Are you a first-timer to LDS Perfect Day! If so, welcome!
Click here to see what this blog is all about and how you can get the most out of it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Gift of Discernment Part 1: Are You Sure You're Truly Aligned With Christ?



We live in an era when wrong is right, down is up, evil is good, dark is light.

To discover the truth, we turn to our best informational resource: the internet. There, the truth is most often elusive, as falsehoods are guised as authoritative fact. It's not unusual to have to wade through a hundred false, fake "facts" to find a possible nugget of golden information.

We also find:
  • Traditional sources of truth, the media, evading their responsibilities to investigate the truth and report it objectively. Our response: We keep listening to and watching them.
  • Long-time, trusted sources of truth having to recant and retract their widely-promulgated stories and statements. Our response: We ignore their missteps, only to see them arise again at another time and place.
  • Even those we love, our friends and family, are prone to forward emails with stories which seem true, but aren't. Our response: We don't ask the sender to correct their mistake; we just delete the emails.
  • Common idols which have unabashedly eroded spirituality for millennia.  Our response: We openly, enthusiastically promote them at nearly every turn, while we simultaneously condemn others who extol other idols.
  • Teachings passed off as doctrinal "truths", having no scriptural basis whatsoever. Our response: We believe them, and proselytize them as God's own words.
  • We create excuses to ignore and minimize some our most important latter-day scriptures, for which we stand condemned by God. Our response: We ignore said condemnation, and consider ourselves blessed, enlightened and true.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Inevitably, as we either embrace untruths or don't stand up for the truth, we unknowingly merrily march through the morass of muddied misinformation. We degrade our discernment. We acclimate our spirits to the normalcy of mediocrity at best, and falsehood at worst. We get used to the static, and not the Spirit, signaling our souls.

And even in those times when we've strayed off-course, we ask God to "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way." Then we wonder why God isn't answering our prayers because -- in our heart of hearts -- "we've done nothing wrong".

I believe that in a lot of cases, the cruddy, frustrating, even heartbreaking circumstances we often find ourselves in -- and begging God to help us out of -- are due to our own persistent, consistent, tireless stupidity.

Spiritual Exceptionalism


Case in point: In the last several weeks and months, I've been heartbroken as I've seen many of my friends entering into affairs. I've seen two types:

Emotional Affairs: These begin innocently at first, with two grown adults just being friends and wanting to be helpful to one another. Then the friendship seeks to fill voids in the adults' marital relationships. As time progresses, the interactions become increasingly private, with both parties increasingly complaining about their current spouse, and seeking unfulfilled relationship aspects with their friend. All the while, they view their association as innocent, wholesome and even sanctioned by God. Yet from the outside, it's clearly inappropriate, misaligned with God and perhaps even an erosion of ones' commitment to temple covenants. Invariably, marriages are rocked to their core at best, and nuked at worst.

Spiritual Affairs: Affairs not only emerge between two people, but also a group of people. Despite their stated humility, these groups find commonality in their belief that they are more knowledgeable of the gospel than others, more conversant in deeper doctrines and more spiritually evolved than others. Just as beguiling as the Garden of Eden's fruit, they feel, in their heart of hearts, that they are aligned with God, enlightened by God and blessed beyond measure. Like those in emotional affairs, their deliberations are often secretive. Yet from the outside, it's plainly obvious that their doctrinal beliefs are not based on anything found in the scriptures. They may also believe that by virtue of their association in these groups, they will be spared the worst of forthcoming calamities and called upon by God for special future missions.

What do both of these affairs have in common? Many things. Notably, they're both conducted (to a certain extent) in secret. Thus, "when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved..." (D&C 121:37)

They're also based on exceptionalism, where one believes that they're not only "different from the norm", but that are also special or better than everyone else.
"They think their time is more precious than the rest of ours, so they deliberately show up at meetings 10 minutes late to avoid having to wait for anyone else. They park their Hummer in the compact spot because it’s closer to the office, and they blame building management for putting in too few regular spaces. They always eat the doughnuts but never bring them. Transgressions can grow over time. Embezzlement, insider trading and sexual harassment are not uncommon for people with these personality types. But they can justify anything to themselves on the basis of their own exceptionalism. They see themselves as special people and feel that they can’t be judged by our rules." (Paul Glen, "The Scourge of Personal Exceptionalism", Managing Self, Sept. 13, 2010)
They often believe that they are exceptions not only to rules, but also some doctrines, too, which are meant for “regular” or less-enlightened people.

This brings up an interesting point: Could God command you to do one thing, and command another to do something else -- perhaps even the complete opposite?

