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Sunday, April 27, 2014

02. Walking and Talking with God, Part 1

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the second examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

October 3, 2012 is a day that will be forever etched in my memory.  I was driving down the interstate to an appointment.  The radio was off, and I wasn't really thinking of anything in particular.

And then, out of the blue, I heard my name called -- not audibly, but in my head.

I ignored it.

My name rang in my head a second time, louder.

This time, I paid attention.  I verbally said, "What?"

The answer startled me:

"I'm so blessed to have you as my brother."

As tears streamed down my face, I was amazed that such a phrase could be said to, let alone contemplated about, a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.  I also realized that from that moment on, my life would never be the same.

My Testimony

There are some among us today who have seen the risen Savior in this lifetime.  Others have been comforted by Him -- a doctrine known as the "Second Comforter."  Others have entertained angels, seen visions and dreams, have been given great manifestations of the Spirit and given significant eternal promises.

Yet there is one form of heavenly interaction which is rarely, if ever, addressed.  Of this form of interaction I am personally acquainted with.  It rests upon a beautiful doctrine which has existed since man and woman first walked the earth.

And the most beautiful aspect of this doctrine is... is a form of communication that you, too, can enjoy.

It is called "Walking and Talking with God".

They Walked and Talked With Him

The list of those who have walked and talked with God is impressive:

Adam: Through the scriptures, we understand that "Adam received instruction, walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another" (Conference Minutes., Times and Seasons, vol. 5 (January 1844-January 1, 1845), No. 15. Nauvoo, Illinois, Aug. 15, 1844.  Whole No. 99, p.613-614).  Man and woman were created to walk with God.  This is how we were originally meant to be!  Rebellion brought an end to the "walk", but God -- through Christ -- redeemed us back that we might again walk with Him.

Enoch: Enoch had continual personal communion with God (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p.598) and, thus, walked and talked with God (Gen 5:22) for 365 years (D&C 107:49). During this time, "no man laid hands on him; for fear came on all them that heard him" because "he walked with God" (JST Gen 6:41; Moses 6:39). Over time, "Enoch and all his people walked with God" (JST Gen 7:77) and were consequently received by God into his own bosom" (Gen 5:24; Moses 7:69).
"Ancient Jewish texts reveal that Enoch was a simple shoemaker. And, in his simplicity, humility, and honesty, he rose to great spiritual heights. The sages teach that as he went about his day fixing peoples’ shoes, he constantly contemplated God’s existence, gave praise for his ability to work and earn his sustenance, and prayed that he would perform his job as a shoemaker to the utmost of his potential so that his clients would not only have comfort, but would find healing and faith in their lives. It was Enoch’s simple faith and love of God that earned him the biblical title 'walks with God.'
It is central to Jewish belief that we should strive to find connection to God in the most mundane activity, and that through the simplest physical acts we perform daily, we should aim to elevate ourselves and those around us.  The scriptures beautifully teach us that when we work with integrity and respect for others, we elevate our workplace. When we are consciously aware that God is everywhere and knows everything, we become better spouses, parents, siblings, and friends. We start to take on godly attributes." (
Noah: Joseph Smith explained that God talked with Noah "in a familiar and friendly manner" (HC, IV, p. 210, as quoted in Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrines of the Kingdom, p.495).  Thus, "with God, Noah had constant communion. He was not bold except in serving Him; he taught his sons the ways of the Lord. Therefore they as well as Noah himself walked with God" (George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, p.231; also see Gen 6:9; JST Gen 8:16; Moses 8:27)

"Not me"

I imagine many believe, "Yeah, but those were ancient prophets, not me"


Brother Joseph said:
"There are certain characters that walked with God, saw him, conversed about heaven &c. God is not a respecter of persons, we all have the same privilege. Come to God weary him until he blesses you &c-we are entitled to the same blessings, Jesus, revelations, Just Men &-Angels &c. &c. not Laying again the doctrine of Christ go on unto perfection. Obtain that holy Spirit of promise-Then you can be sealed to Eternal Life." (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, p. 13-15; emphasis mine)
He also said:
"In this number will be found an extract from the prophecy of Enoch, which was received by revelation, soon after the organization of the church, and first published in the 'Evening and Morning Star.' As it is a relic, too precious to be lost, we extract it for the benefit of the readers of the Times and Seasons. It gives us a specimen of the power Enoch obtained with God, by faith, for we are told 'that by faith Enoch walked with God, and was not, for God took him.' We trust that it will prove a stimulus, to the saints, to action, when they read of the great blessings enjoyed by the ancients and consider that they were men of like passions with ourselves, subject to all the evils and temptations with which we are surrounded; and that the same God, who conferred upon them such great privileges, 'is the same yesterday to day and forever,' and is 'no respecter of persons,' consequently is just as willing to hear and answer the prayers, and bestow as great blessings upon his children now, as in days gone by: therefore, beloved brethren, let us gird up our loins and be faithful, knowing that the days draw near, and the time is at hand, when the just shall stand by faith." (The Prophecy of Enoch, Times and Seasons, vol. 2 (November 1840-October 1841), Vol. 2 No. 1 November 1, 1840, p.203 - 204; emphasis mine)
Additionally, Pres. David O. McKay said:
"I am wondering if in early times when men walked and talked with God, if they were not more responsive spiritually than they are today. Adam, Enoch, Moses, Peter, John the Beloved, Abraham, all had this gift of spiritual response. Christ had it in perfection. Joseph Smith possessed the gift-but there is a remnant of it in everyone's soul, and particularly everyone who holds the priesthood." ("Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay", p.344 - 345; emphasis mine)

