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Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Best Books


When I'm in church, I'm taken by two things: First, how much time and effort some teachers invest in preparing their lessons. Second, just how little we uber-blessed, uber-smart Gentiles know Jesus Christ.

Sure, we have mountains of information about Jesus. James E. Talmage's landmark book, Jesus the Christ, is one of four non-scriptural books in the Missionary Reference LibraryElder Bruce R. McConkie's Messiah Series went into tremendous depth about the life of the Savior before, during and after His mortal ministry. In fact, we can access all these facts about Jesus -- and much, much more -- in the palm of our hands, without ever having to leave our beds.

Yet, as I have found through personal experience, it's one thing to know about the Savior, and quite another thing to actually know Him.

Many of those who are really learned, yet do not personally know Christ (not just "know about Christ"), are like a mouse on a wheel -- busily running like the dickens, but never really moving forward spiritually.

That's what I think Brother Joseph was trying to tell us when he said,
"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, page 345; see also Ether 12:39; emphasis mine).
"I am going to enquire after God; for I want you all to know him, and to be familiar with him" (History of the Church, 6:305; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 7, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton; emphasis mine).
"We must have 'a correct idea of his … perfections, and attributes' and an admiration for 'the excellency of [His] character.'” (Lectures on Faith (1985), p. 38, 42; emphasis mine).
Even Jesus declared, 
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.”(John 17:3; emphasis mine)
Now, go re-read these quotes carefully. Do you see the word "about" in any of them? No. Instead, I see:
  • "know for a certainty the character of God"
  • "know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another"
  • "I want you all to know him"
  • "[His] character"
  • "know thee the only true God.”
What point is both Jesus and Joseph trying to drive home? 


Know The Only True God


So, how do we know God's character? What should we be seeking, studying and doing if we ever want to converse with God as one man converses with another?

My advice: First, get informed.

Naturally, if we want to be better acquainted with God, we should turn to the scriptures! However, there are some nuances, some aspects of God which we may not be able to pick up on our own. Others' insights might be necessary. Perhaps that's why Christ told us,
"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)
What would you consider to be "the best books"?

Would such books have to written by General Authorities, BYU faculty and Seminaries and Institute employees? Must they be Mormon?

For the life of me, I can't see anywhere in that verse where the Lord gave specific, narrowing parameters as to what qualifies as "the best books."

But I'll bet you one thing: Whatever those books are, they'd almost assuredly help enhance your standing in the eternities. They would involve learning -- I mean, real studying -- and faith...stepping out into the darkness, with a hope that you're also taking a step closer to the Light.

In my last post, I mentioned studying books -- outside the official church curriculum -- which would help bring you closer to Christ. After reading the post, one astute reader emailed me and asked what I would consider to be some good non-curriculum books to read.

Fair question.

Last December, I posted here about three books most people don't read, but should: "The Lectures on Faith", "The Joseph Smith Translation (JST)" and the Book of Isaiah. You're smart -- and definitely blessed -- if you do read them. You're likely spiritually asleep and perhaps even condemned if you don't. Because they've been approved by Jesus Christ Himself, I recommend making these three books a higher priority than anything a mortal has written.

Still, I know some seek books which could help them develop a deeper, far more meaningful relationship with Christ.

So, below are some picks. My recommendations. No one has influenced these selections. No one has told me that it'd be good to promote them.

Instead, these books are about Christ's character. His personality. Once you know those aspects, it becomes much easier to know what to listen for, so that you may converse with Him as one man converses with another.

They have changed me, and will likely change you -- no matter what your faith is. They have inspired me to center my life on God, helped me better understand God and to have a more fulfilling relationship with Him.

Words of wisdom? Check. Learning? Check. Encourage you to study? Check. Help stimulate faith in God? Big time check. In fact, as I've asked God for opportunities to experentially learn what I've read in these books, He's over-delivered results, which have been far beyond my wildest dreams and anything I remotely deserve.

So, here are "The best [mortal-written] books", according to Mr. LDS Perfect Day...

Center Your Life on God
"The Divine Center" (Stephen R. Covey)


A personal story:

Many years ago (in what my kids would call "the prehistoric era"), I was attending college. It was the first day of Christmas break. All my roommates had gone home, and I stayed behind (my dorm apartment was a mile or two from my family). I was alone.

One late night, I walked from my work to my dorm apartment. When I arrived, I noticed a package in front of the front door. When I got inside and turned on the light, I noticed the package was for me. I hurriedly opened it. Inside was a book: "The Divine Center" by Covey. Inside the front book cover was a card. It said, "This book will change your life and your perspective of the Gospel. You'll take it around the world with you. Love, Dad"

The next morning, I thanked my dad for the book. He was genuinely confused about the book, and said he didn't buy it -- in fact, he'd never buy me a "Mormon Book" (he was pretty anti-Mormon at the time). He was practically insulted that I had insinuated that he would.

To this day, I have no proof as to who "Dad" was. But I can tell you this: That book did travel across the world with me -- a fact I couldn't have foretold when I received it. And no other book, save the scriptures themselves, has had as much an impact on my life, and my perspective of Christ's gospel, than The Divine Center.

The basic premise of it: All of us seek balance between family, friends, career, church, spirituality, activities and more. "The Divine Center" addresses the need, not just for balance, but for putting all of life into proper perspective by centering our thoughts, desires and actions on Jesus Christ. When you make Christ #1, everything else works out, leaving you with a greater amount of peace, inspiration and God's influence. Here's the official write-up:
"All of us at some point search for an organizing principle in life, one that is simple without being simplistic, that offers enduring direction. The book introduces, explains, and illuminates such a principle – centering one’s life on Christ. It examines twelve other "centers" and their effect on key dimensions of our lives: our security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Although those other perspectives offer some value, only the "divine center" meets all the tests. This powerful principle is given life by an inspiring presentation of "how-tos" –imaginative, thought-provoking explanations of the divine-centering process and steps necessary to achieve the goal."
Here are some "Divine Center" quotes I've used in my blog:
"We each see not with the eye but with the soul. Each person sees the world not as it is but as he or she is."
"Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties, a leaning into life not away from it."
"Once a person is true to the light he has received, he is then capable of receiving more light and obeying it. Until he is true to the light already given, additional light would only condemn him, for he is capable neither of understanding it nor appreciating it. Observing our covenants may not always be easy, and it may require sacrifice. The Lord said, 'Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice —- yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command —- they are accepted of me.' (D&C 97:8)"
"This means to see in your mind’s eye the characters and events portrayed in the scriptures. Such an empathetic effort will help you understand the situation that produced the teaching. Then you can relate that situation to yours and distill the universal principle that may apply in both.
When you visualize, you’re exercising faith. Visualizing is a powerful mental process, one of man’s unique endowments. Most of us neglect this power. Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Most of life’s battles are lost in this private phase."
"I believe that most of us horribly neglect this creative power within us. We live too much out of our memories, too little out of our imaginations. Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual (mental) creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Always begin with the end in mind. Most of life’s battles are really lost in private, not in public."
"Obedience to General Commandments schools and prepares us to discern and obey the 'Personal Commandments' given us by the spirit."
"Personal commandments are given by God through His Holy Spirit to His individual children. They are individualized, tailor-made to each individual in his or her particular situation. Personal commandments come in the form of practices or specific things to do, which are largely based upon general commandments."

