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Sunday, November 16, 2014

10. Walking and Talking with God, Part 9: The Perfect Alignment, Part 3

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

In my last two posts,we explored the concept of a "Spiritual Joystick" which you control. We exhibit overzealousness when this joystick is too far forward, sin when it is in reverse, and an unhealthy preoccupation with the past when it tilts to the left.

A Few Notes On Moving to the Right

As the events of the last days confront us in increasingly starker clarity, I believe it's only natural for people to develop a fascination and interest in the future.  We seek facts, answers and reassurances that can potentially ensure our temporal and spiritual survival in the last days.

Unfortunately, many people misprioritize their sources of information and insight regarding the future.

They may place a tremendously weighty significance on others' experiences or insights. They read books and listen to tapes of what the future may hold.

Personally, I have no problem with reading such books and listening to such tapes.  In fact, I praise God that He has given such experiences to a few, so that many can benefit.  However, in my opinion, we should not make such books pre-eminent over the revealed word of God.

Instead, in His wisdom, the Lord gave us His guidebook for the last days.

The Book of Mormon’s end-time scenario is grounded in many events predicted by Isaiah.  Perhaps this is one reason why the Lord said,
"And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah." (3 Nephi 23:1)
Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the New Testament and Book of Mormon. He was also the most quoted prophet in the Lord's statements while in mortality. It makes sense to me that if Isaiah was of preeminent importance to Him, how much so should it be with us?

And while we're at it, what of Jeremiah, Daniel and Revelation?

The more you read and understand those prophets, the more knowledge you have about the last days.

Knowledge is one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost (John 14:26; 16:13; D&C 34:10; 121:26–33) and one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:8; Moroni 10:10; D&C 46:18). Peter lists knowledge along with faith, patience, kindness, and virtue as necessary acquisitions for one who would seek for a divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–9). Since no one can be saved in ignorance of the gospel (D&C 131:6), and one progresses only as fast as he gains knowledge (HC 4:588), it follows that the person who gains knowledge will have “the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

Indeed, "whoso treasureth up my words shall not be deceived" (Matt. 24:44)

Another Spin on Right-Joystickedness

A preoccupation with the future, while neglecting weightier matters (Matthew 23:23; D&C 117:8), can be equally dangerous.

Several years ago, I subscribed to a website devoted to preparing people for the future. At first, I was fascinated by the voluminous amounts of information people shared in this forum. More was being added everyday.

Yet over time, I became disturbed by the actions a few of the website's leaders displayed.  When a conflict would arise, they often lacked persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love and kindness.  Instead, they were unabashedly, unapologetically sharp, quick to exercise control, dominion, compulsion and especially judgment.  And they more often than not took great pride in such behaviors, justifying them by saying "This is how families are.  If you can't hack it, then leave" (that's an exact quote by the way). Not surprisingly, the spirit left that website in short order.

Let me crystal clear on this point: You can't use telestial means to bring about celestial results.  

And we are fooling ourselves (at best) and others who do or will depend on us (at worst) if we believe we can somehow qualify for Zion while consistently displaying and justifying such appalling behaviors.

In Conclusion

As you can see, it's incumbent upon yourself to not veer to the left nor to the right, but straight.  Indeed, we know that we should pray, "make thy way straight before my face" (Psalms 5:8; 2 Nephi 4:33) because "his paths are straight" (Alma 37:12) -- "a straight course to the promised land." (Alma 37:44).

"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:2
"Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." (Proverbs 4:25)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

09. Walking and Talking with God, Part 8: The Perfect Alignment, Part 2

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

All of us -- including you -- have a "Spiritual Joystick".

Move it forward too much, and you're overzealous.  Move it in reverse, and you go backwards in your spiritual journey, distancing yourself from God via sin.

Yet, like any other joystick, you can also move your joystick too far to the left or to the right.

A Few Notes On Moving to the Left

I'd like you to imagine something with me.  Imagine you're one of the Israelites in Moses' time.  You are, with your family, crossing the Red Sea.  Envision what would have happened if you had veered to the left.  Undoubtedly, you would have walked right into a wall of water!  Veering to the right would have produced the same result.

Just as it's easy to see the futility that comes from hitting a wall of water, we can well imagine what would happen if we become preoccupied with knowing who we were, and what we did, prior to our mortal birth here.