"Word of God speak"

In this short post, I raise my voice to the earth and to the heavens, that I know that my Redeemer lives.  For I have heard His voice in my heart and in my mind, and He has spoken to me, as the prophets have described, "as one man talks and communes with another."

Truly, God is no respecter of persons (click here to read more).  He is, in fact, enthusiastic to speak to us and guide us.  Every day.

It is an incredible offer He makes to you, too.  To accept that offer is to enter into an adventure filled with joy and risk, transformation and breakthrough.  And more clarity than you ever thought possible.

So, I invite you to exercise just a particle of belief that Jesus Christ will speak to you, and you will hear Him, and that upon hearing His voice, you will forever be transformed.

In my next post, we'll discuss what these prophets did -- and you can do, too... walk and talk with God.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

01. Are You Truly Awake?

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the first examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

Before we dive into the Doctrine of Walking and Talking with God, I'd like to address an issue that I've become more cognizant of recently.

I believe today -- right now -- is our time to prepare to meet God. Many ignore the importance of this inevitable event, while scant few do in a meaningful way.  Because of this circumstance, I have been blessed to get to know three types of people:

1. The Asleep

These are they who choose to be asleep, to one degree or another, as to the "greater things" of the gospel.  The scriptures do a pretty good job of defining those in this group:

"And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation." (3 Nephi 26:10) 
"Otherwise Satan seeketh to turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them." (D&C 78:10) 
"And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46) 
"For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity." (2 Nephi 27:5) 
"In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 51:39) 
"O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe." (2 Nephi 1:13)
There are at least three sub-categories of "the asleep" that I'd like to highlight:

  • Those who are asleep to falsehoods that are taught.

    Many choose to rely on the teachings of an individual which are in conflict with revealed truths.  Many years ago, I was in a seminary class where the teacher taught that Cain married an ape.  I don't know which was more appalling at the time -- the teaching, or the fact that just two of the approximately 30 students present noticeably winced at the teaching.  After doing some in-depth gospel studying and prayer, my classmate and I confirmed that we had been taught was false.
  • Those who are too wise to be taught.

    "There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, 'So far God may reveal and I will believe.'" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 270).
  • Those who rely on emotional, not spiritual, discernment.
As one friend recently stated, 
"'This doesn't make any sense to me, and therefore it can't be true.' This is insidious. God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Were it not so, we would have no need for God to communicate the gospel to us: we would already be capable of figuring it out for ourselves. Judging truth based on how much sense it makes to you is pretty much the worst path you can take. I'm sure that eating that fruit made a lot of sense to Eve. Learning to decipher the Holy Ghost is the most important skill in this life. Relying on one's emotions is a sure-fire way to get it all wrong. Anyone who takes this position is not familiar with either the scriptures or the teachings of God's servants. After reading the standard works, familiarize yourself with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and Words of Joseph Smith." ("Setting Up Stakes for God", "Upward Thought" April 9, 2014)

2. The Awake Yet Imbalanced (aka "Spiritual Sleepwalkers")

Such people do not fit the above category.  They are awake, their eyes wide open, unto the things of God.  They seek out the "greater things" of the gospel and try to embrace and integrate them into their lives as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
"And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation." (3 Nephi 26:9-10) 
"Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief." (Ether 4:13) 
"And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.
And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh." (Ether 4:7-8)
Unfortunately, they lack a balanced approach to their devotions.  Although their eyes are wide open, they are "Spiritual Sleepwalkers", unable accurately perceive, nor effectively respond to, God’s will.  As a result, the influence of the Holy Ghost is not as detectable as it should be, diminishing their discernment. Left unchecked, the result is spiritual blindness. Examples include:

  • They are impatient to be given a significant spiritual manifestation.

