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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Best Books

One of the greatest blessings that God has bestowed on us today are books.   For many centuries, powerful people banned the printing and dissemination of books.  Many lost their lives for nothing more than reading books.  We've got it good.

In fact, we have it better than "good", because there are many books available today which give us terrific insights into drawing closer to the Lord in truly magnificent ways.

So, with that in mind, I have an invitation for you...

The Best Books in Your Life


From now through Sunday, April 6, feel free to share with us what books (other than the scriptures) you'd recommend to LDS Perfect Day visitors which could help us better understand about, and grow closer to, Jesus Christ.

All I ask is that you [1] be specific and [2] tell us why you're recommending the book or books.  Give as much detail as you'd like.  Tell us how it's impacted you, and brought you closer to Christ.  Then close with your name and e-mail address (if you're comfortable sharing them; if not, that's fine, too).

Click the "Contact The Perfect Day" menu button -- or click here -- to submit your recommendations.

I'll post the results that next week on a permanent page on this blog.

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

22. Spiritual Land Mine #8: The Missing Link to Seeing the Lord

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 22nd examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Summarizing the Spiritual Landmines


In past posts, we've seen that in genuinely calling upon Christ ("calleth on my name"; D&C 93:1), we face a multiplicity of challenges:

1. We assume our timing, not the Lord's, in seeking greater spiritual experiences.
2. We make excuses for trusting in the arm of flesh.
3. We encourage or accept adulation.
4. We build a second residence in Babylon.
5. We seek knowledge while neglecting weightier matters.
6. We're too easily distracted from God's will for us.
7. We believe in -- but not believe -- Christ.

As you work on resolving all those tendencies, you begin to realize one inescapable conclusion: In the final analysis, it's just you and Christ.

We find ourselves with faces turned downwards as we look upon the idols we've had (and may still have) in our lives.  We look upon what we've believed was right, but in our own eyes.  We look upon mistake after mistake through tear-drenched eyes, and wonder -- really wonder -- if we are even worthy to beg for His forgiveness, let alone if it's even appropriate to seek His face.

We are desperate for His hand.  We're reaching out, hoping He will reach back to us.



A New Hope


This is the final "Spiritual Land Mine" -- the eighth one in the series.  Eight has typically been considered symbolic of "new beginnings":
  • There were eight people on Noah's Ark.
  • Male infants are circumcised on the 8th day.
  • Lehi's family soujurned eight years in the wilderness.
  • Alma and his people fled for eight days from King Noah.
  • The Jaredites came across the water in eight vessels.
  • Children are baptized at age 8.
Perhaps the greatest "new beginning" one can hope for in this life is to see a fulfillment of D&C 93:1 in their lives: to see the Lord's face and know -- independent of anyone past or present -- that the He lives.

Such people move through life, sometimes cautiously and sometimes carelessly implementing the guidelines specified by the Lord in D&C 93:1.  They may try and try for weeks, months and years to do what they believe is necessary to see Him.

Undoubtedly, their words and behaviors catch Satan's attention.  So he successfully implants thoughts like "It's taking too long," "Christ doesn't want to see me as much as I want to see Him," "I'm just too ________ to see Him" and more phrases into their spirits.

In many cases, Satan's efforts succeed in downgrading, degrading and diminishing their chances of ever seeing Christ.  While a few are able to continue this spiritual endurance run, many give up under the weight of Satan's crushing, relentless attacks.

Seeing the Lord in this life was never meant to be a cakewalk.

But it was never meant to be a hopeless endeavor, too.

If you truly seek His face, then the Lord has some good news for you: He's embedded into the scriptures a little-known strategy which will give you tremendous hope as you seek His face.

Brother of Jared Pattern Before He Saw God


As we know, God works according to eternal, predictable patterns.  Know the pattern, and you know the truth and can therefore avoid deception (D&C 52:14).

One pattern that the Lord provides us (pertaining to seeing Him) is found in the story of the Brother of Jared:

Dialogue The Lord "came down and talked" with the Brother of Jared without revealing himself (Ether 2:4).
Instruct The Lord gave the Brother of Jared (and his party) instructions (Ether 2:5).
Obey He and his party obey the Lord (Ether 2:6-13).

Dialogue "the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared" and "talked with him" (Ether 2:14).
Instruct The Lord gives the Brother of Jared more instructions (Ether 2:15-16).
Obey He and his party obey the Lord (Ether 2:16-17).

Dialogue He asks questions of and receives answers from the Lord without seeing him (Ether 2:18-25).
Instruct Although no instructions are written in the account, it's obvious the Brother of Jared heeds promptings to...
Obey Molten 16 small stones (Ether 3:1).

Dialogue He again approaches God with "exceeding faith" (Ether 3:1-5).
Unveiling "the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord" (Ether 3:6)

The pattern here is clear: The Brother of Jared dialogued with the Lord on several occasions before he saw the Lord.  Think about it.

(Isn't it interesting how in Ether 2:4 and 2:14, it was the Lord who started the dialogue.  That’s a very real thing, and a shining example of Christ's personality.  More on that in an upcoming post).

Now let's look at the last half of D&C 93:1, in light of the above pattern:

Dialogue "calleth on my name"
Instruct (It's logical to assume that in dialoguing with God, you will receive instructions, which must be obeyed in the next step)
Obey "obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments"
Unveiling "shall see my face and know that I am"

The Divine Dialogue

"We read the scriptures and have complete faith that the Brother of Jared (or any other righteous figure) truly experienced the profound blessings, visions, revelations, and angelic visitations they record. And, even though the same prophet records that God is no respecter of persons, and liberally grants the same blessings to all who righteously seek them, we believe that the scriptures are largely for our education, and not a prototype of our personal spiritual potential. We may conclude that such things do not happen in this day, or if they do, they would happen to someone more highly placed, or more obedient. We thereby doubt -- not God's power, which is a byproduct of our faith -- but we doubt His will, to grant us a place within His promises. Such doubt is by definition, unbelief.  In other words, we extinguish the fire of faith with the cold rains of unbelief." (John Pontius, “Journey to the Veil”, Terri Pontius, ed., 2013).
If you want to see God face-to-face, then you are going to be dialoguing with the Lord way before you see Him.  And more than likely, it will not be just once or three times a day, but ALL day -- the literal fulfillment and fulness being known as "walking and talking with God."

