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Monday, April 22, 2013

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The Promise of His Presence, Part 2: The Formula

One of my favorite movies is "Miracle", the inspiring, true story of Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell), the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Russian squad.

I *highly* recommend watching this movie.

On another level, this movie is about a team that transcended its sport and united a nation with a new feeling of hope. When the team was first formed, its hockey players were a ragtag squad of college kids.

In one scene, before the Olympics, the US team played an exhibition match against a team in Europe.  They didn't take the game seriously, and Coach Brooks knew it.  So after losing the game, Brooks had his team go back onto the ice and had them run drills, skating a few yards, then back again, then skating further again, then back...for several hours.  Brooks said:
"Red line, back. Blue line, back. Far blue line, back. Far red line, back. And you have 45 seconds to do it. Get used to this drill. You'll be doing it a lot. Why? Because the legs feed the wolf, gentlemen. I can't promise you we'll be the best team at Lake Placid next February. But we will be the best conditioned. That I can promise you."
Brooks' statement was prophetic.

Herb Brooks knew full well (better than his players and even the US Olympic Hockey Association) that they were on a collision course with the legendary juggernaut, the Soviet Union's Olympic Hockey Team.  This fact may have been what inspired Brooks to tell his team, "This cannot be a team of common men, because common men go nowhere."

Despite long odds, Team USA met the Soviet team in the Olympics semi-finals.  They proved to be extremely well-conditioned for the match-up.  With the world watching, the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels' now famous question, to the millions viewing at home: "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"  The US college kids beat the Soviet hockey team, which had previously routed the NHL All-Stars 6–0 and consistently won Olympic gold for 26 years.

I believe that seeking the fulfillment of D&C 93:1 in our lives requires the same kind of dedication.  Note the Lord's advice on this topic:
Seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63; emphasis mine)

Focus on Actions, Not Goals

This one thing -- having an audience with the Savior -- is the purpose of the restoration, the central theme of the Book of Mormon, and the narrative in the temple.  However, in our earnestness to have an audience with the Savior, we may be susceptible to making two mistakes:

First, like hockey, some see such an event as a "goal" or another “worthy objective" to obtain, as if it was something to be listed on a resume or a bucket list.  

As mortals, we are conditioned from an early age to "obtain" things.  When I picture the word obtain, I see peoples' hands extending in a grabbing position, palms down.  I think we would do better to view life as a process of receiving (not obtaining), with hands extended and palms up, being grateful for all that the Lord gives to us, on His timetable.  Obtaining seems selfish; receiving seems patient and grateful.  Being blessed with a testimony of Christ in the flesh is not something we obtain, grab or take, but instead, we receive, allow and exhibit patience.  I hope that makes sense.

Second, we may view "asking" for such a blessing is a prime prerequisite.  However, while speaking of D&C 93:1, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball once stated,
" man will ever see God by just wishing it, wanting it, asking for it -- nobody with just ordinary interest or curiosity.  The Lord doesn't go around just showing Himself -- like you go to a show and see something you pay for.  The Lord doesn't.  But every soul may see Him and know that He is, if that soul will do the things the Lord will require of him." (Elder Spencer W. Kimball, "See His Face", Santa Monica Stake fireside on November 18, 1973;; emphasis mine)
So, on one hand, you have the Lord inviting us to "ask"; on the other hand, you have SWK saying we will never see God by just asking for it.  How do we resolve this seeming contradiction?

Pres. Kimball continues:
"There isn't anyone in this room who cannot see God and walk with God and know God and be close to Him and know His purposes, and become one. It's possible to every soul who does five things and they're enumerated in the scripture." (Emphasis mine)
In my opinion, the Lord knows full well what the desires of your heart are.  It's no surprise, it's not news to Him that you wish to have an audience with Him.  Instead, what He wants us to do is to seek Him. And you're effectively seeking Him as you implement the five actions listed in D&C 93:1:
  1. Forsake your sins.
  2. Come unto Him. 
  3. Call on His name.
  4. Obey His voice.
  5. Keep His commandments.
I think that here, the Lord is telling us that our actions truly speak louder than words.  Have your actions be your calling card.  You just do them!