Better Understand Christ's Personality
"Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus" (John Eldredge)


It's been my experience that quite a few people know about Christ, yet very few actually know Him.

As I stated on January 7, 2016,
"If you do not know Jesus as a person and His remarkable personality - His playful, irreverent, bold, forgiving, giving, anti-establishment, tender, fierce, witty, funny, sublimely confident personality - you have been cheated.
If you do not experience Jesus regularly, intimately, in any of these ways mentioned above - if you don't experience His comfort, His sense of humor, His eagerness to heal your brokenness, His over-enthusiasm to forgive you - you have been robbed."
You see, knowing about Christ -- yet not knowing Him (and His personality) -- is like trying to understand someone's vocal inflections via an e-mail. It's like trying to love a get-well card. It's like extrapolating color from a black-and-white movie or TV show.

It's that whole higher dimension that is one of the most important truths of the restoration: You can know Jesus Christ for yourself, independent of any other person. Just ask the Brother of Jared, Nephi or Joseph Smith what they were trying to get across in their writings.
"...God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them" (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, October 1969 General Conference; emphasis mine; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149).
Out of everything I have ever read, the one resource that effectively addresses Christ's personality is John Eldredge's book (or watch his YouTubes of) "Beautiful Outlaw". Here are the videos, in order:

Beautiful Outlaw


Overviewhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MG_J6J4GICU
Chapter 1: The Playfulness of Godhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmUK0-mwMsk
Chapter 2: The Missing Essential -- His Personalityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIZqExZGOUo
Chapter 3: Is Jesus Really Playful?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jaopP-8eSY
Chapter 4: Fierce Intentionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0J8umh8sls
Chapter 5: The Most Human Face of Allhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aFXDGAChPE
Chapter 6: Extravagant Generosityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHPiz6uoIhk
Chapter 7: Disruptive Honestyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUhnRzfqlso
Chapter 8: A Scandalous Freedomhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcKWMx_X1Y0
Chapter 9: Cunninghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mz2OoCCqwUI
Chapter 10: Humilityhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkuZHKwuM5Y
Chapter 11: Truenesshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqfW9NBbzxQ
Chapter 12: Beautifulhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh42R_MW-GM
Chapter 13: Loving Jesushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYfOblPC_q0
Chapter 14: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- With Youhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT5eqwjpEyQ
Chapter 15: Clearing Away the Religious Foghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9WfgpLFeFY
Chapter 16: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- Encountershttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z60dN2g94k
Chapter 17: Letting His Life Fill Yourshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tehcCQXuhLo
Epilogue: One Last Thoughthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJkguqEt7Ho

(Note: In Chapter 1, I understand how some might develop the perception that Eldredge disdains organized religion. I don't want to focus on that. It's clear that in the final analysis, we -- ourselves -- are the ones who allow false paradigms of Christ to take root within our souls. I do agree with him, though, that Satan has done a bang-up job of diverting mankind from knowing Christ in a far more meaningful way).

For more details, click here.


Better Understand the Beautiful Simplicity of Christ's Gospel
"Following the Light of Christ into His Presence" (John Pontius)


I think one person's review (who said this book is "the handbook we didn't get to bring to earth with us") put it best:

"All spiritual development rests on understanding the Light of Christ, our conscience, and then being deeply obedient to that light so that we gain more and more light and grow to have increased capacity to have greater spiritual experiences. If I could only have one book besides the scriptures, it would be this book."

I second almost all the Amazon reviews of this book.

Originally written in 2002, "Following the Light of Christ into His Presence" is the owner's manual we were sent to earth without.

Have you ever longed for a clear, precise, unambiguous description of the way to powerful righteousness? Have you ever wished an angel would appear beside your bed, as he did beside Joseph's and just plainly, sweetly describe the path, and what you need to do?

Revealed within "Following the Light of Christ into His Presence" is a mystery unveiled, a door opened. It reveals the key to receiving answers to your prayers, daily guidance, personal revelation, prophetic understanding, power in the priesthood, rebirth of the Spirit, calling and election, unspeakable joy, and much more.

When you've finished reading this book, you'll know much of what your soul has yearned for, and it will seem as if an angel truly did come and minister unto you.

Some may accuse me of being a little biased in my praise of this book, because John Pontius was -- and remains -- a dear, close friend of mine. But even if I didn't know him, I would still list this book on my list, because it brings to light simple ways to make personal revelation easy to recognize and implement it in your life.

With this book at your side, you'll be better prepared to prosper along your life's journey and accomplish the work the Lord has planned for you.

NOTE: John Pontius' Unblog website just posted a free download of the third book of his fictional Millennial Quest series. It's a great read!

Aim Higher. Reach Farther. Attain Greater
Various books and media by Avraham Gileadi, Ph.D.


"Isaiah is the most quoted of all the prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other Old Testament prophet. Likewise the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants quote from Isaiah more than from any other prophet." ("Isaiah", LDS Bible Dictionary, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/isaiah)

It's no wonder 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.
For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles." (3 Nephi 23:1-2)
Despite Isaiah's scriptural importance, I'm constantly astounded by many online who claim to be serious students of prophecy and the end times, or have a deep interest in it, yet they've never taken the Book of Isaiah seriously. It's amazing to see the discussions and even outright predictions made by some when it's very obvious they haven't read this most-quoted prophet.

I admit: Isaiah's deep and can't be read superficially. Searching it diligently requires uncommon dedication and focus.

To aid in this pursuit, you have the opportunity to read a lot of books about Isaiah, and what Isaiah says. While such books may be fascinating, their value is clearly subordinate to a clearer understanding of what Isaiah is actually saying.

Enter Avraham Gileadi.

Fluent in Hebrew, Gileadi worked with the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, and the Septuagint Version to provide a translation of the Book of Isaiah intelligible in English that remains true to the Hebrew. He used lexical tools constantly in order to catch every nuance of meaning in the original language, finishing his translation of Isaiah during his Ph.D. program at BYU.

Gileadi worked on the LDS edition of the Bible. He revised the Hebrew translation of the Book of Mormon for the Church's Translation Division. He completed his Ph.D. in Ancient Studies from Brigham Young University in 1981, under the supervision of Hugh Nibley.

