pilots galore in the briefing, with the briefing officer behind a desk in the front of the room.

As the clock struck the top of the hour (to the second), the officer began giving instructions on where the flights needed to go.  Yet during his briefing, the pilots and co-pilots were asking questions, listening to music, thinking about this and that, and in general, gabbing but not necessarily listening to the briefing officer.

When the briefing was over, the pilots and co-pilots got up and flew to whatever direction fancied them...which may or (most likely) may not have been congruent with the briefing officer's plans.

Were You At That Briefing, Too?


Is there a chance your lifestyle conflicts with your chances of staying with the Lord and His people?

On one hand, we have the Lord's personal introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants:
"Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;" (D&C 1:14-16; emphasis mine).
On the other hand, we have a routine that's all too familiar to us:

We wake up, say a prayer, go to the bathroom and start our day.  As we proceed through our day, we (hopefully) knock out as many "urgent and important" items as possible on our personal to-do lists.  Then we crash asleep, and it starts all over again X hours later.

Then (if we're lucky), at some point in our day or week, we wonder why it seems like we rarely (if ever) hear the Lord's voice in our lives.

This is a serious scenario...with a very do-able solution.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord


Two things seem pretty self-evident to me: First, the Lord places a primary importance on us hearing His voice.  Second, the ability to hear His voice is not limited to prophets and apostles.  If the Lord wants all of us to hear His voice, then all of us have the capacity to do so.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
"for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7).
Let's be straight here: Not only should you be able to hear the Lord's voice (audibly or not), you also need to be doing so.  It's a matter of temporal and spiritual salvation.

So...how's it going?

If you're like me, the answer is "not very well."  Why?  Because I can relate with those fighter pilots in the briefing who were so adept at talking and not listening, and giving in to the distractions:
"My testimony is that the Lord is speaking to you!  But with the deafening decibels of today’s environment, all too often we fail to hear him." (Elder Graham Doxey, October 1991 General Conference).
The whole situation reminds me of some passages from Hugh Nibley's book, "Enoch the Prophet":
"Enoch never allows us to forget that the real tragedy is not what becomes of people, but what they become. That's the sad thing. The people of Enoch's day and Noah's day were quite satisfied with themselves as they were, and they hotly resented any offers of help or advice from God's messenger."
"The refrain is ever 'Wo unto you foolish ones, for you shall perish through your own folly.' 'They denied the Lord and would not hear the voice of the Lord but followed their own counsel. They go astray in the foolishness of their own hearts.' They know not what they are doing when they say to God, 'Turn away from us, for the knowledge of thy ways gives us no pleasure' though God gave them promise of all that he would give them and all that he wanted them to do."
Or, as we read in the Book of Moses,
"...why counsel ye yourselves, and deny the God of heaven?" (Moses 6:43).
And how do we counsel among ourselves?  What do we counsel about?  Perhaps it's our own "flight plans", our own "to do" lists, or as we read in Moses 8:22,
"...every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart."
These "imagination of the thoughts" of the heart need not be centered in any grievous sins:
"Many of us are not guilty of violations of the law of chastity or the Word of Wisdom or the law and order of the Church in general. But too often, perhaps, we are guilty of preoccupation or distraction; the blessings of the Spirit of the Lord, the consummate blessings of spiritual rebirth, are not enjoyed by us as they could be, simply because we do not seek earnestly for them. President Brigham Young taught: 'There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him His will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges" (in Journal of Discourses, 12:104; also Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p. 198-199).

A Better Way


The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of continual revelation.  As His followers, our challenge is not one of getting the Lord to speak to us. Our challenge is hearing what He has to say. He has promised, "As often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit" (D&C 6:14).

It really is a challenge, too.  Take Samuel, for example.  When he was young, he lived with the priest, Eli.  One night, the Lord called Samuel's name. Each time he heard it, he ran to Eli and essentially asked, "What's up?"  After this happened three times, Eli explained to Samuel what was really happening.  When the Lord called again, Samuel recognized His voice and responded, "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:10).

In order for us to say, "Speak; for thy servant heareth," we've got to be able to hear what the Lord has to say:
"Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is like learning a language, the language of revelation. Learning any language takes time. It takes repetition and practice. It takes an immersion in that language. And it takes learning the rules that govern the language. If we were learning Portuguese or Chinese, we would not only have to memorize vocabulary words but learn syntax and grammar as well. Similarly, as we set out to better learn the language of revelation, there are guidelines and rules to govern us." (Sherri Dew, "No Doubt About It")

What is "God's Wavelength"?