Yes and no.

The Unchanging Changeableness of God


For generations, we've been taught that God doesn't change, and that what was truth to Him long ago remains truth today.

"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 9:9-10)

If this is the case, then why do we read:

  • In Exodus 35:2 that we should kill anyone -- including doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, military, air traffic controllers, pilots -- who works on the Sabbath?
  • In Leviticus 11:7-8 that we shouldn't touch the flesh of dead pigs? Does this invalidate football? Does this mean Cougar Football -- not to mention all those little league and community football games for kids -- are an abomination in the sight of God? Is wearing gloves the solution?
  • In Leviticus 25:44 that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us? Does this apply to both Canada and Mexico?
  • In Leviticus 21:18-19 that I should avoid anyone with a mole, birthmark, blindness, disability, a flat nose, dwarfism, or cataracts?
  • In Leviticus 19:27 that men who cut their hair are condemned before God? Does this mean that bald men are spiritually beautiful?
  • In Leviticus 19:19 -- and Deuteronomy 22:11 -- that my wife is condemned for wearing a garment mingled of linen and wool? Does Leviticus 24:14 mean that my ward should stone her? 
  • In Leviticus 20:13, that we should put to death all homosexuals?

On top of all of that, in Matthew 5:17, we understand that the Law of Moses was neither revoked nor repealed, but fulfilled.

Because it's doubtful the Lord would be pleased with any of the above laws being enforced today, how do we make sense of these scriptural differences? (Keep reading for an explanation).

What's Right for You May Not Be Right for Me


You and I are at different levels and places in our spiritual progression. We differ in our spiritual gifts, the trials we face, the experiences we have and the knowledge we obtain. We also differ in the personal commandments God gives to us.
"God does love each of you, He is aware of you, and each of you has a customized curriculum in life. There is divine design in your life, better appreciated perhaps even you look back than when looking forward." (Neal A. Maxwell, "The Challenge of Selfishness", University of Utah)
This means that you and I may be tasked with different responsibilities and expectations at any given time. For example, God may prompt you to work on family history, whereas He may prompt me to work on this blog. You bake cookies for the invalid woman in the ward, and I'm prompted to visit a good brother in the ward who's in the hospital. You're prompted to pursue the Gift of Charity, and I'm prompted to pursue the Gift of Faith. In such a scenario, are you doing the wrong thing? Am I? I don't think so, because both of us are hearkening to the Spirit.

In that case, then why do we see some who are prompted to abandon certain gospel truths and pursue other teachings, perhaps in another church or organization? How is it that they who are traveling a different path may be reading the scriptures, praying and repenting more than they did when they were aligned with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ? Why do they "feel the Spirit" when they listen to a leader or teacher whose teachings aren't congruent with the gospel, as well as the doctrines and teachings revealed through Brother Joseph?
"Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 33, p. 573).

There Are No Easy Answers Here


So, what may be right for you might not be right for me, and visa-versa. In fact, what may be right and proper for one generation (like the Levitical) may be wrong for another (today) (see 3 Nephi 15; Alma 34:13-14 and here).

Judgmentalism often surfaces when people become aware of these differences in others, and oppose them as being incongruent with what God has taught them. To justify this judgmentalism, we often point to historical records (which are often unreliable), the scriptures (or shall I say, our own interpretation -- or misinterpretation -- of them), or our own personal revelation (which can also be misinterpreted). And, although I mean no disrespect whatsoever, even Pres. Uchtdorf admitted in General Conference an inconvenient truth most members would rather not contemplate: We are all fallible. We are all imperfect. Not every utterance, from every General Authority, is the mind and will of God.
"And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us-His imperfect children-and imperfect people make mistakes." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Come, Join with Us", October 2013 General Conference)
"The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: 'Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been' (Ether 12:6)." (Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Trial of Your Faith” October 2012 General Conference).
So if we can't ascribe infallibility to historical accounts, scriptural, revelatory or ecclesiastical interpretation, how do we avoid deception?

The Beginning of Discernment


Are there some truths which transcend our personal commandments, which are applicable to all mankind?

