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Monday, October 28, 2013

12. Spiritual Land Mine #1: Poor Timing

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 12th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

Yep, timing is everything...

Timing is Everything

In a prior post, I mentioned how all to often, we desire a righteous blessing while minimizing the behaviors necessary to attain it.  We find it easier to "dream" than to "do".

Knowing this, Satan can and definitely does play off our impatience for a blessing -- especially profound ones. 

Some people have an enthusiasm to actually see the Lord in mortality.  Perhaps more strongly desire to actually hear his voice in their hearts and minds.

Both are righteous desires.

Yet in some cases, the enthusiasm, the zeal, to experience such blessings overrides true knowledge of the blessing, and the proper application of that knowledge (aka "wisdom").

We often forget that the Lord’s pattern for revealing truths to us is "line upon line, precept upon precept" (2 Nephi 28:30).  Not even the Prophet Joseph Smith learned all the fundamental truths of the restored gospel at once in the Sacred Grove.  These priceless treasures were revealed as circumstances warranted and as the timing was right.  Knowledge and understanding come at the price of patience.
"And behold, I, the Lord, declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not fail, that they shall obtain it.  But all things must come to pass in their time."  (D&C 64:31–32; emphasis mine)
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Faith means trust — trust in God’s will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable.  We should not try to impose our timetable on His.  As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said,
"The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing.  If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?  The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes. ("Even As I Am" [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982], p. 93).
Elder Maxwell also said,
"Since faith in the timing of the Lord may be tried, let us learn to say not only, ‘Thy will be done,’ but patiently also, ‘Thy timing be done’" (April 2001 General Conference, p. 76; also “Plow in Hope,” Ensign, May 2001, p. 59).
Indeed, we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing.

Balance Your Spiritual Timing


Brother Joseph was aware of our tendency to be overly-enthusiastic when he said,
"Many, having a zeal not according to knowledge, and not understanding the pure principles of the doctrine of the Church, have, no doubt, in the heat of enthusiasm, taught and said many things which were derogatory to the genuine character and principles of the Church; and for these things we are heartily sorry, and would apologize, if apology would do any good." (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 2:255).

Although it's good to have zeal, it must be balanced with knowledge.  Our search for knowledge should be ceaseless -- open-ended, never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements.  Hugh Nibley stated,
"The quality in which the Saints have always excelled is zeal. Zeal is the engine that drives the whole vehicle, without it we would get nowhere. But without clutch, throttle, brakes, and steering wheel, our mighty engine becomes an instrument of destruction, and the more powerful the motor, the more disastrous the inevitable crack-up if the proper knowledge is lacking." (Hugh Nibley, "Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless", p. 266-267)
If more people could only understand this point:
"True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge, but zeal often does." (Hugh Nibley, "Zeal without Knowledge", Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, 2nd Edition; I highly recommend reading this classic from Brother Hugh)

Zeal and knowledge must be balanced with wisdom:
"'s eternal salvation - God's greatest gift to man - is dependent upon his knowledge; for it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6).  Wisdom is the right use of knowledge and comprehends judgment, discrimination, prudence, discretion, and study. 'To know is not to be wise,' says Spurgeon. 'Many men know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool.  But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.'" (Pres. David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1968, p.8)

Wanna Bend the Lord's Ear?

The engine of Zeal.  The brakes of Knowledge.  The driving judgment of Wisdom.

As you keep those three virtues in balance, as you exhibit real patience in God, you're not only exhibiting faith in Him, but also His will and timing.

And in so doing, He will do something in return to you: He will incline himself to you.
"I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined [Hebrew, natah: to stretch out, extend, spread out, pitch, turn, incline, bend, bow]* unto me, and heard [Hebrew, shama: to hear intelligently; to understand] my cry.
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." (Psalm 40:1–3; comments and emphasis mine).
By avoiding this landmine of adverse timing, you will go far in eliminating the barriers which delay or prevent your ability to meaningfully dialogue with the Lord, and more.

In fact, the effects will be so noticeable, so apparent, that "many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."


Timing is everything.

* Natah (inclined) is also used in the following verses, which (especially the first one below) sound vaguely familiar for some reason...

Psalm 130: 2 -- "Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." 
Psalm 116:2 -- "Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
Daniel 9:18 -- "O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies."