In 2006, Analytical Commentary of Isaiah was published. It's an audio-based introduction to Isaiah's endtime prophecy as it analyzes the Book of Isaiah verse by verse, introducing the listener to Isaiah's endtime message embedded in a series of literary devices such as word links, keywords, and code names that reveal the deeper layers of Isaiah's prophecy. In 2013, Gileadi's Apocalyptic Commentary of the Book of Isaiah was published. It, too, contains a verse-by-verse literary analysis of the Book of Isaiah containing numerous cross references to other scriptural prophecies.

Again, I highly encourage you to not read about Isaiah, or what various well-meaning authors think Isaiah's talking about. Instead, better understand the Hebrew language which Isaiah used, the history and culture of Isaiah's time to better understand his words and accompanying context. Gileadi's devoted his life to this end. Is he perfect? Nope. But I have yet to see anybody with as much experience as he when it comes to understanding Isaiah.

You can:

  • Read his analysis of Isaiah, verse-by-verse, online for free here.
  • Order his books online here.
  • Download a FREE copy of the "The Book of Isaiah: New Translation" (as an e-book or downloadable MP3) here.


Better Understand the Interrelationship Between Our Behaviors with Others and God
"The Spiritual Roots of Human Relations" by Steven Covey

"For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil there is one striking at the root." —Henry David Thoreau
What are the roots of the problems we face in the world...even your life and your relationships with others?

According to Covey, these roots are moral and spiritual. And since the problems are rooted spiritually, the solutions are, too.

Published in 1970, The Spiritual Roots of Human Relations sets forth a bold statement: the way we treat others is indicative of how we treat God, and visa versa. It helps you to achieve personal growth from the inside-out, empowering you to improve your relationships with family, neighbors, co-workers and, ultimately, God.

For example: Covey writes about winning our private battles (like unrighteous aspirations, selfishness, perverse inclinations, touchiness, impatience, anger, impurities, procrastinating tendencies, sheer irresponsibility, lack of discipline) in our minds and in our hearts. Once we've done that, we're better able to win our public public battles (like temptations, pressures and stresses, the storms that descend upon our lives). "When we do this, staying in the presence of God our Father, we will have the strength from the light and life of the world-the Savior- to resist and to overcome.  Our spiritual roots will have grown out of Him naturally."

This situation mirrors something found in the scriptures: the spiritual creation precedes the physical creation -- a concept which Elder Bednar also agrees:
"In a similar way, meaningful morning prayer is an important element in the spiritual creation of each day—and precedes the temporal creation or the actual execution of the day. Just as the temporal creation was linked to and a continuation of the spiritual creation, so meaningful morning and evening prayers are linked to and are a continuation of each other. … Morning and evening prayers—and all of the prayers in between—are not unrelated, discrete events; rather, they are linked together each day and across days, weeks, months, and even years." (“Pray Always,” Ensign, November 2008, p. 41–42)
I think all of us have relationships in our lives which need improving. If you can't think of one, then consider your relationship with God as in need of improvement. Grab this book, read it, and integrate Covey's concepts into your life. You'll be glad you did.


The Best Books You'll Ever Read


Still, the best books I've ever read contain the actual words spoken by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When I read His words in the New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, I'm astounded by His sensitivity, His wisdom, His generosity, His non-judgmentalism, and of course His blatant defiance of Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes. And through it all, He always deflects the praise towards Father.
"How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.
Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.
My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end." (Psalm 119:103-114)
And unlike the aforementioned authors, He makes an astounding promise to those who cherish His words:
"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Sometimes God speaks to us through authors -- men and women with premortally-developed talents which God uses to bring about His purposes. Sometimes His words are heard and written by other mortals, which are later compiled and canonized as scripture. He also speaks words to you everyday.

Seek out His words. Cherish them. Live them.

We have no idea of the awesomeness of the blessings He holds in store for those who do.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Background Behind "The Parable of the Advanced Placement Student"



PLEASE MARK ANY OF THE BELOW WHICH APPLY TO YOU:


[  ] Do you enjoy studying the gospel beyond an official curriculum?

[  ] Are you sometimes caught enjoying a book on doctrine/the scriptures rather than playing video games or watching sports events?

[  ] Are you sometimes bummed that you don't know very many people to share your passion for enjoying a deeper, more profound relationship with God?

[  ] Do you sometimes think, "Wow, this is SUCH a cool doctrine! Too bad I can't share it at church!"?

[  ] OK, let's call it like it is: Do you sometimes feel like a freak or wierdo because one of your hobbies is learning about the mysteries of godliness?

If any of the above may apply to you, I invite you to read (or even better, listen to) "Well-Informed, Unquestioned Desire (aka The Parable of the Advanced Placement Student)".

Some background: I've had a few dreams which I felt could be shared on this blog. Even fewer were the dreams which were were deliberately, unmistakably intended for sharing on this blog.

"The Parable of the Advanced Placement Student" was one of those dreams.

Originally posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012, it's a story not only about me, but many of my friends -- those I already knew, those I ended up meeting, and (I suppose) more I have yet to meet.

I was tremendously blessed to have witnessed this story with my own (unconscious) eyes. Even today, my memory retains all the vividness of the dream as it did many years ago.

This post, and especially its accompanying podcast, is a very accurate retelling of my dream, down to the smallest detail and the song at the end.

I hope to it's as meaningful to you as it is to me.



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Do You Have Spiritual AIDS? Part 2 of 2: Rise Above the Selfishness of Seeking the Second Comforter



To the person wishing for their Second Comforter,


I'm thrilled that you're wanting this experience! It truly is a glorious doctrine. Words cannot express.

I'm grateful for all those, especially over the last decade or so, who've highlighted this supernal experience. I'm also grateful for those who've taken the gutsy move to share and testify -- often under great duress, which often happens when good is unleashed upon this world -- that it really can happen to those who feel like they're the least qualified to have this experience.

There's no doubt that the Lord counsels us to "seek his face" (D&C 101:37-38). The Lord reiterated this point in 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 27:8, Psalm 69:32, D&C 67:10 and D&C 93:1.

There's also no doubt the Lord knows your heart. He knows you want to see Him. And I'm pretty confident He's more excited to see you than you are to see Him. That's just how He is. He is so full of life, and light, and exuberance, and energy, and positivity, that those who've been with Him just never want Him to leave. It's a feeling you'll never have with anybody else in this life.

Yet, I know how frustrating it can be to pray, day after day, for this experience to happen, yet it never does. It can leave you wondering why the heavens are as brass, when you're honestly, sincerely, passionately obeying His word and going for the gold. You seek divinity, and all you get is doubt, discouragement and disappointment. All because you wanted to see Him.

I get those feelings. I totally understand. I felt your pain. For years.