With this knowledge, you now have your "red line" and "blue line".  Run those five drills so often, that you become well conditioned to them. Proceed forward with dedication, commitment and (most of all) patience, not unlike the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team.

By doing these things, you will strip away any supposed invincibility in your spiritual opponent, Satan.  And someday, you, too, will witness the "Miracle" of a testimony of Christ in the flesh first-hand, in the Lord's due time, and in His own way.

In my next post, we'll discuss just how to proceed forward, examining the first of the five things enumerated in D&C 93:1 to see the Lord.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Promise of His Presence, Part 1: "Every Soul"

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Over the past few months, this blog has focused its attention on a prophet-declared method of entering the presence of the Lord: Meditation.

We've discussed how to tune out the world -- and tune in to God -- by pondering the word of act which by itself can part the veil.  One method by which we can use the scriptures to part the veil is by visualizing the scenes articulated in them.

Find your own sacred grove.  Enjoy it at a time when you feel peace.  There, you can more easily calm your body, still your mind and you lose yourself.

I've given quite a bit of time in between my past posts so you could have more time to experiment on these concepts and gain a testimony of them.  I myself have such a testimony, for as I have pondered the scriptures, the veil has parted for me, allowing me to see my Savior tenderly, compassionately ministering to others, motivating me to do the same in my life.  As I have meditated, I have succeeded in dispelling telestial tendencies and worldly inclinations.

And now...we move forward

Having now passed into the presence of the Lord (through the peace and selflessness of meditation), we next prepare ourselves to enjoy and seek fulfillment and enlightenment within the presence of the Lord.

Many people believe that prayer is sufficient, it's all we ever need, to enjoy the Lord's presence in our lives.  And yes, it can help us enjoy the Lord's divine presence.

However, I believe the Lord wants you to aim higher, reach farther and attain not just speak with him, but to rend the heavens, pierce the veil, see the visions of eternity and greater.

Your Promise of His Literal Presence in Your Mortal Life

Can you imagine the joy the Lord must feel when we come to Him with the tender faith of a little child and accept the love he has for each of us? He wants us to come to Him and has promised that He will be there to welcome us. In the Doctrine and Covenants he has said,
“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you” (D&C 88:63)
This is our invitation from our Father in Heaven to share in the wondrous blessings he has in store for us. He then gives explicit directions on how we can find him:
“Seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)
Then he said:
“Sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:68)
Sanctify means to make sacred or holy — to make free from sin, to purify. This we do to be in tune with his Spirit.

The Lord has combined all these doctrines into an outline, the steps we should follow to draw near unto him.  It is a promise so profound, so wonderful, that our mortal minds may have a tough time believing it.  Still, the Lord is not one to make hollow promises; we are wise to take him at his word, at face value.

Here now, by his own mouth, is a promise he has made to you:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” (D&C 93:1)

The Fine Print?

The Lord didn't say "after you die".  No.  He placed no limitations as to when such an event could occur.  In fact, Spencer W. Kimball once stated that those
"who know God and love him and live his commandments and obey his true ordinances may yet in this life, or the life to come, see his face and know that he lives (D&C 93:1) and will commune with them." (Spencer W. Kimball, "For They Shall See God", Ensign, May 1964 p. 94).
The Lord didn't say "only apostles and prophets", "only church general authorities", "only priesthood holders", "only church members who have faithfully served in major leadership positions for decades", "only church members are married and sealed to a faithful, soon-to-be-translated spouse" or even "only church members".  Did you see any qualifiers in that verse?  No.  He simply said "every soul".

The Lord didn't say you "shall see dead ancestors" or "shall entertain angels", although such events are possible.  No.  He said you "shall see my face."

The Lord didn't say you "shall believe" or "shall rely on the testimony of others."  No.  The implication is that every soul -- including you -- shall know that he lives.

With respect to that last note, Isaiah had a word or two to say about the righteous in the latter days who would know the Lord:
"Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I." (Isaiah 52:6)