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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alignment, Part 3 of 6: Penetrate the Veil

In a previous post, I highlighted a quote from one latter-day church president who said "Men do not know how to approach God" and another church president who provided some clues regarding "the proper way" to approach Him.

1. Kneel


How do we best approach God?

A good policy of mine: when in doubt, emulate the Master's example (emphasis is mine):
"And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed" (Luke 22:41) 
"And it came to pass that when they had knelt upon the ground, Jesus groaned within himself, and said: Father, I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel.
And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him." (3 Nephi 17:14-15)
One more thought: Some of the greatest truths, some of the most profound interactions I have ever had with God have been on my knees. And I have no doubt that if the Lord were to appear before me, or anyone, we would quickly (almost instinctively) find ourselves on our knees.

2. Meditate


Take a look at Luke 22:41 (above) one more time. Do you see what He did? When He prayed, He withdrew from everybody. He wanted to be in seclusion, in solitude, with only one person: His Father.

The "frequency" of the Spirit is both still, soft, small and subtle (Psalms 46:10; 1 Kings 19:11-13; D&C 85:6). To effectively "tune in" to such a state, we must rid ourselves of any and all distractions. And the best way to do that is to meditate.

I've written extensively on this blog about meditation being a key step in approaching God (click here, then select "Meditation" to read relevant meditation posts). President David O. McKay said:
"I think we pay too little attention to the value of meditation, a principle of devotion.
In our worship there are two elements: one is spiritual communion rising from our own meditation; the other instruction from others, particularly from those who have authority to guide and instruct us. Of the two, the more profitable introspectively is meditation.
Meditation is one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord." (Pres. David O. McKay, "Consciousness of God: Supreme Goal of Life," Improvement Era, June 1967, pp. 80-82; emphasis mine).
Even Pres. Monson stated,
"In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation-even thoughts of timeless truths?" (Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "The Race of Life," April 2012 General Conference)
Contrary to commonly-held beliefs, meditation doesn't involve focusing on something. It's just the opposite; you empty yourself of all the cares and concerns, worries and wonders of life.

When you set aside anything and everything that has to do with mortality, all you're left with is immortality.

3. Descend


The more we move away from mortality, and towards immortality, the closer we get to God. And the closer we get to God, the more we feel (then know) that we are nothing - so much so, that we are compelled to physically reflect such a feeling.

In Moses 1:1-8, Moses literally lifted above the mortal and into the immortal. Then something very paradoxical happened:
"And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1:9-10; emphasis mine)
In Part 1 of this "Alignment" mini-series, I detailed how prayer (in the past) involved assuming a posture of unquestionable obeisance: with faces to the dirt, and heads subservient to hearts.

This is an eternal principle echoed across the Standard Works:

  • "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11)
  • "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18:14)
  • "He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted." (D&C 101:42)
  • "Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted; therefore, all thy sins are forgiven thee." (D&C 112:3)
  • "Let him therefore abase himself that he may be exalted. Even so. Amen." (D&C 124:114)

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; here).
Enos was an absolutely fantastic example of approaching God with deep, profound humility:
"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens." (Enos 1:4)
My goodness! Look at that humility! Look at that endurance! In my (humble) opinion, the reverberations from Enos' prayer must have shaken the heavens with such force, that God had to respond. And boy, did He:
"And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed." (Enos 1:5)
Of course, the ultimate exemplar of humility is Jesus Christ. He was born in the lowliest of circumstances, associated with sinners and the sick, was despised, betrayed and ultimately killed. He "descended below all things" by suffering every individual act of frustration, sadness and pain ever experienced in the history of earth. This enabled him to not only comprehend "all things," but also to rise above all things so that he would know how to help us rise above our daily difficulties (D&C 88:6; see also D&C 122:8 and here).

Now, let's bring this to you:
"As the unredeemed soul, even a guiltless one, closes the gap between himself and his Maker, he perceives the contrast as so overwhelmingly great that he is sorely tempted to shrink back, to give up the quest. Those who will not be redeemed do shrink, overcome by fear of this encounter (e.g., the Israelites in Exodus 20:18-21); but those who are determined to be redeemed press boldly on, and, exercising mighty faith, penetrate the veil, and receive the transformation they so desire." (M. Catherine Thomas, "The Brother of Jared at the Veil" in "Temples of the Ancient World" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1994, p. 392, emphasis mine; to download, click here).
THAT, in a nutshell, is how you do it.


 4. Upraised Hands


I used the word "paradoxical" above because it's very appropriate when discussing aligning with God. The scriptures are replete with examples of those who, after approaching God in the humblest of positions, then raised their faces from the dirt and, like a small child reaching for help from a parent, upraised their hands to God.

In Part 2 of this alignment mini-series, you read scores of scriptures where the faithful called upon God with their hands uplifted to heaven.
"I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." (1 Timothy 2:8; emphasis mine)
Yet two questions regarding upraised hands emerge:

A. Did supplicants pray with upraised hands while kneeling or standing? In some scriptures (like 1 Kings 8:22-23) and historical accounts (as detailed by Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 73-79), supplicants stood. In Ezra 9:5 and 1 Kings 8:54, they knelt. In 2 Chronicles 6:12-14, they stood, then knelt. After researching this topic for months, I found that for every historical anecdote of praying with upraised hands while standing, another equally valid anecdote emerges for doing so while kneeling. Therefore, it may have been left to the Spirit to dictate whether prayers were offered standing or kneeling. Quite possibly because (according to the scriptures) the Savior consistently knelt in prayer, kneeling may have been the preferential choice.

B. Were the hands thrust straight up, or at right angles? When one reached their hands straight above them, it was symbolic of submission or surrender -- natural positions when one is humble. (Understanding Isaiah, Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson, p.16).

Yet others raised their hands with their arms at 90-degree angles (like this:  |_o_|   ), a posture resembling a carpenter's square. This was documented in an image from the church's archives of a sacrament meeting in Ephraim, Utah's tabernacle in the early 1870s. There, three mature men are officiating at the sacrament table, with the "acting priest" blessing the sacrament with uplifted hands (see William G. Hartley, "From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 22 No, 1, 1996, p. 95). Facsimile No. 2, Figure 7, in the Book of Abraham, also shows an upraised hand at a right angle (although the person is not praying). So, like the above question, equally valid cases could be made for those upraising their hands straight or at right angles…and again, the Spirit was probably the best arbiter of which position was appropriate in a given situation.



In this post, we linked (1) Kneeling, (2) Meditating, (3) Descending and (4) Upraised hands in prayer. This may have been the sequence of steps - as detailed in the scriptures and historical accounts - which ordinary people, just like you, took to approach God.

And you know what?

It worked.

In my next post, we'll explore what people did after they employed the four steps above....and effectively approached God.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for compiling all this great information. I had not read Rabbi Nachman before. His descent before ascent sounds very much like Gileadi's teachings. (Isaiah Decoded) I found a link to one of Rabbi Nachman's books that has the quote you used: http://www.breslovbooks.com/pdf/english-pamphlet-the-light.pdf

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    1. Thanks, Deila! I updated the post with the link.

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  2. Wow!!!! Again I am humbled, motivated, and inspired! BTW the M. Catherine Thomas link isn't working. I would love to read her chapter.

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    1. Thanks for the heads up! The link is now fixed.

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