In searching for an answer to that question, I recently turned to a friend who used to be an investigative journalist. Last week, I asked him about discernment. His answer was illuminating. He said that on his first day of journalism school, his professor (who was a dead-ringer for Kenny Rogers) said something to the effect of, "As a journalist, you're going to hear a lot of falsehoods, and very few (if any) truths. You're going to have to work harder than anyone else to obtain those truths. You'll need to be more persistent, dig deeper, look broader and question more. In fact, you'll need to question everything. As you do this, the truth will begin to appear as dots of facts, which your investigations have begun to connect", the professor said. "To be blunt, if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Likewise, when it comes to embracing doctrinal truths, we can't just passively sit there and think God's going to bestow us with profound insight just because we asked for it (see D&C 9:7). You need to work for it. You need to persistently dig deeper, look broader and question more so you force the dots of truth to emerge, thereby enabling you to better connect the dots. Maybe a dot will come from the scriptures. Maybe a leader or teacher. Maybe your own personal revelation. But the dots of truth will be congruent and synonymous. Here's what the Lord said about this strategy:
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)
"Search the scriptures -- search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God: nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you." (Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 11)
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
"And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.
And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.
And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.
Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens." (D&C 52:14-19)
In other words, when we prayerfully search the scriptures, we can learn truths straight from God, independent of anyone or anything else. We'll also know when others are aligned with the truth by the fruits they bring forth.

When There Are No Dots to Connect


Yet often, the truths we seek may not be clearly delineated in sources we have before us. The words of God's true representatives may be silent on a subject. Historical accounts may be incomplete, or may not make much sense. We may find ourselves without many, perhaps any, dots to connect. Additionally, God told us that there would be times like these:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” (D&C 58:26)
This is a particularly vulnerable time, because there are no easy answers, and likely no immediately forthcoming answers at all, no matter how hard you dig.

Additionally, Satan will do his level best to distract you. As an expert theologian, he'll teach you many truths. He'll show you signs, wonders and miracles, all in a concerted, well-planned and executed attack to fully justify your stepping off the yellow brick road of truth.

You're a Citizen of Which Government?


So, let's recap what we've examined so far:
  • Our society is overrun with untruths, for which we Latter-day Saints may deserve some measure of blame.
  • Many embrace exceptions to gospel truths, often in secret.
  • God's commandments are immovable and applicable to the whole of humanity, but His personal commandments (which are rooted in general commandments) may differ from person to person.
  • We justify participation -- or rejection -- of these personal commandments based on historical accounts, scriptural, revelatory or ecclesiastical interpretation -- all of which have the potential to be "off".
  • The Lord gave us a pattern that we may not be deceived.
  • Even so, Satan will throw every trick in the book at us to knock us off the divine course.
You see, today, there are two spiritual governments which function on the earth: One of light and one of darkness. One of salvation, the other of damnation. One presided by God, the other presided by Satan.

Both of these governments are vying for our souls, and both offer us three gifts. One offers faith, discernment and charity. The other offers fear, judgmentalism and self-sufficiency.

As I've already spent the last year and a half discussing the Gift of Faith, I'm now moving on to the Gift of Discernment. I think as we proceed, it'll become increasingly obvious that the fulcrum, the deciding factor that determines which government you're a citizen of, depends entirely upon your passion, your allegiance, to one of these two governments.

To be realistic, all of us, no matter who we are, from the least of us to the greatest, have one foot in one government's realm, and the other in the other government's realm. All of us are unprofitable servants, yet all of us are children of the Most High God.

Constantly and consistently exercising discernment is a real challenge. We probably fail at discernment more often than we succeed. Still, I know two things:

1. No matter how many times you fall, Christ will be there, right beside you, offering His hand -- NOT His judgment -- to help you back up and succeed.

2. If knowledge is power, then divine knowledge of discernment must be tremendously powerful.

That's why, in the coming weeks and months, you'll learn:

  • What the Gift of Discernment is, how to seek it and obtain it.
  • About true and false signs, of dreams and visions, which are dispensed by both governments and are designed to either uplift or deceive the very elect.
  • About gifts and anti-gifts (or curses), which can be used to enhance or hinder not only your life, but also the lives of others.
  • About how your everyday choices and behaviors may exhibit a deficiency in your discernment, and what you can do about it.
  • What gifts lie beyond the Gift of Discernment.

Have I written these blog posts yet? Nope. But I know they are coming up. And I'm just as excited to read and learn from them as I hope you are as well.

Strap in your seatbelt. Let's pursue the Gift of Discernment!
“… 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)


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lectures on Faith 7: "By Their Fruits"


It's one of the most astounding events ever recorded in scripture. Shortly after Christ's post-resurrected ascension, 120 followers of Christ (including the Twelve Apostles) gathered in an upper room, or Cenacle, in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:2-4) Peter also stood up, and prophesied (Acts 2:14-40). That day, about 3,000 people were converted to Christ (Acts 2:41).