Frankly, I'm disturbed by reports I hear of "blessings" people give to others which spend much time, and provide great detail, into supposed aspects of a person's pre-mortal life.  Even worse is the effect such "blessings" often have on a recipient, as they are led to believe fantastic, superhuman claims that would boggle the imagination.  True, priesthood blessings (including patriarchal blessings) may mention something about a person's premortal status.  But they neither dwell on, nor preoccupy the recipient, with ego-enhancing, "positive energy" details for dozens of minutes or paragraphs.

Why not?

It's simple.  A preoccupation with our past makes us less likely to focus on today.
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matthew 6:34)
The same words, in Hebrew, are used to express the same thought in the Rabbinic Jewish saying "dyya l'tzara b'shaata (דיה לצרה בשעתה)" or, "the suffering of the (present) hour is enough for it". (Tr. Berakhot 9b)

In my opinion, anything that seeks to divert your focus from today to yesterday is doing you a grave disservice.  Don't you have enough to deal with today?  Don't you have the toils and troubles, as well as joys and blessings, that the day may bring upon you?  Don't you have the responsibilities of Christian service, and the ever-present battle with temptation?

Another Spin on Left-Joystickedness

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" (John Greenleaf Whittier)
If there's one thing we humans are good at, it's reorienting our focus onto the skeletons of our past.

We regret, we kick ourselves, we demean ourselves, we condemn ourselves.  And in the process, we (literally) add insult to injury by ignoring the commandment to judge not. Even if we have repented of a wrongdoing, we still beat ourselves up over it -- and in the process, we totally ignore the Lord's statement that "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." (D&C 58:42)

Last week in church, I was in on a discussion about the need for us to regularly perform a self-introspection, a self-assessment of our spiritual status. I agree that such status checks can be worthwhile.  However, I also happen to know that when it comes to spirituality assessments, we tend to be our own worst enemy.
"Our first enemy we will find within ourselves. It is a good thing to overcome that enemy first and bring ourselves into subjection to the will of the Father, and into strict obedience to the principles of life and salvation which he has given to the world for the salvation of men." (Pres. Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 371–72)
And how do we "overcome that enemy first"?  We start by recognizing that
"Satan will try to make us believe that our sins are not forgiven because we can remember them. Satan is a liar; he tries to blur our vision and lead us away from the path of repentance and forgiveness. God did not promise that we would not remember our sins. Remembering will help us avoid making the same mistakes again. But if we stay true and faithful, the memory of our sins will be softened over time. This will be part of the needed healing and sanctification process." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Point of Safe Return", April 2007 General Conference)
We proceed on that path of healing and sanctification as we let God perform that miracle in our lives.  As you "empty your cup" and "return and report" to Him -- in fact,
"As you kneel in humility before our Father daily, tell him openly of your progress, and also of your fears and doubts. As you draw near to Him, He draws near to us. He gives us peace and encouragement. He heals our souls." (Bruce D. Porter, "Searching Inward," Ensign, Nov. 1971, 65; emphasis mine).
"Though I am weak, yet God, when prayed,
Cannot withhold his conquering aid."

In the course of my life, I have been extremely blessed to associate with some who have been in the literal presence of our Advocate, Jesus Christ.  Without exception, they described how they felt totally unworthy to be in His presence.  Yet He who is the source of light and love was reciprocally enthusiastic, and proactively forgave them of their sins.  If these friends wanted to dwell on their sinful state, the Lord would essentially encourage them by saying (and I paraphrase), "That's your choice if you want to go there.  But I think it would be best if you keep moving forward and not look behind you anymore.  I took care of all that 2,000 years ago.  But the future is up to you."

In my next post, we'll examine how easy it is to let your Spiritual Joystick veer to the right, and what you can do about it.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

08. Walking and Talking with God, Part 7: The Perfect Alignment, Part 1

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

If there's one thing that today's generation knows, it's how to use a joystick.

When I was a teenager, I was "so-so" at games that required a joystick.  Now, even my expert-level friends in their prime would be no competition to the joystick jockeys of today.

As I proceed in life, I've come to realize that all of us have a "Spiritual Joystick" as well, which we control per our own desires.