I've looked high and low, read countless books and watched or listened to hundreds of talks, to better understand how to see Him. Believe me: If there's a short cut, I'd have found it.

So, I can't tell you why you haven't seen God yet. Nobody can. That's a conversation between you and the Holy Ghost, whose job is to bring your to Christ.

But I believe there are some things which we can do, based on Christ's own words, to improve the chances of seeing Him in this life.

So Long, Self


So, I'd like to ask a favor from you. I'd like you to try an experiment. A few bullet points:
  • This is not intended to be an "end all/be all" definitive method by which we can see the Lord. This is just one way we may qualify to see Him face in this life. It's just...something to think about/highly consider.
  • I know it may run contrary to perhaps everything you know -- or think you know -- about seeking Him. It will require more trust in Him than perhaps you've exercised ever since you started praying for your Second Comforter. But please...consider giving it an honest, sincere, heartfelt try.
OK, here's my recommendation:

Just quit asking for it. Stop efforting this whole "seeing Him" mindset.

First, understand that you can't make a personal visitation happen. And any spiritually mature human being recognizes the fact that God's timetable likely doesn't match your timetable. God is not a cosmic vending machine where you plink in your months or years of obedience and out comes a Second Comforter. That's transactional. He's transformative! Think about it.

Second, check your motives. Why do you want this experience? Is it because, in the final analysis, it's all about good 'ol you? Maybe to claim some degree of respect or legitimacy? Come on -- why do you want this experience? Is it because the Lord told us to seek His face, and you want to be obedient? Is it because He commanded us to? So how is this self-centeredness congruent with the terrestrial principles of Zion (Moses 7:18)? Do you think He's inclined to reward intentions which aren't even terrestrial in nature? (Click here to see why obedience alone can't and won't cut it, and why another doctrine -- which is more transformative, for yourself and others -- stands a far better chance of helping you to be more obedient).

So right now, this very instant, I invite you to put a screeching halt to the selfishness which frequently arises among those wishing this -- and other -- transcendent experiences.

Get back on the Savior's wavelength:
"He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39; see also Matthew 10:32–4116:24–28Mark 8:34–38Luke 9:23–2617:33).
And don't think for a second that the potential (for you to see Christ) will go away because you've stopped thinking about seeing Him. LOL He knows what you want far better than you do. True?

The Missing Key Most Often Fail to Turn in Seeking the Second Comforter


I'd like to invite you to go to Father and beg Him, plead with Him. I mean, approach the throne of grace with boldness! Pour out your whole soul to Him with passion and meaning and depth in wanting something else.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
"For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. 
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such." (Moroni 7:6,9)
Ask Him for experiences to help others...no matter if you're conscious or not when you're doing the helping. YOU be THE squeakiest wheel God ever encountered among those who wanted to help others.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48; emphasis mine)
[NOTE: That scripture doesn't say "if he shall appear" or "in the off-chance he appears". No! It says WHEN He shall appear.]

And to ensure you do the job right, ask Him to bless you with discernment (that you'll recognize the opportunity to help another when He gives it to you, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant it may be), charity (to do what He wants you to do or say), and the faith (to ask for more experiences).

Push the envelope. Have Him bless you with gifts you don't even know exist. Whatever arsenal of spiritual weapons He thinks you need, at any particular time, to be a walking, talking charity machine, demand it. Ask for it. Insist on it. In fact, expect it.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1:5-6)
Then be on the lookout. He may want you to smile and say hi to a stranger. Do it. He may want you to ask the gal at the supermarket checkout counter how her shift is going. Do it. He may want you to spend a few minutes cheering up a guy at work who seems just a bit...down. Do it. He may give you a name to pray for -- maybe even a name you've never heard. Do it ("intercessor" -- a person who intervenes on behalf of another, especially by prayer). Whatever He has you say or do at that particular moment -- do it.

Now, there will likely come a time when you need to balance this enthusiasm out. A friend of mine was once like this -- extremely focused on serving others. Not via a church calling, but because of his own desires to serve others. But at the same time, he was spending less and less time with his family. The Holy Ghost will not lead you into an unbalanced life.

There may also be an occasion when you failed to help someone when you should have. You blew an opportunity. That's OK. Look -- Moms and dads don't chastise their baby when she's taking her first steps and lands on her bum, right? No. They help her up and tell her she's such a big girl for trying, and that she can do it! And that look on their faces when she does get back up and takes another step? Yeah, your Heavenly Father and Mother are no different. So get back up off your bum, and take another step by asking for another opportunity.

And right after you've successfully helped another while on the Lord's errand, ask Him for another. Insist on it. Demand it.
"It is a time-honored adage that love begets love. Let us pour forth love—show forth our kindness unto all mankind, and the Lord will reward us with everlasting increase; cast our bread upon the waters and we shall receive it after many days, increased to a hundredfold" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:517).
Then, at the end of the day, thank Father for all the wonderful experiences He gave you. Thank Him for the failures. Thank Him for the successes. Tell Him you receive those experiences with whole heart and hand.

Repeat this process as frequently as possible...day in and day out.
"A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." (History of the Church, 4:227; from a letter from Joseph Smith to the Twelve, Dec. 15, 1840, Nauvoo, Illinois, published in Times and Seasons, Jan. 1, 1841, p. 258; this letter is incorrectly dated Oct. 19, 1840, in History of the Church)
"The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.241)
After a while (for many weeks or perhaps months), ask Him if you're getting closer to Christ.

My bet: you won't need to ask, because you'll know, deep down inside, that you ARE growing closer to Him. You'll know it. You'll feel it. You'll feel the frequency of faith vibrating your soul, hope coursing through your veins and charity your soul's sweetest desire.
"Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest." (Alma 13:29)
And because of that, you'll know that somehow, somewhere, He's growing closer to you.

Because you've become more like Him. And you're closer to Him in ways you never knew you could attain.

You sense that you and He are now working together as a partnership. You dialogue with Christ frequently about helping more and more people, and experimenting with and exercising new spiritual gifts that you didn't even know existed, so you can help these people (sometimes in miraculous ways).

You sense that you're not taking baby steps anymore.

And seeing Him?

Yeah, it'll happen. It. WILL. Happen.

Not because you tried forcing the issue with Father. Not because you felt you had to plead your case to Him every day. Not because you were the most eager student in the back of the classroom saying "Pick me! Pick me for the Second Comforter!"

No.

It's because you let it happen. Naturally. Because you focused not on yourself, but on feeding His sheep.

And along the way, you discovered you've grown up and matured in His gospel. You've cast aside the I / me / my pronouns in favor of she / he / them, or even better, we / us / our -- the pronouns of a person prepared for Zion.

You've spiritually evolved to knowing that seeking the Second Comforter never has been, isn't, and never will be about what YOU want.