Due in no small part to word-of-mouth marketing catalyzed at Pentecost, Jerusalem was "filled" with Christianity within a few weeks or months of the church's formation (Acts 5:28). Christianity then spread throughout the region of Judea, then the nation of Samaria, then the continent of Asia (Acts 19:10) -- all within two years' time.

A similar event happened on March 27, 1836, at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple:
"George A. Smith arose and began to prophesy, when a noise was heard like the sound of a rushing mighty wind, which filled the Temple, and all the congregation simultaneously arose, being moved upon by an invisible power; many began to speak in tongues and prophesy; others saw glorious visions; and I beheld the Temple was filled with angels, which fact I declared to the congregation. The people of the neighborhood came running together (hearing an unusual sound within, and seeing a bright light like a pillar of fire resting upon the Temple), and were astonished at what was taking place" (History of the Church 2:428).
Two years earlier, at the church's first meeting on Tuesday, April 6, 1830,
"The Holy Ghost was poured out upon the whole community . . . in a miraculous manner.... Some prophecied, [sic] many spoke with new tongues, and some . . . of our number were . . . completely overpowered for a time, that we were obliged to lay them upon beds &c &c, and when bodily sensibility was restored to them they shouted Hosanas to God and the Lamb—& declared that the Heavens had been opened unto them . . . that they had seen Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and many great and glorious things." (Joseph Smith, as quoted by Dean C. Jessee, "The Papers of Joseph Smith. Volume 1: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989),  p. 243).
As Christians, we believe signs follow them that believe:
"And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;" (Mormon 9:24)
"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17-18). 
In referencing this scripture, Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated,
"when men believe the true word of the gospel, then God begins to manifest his power in their lives. They begin to enjoy the gifts of the Spirit, to work miracles, and to have those spiritual experiences which always and everlastingly attend true believers." ("Our Gospel Came Not Unto You in Word Only...", October 1968 General Conference).
In also referencing Mark 16:17, Pres. John Taylor asked,
"What signs? Why, the sick were to be healed, the lame were to be made to walk, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear, and the poor were to have the Gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:5; Luke 7:22)" ("Pretensions of the Saints, JD 23:368).
Note that the Lord did not say these signs would precede, be a guide or testimony to us to prove in advance that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said that they "follow" those that believe.
"But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe" (D&C 63:9

Let's fast forward to today.


Do we see these signs in existence today? Are the lame walking? Are the blind seeing? Are the deaf hearing? Do we see the gift of tongues, and interpretation of tongues? Do we see prophesying? Do we see glorious visions? Do we see angels? Do we see the Heavens being opened? Do people see Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high?

If we're truly honest with ourselves, we must admit that collectively, as a people, we do not see these gifts evidenced as outwardly and conspicuously as they were on Pentecost AD 1 or AD 1836.

I believe God would be thrilled to see more Pentecosts in our lives, both individually and collectively. I'm sure He well remembers how rapidly the early Christian church grew immediately after the first Pentecost. Thus, because God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Mormon 9:9), I don't think that it's God's fault that we don't see these signs anymore.
"And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust" (Mormon 9:20)
"...for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain" (Moroni 7:37)
If we have faith, there will be signs. There will be the gifts of the Spirit. There will be the ministering of angels and the working of miracles. But if there are no signs, there is no faith.

So, not seeing any signs, what do many church members do to fill this gap, this deficiency of publicly-manifested gifts? They seek out those who have supposedly experienced them.

For example: Look at the ever-increasing number of false prophecies. Church members have publicly prophesied that -- by now, September, 2017 -- we should have seen massive earthquakes in Utah and California, call-outs, economic collapse, presidential assassination, civil war, plagues, wars and nuclear attacks. Instead of running away from these false prophets, hundreds -- even thousands -- of church members ignore their false prophecies by paying money to buy these false prophets' books, attend their lectures, workshops, seminars and conventions, and heartily applaud their keynote addresses.
"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24).
“When men come out and build upon other men’s foundations, they do it on their own responsibility, without authority from God; and when the floods come and the winds blow, their foundations will be found to be sand, and their whole fabric will crumble to dust." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:479; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 16, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Thomas Bullock; see also appendix, page 562, item 3)
"And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 32-33 JST)
Personally, I believe that God still grants true believers the opportunity to exercise these gifts on a limited basis. God will still interact with the believing, the faithful, the humble, the repentant who sincerely want to extend the borders of God's kingdom. Unfortunately, what do people say about who truly did experience these gifts? They condemn the righteous for even daring to mention the existence of these gifts to the world. They're considered deceived, misled, crazy and worse. They're condemned for sharing their experiences with others, believing that spiritual experiences only apply to the receiver. Although Alma 12:9 gives us some guidelines, we forget that D&C 46:13-14 also says that to some its given to know and to others it is given to believe on their words. I'm sure that those in the second category really hope to hear some experiences, otherwise, they won’t have words to believe on, to learn from and embrace. Imagine if Paul had considered his experience on the road to Damascus "too sacred to share"...