In my last post, I described one direction of our "Spiritual Joysticks" -- forward.  I'd like to briefly return to that direction, and add one more joystick direction to the discussion as well.  Your responsibility will be to see just how well-aligned and well-balanced your joystick truly is.

A Few Notes On Moving Forward

In my last post, we explored a peculiar dynamic among those who profess to want to do the will of the Lord: the tendency to display overexuberance, overenthusiasm and overzealousness which can often lead to disastrous results. Brother Joseph realized this tendency when he said,
"A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination be aware of be cause the things of God Are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out."(TPJS p. 137;
This is a fascinating statement!  To understand the things of God, we must live by a kind of Celestial Algebra:
+ Experience
+ Careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts
= Finding out "the things of God"
It is amazing to me how often I have seen, over the span of many years, people who embark on new directions in their lives without having first spent meaningful amounts of time, without awaiting the tutoring experience that comes from the Lord, and without Spirit-inspired pondering that cannot be forced. Or, if they do spend time on an issue, it's usually measured in minutes, hours or a few days.

Perhaps this is why the Psalms also implore us,
"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning." (Psalms 130:1-6)
(It's also amazing how relevant verses 1 and 2 are to those who have been endowed).

Clearly, if we are wanting to hearken (understand and do) to the Lord's will at a far deeper level, we must accept the fact that:
  1. The things of eternity cannot and will not be rushed (we must repent and make our timetable conform to the Lord's).
  2. Divine timetables vary from person to person (the Lord's timetable for you and I, regarding the same thing, may in all likelihood differ).
  3. Divine timetables also have a certain predictability as well.  For example, the Lord expects us to choose Him over anything/anyone else in short order (Joshua 24:15), yet the process Joseph Smith used in determining which church was correct took time, experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts (JSH 1:8).

A Few Notes On Moving Backwards

Nor can we afford the luxury of moving our "Spiritual Joystick" in reverse.  I suppose in spiritual terms, going backwards might be considered "sin".

From the best to the worst of us, all are drenched in a sinful, fallen, unprofitable state every minute of our lives.
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities." (Isaiah 64:6-7)
"They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12)
"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants." (Mosiah 2:21)
Many people often choose to look at themselves and, at least to a certain extent, resign themselves to their sinful state. Why? Because over time, many have come to believe that repentance is a painful, punishing process.  We equate words like "suffering", "punishment", "confession" and "remorse" to repentance.  And so, we delay or event neglect to repent.

And all the while, Satan laughs (Moses 7:26).

Yet these words above are not repentance.

To see what true repentance is, feel free to check out my post here (and in subsequent posts, listed below).

D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 1) -- Re-Learn What Repentance Is (and Is Not)
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 2) -- The First Three (Out of Four) Steps of Repentance
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 3) -- Drop Your Stones
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 4) -- The Daily Return and Report
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 5) -- How Do You Know You're Forgiven?
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 6) -- The Oft-Neglected, Final Step in Having Your Sins Forsaken
D&C 93:1 (Forsake Your Sins, Part 7) -- Crying Repentance Without Tears

There, you'll see that true repentance is "shube".  It is "Metaneoeo".  Contrary to what Satan would have you believe, these aren't painful, punishing concepts. They're joyous, marvelous and wonderful.

About three months ago, I discussed these two concepts with a friend.  Since then, it's been an absolute thrill for me to see him turning to the Lord in ways I hadn't even anticipated.  As he has turned to God, it appears to me that God has exceeded my friend's expectations of divine sensitivity, understanding, mercy, forgiveness and love.
"For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end." (D&C 76:5
"Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy avows.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." (Job 22:21-28)
You may think that you have no worth, or that you're unredeemable.  That God is nowhere in sight.

But little do you know that He is there by your side.  He is guiding you closer to Him, and you may not even know it.

He calls you chosen, free, forgiven, wanted, child of the King.  You are His forever, held in treasure, loved...

In Conclusion

Today, you read about two directions of your Spiritual Joystick.

You can move it forward a bit too much, or backwards a bit too much.  Both actions get you "out of alignment" with God.

And both misalignments can be quickly and easily corrected.

In my next post, we'll examine how we move the Spiritual Joystick left or right -- with equally detrimental consequences and equally gratifying correction.