It's about HIS will. And HIS will is that you feed HIS sheep with even more passion and determination than YOUR will to see Him.
"Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17; D&C 112:14)
And because you want what He wants, and do as He wants you to do, then someday, you'll discover that He's lifted you from the dirt and mud and filth of your prodigal status, into a son or daughter who is told, by Father Himself, with His celestially exalted hands on the top of your head, that you will inherit ALL that He has.
"Wherefore, seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall he added unto you" (JST, Matthew 6:38).
So tell me...

What are your favorite pronouns?


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do You Have Spiritual AIDS? Part 1 of 2: Daily Spiritual Experiences

Access Podcast

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed shortly after take-off at an airport in Romulus, Michigan en route to Phoenix, Arizona. 156 people died, including two on the ground, in what remains one of the deadliest air disasters in U.S. history.

On board the flight was the Cichan family: the father (Michael), mother (Paula), a six-year-old (David) and four-year-old Cecelia, who emerged as the sole survivor of the crash. She survived because in her mother's final moments, Paula wrapped herself around Cecilia, preventing her from the shock of the crash. (You can read more about this fascinating story here).

A Breathtaking Promise the Lord Has Made to You


Jesus Christ is no different. He's told you (potentially hundreds of times) just how He intends to wrap Himself around you in a spiritual sense, and protect you from the destructive forces of a telestial earth (which is figuratively moments away from crashing):

"that they may always have his Spirit to be with them"...(D&C 20:77)

"that they may have his Spirit to be with them"...(D&C 20:79)

Just think about these promises for a minute! You have the very real potential to not only have the Lord's spirit with you, but to ALWAYS have it with you!

(Now, I know that "the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man" [2 Nephi 26:11]. Even though there are times when we don't deserve the Spirit [because of sin], there are times when we haven't done anything wrong and still can't feel the spirit. After all, the Savior trod "the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God" [D&C 76:107]. Yet our Father was still with Him [John 16:32]. So, I look at it this way: When a parent is training their baby to walk, the parent will hold out their finger, which the baby will grasp as she takes a step or two. But after a while, the parent will remove their finger for just a bit, so the baby can develop confidence that they can still stand upright and walk. Even though the parent's finger may be gone, the parent hasn't gone anywhere. In my opinion, the Lord is very much like that with us. You...YOU are NEVER far away from his thoughts).

Lorenzo Snow said that it is the “grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint … to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives … [so] that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark” (in Conference Report, April 1899, 52).

Nephi taught this: “If ye will … receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5)

I believe that the Lord's spirit isn't a passive; it's an active thing. It's extrovertive, giving, loving, enlightening, intelligent, witty, forgiving, funny, consoling, sensitive, polite and so much more.

Here's how Elder Parley P. Pratt described it:
“The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. … It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.” (Key to the Science of Theology, 10th ed., Deseret Book Co., 1965, pp. 100–101.)
So, how often do you enjoy this sweet communion with God? How's that "always having His spirit" status going for you?

Time for a Reality Check


The truth is, none of us are doing a terrific job of enjoying His spirit with us.
"There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of God to signify to him His will, and to guide him and 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" (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 75). 
"The gift of the Holy Ghost truly is one of the greatest blessings available to members of the Church. Actually, many gifts can come from the Holy Ghost. These are needed in every age and dispensation but certainly no less in the commotion-filled last days of the last dispensation. They are likewise needed at every stage and in every situation of life. ... Yet, for different reasons, many of us live far below, or are unaware of, our privileges!" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship, pp. 92-93)
"Members of the Church have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but in many it lies dormant-somewhat like the ancients who had received the gift but knew it not (see 3 Nephi 9:20). (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ", Ensign, July 2002, p. 56)
Now, although I may not know you, I'd be willing to bet that you don't deliberately live your live so you can't or don't enjoy His spirit with you always. I certainly could stand a lot of improvement in that respect.

So why are we so alienated from God that even the mere thought of always having His spirit to be with us is met with at least a little disbelief and incredulity?

What are we doing or not doing? What do we need to fix, correct or rectify so we can feel Him more profoundly, more often, in our lives?

I've made this a matter of prayer for the last several weeks. The answers have been sobering and humbling.

Here are three possibilities:

1. Apathy (AKA complacency, indifference, disinterest)


Are we a peculiar people, or, well, kinda sorta peculiar in a non-offensive way?

Just WHAT do we stand for?

In 2000, Pres. Hinckley published his book, "Standing for Something". In it, he discussed 10 neglected virtues -- Love, Honesty, Morality, Civility, Learning, Forgiveness, Thrift and Industry, Gratitude, Optimism and Faith.

To be honest, I wonder about how we saints (not all, but many, of us) are doing in these various virtues.

In the last decade or so, I've seen good, God-fearing people develop exceptions to these virtues. Many hesitate to, or no longer, take a stand on morality because our opinions may hurt others' feelings. Learning has taken a back seat to sports, video games, streaming tv/movies and playing on our gas-powered toys. Many go to sleep without thanking God for all the wonderful blessings of the day. Most have yet to develop (let alone understand) faith like the Brother of Jared. And many discussions in online groups, Facebook and text messages are unbecoming of Christ's followers.

I rarely see people jump whole hog into discounting these virtues. Instead, they start with small exceptions which grow bigger with each successive justification. It seems as though the phrase, "First you fight it. Then you tolerate it. Then you accept it. Then you embrace it" is definitely applicable.

I don't see this passivity, this apathy, in everybody. But it's inherent in enough people that it's obvious that Satan pacifies and lulls away unwary Saints into a state of apathy, which allows him to lead them "carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21).

Just look around you. Many are generally satisfied and pacified with today's pre-Zion status. There is little genuine zeal for the true Zion, which many look upon as little more than an abstract concept, with little relevance for our time.

It's been my observation that a general spiritual apathy prevails amid passive, stagnant activity in which people attend church regularly, but don't become committed to an in-depth knowledge of the gospel, or the principle of learning by faith and revelation. Instead, most rely almost totally on the tedious "line upon line" method of digging it all out of books and manuals. Most just continually ruminate and re-digest the first principles of the gospel without ever growing into the more mature principles essential to being born again, receiving the baptism of fire, the more sure word of prophecy, etc. This pervasive state never results in excommunication, but it most certainly prevents true, meaningful spiritual growth and (likely, in my opinion) one's membership in the Church of the Firstborn.

Want proof? How many members have an in-depth knowledge of the Church of the Firstborn?
"For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13)
Want more proof? How many have -- or are -- studying Isaiah diligently (see 3 Nephi 23:1-2), which the Savior commanded the Nephites (and therefore, us) to do?

(It continually boggles my mind how some can be truly, sincerely dedicated to receiving further light and knowledge when they haven't even received what's already been given them, and thus, are unaware how severely they are doctrinally stumbling).