And thus, the downward swirling of unbelief not only continues, but accelerates and expands.
"Here is the way by which every person may find out whether he is a believer in Christ or not. The whole Christian world can test themselves, and find out whether they are believers in Christ or not. If these signs follow, they are believers; if these signs do not follow, they are not believers. None of us are believers unless these signs follow us; for Jesus promised them to every creature in all the world who believes; hence the promise includes people now alive, as well as those who lived in former ages. And woe be to all the inhabitants of the earth, because of their unbelief; (Moroni 7:35-38) because they have done away the power of godliness; because they have done away the power of the ancient Gospel, and have turned aside after the doctrines of men; and yet hypocritically -- perhaps some of them sincerely -- call themselves the Church of Christ, and believers. Shame on the world!" (Elder Orson Pratt, "Necessity of Miracles", JD 16:139b)

The Effects of faith


Lecture on Faith 7 is the last of the lectures. It directly spotlights "a man's working by faith" (verse 3). We read of miracles performed long ago, like Joshua speaking and making the great lights which God had created standing still. We read of Elijah commanding the heavens to be stayed for three and a half years so that it did not rain. Even the angels need faith in order to minister to us (verses 4 and 6).

Faith is the reason we are able to:
  • Move mountains (verse 3), 
  • "Obtain heavenly visions, the ministering of angels, have knowledge of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven, of God the judge of all, of Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and become familiar with the third heavens, see and hear things which were not only unutterable, but were unlawful to utter" (verse 17)
  • Have "revelations, visions, and dreams" (verse 20)
  • Experience "miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc." (verse 20)
  • Do greater works than Jesus did (verse 12)
  • Form planets and hold them in their orbits (verse 5). 
  • See God (verse 8)
Signs not only follow true believers, but they also give us easily-discernable fruits which can be spiritually delicious to us:
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:16-20)
Still, there are some signs that leave us confused. If I had a nickel for every BYU student who had a "burning in their bosom" (believing their boyfriend or girlfriend was "the one", only to be later proven wrong), I'd be rich. Many "feel the spirit" while testifying against Joseph Smith. And today, I know plenty of people who believe their particular sect of Mormonism is right, and all the others are wrong, despite their divergence from scriptural patterns and truths (more on that in a minute). All of these people display real, sincere emotions backed by logical reasoning and scripturally-based facts.

So, what are we supposed to do in these cases?

"Obtain divine teaching"


"The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:425)

I believe that the darkened minds and unbelief we witness -- or even experience -- is a symptom of our treating lightly the things we've already been given by God:
"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion." (D&C 84:54-58)
Thus, conversely, by turning to and hearkening to God's word, we can rid ourselves of this condemnation, darkness and unbelief.

However, if you think that merely reading the scriptures will reverse this negative course, think again.
"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
Now, if you had known this you could have translated..." (D&C 9:7-10)
So, to exercise true faith, you need to expend real mental, emotional and spiritual effort to know truth and not be deceived. You need to do more than just read the scriptures:

Not only that, but we are to look for patterns in the scriptures:
"And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.
And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.
And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.
Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens." (D&C 52:14-19)
By knowing the patterns God has embedded in the scriptures, you'll have a positive "template" to work off of. Moses had a positive template -- a true knowledge of God -- which enabled him to clearly and easily differentiate between God and God's counterfeit, Satan (Moses 1:14).

By really digging into God's word directly -- not through any mortal intermediary -- you, too, will better understand how God truly interacts with mankind. You'll acquire this "positive" template which Moses had. So, for example, if someone told you that you can use eggnog as a sacramental drink, you'll know that's off. If someone says the ordinance of baptism can be performed by just sprinkling, you'll know that's off, too. And even if a messenger straight from God says it's OK for someone to cover their sins, gratify their pride, their vain ambition, or exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon anyone in any degree of unrighteousness -- and still keep their priesthood authority -- yep, you'll know that's definitely off.

Like Christ, you'll know the truth. And the truth will set you free.

A final word about gifts


If you're not seeing gifts, seriously consider two things:

First, be VERY concerned. As we now well know, where there are no gifts, unbelief abounds.