Monday, October 21, 2013

11. Are Your Eyes Wide Open?

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 11th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

As I contemplate the doctrines promised in D&C 93:1, I ponder the steps needed to get us to our final destination, the fulfillment of the Lord's promise.

It also reminds me of the efforts I often see online intended to get us to another destination: Zion.

Confusing Righteous Means and Righteous Ends

For years, I have frequented many LDS-related prophecy forums and/or websites.  Some are populated with anywhere from a few to thousands of subscribers.  Their objectives are always the same: to help prepare people (especially Latter-day Saints) for the Second Coming.

Yet on a few, I've seen several instances where discussions take place, opinions are formed, contentions arise, feelings are hurt and judgments are exacted - sometimes under the seemingly innocent guises of "just wanting to understand you" or "We're family here, and families fight - no hard feelings though, pardner!"

I don't buy it.

Time and again, the persecutors are emboldened as the persecuted leave...while being told (in so many words) not to let the barn door hit them on the way out.

It's paradoxical to me how some, in mortally-appointed positions of cyberjudgment, believe they have the behaviors of a Zionlike person yet perpetuate and/or fuel contention (not compassion) and walk all over the reputations of those they have never met...while singing church hymns, at that.
"Even though it is true that there must be an 'opposition in all things' [2 Nephi 2:11], none of us has the personal obligation to provide that opposition." (Neal A. Maxwell, "All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience," p. 108)
Could those who find it easy to add mortally-decreed exceptions to "Judge not, lest ye be judged" be jeopardizing their ability to obey (with exactness and honor) the commandments and covenants of God?

Nobody ever has, nor ever will, achieve a righteous end by using unrighteous means.  Never.

Thus, we see why it's the province of man to often focus on the desire for a righteous blessing, not the behaviors necessary to attain it.  It's far easier to "dream" than to "do".

I, too, have learned by sad experience that I could miss a lot by focusing too much on my righteous desires, and not enough on the challenges of the day.  Regrettably, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt. 6:34).

Spiritual Landmines on the Way to the Savior's Presence

Do you honestly think that Satan would just let you effortlessly, merrily skip to the Savior's presence without opposition?

Quite the contrary -- the sinisterness and subtlety of the opposition only increases!

On our way to seeing his face and truly knowing him, we often inadvertently either (1) step on some "spiritual landmines", (2) miss enjoying truly profound, personal experiences with the Savior himself, or (3) all of the above.

In fact, I dare say just about every man or woman I've met who had such a goal has struggled, at one point or another, with at least one of these commissions or omissions, thus increasing their frustrations at not seeing the Lord.

I'll Leave You With This

In my next post, I'll start detailing some of those landmines, then we'll talk about a little-known doctrine we often forget in helping us to obey Christ's voice...

In the meantime, I'll ask you this:

What do YOU think some of these ultra-subtle landmines might be?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10. A Primary Catalyst in Parting the Veil

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 10th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

In my prior posts, you'll see that visualizing  -- or utilizing the "Eye of Faith" -- was and is a means whereby the righteous can not only look forward to the future, but also shatter barriers to the veil and (in the case of at least one person), thrust one directly into God's presence.

A primary catalyst?

"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9; emphasis mine)

Ahhhh, faith. Exceeding faith.  "Unprecedented Faith"...a principle of action that's powerful enough to part the veil! 

The Greatest (Mortal) Expositions Ever Given on Faith

The Lectures on Faith are a series of seven theological presentations made to the School of the Prophets in the winter of 1834-35 in Kirtland, OH. (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 2nd ed). 

That Joseph Smith intended their inclusion in the D&C is clear:
"During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the Elders, and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, which the committee appointed last September were now compiling" (History of the Church, 2:180).
The Lectures were published in 1835 as the Doctrine portion of the volume entitled "Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (better known simply as the Doctrine and Covenants)". The Lectures were selected for that volume by a committee appointed on September 24, 1834 by a general assembly of the church to arrange the doctrines and revelations of the church into a single volume. That committee of Presiding Elders (consisting of Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) stated that the Lectures were included "in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation," and that the Lectures, together with the church-regulatory sections that followed, represent "our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body." (Preface, D&C, 1835 edition, p. iii)

The book was presented at the August 17, 1835 General Conference.  Records indicate that "several priesthood leaders were apparently given unbound copies to read ahead of time. They were then able to testify at the conference to the truthfulness of the revelations. After hearing the testimonies, the whole conference voted, first as quorums, then as a congregation, to accept the book as arranged" (Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Dec. 1984).  The body of the church accepted the committee's compilation as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote." (History of the Church, 2:243-6).

