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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 3: Try this when you can't hear God


"I can do it myself! I'm a big kid now."

Have you ever watched a two year-old begin to experience independence? "I can do it myself" and "I'm a big kid now" are pretty frequent phrases as they learn to put on their own clothes, go potty and feed themselves.

So it is with us grown-ups. We've fine-tuned and perfected "I can do it myself" and "I'm a big kid now". True, we may not say them, but we certainly think and do it our way. All. The. Time.
"Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way."
(Frank Sinatra, 1969)
And so we tend to live life on our terms. We may do things which drive the Spirit away, or don't do things which would invite the Spirit. Pretty soon, we're no longer tuned into K-GOD, but static. Even worse: We may be totally unaware that we've tuned God out, or allowed counterfeit signals (which are easily heard and always ego boosting!) to take over.
"...why counsel ye yourselves, and deny the God of heaven?" (Moses 6:43)
Then eventually, when life throws a challenge "our way", we may pray to God that He bless OUR efforts with success. Then when OUR way doesn't work out, we pray and ask what the deal is. When we receive no answers, we get frustrated and even a little faithless.
"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, "The Voice is Still Small", October 1991 General Conference).
All because we were determined to do it OUR way.

Why Christ wants you to say "So Long" to yourself


A story is told of the devil meeting a Christian. Satan said, "You say, 'I'm a servant of God.' What do you do that I don't? You say that you fast; so do I. I neither eat nor drink." After listening to a long list of Christian things that Satan did, the Christian said, "I do one thing you don't: I deny myself." The Christian's wisdom on that very point beat the arguments of Satan.

So it is with you. If you want to experience the divine, you must first practice self denial. When you approach God and abandon self-idolatry and self-prioritization, you're casting away any other gods in your life. You're truly living the First Commandment.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
When you deny all the ungodly things (including you) before God, when you make God a higher priority in your life than you, you receive His grace:
"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)
Look at some of the words and phrases in Moroni 10:32: "come unto Christ"..."deny yourselves"..."love God"..."grace sufficient for you"..."perfect in Christ"..."the power of God".

This is so exciting! You approach God and take no thought of yourself. In return, God blesses you with sufficient grace and an infusion of power into your life -- a better life than the one "big kid" you is able to envision. And even better, it's actually do-able!
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9:24)
"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)

Enthusiastically embrace THE strategy to "...pass into the presence of the Lord"


President David O. McKay gives us some sound advice how to lose and deny ourselves in a truly meaningful, powerful way: meditation.
“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).
Now, regarding President McKay's comments, I seriously doubt he was spotlighting the kind of meditation where one is chanting words, while rocking back and forth, with incense gently wafting in the background.

The scriptures contain no royal road, no step-by-step instruction sheet, which tell you how to come unto Christ while denying yourself through meditation. There are, however, some key concepts scattered throughout the scriptures which, when interconnected, make a lot of sense. Because I've blogged about these concepts in the past, here are some (colored text) links for you:

1. Understand what meditation is, and how it differs from pondering. The two are quite different, yet can be interrelated.

2. Start pondering the already-revealed word of God. Go here and here to better understand what it takes to tune into God, and here to help your pondering evolve into meditation.

3. Empty your cup! This is, far and away, the most crucial action item for effective meditation, because it helps you be still and know God (Psalms 46:10).
"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments." (Helaman 10:4; emphasis mine)
4. Find your own, personal Sacred Grove -- a place where you can consistently, clearly hear God's responses to you. A friend of mine who has ADD told me that she really struggles to hear God in quiet places. The channels of her mind keep switching! However, when she goes walking through her neighborhood, she hears God a lot better. Another possibility: Go to where you can listen to God's symphony -- the birds that sing, the wind rustling in the leaves, the trickle of water. One does not necessarily need to visit the temple in order to escape the telestial and embrace the divine. The bottom line: Experiment! Seek out the places where you can consistently hear Him, then return there. Often. Click here to read a testimonial of this concept.

5. Find a still time. Perhaps walking through the neighborhood or spending time in nature doesn't do it for you. That's OK. Maybe the key is to wait for a quiet time, in your own home. For example: if you have little ones, it's while they're taking a nap or away at school. Maybe it's before anybody in the house is awake, or in the evening while they're asleep (this is what works best for me). Again, experiment. Discover the time that works best for you.

6. Calm your body. Staying in that best place and time makes it a whole lot easier to get yourself into a peaceful state.

7. Calm your mind. Once you're in that best place and time, and have calmed your body, you're now better able to calm your mind. Cast away any thoughts about you and your life. Just flick them away, one by one. Empty your cup!

8. Once your cup is empty, wait for inspiration from the Lord.
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him..." (Psalms 37:7)
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: 'Be still, and know that I am God.' (Psalms 46:10; emphasis mine) And the promise, 'You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.'" (D&C 36:2; emphasis mine). (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 21).
Sometimes, I may feel myself pulled or motivated to say something to God. More often than not, it's via expressing gratitude. Thanking Father for this moment with Him. For life. For my family and friends. And most importantly, for His Son. When I begin contemplating these blessings, sometimes the Spirit takes over and places words in my head which I then utter. And invariably, I receive a response.
"And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire." (3 Nephi 19:24; emphasis mine)
9. Understand how inspiration will come.
"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).
"...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; emphasis mine).
10. Give all of this some time. Don't rush into things, and don't expect things to go "from zero to 60" overnight.
"How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!"
"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:295–96; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to Edward Partridge and the Church, Mar. 20, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri; parts of this letter were later included in the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 121, 122, and 123; emphasis mine).
"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"; emphasis mine)
What we leave behind in our lives may help someone else find the way.

OK, now it's your turn!


Something tells me that you -- yep that's you! -- have had some experiences that have helped you better hear and experience God. What have you done that's worked? Please (personally or anonymously) share your insights in the comments below.

After all, you never know...

"What we leave behind in our lives may help someone else find the way."

2 comments:

  1. I am just recently trying to learn this language. Thank you for your posts and thank you for the reassurance that it takes time and lots of practice.

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  2. I pray and ask the Lord what he would want me to know today. Please speak to me though your scriptures. THen I open the scriptures and read what is on those pages. Because I know a message is there for me. I find that many messages come to me during the quiet early morning hours. When I am in the celestial room after going thru the veil I make sure I sit and bear my testimony to the person I just did the work. Then I open the scriptures on the table next to me and ask the Lord what he would want me to know. I always put my name on the scripture.

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