The Savior understood this situation well when He said,
"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear." (JST Matthew 13:13-18)
The consequence of this apathy?
"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)
Now, granted, I have no idea what it means to be spued out of the Lord's mouth. But I think I can say without too much argumentation that it isn't good. Surely,
"The peril of this century is spiritual apathy." (Elder David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1907, p. 62)
"The most dangerous threat of all comes from the disinterested-that great group of otherwise intelligent people who shrug off any responsibility for public affairs" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 628).

2. Ignorance


These days, it seems as if many -- if not most -- Latter-day Saints are:
  • Ignorant of the principles of meditation, which Pres. David O. McKay said is a key to entering the presence of God.
  • Ignorant of the principles of (and Lectures on) Faith, and what it takes to develop "Superfaith" which rends the veil between man and God.
  • Ignorant of the Book of Isaiah's importance, especially in light of headlines which even today are on the front page of newspapers and internet news sites.
  • Ignorant of spiritual gifts -- not only how to develop them, but also to realize what their current and potential gifts are.
  • Ignorant of what we Gentiles idolize and prioritize above God.
  • Ignorant of what God's really like -- His personality, His character traits. What makes Him laugh, what makes Him cry, what makes Him angry...even what it's like to carry on a conversation with Him.
  • Ignorant of how much Heavenly Father, Mother and Jesus wish to be part of their every day lives.
What's especially frustrating: I often hear of people who have lightly read something. But because they don't understand it, don't relate to it or the information isn't written by a church authority, they place it on the shelf of mysticism, apostasy, heresy, the devil, a previous dispensation or a future age. Instead of diligently studying, investigating and pondering a concept -- making an informed decision -- they give in to their pride (that their perspective is, of course, 100% correct) or fears (of what they don't understand), summarily stamp it as evil, throw it in the trash and tell others to do so, too.
"One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Joseph Smith, quoted in History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nded. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1949), 5:499.).
Make no mistake: untruths do grow alongside truths (see "False Prophecy 101"). And you are duty bound to ascertain the truth of the things you read. But how often do you pray for discernment prior to reading things? How well do you understand the dynamics and nuances of discernment? What experiences has the Lord sent you through to better understand discernment? Is there a chance, a possibility, that you may have inadvertently trashed something that will eventually be found as true?
"And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation." (D&C 93:31-32)
"Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst" (Isaiah 5:13).
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." (Hosea 4:6)
What must we do to not be counted among the ignorant? I can't and won't give you specifics, because that's someone else's job:
"Revelation, light, and knowledge come through the power of the Holy Ghost. The words of the Master as recorded in John are expressive. 'But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you' (John 14:26). And again, '… he [the Holy Ghost] will guide you into all truth … and [shall show] you things to come' (John 16:13). In fact, we can neither teach nor learn gospel truths without the Holy Ghost." (Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., "Ignorance Is Expensive", April, 1971 General Conference)

3. Distraction


1 Kings 19:12 says that when God spoke to Elijah, it wasn’t in an earthquake, wind or or fire; it was in a gentle whisper.

Moral of the story: If you want to hear God, be quiet.

Contrast that with the average daily American routine: We wake up, stressfully rush to and from school or work, rush our chores, rush dinner, watch TV/surf the internet/play video games, then rush to bed so fast and late, that we're often too tired for prayers. And Sundays? We (again, stressfully) rush to church, then rush to Sunday School, then rush to Priesthood/Relief Society, then rush home.

And all the while, your mind is often crowded with thoughts, worries, fears and plans. You may always have the radio or TV on, or the phone constantly against your ear or in your hands.

With all this, how can God possibly get through to us?

This may be why Elder Richard G. Scott observed, "Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction." ("First Things First," Ensign, May 2001, p. 7).
"Satan tempts us with alluring distractions, attitudes, and circumstances, which appear on the surface to be harmless; but as one partakes of them, the spirit slowly suffers, creating a weakened condition which can produce eventual alienation from God. Jesus told his disciples in ancient America to 'watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat' (3 Nephi 18:18)."  (Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., "Second Nephi: The Doctrinal Structure," p. 302).
The key, of course, is to take some time out of your day, every day, and meditate. Most people think meditation is thinking about something, like the scriptures. Ummm, that'd be wrong. That's pondering. When you meditate, you empty your proverbial cup, and let the Lord pour His spirit into you.
"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)
“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).
"I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways." (Psalm 119:15)

The Good News


When you place these three characteristics (Apathy, Ignorance and Distraction) side-by-side, you get an acronym: A I D.

I know discussing A I D is a downer. I get that. In fact, I personally relate with all of them. I, too, am frequently silent when I should be a passionate champion for these virtures. I am ignorant of so many important things. My time is too easily eroded by distractions which profit me little.

There is so much about the Savior I do not know. But I do know this: He is excited, overanxious, enthusiastic to forgive you of your sins. Are you apathetic? Ignorant? Distracted? He will literally and figuratively move heaven and earth so that those characteristics can be minimized and eventually eliminated.

Even then, with all that apathy, ignorance and distraction you have packed away within you, to any degree, Jesus Christ is still -- still! -- holding His hand out, pleading with you to invite Him into your life.

All you need to do is believe...and watch Him work magic in your life.

The Second Comforter: "Want To Take a Ride?"


Personally, I don't think anyone can be 100% non-apathetic, 100% non-ignorant and 100% undistracted.

Yet there are some who are passionate about seeking God and repenting often in order to stay close to Him. They "get" what a friend describes as "the stairway to becoming like Christ":
"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Because they are on this path, they've been inspired to seek for, search for, yearn for, one of the greatest blessings one can have in this life: A personal audience with the Savior Himself. Although such a blessing is not unattainable, they experience frustration, discouragement, disappointment and even doubt when months and years of effort bear little or no fruit.

Why?

I'm sure every person's situation is different. Maybe they're not quite ready to pay the price that needs to be paid for such a blessing. Maybe they have some aspect of 2 Peter 1:5-7 or D&C 93:1 that needs to be addressed. Maybe they're still stuck within layers and layers of doctrinal boxes.

Personally, I think a huge reason why they haven't had their Second Comforter yet is because they still struggle with the fourth and last letter in the A I D acronym -- "S".

Now, I won't tell you what "S" is yet; I'll do that in my next blog post. But I can say that overcoming S takes considerable effort, but with the Savior's help, it's much easier. By casting aside S, you break free of the spiritual tricycle many (if not most) are accustomed to, and engage hyperdrive right smack dab into a collaborative, engaged, lively and definitely exciting partnership with the Master himself.

If you're one of those seeking the Second Comforter, or just want to hear His voice, and wondering why the heck the heavens are brass when you feel you're doing everything possible in going for the gold, there may be some light in the darkness.