    When we are unduly impatient, we believe our timetable is better than God's. This mindset denies us the tutoring "process of time" which helps us to better attune and develop our spiritual senses.  As we are impatient, we also shut down much of our spiritual receiving capacity: 
"Patient endurance is to be distinguished from merely being 'acted upon.' Endurance is more than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance; it is not only acceptance of the things allotted to us, it is to 'act for ourselves' by magnifying what is allotted to us (Alma 29:3,6). 
Therefore, true enduring represents not merely the passage of time, but the passage of the soul-and not merely from A to B, but sometimes all the way from A to Z. To endure in faith and doeth God's will. (D&C 63:20; D&C 101:35) therefore involves much more than putting up with a circumstance.
Patient endurance permits us to cling to our faith in the Lord and our faith in His timing when we are being tossed about by the surf of circumstance. Even when a seeming undertow grasps us, somehow, in the tumbling, we are being carried forward, though battered and bruised.
We are to 'run with patience the race that is set before us' (Heb. 12:1), and it is a marathon, not a dash." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Endure It Well", April 1990 General Conference
Conversely, those who "endure it well" have a quiet, peaceful majesty, an unspoken, inner awareness that, like Paul, have "kept the faith." 
  • They cling to a (mistaken) notion that they should follow great teachers of the gospel to the extent that the teacher of gospel truths is "their prophet."  
They ignore the fact that (1) Divinely-authorized teachers never ask for, nor desire, any followers or grandiose titles.  They consistently point to God.  (2)  God's first preference is for Israelites both ancient and modern to come unto God directly, without a middleman. 
"And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29) 
"O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name." (2 Nephi 9:41)
  • They simply claim a grandiose title unto themselves.

    There is, today, a subtle but nonetheless evident increase in the number of individuals who are claiming the office of a significant last days leader.  It is amazing to me that these people can claim such titles without having earned such them.   
  • Could Moses claim to be Israel's deliverer while sitting in Jethro's tent, before he ever asked Pharaoh to let his people go?  
  • Could Abraham claim to be the "father of the faithful" while in his youth?  
  • Could Christ claim the title of "Savior" before he had performed the atonement, underwent crucifiction and overcame the grave?
  • Could Christ's apostles claim the apostolic office before they were sent out into the world? 
The Standard Works are unanimous about two things:  First, our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).  Second, titles are big.  They're significant.  They carry eternal weight and ramifications.  And in no circumstances can I see where God has pronounced a title upon someone before they earned the right to the title. So, if God works according to already-proscribed patterns (D&C 52:14), why would He choose to divert from His long-established patterns now?   
If you're "following" someone by unilaterally ascribing a title to them, or are "following" them because you believe the self-proclaimed title they've taken upon themselves is inspired, I urge you to study God's patterns for His proclaiming titles upon His faithful leaders.  I would make darn sure that you are, without question, in sync with God.  The destiny of your eternal soul will likely depend on it. 

3.  The Awake and Balanced

These are they who take the Holy Spirit for their guide.  In fact, they take the Holy Ghost's influence so seriously, that they qualify for a greater source of communication: the voice of Jesus Christ.  They are truly in sync with God, who wants to be our God, without any middleman. 
"For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me." (1 Cor 15-16; emphasis mine) 
"Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." (D&C 6:36; emphasis mine)  
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6; emphasis mine)  
"And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live." (Alma 37:47; emphasis mine)  
"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 37:37; emphasis mine)

A Characteristic of Zion

I believe that God is, as we speak, forming the embryotic nucleus which will someday receive the title of Zion.  As a crowning achievement of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, Zion will likely not be a society reliant on a mortal for instruction.  God will be our lawgiver in a kingdom which prophets both ancient and modern longed for and yearned for: One which takes it's cues directly from God, in which "all the Lord's people" are prophets (Numbers 11:29).

Those who have no desire to be part of such a society today, in either word or deed, may find themselves on the outside of this most promised place.

So today is your opportunity to prepare to meet God:

  • If you choose to be asleep, well, now you know the ramifications of your decisions.  
  • If you choose to be "awake" yet aim your heart and mind at a mortal, then I challenge you to study how God has treated those who adopt such a viewpoint.  
  • Finally, if you choose to look unto God in every thought, and not place anybody between you and God (to any degree), then congratulations, you're ready for the next post in this series of posts examining D&C 93:1's phrase, "obeyeth my voice".

"For they will hear my voice, and shall see me, and shall not be asleep, 
and shall abide the day of my coming; for they shall be purified, 
even as I am pure." (D&C 35:21)