It's only logical to conclude that if we want to hear the Lord's voice, then we need to be on the same "wavelength". Although at times His voice can be heard audibly, it is most often heard not through our ears:
"How do we listen to the Lord? In a sense, think of the heart as the ear or the listening instrument of the spirit. From my study of the scriptures, I am convinced that the heart is exactly that, and the Lord's voice is the still, small voice of our own conscience that speaks to our hearts. President McKay has said that the Holy Ghost speaks through the conscience of members of the Church who are in the line of their duty. This still, small voice can pierce to the core and center of a person's soul. It is sharper than a two-edged sword, but it must be carefully listened to, and a person must be in tune in order to hear it: 'He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words' (1 Nephi 17:45)" (Stephen R. Covey, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, p.144).
Joseph Smith knew this.  History shows us that when he was under the influence of the Spirit of God, his mind was perfectly calm and collected, and his countenance beamed with heavenly intelligence (Elder Andrew Jenson, January 16, 1891 as quoted in Collected Discourses, Brian H. Stuy, ed., 5 vols., 2).

So it is with us.  The Lord's voice
"...is a still, small, and whisper-like voice. It is one that is felt more than it is heard. It comes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and impressions. To hear such a voice, you must be still and quiet in your own soul, laying aside your excess laughter and light-mindedness. While it may not seem easy to so discipline your life, hearing the precious, loving voice of the Lord will sustain you in every circumstance and is therefore worth every effort" (Elder James J. Hamula, "Winning the War against Evil", October 2008 General Conference; also see 1 Kings 19:12; Helaman 5:30; 3 Nephi 11:1-7; D&C 85:6; D&C 88:69, 121).


The First Step in Hearing the Lord's Voice


One of the best pieces of advice I've read on how to "be still" is this, directly from the Savior:
"He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (JST Matt 10:34)
To truly be still (and access "God's Wavelength"), you must first get rid of all your worries, concerns, plans, etc.  Get rid of them ALL. Just...lose yourself!

Here are three previous blog posts which cast greater light on this concept:

An Invitation


Without delay, I invite you to seek not your own, but the Lord's voice in far greater abundance in your life.

The next time you're tempted to kneel and talk with the Lord, start by pushing all your thoughts out of the way.  After all, we sometimes see things more clearly by stepping away from them -- no matter if it's for a few minutes, hours, two and a half months or more.

Just "Empty Your Cup" until there's not a drop, not a particle, of your own thoughts (or worries or concerns) left.

Then wait until it is quiet, still and calm.

It is then, when you have basked in the strength that is silence, that you may begin to sense words, phrases, even sentences:
"Another manifestation of revelation is the unspoken word, a good illustration of which is given us by Enos. He says: '...while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying' (Enos 1:10). Then he tells us what the voice of the Lord put in his mind. This is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one's mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted." (Marion G. Romney, "Revelation", April 1964 General Conference, emphasis mine)
Then talk with Him -- as one person speaks with another -- about what He has said to you.

As you do so, you'll begin to realize something profound:

The Lord's "flight plan" of your life -- and the experiences you will have on that flight -- will (in most cases) surpass your own mortal expectations...

...which is the subject of my next post in this series.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

05. Walking and Talking with God, Part 4: Fearlessness

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the fifth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

Anciently, prophets of old would climb -- or be carried away by the Spirit to -- a tall mountain.  At the top, they would meet a heavenly being (often God) face-to-face, and speak with Him as one man speaks with another (Exodus 33:11).  Afterwards, they would descend, usually to circumstances that grossly contradicted the divine experiences they had just enjoyed at the top of the mountain.

So it is with you.

Christ constantly beckons you to ascend to the top of your beliefs, which is a belief in Him.  Yet once you do so, the instant you trust Christ, when you surrender a part of yourself (or maybe all of yourself) to Him, two simultaneous processes are put into motion:

First, you win.  Decisively.

Second, Satan escalates his game to pull you down from the top of the mountain.  It's a customized, personalized, well thought-out strategy which is:

  1. More subtle than you suppose (Alma 12:4),
  2. Based on millennia of experience and a knowledge of you which likely surpasses even your own knowledge of yourself, and 
  3. Implemented by some of Satan's most capable, results-oriented captains and generals who won't go down without a fight.

Thus, a new (or renewed) battle for your soul takes place.

Only, it needn't happen.

You can stay on the victor's podium.  You can disregard Satan's lies that say you don't deserve to stay there, and in so doing, you can render his tugs at you unproductive and useless, frustrating and futile.

Spiritual Root Cause Analysis


Root Cause Analysis
(RCA) is a method of problem solving that tries to identify the root causes of faults or problems. Instead of simply addressing the symptoms of a problem, RCA attempts to (1) identify the core cause of a problem, (2) correct it and (3) prevent recurrence of the problem.  Today, RCA is used to reduce the incidence of pain in medical patients or to determine why seeds don't germinate.  It was also used as part of the investigation into the Challenger space shuttle explosion.