In the immortal words of one of my favorite fictional characters, "Contact" (the movie's) S.R. Hadden, "Want to take a ride?"

Go find your hyperdrive seatbelt.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Background Behind "Why the Word 'Kintsukuroi' Means So Much To You"

Access Podcast

NOTE: As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been wanting to publish podcasts of some of the more significant posts done here on LDS Perfect Day. Through the generous, volunteering spirit and talents of a friend, here's the first one. I'll continue to podcast new posts; she'll be voicing the podcasts of past posts.

Background:

When I published "Why the Word 'Kintsukuroi' Means So Much To You" on December 28, 2013, I had no idea it would become one of the most popular posts of this blog.

All of us are broken vessels before God. Yet when you invite Christ into your life, He replaces your brokenness with a sense of beauty, honor and self-worth you'd never be able to obtain for yourself.

One of the things that motivated me to publish "Kintsukuroi" was a dream I had many years ago. In it, I witnessed what I believe was the woman caught in adultery, as narrated in the New Testament. She was ashamed, sad, and scared at the circumstances she found herself in. Yet when Christ entered the scene, His presence was such a stark contrast with those of others, who were primed and ready to stone her to death. His love overruled their judgmentalism. His peace superseded their violent dispositions. His gentleness, his profound compassion, made idiots of the dudes holding rocks.

It's my prayer that all of us can better recognize the rocks in our hands. If your "inside information" about another is disparaging in any way, shape or form, then highly consider just dropping your rock...right where you stand. Drop it. Instead, do as the Savior did...with gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and kindness (see D&C 121:41-42).

I testify that this is the Jesus Christ I know. Not "I believe"....not "hope for"...but know.

He is not only a real being, but also the Prince of Peace, the God of Love...and the Savior of Broken Things, who is -- if anything -- overly anxious to turn the brokenness of your life into living kintsukuroi.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

False Prophecy 101

Spiritual Polonium-210 Poisoning


In November 1998, Alexander Litvinenko was a Russian FSB secret service agent who specialized in tackling organized crime (according to US diplomats, it was Litvinenko who coined the phrase "Mafia state").

It was then that Litvinenko and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. He and his family were later forced to flee to England, where they were granted asylum. There, he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for the British intelligence services and as a strong critic of the Kremlin.

On November 1, 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. He died three weeks later as the first known victim of lethal Polonium 210-induced acute radiation syndrome. A year-long public inquiry concluded in January 2016 that Litvinenko's murder was an FSB operation, which was likely personally approved by Vladimir Putin.

The inquiry found that Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned after he inadvertently drank tea where traces of polonium-210 were discovered.

This is where YOU come in.

Even though the symptoms of Litvinenko's poisoning were highly visible, I highly suspect all of us -- including you -- have frequently ingested spiritual Polonium-210. It also takes a while to wreak havoc on us, and is just as lethal to us in a spiritual sense. By the time you discover you've been poisoned, it's too late.

Want to see if you're a victim of spiritual Polonium-210 poisoning?

Keep reading...

Because there must be "opposition in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11), 

“Truth and untruth travel together side by side. Light and darkness both offer themselves to the seeker after truth, one to bless, the other to destroy mankind. Whenever a man sets out to seek truth, he will for a time be overtaken by evil. No seeker after truth is, therefore, ever free from temptation, from evil powers." (John A. Widtsoe, “The Significance of the First Vision,” Fourth Annual Joseph Smith Memorial Sermon, Logan Institute of Religion, December 8, 1946, 2)
As we are taught over and over that we'll "know them by their fruits" (3 Nephi 14:15-20), spotting true prophecies from untrue ones ought to be pretty easy. Actually, it's not.

For 2,000 years, mankind has dabbled in eschatology -- the study of the last days.

So far, we've done a bang-up job at predicting Christ's return. You can see a chart of public predictions (aka "fruits") here. Some examples -- like "The Great Disappointment" and the followers of "Marian Keech" -- are better known.

Now, for the past year, I've read some extraordinary prophecies. For example:
Some might say that these prophesied events were turned around at the last minute because God changed his mind. I highly doubt that (see Numbers 23:19).
“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Mormon 9:9)
"The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. (Elder L. Tom Perry, “Obedience to Law Is Liberty”, April 2013 General Conference)
Others could speculate that believers' prayers prevented bad things from happening. I'm a huge believer in prayer, and its ability to turn the hopeless into hopeful, the sick to healthy and dead to life. While I believe this is possible, I think we need to be extremely careful in ascribing divine intervention at all times and in all cases. If God were a God of just happy endings, then Adam and Eve would never have been expelled from Eden, the flood wouldn't have immersed the earth, Christ and the apostles wouldn't have been tortured and killed, Brother Joseph would have died at an old age and nobody would have died in the trek across the plains.

Personally, I believe two other possibilities may be in play, to varying degrees:

1. The supposed prophecy was false from the get-go.
"Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world and also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you." (D&C 50:2-3)
2. The supposed prophecy was true, but the mortal pronouncing the prophecy misinterpreted it. Even in our finest moments, we tend to conflate our perceptions with truth.

Even Joseph said that "considering all supernatural manifestations to be of God" was a "common error" (TPJS, p. 210). If it was common in his time, I'd bet it must be epidemic today.

Just because you fell for a false prophecy doesn't mean you're a bad person. Not at all. You can still be one of the few "humble followers of Christ", yet still err because you were taught by the precepts of men (2 Nephi 28:14), which are often mingled with scripture.

Still, if you "hearken" to the "precepts of men", you're denying "the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:26) And that's a problem.

It's your responsibility, your obligation, to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

The Solution


The Lord has told us how we can endure the tribulations of the last days:
"For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day." (D&C 45:57)
Or, put formulaically,

1. You're wise and received the truth
2. Taken the Holy Spirit for your guide
3. Avoided deception
= You shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire
= Shall abide the day

Truly,
"And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived" (JST Matthew 1:37)
Understand That You're Being Tested
"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)
Indeed, we need to remember what (the admittedly fictitious) Albus Dumbledore once said:
"The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution."
Evaluate Who's Getting Your Attention

I'd like to invite you to close your eyes, and imagine Him in Gethsemene, 2,000 years ago.

He's all alone. His friends consider him crazy. His siblings don't believe him. His closest confidants are asleep. His Father had forsaken Him.

Put yourself back then, in that time and place.

Would you, also, forsake Him?

I'm fairly confident you wouldn't.