The record is crystal clear: Joseph intended the Lectures' inclusion in the D&C, and they were properly sustained into the D&C by a valid, recorded and unanimous vote of the Church collectively (see D&C 28:13).

The Lectures on Faith were included in subsequent 1844 and 1876 editions (source).

44 years after their original publication, they were included in a new 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.  However, this time, Apostle Orson Pratt questioned the Lectures' inclusion in the new publication, which he was preparing.  Quorum of the Twelve President John Taylor responded:
"The Lectures on Faith were published with the sanction and approval of the Prophet Joseph Smith and we do not feel that it is desirable to make any alteration in that regard at any rate not at the present" (John Taylor to Orson Pratt, 25 April 1879, retained copy in John Taylor letter book, 16 August 1878 to 27 May 1879, pp. 710– 13, at the LDS Church Archives, cited in Robert J. Woodford, "Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 1:87–88).
(Wow, "published with the sanction and approval" of the head of this dispensation.  Talk about validation!)

Yet in late 1921, the Church printed the Doctrine and Covenants without the Lectures.  An interesting explanation was given: the Lectures "were never presented to nor accepted by the Church as being otherwise than theological lectures or lessons." (See Introduction, 1921 edition).

It's not my desire to scrutinize the debate regarding the canonization/decanonization of the Lectures.  Still, one fact remains untarnished: even modern-day theologians and church leaders find tremendous value in the Lectures on Faith.  In addition to Pres. Taylor's comment above, we learn that:
"They were considered to be very excellent expositions of the doctrines contained therein" (Pres. Charles W. Penrose, Member of the First Presidency, 1921; emphasis mine).

"In my own judgment these Lectures on Faith are of great value and should be studied...I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Seek Ye Earnestly", p 194; emphasis mine).

"In them is to be found some of the best lesson material ever prepared on the Godhead; on the character perfections and attributes of God; on faith, miracles and sacrifice.  They can be studied with great profit by all gospel scholars"  (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 439; emphasis mine).

"In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language - that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, lecture at Brigham Young University, Jan. 4, 1972; emphasis mine).
"Joseph Smith said that “faith [is] the principle of action and of power” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 72)" (Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character", October 2010 General Conference).
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'faith [is] the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness' and that it is also 'the principle of action in all intelligent beings' (Lectures on Faith [1985], 1)" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith", April 2008 General Conference).

Read the Lectures on Faith...Today!

I believe no meaningful discussion regarding faith can occur without at least having invested time and deep, ponderous thought regarding faith...including the doctrines elaborated in the Lectures on Faith.

So, I invite you to read the Lectures on Faith.  What do you have to lose?  They're a fairly quick read, and you'll never look at the doctrine of faith the same way ever again (because you'll understand it better).

To facilitate this, I offer you the links below, and look forward to hearing your comments regarding the Lectures on Faith.

Free Download/View of the Lectures on Faith

HTML (Hint: This can easily be copied and pasted into a Word or Google doc)
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants (which includes all the LoF, which begin on page 13) 
The 1835 Doctrine & Covenants
PDF (Based on original photos; 8.5 MB)

History of the Lectures on Faith

What of the Lectures on Faith?

The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective

Monday, October 7, 2013

09. Practicing Visualizing the Savior

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the ninth examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

OK, we've done enough talking about visualizing the Savior.  It's time to turn theoretical doctrine into Applied Christianity.

Below are two ways I know of which should help you better visualize the Savior.  If you have another suggestion, click the "Comments" link below and share.  You never know when your knowledge may help someone else...

Practice Exercise #1

  1. Below is an image taken from a (fictional) video of the Savior appearing to an individual.
  2. I invite you to look at it. Ponder it.  Study it.  Know it.
  3. Now close your eyes.  Visualize the picture you just stared at in your mind.
  4. Now imagine Christ moving his hand, his arm, his mouth.
  5. Imagine his face and mouth changing to a smile.
  6. Imagine him addressing you by name.