So it is with spirituality.  When you experience a decrease in your spirituality, it may be helpful to employ a little RCA to determine the root cause of the fault or problem.  Luckily, we have some good insights on one such common fault or problem: fear.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)
The equation is clear: You can't be fearful and be on the Lord's side.  When you cease trusting in God, you disconnect yourself from His protective influence (which includes power, love and having a sound mind).

Without that love, you engender the spirit of fear (1 John 4:18; see below) -- for example, the fear of failure.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of letting go of control.  Fear of being alone.  Fear of abandonment.  Fear of discomfort.  Fear of missing out.  Fear that you’re not OK as you are or your life isn't OK as it is.  Fear that some ideal won’t come true.

This fear endows, empowers and enlivens the parasite of evil power.  Thus, it becomes apparent that fear is not the opposite of faith.  Instead, it is a form of faith -- just in the wrong power source.

In the midst of this "spiritual dissonance", the symptoms of fear can manifest in a number of recognizable ways: for example, impatience, insecurity, boastfulness and a lack of brotherly kindness.

Naturally, under those conditions, you begin to feel like you're losing control.  The more you seem to be losing control, the more you step up to take control.  Thus, a new, renewable energy source is created: pride.  From there, a multitude of destructive directions can be simultaneously pursued.

The Secret About Fear That Satan Doesn't Want You To Know


Saul feared that the people believed David was a better warrior than he.  He feared his position was threatened, and that David would be the next king.  To cope with his fears, Saul was full of pride, making increasing overtures to garner the affection and respect of the people while relying on his own skills and strengths in seeking to take David's life.

David’s response was the opposite: He didn't rely on himself or others.  He simply trusted in the Lord:
"The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)
"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6)
It was as if David's spirit was quoting this to him:
"Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants. Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come." (D&C 68:5-6)
Thus, as you trust the Lord, you actively demonstrate your love for Him.  Fear, and all its attendant symptoms, evaporate under the protective love of God.

A friend recently said,
"Fear & faith aren't opposites in the way we usually think.  It's not faith that casts fear from our hearts, but love.  A knowledge, first-hand and personal, of the love of God, is what casts out fear and gifts us faith in the Giver of that Good Gift."
Indeed,
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) 
"perfect love casteth out all fear" (Moroni 8:16)

An Invitation


Within minutes of saying "I will not cease to call upon God," Moses began to fear.  Here's how he overcame his fear:
"And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory." (Moses 1:20)
What I've found helpful: Whenever I feel myself becoming fearful, I calm down and empty my mind (see "kintsukuroi" or any post here regarding meditation).  Then I turn my thoughts to Christ.  I picture Him in my mind.  I remember His promises to me.  Then, I put Him to the test by inviting Him to assuage my fears.  I ask Him for a reminder of His love (see here for another example).

Receive the Lord, and the promise of His hope, and you'll win the battle.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Then (in the spirit of RCA point #3, above), you'll be far more capable in helping to create an environment which will repel fear and maintain the sweet, subtle influence of the Spirit...

...which is the topic of my next post in this series.



In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

...

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Monday, May 19, 2014

04. Walking and Talking with God, Part 3: Trust

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the fourth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

D&C 93:1 promises us that:
"Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;"
Note that "the Lord" beckons us to "obeyeth my voice".  Who's voice?  His.

To do that, you must first hear His voice.

In my previous two posts, we discussed doing just that: walking and talking with God.  It's been done by both man and woman alike since the beginning of recorded time.  And (as we are promised over and over again throughout the various dispensations), God is no respecter of persons; all the blessings and opportunities for spiritual experiences had by anyone, at any time, are offered to you, too.

Some have found it somewhat natural to carry on a dialogue with Jesus.  Among these people, some are truly hearing His voice, while others, regrettably, are hearing a counterfeit voice.

Yet it's been my experience that the vast majority of those who truly want to converse with Him find it difficult to do so, for a variety of reasons.  Some encounter futility.  After having tried to engage in a dialogue with Him for weeks, months or even years, yet finding no success, they sometimes throw up their hands in defeat.

I believe that Christ wants to converse with you -- in fact, He is perhaps more anxious to converse with you than you are with Him.

Why?

Why is it that some can hear His voice, and others can't or don't?  Why is it that two people can claim to hear His voice, yet one seeks to build up others while another seeks to assume even a molecular amount of power, authority or fame?

"I will call upon Your name"


I believe that in order to obey Christ's voice, you must first hear it -- clearly, unambiguously and unmistakably.

And before that happens, you must first put your trust in Him.

I invite you to listen to this song and to read it's lyrics.  Ponder the feelings that stir within you, and how the lyrics resonate within you.

Ponder how you can better trust in Him...even if it's with a mustard seed of faith.

If you are ready -- really ready -- to let His sovereign hand be your guide, without hesitation or reservation, then you're likely ready to take your first steps to hearing His voice.

Keep your eyes above the waves...

and your soul will rest in His embrace.


"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"
By Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine