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Sunday, February 15, 2015

05. Spiritual Ascension Step #2: Receive Divine Teaching

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

Preparing For Class Time

In my last post, we examined three little letters that shake the heavens: ASK. Ask what you need to do to become closer to God. Ask how you can have a more spiritually fulfilling life. Just ask the Lord if He's there. Ask Him if He loves you.

The question naturally arises, "OK, sounds good to me. So how do I do it?"

It's not that simple.

I have found that there are at least three characteristics among those who truly seek such answers from the Lord.

  • Persistence: You do it over and over and over. In fact, Brother Joseph counseled you to "Come to God weary him until he blesses you" ([recorded in Willard Richards Pocket Companion, 78–79] cited in The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 15;
  • Passion: Perhaps President Spencer W. Kimball was channeling Enos 1:1-8 when he taught that we must put great effort into our prayers and that we must pray frequently:

    "Do you get answers to your prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord? Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly? Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when you should give dollars to erase that obligation? When you pray, do you just speak, or do you also listen? Your Savior said, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ (Rev. 3:20.)" ("Prayer," New Era, Mar. 1978, p. 17)
  • Determination: The dues of learning to submit to God are often paid before all of the blessings are received. Thus, you need to be determined and committed to do whatever the Lord tells you to do. 
“Settle this in your hearts, that you will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.” (JST, Luke 14:28)
This is because
"The Lord's tutorials make extensive use of props and scenery in this mortal school, but we should not become too fascinated with the schoolhouse or schoolyard to the neglect of the curriculum and the homework required.  The Headmaster is not keen either about our 'dropping' certain courses just because these have proved difficult." (Neal A. Maxwell, "We Will Prove Them Herewith", p. 67)
Paul spoke of more than his own suffering when he wrote that "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous" (Hebrews 21:11). Do not expect nor anticipate that your path to greater spiritual heights will be pleasant. It probably won't be. Only afterward is "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" enjoyed by those who "are exercised thereby."  As you well know, you "receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." (Ether 12:6)

Those who have done these things (more often than not) are eventually blessed with more than they bargained for. What happened to the Brother of Jared when he asked a question of the Lord? What about Moses as he climbed the mountain towards the burning bush? How about Joseph Smith, as he pondered which church was true? They are living testaments that:
"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things--that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal." (D&C 42:61; emphasis mine)

How To Ask

If you've committed yourself to the above three conditions, then I advise wasting no time. Ask away. But I'd do it the way that Brother Joseph advised:
"The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Four 1839-42 p. 190)
Yet these days, I see so many people online -- in chat rooms and forums, on blogs and websites, reading Deseret Book books or magazines -- who are seeking truth and wisdom. And yes, there's some to be found out there. However, it's been my sad experience to see many of these truth-seekers are automatically believing, without much forethought, those in the forums/chatrooms/Facebook groups with the most church/online authority, the loudest voice, the most passionate believer, the most skillful debater, the most experienced forum member, even the person who's had the most spiritual experiences (all of which, naturally without exception, come from God).

While these "modern day" books may assist those who are pondering a doctrine or issue, they are often a cacophany ("a harsh, discordant mixture") of sounds, not places to "be still" and "know God".

So, if you really want to determine your standing before God, if you really want to get out of your self-induced spiritual rut and ascend higher spiritually, then first, empty your cup.  Then, copy a page out of the Joseph Smith Spiritual Ascension playbook and do what he recommends...

"Obtain Divine Teaching" (AKA "Receive Your Personally-Correlated-By-God Curriculum")

When you persistently, passionately, decidedly seek these answers from God, you'll get them.

Answers via Lab Courses

Sometimes, the answers will not come as a word, a phrase or a sentence. Instead, they'll come via experiences (I call them "Lab Courses").
"God seeks to give us tutoring experiences so that, if we are submissive, we will have our own first-hand experiences to refer to in the eternities to come.  We will have authentic, personal knowledge upon which to rely, not merely accurate abstractions. Since experiential knowledge is etched deeply into our souls, it is not so easily forgotten." (Neal A. Maxwell, “Not My Will, But Thine”, p. 98)
"We provide too few opportunities beyond-the-classroom which can let us 'feel' and 'see' the truth and the joy of the Gospel. So much of our time is spent with the lecture part of our Gospel curriculum that we do very little planning and executing with the 'laboratory' part of our Gospel learning. We see many examples where parents provide exhortation and explanation without example and experience. We see occasional leaders who provide example without explanation." (Neal A. Maxwell, "For the Power is in Them," p. 62-63)
Answers via the Word of God