This is a crucial step in our progress through D&C 93:1, for as Brother Joseph aptly stated,
"It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another."  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).
Conversing with him “as one man converses with another” is a very real thing that not just the prophets of old, but also we too can do, for
“God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
It's also a blessed thing, for you are believing Him, without seeing Him (yet).
“blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

“...to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another"


Because "all things must be done in order" (Mosiah 4:27), we must start with "square one" (the first principle of the Gospel) in our quest to walk and talk with God.

In upcoming posts, you’ll learn new insights into “the Character of God” -- insights that are very real, yet hardly (if ever) explored in-depth.

With that knowledge as a foundation, you’ll know who and what to listen for, as you find -- like the Brother of Jared did -- that the Lord is eager and anxious to come down and converse with you as one person converses with another.

Monday, March 3, 2014

21. Spiritual Land Mine #7: Believing -- and not just believing in -- Jesus Christ (Part 3 of 3)

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 21st examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Two posts ago, I explained how there's a difference between "believing in Christ" and "believing Christ".  In my last post, I described how we often don't believe Christ by neglecting the seemingly little things in life (which the Spirit would have us do) as well as the macro-truths of life (like embracing the Atonement).

To continue from my last post...

Don't Focus Upwards
"Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people, those who are committed to a worthy, righteous life, who want to do good and intend to make the most of this life.  His tool is distraction.   He has an extensive array of undeniably good things that are used to keep us from doing the essential ones.  Have you noticed that when you begin to focus on something truly important, something of eternal significance, there often come thoughts of other good things to distract you?  Satan promotes distraction.  He would have good people fill life with 'good things' so there is no room for the 'essential ones.'  Have you unconsciously  been caught in that trap?" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy" [2007], p. 10-11).
A few years ago, I interacted on an online forum that was dedicated to discussing and learning about future, pre-millennial events.  Over time, people joined the forum and contended with those who didn't perfectly agree with their opinions.  The contention led to unapologetic (even group-spurred) rumor-mongering, false witnessing, name calling, judgment and a noticeable, then profound, loss of the spirit on the forum.  It's only gotten worse over the years.

While it's noble (in my opinion) to want to prepare for the future, it's not cool to do so at the expense of more pressing, immediate needs -- like meekness, understanding, charity, persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned (D&C 121:41). I may be wrong, but I don't think I'm too far out of line by saying that those who expect to be with Christ should probably check and make sure their beliefs and actions -- especially toward others -- reflect those expectations. Otherwise, you're just fooling yourself.

So it is with those who seek the greatest, most profound blessings in this life, like having your calling and election made sure or having one's second comforter experience.  While these are righteous desires, some have ended up neglecting or skipping past other important responsibilities -- for example, spending time with one's spouse, family or the scriptures, or seeking to help those less fortunate.

Thus, I believe we can miss much in our journey in life by placing too much focus on the future or on profound spiritual events without an appropriate attention on the present.

And ohhhhhh the things that we miss (more on that in my next Spiritual Land Mine)!

Just Look Straight Ahead

Go re-read the story of the Brother of Jared.  Now, when I read it, I see a man who was focused on one thing: getting light into the barges he was commanded to build.  He wasn't focused on seeing the finger of the Lord, let alone the Lord in all His glory.  I believe those events were a result of his orientation in life. His (daily) focus determined his (eventual) future.

Maybe the best (and perhaps only) way to experience the fulness of what the Lord is offering you is to be a modern-day brother (or sister) of Jared.  Be hopeful and mindful of the future, while focused on the here and now:
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34).
As you heed the Savior's counsel, you demonstrate that you believe Him.  Consequently, over time, other miracles -- maybe a more profound knowledge of the future, kneeling in His presence or hearing that your calling and election has been made sure -- stand a greater likelihood of happening.

God already knows your desires.

What He's waiting to see is if you'll handle what He throws at you...today.

A Secret Weapon to Conquering the Challenges of Today
(Which You've Probably Never Read About on the Internet)


The signs that follow them that believe -- both in the little challenges of the day, as well as universal concepts, like the Atonement -- are both manifold and profound (Mark 16:17).  And, we are told, anyone who believes what the apostles believed will receive the same gifts they enjoyed, will perform the same miracles, and will do the same works. "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (John 14:12).

One of those gifts or miracles is something which I don't think I've read about on any other Latter-day Saint oriented blog (and believe me, I read a lot of them).  Yet none of them (that I've seen) have EVER mentioned what I consider to be a secret weapon in overcoming the challenges of today.  In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say that it is

A MISSING LINK IN MOST PEOPLE'S QUEST TO SEE THE LORD IN THIS LIFE

If you're interested in this missing link, then I invite you to hearken to God's clarion call for you to leave your comfort zone.

Imagine beyond your current reality.

Embrace the impossible.

Hope for the incredible.

Take that initial step of faith.

Dare to believe.

Disregard those distractions, no matter how flashy they will be.

Keep your eyes on Him.  And someday, your eyes will be looking at Him.

And you'll be ready to place your foot on the water...and experience a true miracle in your life.

More details about this missing link in the next (and last) Spiritual Landmine...