Second, ask God about, develop and share your gifts with others. You may not be able to control the quantity and quality of gifts manifest all around you, but you can control what's in your sphere of influence. So, if you don't see them, then be that light on top of the hill. Be that example of the believers. Let your gifts so shine for the building up of the kingdom of God.

The End...and the Beginning


In April 2016, I published three posts about spiritual gifts, which I highly encourage you to check out:

A Spiritual Call to Arms, Part 1 (When You Have the Spirit, You Experience Spiritual Gifts)

A Spiritual Call to Arms, Part 2 (Why Don't We See Spiritual Gifts Very Often)

A Spiritual Call to Arms, Part 3 (The Invitation)

In Part 3, I asked, "So Many Gifts...Where Do You Begin?" There, I mentioned what I consider a "three-legged stool", a bedrock foundation, which I believe must be in place before any other gifts can be sought after and exercised:
  1. The Gift of Faith
  2. The Gift of Discernment
  3. The Gift of Charity
A year and a half later, this post finishes up my examination of the first of those three legs -- the Gift of Faith -- which was examined in the Lectures on Faith.

Effective with (what I think will be) my next post, we'll dive into what I think may be the most comprehensive, detailed examination of the Gift of Discernment ever conducted online. It will open your eyes, fascinate you, humble you and hopefully inspire you. I'm astounded by the wonderful things Jesus has manifested to us about discernment, many of which we saints are barely (or not) aware of.

I invite you to join me in developing greater faith so that we can not only move mountains in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. I'm excited to see what "greater things" than Jesus we can do with faith.

I also invite you to join me in better understanding discernment, so we can help ourselves -- and hopefully others -- avoid or escape deception.

Praise be to our Lord, and our Father, for these wonderful opportunities we have!


Monday, September 4, 2017

FEARLESS


In my immediate past post, "Lectures on Faith 6: A Sacrifice That Means Something", I mentioned two movies with concepts we would be wise to remember:

  • "Small moves, Ellie. Small moves" comes from the movie Contact. It reinforces the fact that God is a god of gradualism, who gives unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little (D&C 98:12; Isaiah 28:9-10)
  • "Taking the Leap of Faith" is accompanied by a scene from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", where Indy must take a literal step into thin air in order to retrieve the Holy Grail and save his father's life.
When I posted these segments to this blog, I was unaware that I wasn't the only one who held these scenes in special significance. Others did as well. In fact, they had been taught identical concepts using these movie clips as teaching tools...sometimes, within the temple.

I'm grateful for these blog readers coming forward to share their parallel stories, which witness each other -- as well as my previous blog post -- that when we learn the will of the Lord and then do it, we are empowered to become

FEARLESS



"I need you to hold my hand and leap with me."


I need to tell you a story. In fact, I felt prompted to tell you this story a couple of weeks ago but I felt like the time wasn't right to tell you and that I needed to wait for some unknown reason. And now I know why. It's because I needed to tell you now, after your last blog post.

Last year I made a goal to go through the temple every week. I live in ___________________ and the closest temple is _________ which is about an hour and a half away. My job is such that I have free days during the week, and while my kids are in school, I have just enough time to rush down to the temple do a session and rush back.

During the year while serving in the temple, I started to learn about the law of sacrifice. I started to wonder about it. I started researching it and praying about it. I was terrified of the law of sacrifice. Something about it brought fear straight through me. I read lecture on faith number 6 and really tried to overcome this fear. One day while I was sitting in the celestial room, I was praying about the law of sacrifice. I knew that it was something the Lord was asking me to do and I didn't even quite understand it. I was shocked at myself because I was sitting in the celestial room, terrified. I'm actually quite afraid of heights and I felt the same amount of fear as if I was standing on a cliff, "glued to the wall." I sat there for a long time talking to God and the conversation went something like this, "God I can't do it. I'll do it but I'm just not ready. I need more time. Help me to learn and understand this principle and not be afraid of it. But I'm just not ready to live the law sacrifice right now. I know you're asking me to give this to you but I am so afraid, that I can't right now." I was afraid that if I gave in and agreed to live the law of sacrifice that I get a phone call on the way home from the temple that my husband had been killed at work or my children would be kidnapped or something horrible like that. I just knew that if I gave in I was killing off my family.

So, I sat there terrified in the celestial room begging with God not to ask this of me. And then he showed me, while I was sitting in the celestial room, the clip from the Indiana Jones movie the Last Crusade where he's standing on that ledge and he has to take the leap of faith from Lions head and hope that there is something solid to land on. Even through my fear I had to giggle that the Lord was showing me an Indiana Jones movie in the Celestial room. (I asked him why he was showing me that video and he said it was because it was a reference I knew.)