If that's true, then why do so many -- perhaps even yourself -- neglect His word? Why do we place the words of other mortals above His?
"O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" (D&C 43:24 and more)
As I've mentioned before, you need to take a stand as to who's books receive greater attention in your life. If you want to demote the scriptures behind some book about somebody else's purported vision/near death experience, then OK, you've made your choice:
"because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess. 2:10-11)
And just what is the lie? That you'll be OK, just fine, because you took some supposed shortcut to knowledge and put somebody else's book ahead of God's.
"Remember these sayings: The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within themselves. If you do not have the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, how can you stand?" (Statement by Heber C. Kimball in Whitney, Orson F. Life of Heber C. Kimball. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979. 449-451)
Scriptures

What's the best way to tank a nation's economy? Flood it with counterfeits.

What's the best way to invalidate true prophecy? Flood it with counterfeits.
"Satan is a skillful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine. Beware of his spurious currency, it will purchase for you nothing but disappointment, misery and spiritual death." (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 376.)
"False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:364)
It's said that Ruth (Mrs. Billy Graham) was once at a grand dinner party in London, England. There, she was seated next to the former head of Scotland Yard. In conversation, she suggested,
"You must spend a lot of time handling counterfeit money to know what it looks like," said Ruth.  
The man replied. "On the contrary, Mrs. Graham, I spend all of my time studying the genuine thing. That way, when I saw a counterfeit, I could immediately detect it" (Dannah Gresh, "Pursuing the Pearl: The Quest for a Pure, Passionate Marriage"; emphasis mine).
And just what is the "genuine thing"? Pres. Harold B, Lee said:
“We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures, and wherever you have an illustration in the scriptures or a revelation in the Book of Mormon, use it, and do not draw from other sources where you can find it here in these books. We call these the standard Church works because they are standard. If you want to measure truth, measure it by the four standard Church works. … If it is not in the standard works, you may well assume that it is speculation. It is man’s own personal opinion, to put it another way; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, you may know by that same token that it is not true. This is the standard by which you measure all truth. But if you do not know the standards, you have no adequate measure of truth.” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 148–49; emphasis mine)
President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
"If we will put them [the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants] into practice, if we will keep the commandments of the Lord, we will know the truth and there shall be no weapon formed against us that shall prosper. There shall be no false doctrines, no teaching of men that will deceive us. … If we will search these revelations then we will be fortified against errors and we will be made strong" (Oct. 1931 General Conference; emphasis mine).
President Ezra Taft Benson expressed these thoughts:
"However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life." ("The Power of the Word", April 1986 General Conference)
Look what happened when the Sons of Mosiah took this counsel to heart. They
"waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God." (Alma 17:2)
You'll likely go nuts trying to keep up with the latest heresies and counterfeit teachings people spread in this world. But if you spend time "studying the genuine thing", if you familiarize yourself with the Word of God and become conversant with it, you'll immediately recognize counterfeit teachings. You'll know what God's Word truly says and what it doesn't say.

Prayer

While God can reveal to us the truth of all things, what He will reveal to us is limited by how well we have listened and obeyed (hearkened) to the things he has given us in the past. Joseph Smith stated,
"We cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256; emphasis mine).
Once we have received these words of God, we can go to God and ask Him if they are true.
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:4-5)
Asking for Greater Discernment

Just because you've studied and prayed doesn't mean the job's done. Quite contrary, it's only the beginning.

You need to be praying for the Gift of Discernment. Daily.
"Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;" (D&C 46:8)
“… Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least." (Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 162–63)
"Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice. 
The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears and feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine." (Elder David A. Bednar, "Quick to Observe", devotional address given at Brigham Young University on May 10, 2005)

A Reality Check


Someday soon, we will see many prophesied events happen before before our very eyes -- economic collapses, assassinations, earthquakes, floods, mobocracy, war, drought and worse (D&C 87:6).

During those times, you'll likely find yourself wondering -- while in a state of panic or high anxiety -- "What's happening?" "What do I do?" "Where do I go?" "Who has the answers?"
"And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.
And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.
And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.
And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another." (D&C 45:26-33)
If you think church leaders will tell you exactly what's going to happen, and when, think again. Members were never, ever told when the American Civil War, World War I, the Stock Market Crash, World War II and 9/11 would happen.

So, what's expected of you?

First, tell me real quick: who do you think the Lord will call on to build Zion -- hearers or doers of His word?
“...you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are the children, youth, and adults we serve acting and seeking to learn by faith, or are they waiting to be taught and acted upon?" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith", Liahona, September 2007)
Second, don't rely on the "arm of flesh" to tell you what to do and when to do it. Instead, develop the ability to listen to the Spirit -- the Lord's voice:
"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not." (Matthew 25:10-11 JST; emphasis mine)
In the final analysis, you can choose to be prepared or not. If you do decide to be prepared, you have another choice -- seek out and get the facts from other mortals (which, in all honesty, really don't have a stellar track record) or prioritize the Lord and His word.

I strongly suspect that when you can demonstrate to God that you've been earnestly striving to receive His word, He's more likely to bless you with more -- and more personalized -- revelation.

You've been taught.

You've been warned.

What you do -- now -- is up to you.

An Invitation


Just some background: I'm usually pretty hesitant promoting lists on my blog. We LDS love our lists and love to check things off. Why not consult the Holy Ghost and ask Him what you should do (2 Nephi 32:5)?

Yet, I really want you to understand the value of turning to God's word to better understand prophecy...to understand what’s up in the future...in fact, our near future. So, here's a very simple exercise to get you going:

  1. Grab a notepad and pen, or Microsoft Word/Google Docs.
  2. Open up 1 Nephi 13. Read chapters 13 and 14.
  3. Write/type down, on the left-hand side of your blank document, a summary of every verse in chapter 13 and 14, in sequential order.
  4. Now read 3 Nephi 21
  5. Write/type down, on the right-hand side of your blank document, a summary of every verse in chapter 21, in sequential order.
  6. Now look at the two columns. See how they might interrelate.
  7. Go to Father. Tell Him what you read and what you discovered. Ask Him to fine-tune your notes, and to give you better perspective on what you’ve gathered so far.
  8. Give the Holy Ghost time to weigh in. 
  9. Then, when you feel it’s time to move on to another passage of scripture, make a third column of information which can be intermeshed with the first two columns. Then after your third column is completed, consider adding more and more columns (from other sources). Here are a few possibilities for your third and subsequent columns:
D&C Section 77

D&C Section 112

D&C Section 133
Isaiah 
The Book of Revelation
Jeremiah

Ezekiel

Daniel

And Finally...A Request!


I'm anxious to hear how your research project (based on the above invitation) went!

What did you learn?

Has this exercise motivated you to turn to the scriptures and discover what events are literally right around the corner?

Please email me or send an anonymous message via the Contact page. I look forward to hearing -- and learning -- from you!

Praise be to the Lord, for His goodness and mercy in telling us what will happen in the very near future.

Without Him, I am lost, I am vain, I am blind.

Lord, I will never be the same...

...without you.