Practice Exercise #2

  1. Go here to view the 3 Nephi chapter 11 webpage.
  2. On the right-hand side of the page, click "Download".
  3. Right (not left) mouse click on "MP3", and save the link (the mp3) to your computer.
  4. Transfer the mp3 onto your mp3 player, or just listen to it on your computer.
  5. Pick a quiet, calm time to visualize. Although the circumstances of your visualizing might be different from another's, I do recommend finding a peaceful time and place where there are no distractions and no pressing appointments. "Peace" is a prime prerequisite of the Spirit.
  6. Pray expecting God will grant you a heightened awareness of what you are about to hear, and thank Him for the opportunity.
  7. Hit the play button and listen to verses 1-10.
  8. As the narration goes, place yourself in the environment being described.  Imagine the surroundings.  If possible, feel the temperature of the air and hear the ambient sounds. See what is being described, and visualize the Savior as he appears.
No matter which practice exercise you try (or perhaps both of them!), please click the "Comment" link below (even anonymously) and let me know how it goes.


"I Can Only Imagine"...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

08. Linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the eighth examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

In my previous post, we equated spiritual creation = exercising your Eye of Faith = Visualizing = Imagining (SC = EoF = V = I).  And in a previous post, I gave an example of an instance when I visualized the events as described in 3rd Nephi Chapter 11 (when the Savior first appears to the Nephites; click here to access the audio).

In that example, although my experience concerned something in the past, it is possible for you, an ordinary person, to exercise your imagination in something that hasn't happened yet ("looking forward with an eye of faith"; Alma 32:40-41).  This activates your powers of visualization, exercising your Eye of Faith and, therefore, catalyzes a spiritual creation (which precedes a physical creation or actual manifestation).
"...And there were many whose faith was so exceeding strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad." (Ether 12:5, 18-19)

Not Being Kept from Within (or Thrusting Through) the Veil

One of the greatest manifestations of the Savior occured when the Brother of Jared exercised bold, consummate, perfect faith in God.

We read in Ether 3:1-5 that the Brother of Jared "did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones" so that the Lord would "touch these stones...with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea."

It's clear to me that the Brother of Jared fully expected such to happen.  Although the record does not state this, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Brother of Jared visualized, imagined, spiritually created this event with his Eye of Faith.

For the Brother of Jared, seeing wasn't believing.  Believing was (spiritually) seeing.

And then he literally saw. 

The Lord summarized it this way:
"Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast" (Ether 3:9; emphasis mine)
And with that, the Brother of Jared was able to pierce the veil, see and converse with the premortal Christ.

Please deeply contemplate this quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (in what I believe is the best talk I've ever read by an apostle concerning how to pierce the veil):
"As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter His presence by Him and only with His sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, stands alone then (and we assume now) in having thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically an uninvited one. Says Jehovah, “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast” (Ether 3:9, 15; emphasis added). Obviously the Lord Himself is linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision is not unique, then it has to be the faith— and how the vision is obtained—that is so remarkable. The only way this faith could be so remarkable would be in its ability to take this prophet, uninvited, where others had only been able to go by invitation.

Indeed it would appear that this is Moroni’s own understanding of the circumstance, for he later writes, “Because of the knowledge [which has come as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . .

'Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus' (Ether 3:19–20; emphasis added).

This may be one of those very provocative examples (except that it is real life and not hypothetical) about God’s power. Schoolboy philosophers sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that He cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly we may ask here, “Could God have stopped the brother of Jared from seeing through the veil?” At first blush one is inclined to say, “Surely God could block such an experience if He wished to.” But think again. Or, more precisely, read again. “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil; . . . he could not be kept from within the veil” ((Ether 3:19–20; emphasis added).

No, this may be an absolutely unprecedented case of a prophet’s will and faith and purity so closely approaching that of heaven’s that the man moves from understanding God to being actually like Him, with His same thrust of will and faith, at least in this one instance. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal man’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select category of a man, either. This is one who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his remarkable feat of faith. Given such a man with such faith, it should not be surprising that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received." (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Rending the Veil of Unbelief” in A Book of Mormon Treasury: Gospel Insights from General Authorities and Religious Educators, [Provo, UT and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2003], 47–66).
A key, then, in dialoguing with the Lord through the veil is to exercise the kind of faith that the Brother of Jared exercised.

What would that entail?

Comment away.  I'd love to hear your insights!