And then something happened. I was begging to not do this and then something changed in my heart. It was like a switch had been turned. And all the sudden I Let Go. I surrendered and my conversation with God turned to, "Okay. Okay, I'll do it. I'm Yours. Whatever you ask me to do, I'll do it. Whatever you ask me to go through, I'll do it. If it means my husband is going to be dead when I get home, I'll do it for you. I'm going to leap off this cliff, but I need you to hold my hand and give me something solid to land on. I can't leap from this cliff without you. I need you to hold my hand and leap with me." 

And then the Lord's response to me was, "__________, I will never ask anything of you that you will not later consider a blessing." 

I lept. And when I got home, my family was all still alive. Nothing horrible happened and no huge unbearable trials have come my way. 

On the drive home that day the Lord said to me, "Is coming to the temple every week a sacrifice to you or a blessing?" I told him that it was a blessing and that it was the best part of my week. He said, "Is your house any messier since you started coming to the temple once a week instead of having a day at home to do all the housework?" 

"Well, yeah." 

"And you're spending more money on gas to get down here once a week than if you didn't come?" 

"Well, yes, but it's worth it." 

"Coming to the temple is a sacrifice for you and your family. But you see it as a blessing. That is how every sacrifice I will ask you to make will be. Some will be very difficult, but in the end you will see them as blessings. I'm not trying to hurt you and punish you. I'm trying to help you to grow. I want to give you more." 

I know that I'm not "done" with the law of sacrifice. I know there is much more that will be asked of me. But now, I can feel confident that no matter how hard it is to bear, it will be worth it, and there will come a day when I will call those trials of my faith blessings from the Lord. 

I'm happy that He's using the Indiana Jones reference on more than just me. : ) That clip will always be special to me now."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"It'll be OK"


Back in the latter part of 2008, I felt that I was ready to assume a greater and more profound relationship with the Lord. So, in 2008, the Lord pretty much pulled out a megaphone and said YOU ARE READY FOR THIS! THE ONLY PERSON HOLDING THIS UP IS...YOU!" I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

Unfortunately, it took me four years to pull my head out. Four years of living every day knowing that I was ready for something bigger. And the only thing holding me back was my fears.

Then came the first part of 2012. I started getting this inkling of "It'll be OK". Then a couple of weeks later, another subtle "It'll be OK". First part of March 2012, seven different friends called me up within about five days. None knew each other. Each called me up and said something to the effect of "I don't know why I'm calling you to say this, and I don't know what this is about, but I just had this feeling I needed to tell you that it'll be OK".

One friend. And another. And another. Another and another and another and another.

So, I proceeded forward. I won't exactly detail what I did, other than to say Joseph Smith had the right idea in the Grove.

I like what you said the other week about being an ordinary person. I can relate. I could be a primary worker, a Sunday School secretary, a Webelos Den Leader. You don't know what ward I'm in, but suffice it to say I have no significant calling, no significant Mormon pedigree and definitely no significant home, car or income!

I also like your one page where you say God is no respecter of persons. 

For three plus years, my fears held me back from enjoying a greater fulness of Jesus Christ in my life. But in the end, I, too, remembered that "Leap of Faith" Indiana Jones video. I tried it. And thanks to God, I landed on solid ground, not air.

Has life been all rainbows, unicorns and puppy dogs since then? Nope. But I do feel profoundly closer to the Lord in my life. I laid everything in my life on the line for Him, and because of that, I enjoy a closeness with Him that I never thought I'd ever have in my life.

My Leap of Faith was one of the greatest moments of my life so far. I now have a testimony that the last thing the Lord wants is for us to fall. He wants to raise us to higher heights.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



"You’re My Ellie”


What you shared in your last blog post was a real second witness for me.

First, that what God is teaching me is so similar to what He’s teaching others, which is a witness in itself.

Second, that He tends to use the same or similar means to do it. I’ve always loved movies, and tend to find myself seeing spiritual connections in them that mirror what we experience in this life. However, the movie Contact has absolutely been the most used overall theme the Lord has used to teach me who I am, how He sees me and what my potential really is.

One day, I was really grappling with a tough experience in my life where I felt the Lord was telling me something beyond my ability to understand and trust. This led me to realize I needed His guidance and direction to discern more clearly, but what that experience actually revealed to me was just how inexperienced I was in discerning His voice and trusting in His plan. In my own mind, I needed guidance and direction and I needed it now. But these things cant be learned in an instant. It’s just not possible for us to grow that quick spiritually. (“Small moves, Ellie”).