Again, I can't overemphasize how important it is to place yourself in still, small environment and mindset where you can hear the intimations of the Spirit. By doing so, you make yourself more receptive to pure intelligence -- flashes of ideas often encapsulated in a word or a phrase spoken softer than a baby's breath.
"Revelation is the means by which God communicates with men. Revelation is indispensable to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The very nature of the gospel is such that without the active and constant operation of the principle of revelation, it could not be understood nor could it be had. Another manifestation of revelation is the unspoken word, a good illustration of which is given us by Enos. He says: ". . . while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: . . ." (Enos 10.) Then he tells us what the voice of the Lord put in his mind. This is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one's mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted. Flashes of ideas that come into one's mind represent another type or manifestation of revelation. Listen to this statement of the Prophet Joseph: 'A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151.)" (Elder Marion G. Romney, April 1964 General Conference, emphasis mine)
These softly-spoken words and phrases often serve as signposts, pointing you in the direction of the thing the Lord wants you to study, master and learn.

When I get that word or phrase, I have found it most beneficial to start studying all relevant scriptures. That's because:
"We cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256; emphasis mine)
“The Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants... are like a lighthouse in the ocean or a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the fountain of light.... That is what these books are for. They are of God; they are valuable and necessary: by them we can establish the doctrine of Christ.” (Brigham Young, JD 8:219)
"Scripture reading may...lead to current revelation on whatever [subject] the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time. We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation.
Because we believe that scripture reading can help us receive revelation, we are encouraged to read the scriptures again and again. By this means, we obtain access to what our Heavenly Father would have us know and do in our personal lives today. That is one reason Latter-day Saints believe in daily scripture study." (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Scripture Reading and Revelation," Ensign, Jan. 1995, p. 8)
Or, as author Stephen R. Covey explained,
"Obedience to General Commandments schools and prepares us to discern and obey the 'Personal Commandments' given us by the spirit." (Stephen R. Covey, “The Divine Center”, p. 247)
"If we will study the word of the Lord as it comes to us through the standard works and through the instructions of the living prophet and not harden our hearts, but humble ourselves and develop a real desire to understand its application to us in our own peculiar circumstances, and then ask the Lord in faith, believing that we shall receive (see D&C 18:18), all the while being diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord, surely the path we should follow will be made known unto us, and we will be able to face the world as a solid unit." (Pres. Marion G. Romney, “Unity,” Ensign, May 1983, p. 18)
"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)
In summary: As you make God's already-revealed words pre-eminent in your life, you thus qualify for further light and knowledge via personal revelation.
"Personal commandments are given by God through His Holy Spirit to His individual children. They are individualized, tailor-made to each individual in his or her particular situation.
Personal commandments come in the form of practices or specific things to do, which are largely based upon general commandments." (Stephen R. Covey, "The Divine Center", p. 247)
"If we will study the word of the Lord as it comes to us through the standard works and through the instructions of the living prophet and not harden our hearts, but humble ourselves and develop a real desire to understand its application to us in our own peculiar circumstances, and then ask the Lord in faith, believing that we shall receive (see D&C 18:18), all the while being diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord, surely the path we should follow will be made known unto us, and we will be able to face the world as a solid unit." (Pres. Marion G. Romney, “Unity,” Ensign, May 1983, p. 18)

In Conclusion

"In our quest to discover our callings in life, the first and most fundamental thing we must do is to follow the Savior. Learn of him. Learn what he did, then do it. The things that he did, even though they occurred nearly 2,000 years ago, have universal application. Now this may seem pretty general to you, but it is the basis of all else. You will have to do this by personally studying the scriptures and his life and personally becoming acquainted with him. (And, incidentally, when you do that, you will have your questions answered." (Elder John H. Groberg, "What Are You Doing Here?" New Era, Jan. 1987, p. 34, emphasis mine)
In Step #1, we discussed how to ask.

In Step #2, we explored how to receive divine teaching.

In Step #3, we'll examine how to stay in alignment to keep this process going strong.

1 comment:

  1. God bless you for the time and sacrifice you make in building and defending the Kingdom of God through your wonderful posts! Your ability to teach through the spirit are inspiring and helps me along in my journey and I feel very thankful to God for you! I pray the Lord will bless you for the light you share and for the goodness and the truth that is shared here. My heart is full of gratitude! Thank you - Hurrah for Israel! :)