So this particular day, I found myself in the temple, praying and pondering and crying in my heart that I wanted and needed to know His voice beyond anything I had ever wanted in my life. Just then, the movie Contact was brought forcefully to my mind. I saw and literally felt the part in the movie where the main character, Ellie, is being put in the device that will take her on a wonderful journey to another place beyond her comprehension.

As I sat there, I could feel the vibration of the machine, the stress and fear of not knowing what was going to happen, but willing to move forward. The words she kept saying in her head at this point in the movie “I’m OK to go” repeated in my mind again and again. I felt like the Lord was saying this was me. He was taking me on this fantastic journey to find Him. And even though it was scary, I was “OK to go” and He was immensely pleased.

I then heard and felt these words in my mind. “____________, you’re my Ellie.” And I realized that any and all of God’s children who seek to hear Him and see Him as intensely as she did in the movie was so precious to Him. He actually valued and found joy in that seeking and couldn’t and wouldn’t move forward until we make the first steps of actually listening for His voice. Just as the character Ellie spent years searching the heavens for any kind of contact outside of our world, we, too must listen and seek for His voice.

I wish I could say after that wonderful experience that I got it all together and moved forward with faith, but that was just the beginning. There was still so much more to learn. Over and over again the Lord showed me my fears were overwhelming my faith, and He would quietly and patiently give me more and more reassurances that He was with me and talking to me. I knew I didn’t deserve it, but He was so eternally patient with me. I am still in awe of it! But the adversary is real and he would come in next and do all that he could to make me doubt those experiences and second guess myself, which then left me devoid of faith once again until the Lord would build me back up.

This rollercoaster of faith and fear repeated itself for several years because I could not see how to just believe and move forward in faith. It was one of the most wonderful, heart wrenching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It was truly a season of stretching and growing! I can see what the Prophet Joseph meant when he said the Lord would wrench our very heart strings because mine were being wrenched, and hard! So many times I wanted to just give up, give in, and take the easy road of mediocrity but God wouldn’t let me. I knew in the core of my heart it would be wrong and I couldn’t bring myself to do it so I held on, like a cat on a ledge at times.

Then the Lord finally brought it into my heart that I needed to just decide what I was going to believe and move forward. This is where the second movie you mentioned, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, fits in. Over the years, the Lord has used this visual of Indy stepping off that ledge to show me what that leap of faith looks like, but this time I realized it was time I actually practice it. Again and again, this visual and a visual of myself stepping forward off that cliff kept coming to my mind. I would hear phrases like “what if you just took that leap” coming into my mind randomly, out of the blue with this visual in my mind. Finally, I knew it was time to eradicate the doubts and step forward in faith. And so I did, and after three and a half years of vacillating between doubt and faith, I was finally willing to make that step/leap of faith for good. It took a lot of courage (more than I thought I possessed), but because the Lord had showed me over and over again that I could trust Him in many other ways, and because He had helped me develop my spiritual hearing, I was finally ready to step forward.

I am still in the free fall mode between the step and moving all your body weight into the forward motion, knowing there is no turning back, but I’m perfectly at peace about it. Something I have wrestled with for years and now, in an instant, fear is gone, faith is present and joy has filled my heart. The next day I felt so light, so joyful, that I could hardly contain myself! I finally trust He’s got my back and I’m excited to see how this all turns out.

It has been such an eye-opening experience for me. Despite all the emotional turmoil it created, I’m grateful for every moment of it. I know the timing was perfectly suited for MY needs and not everyone will take as long as me to “get it”, but I am left with a perfect faith that it was exactly what I needed. In the end, I realized the thing I hadn’t truly given the Lord, and which kept me from full faith, was trust in His everlasting care. I hadn’t been willing to sacrifice what He was asking me to sacrifice (namely my plan, my timing and my will) versus His perfect plan for my life. I thought, erroneously, He somehow wouldn’t deliver on His promises and I would be left with a shattered heart. I thought I was willing, but throughout this experience, I learned that I needed to give my whole heart, my life and the direction it flows all to Him and that He would make more of it than I ever could. And I really believe that!

Image suggestion courtesy
of my sister. Love ya, sis!

In Conclusion


A friend of mine recently said,

"We suggest what we know. We become so entrenched in our own familiar thinking that it becomes the 'go to' for all problems. We are admonished to trust in the LORD with all thine heart and LEAN not to your own understanding. When we lean, we become off-balanced, no longer centered! We must trust in him with all our hearts. ALL."