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Sunday, March 22, 2015

09. Spiritual Ascension Step #4: Repent

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

"Thy Sins Are Forgiven Thee"

"And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away." (Enos 1:4-6)

"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.
But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God." (Alma 36:18-23)
"I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament.
In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.
While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor." (Joseph Smith-History:28-30)
Look at these three passages. What do they have in common (ignore that they're all men; gender is highly irrelevant in this topic)?

  • All three felt the weight of their own sinful states.
  • All three, in meekness, approached God.
  • All three asked God for forgiveness.
  • All three were quickly forgiven.
  • Soon thereafter, all three interacted with the heavens (one conversed with the Lord, another saw God and angels, another interacted with an angel).

Am I alone here, but do you, also, see the correlation?

Sincerely repenting --> Straightforward forgiveness --> Closer communion with the heavens and deity

Return and Repent


"If he … repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also." (Mosiah 26:29)

"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:42–43)
"verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death." (D&C 64:7)
"When … they repent of the evil, they shall be forgiven." (D&C 64:17)
Granted, I believe there are some exceptions to what we read above. It looks pretty certain that if you've "sinned unto death" (or committed "the unpardonable sin") by denying the Holy Ghost (Matt. 12:31–32; Alma 39:5-6; D&C 64:7), your actions are "unpardonable". Also, it seems pretty tough to obtain forgiveness while you are unforgiving of others (a state which leaves you "condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin"; D&C 64:8).

So, assuming you haven't done either of those, and knowing that repentance can and does lead to greater closeness with the heavens, I ask you: what's stopping you from repenting?

With such a magnanimous promise, why would anyone hesitate to throw off the evils of his life and come to their Lord?

Uncomplicating Repentance

Almost two years ago, I documented my search for what repentance is.

I was surprised to learn that repentance is not suffering. It is not punishment. It isn't confession or remorsefulness, either. I replaced those words with others like "shube" and "metaneoeo". I discovered a beautiful simplicity in repentance. As one commenter, "Steve", pointed out:
"I remember the scriptural definition of repentance: Confess and forsake. I believe it really is that simple. It worked for Alma's youngest son, as it had for his father, and it did not take a year of following the bishop/stake president's repentance plan and prove to him and the high council that you are okay to return."
No matter if you know all about repentance or not, I invite you to discover -- or rediscover -- the true meaning of repentance. After re-reading these links, I have fortified my testimony that repentance is (or can be) highly motivating, inspiring, uplifting and can (by itself) trigger some touching, sincere, understanding, non-judgmental conversations with God:

01. Re-Learn What Repentance Is (and Is Not)

02. The First Three (Out of Four) Steps of Repentance

03. Drop Your Stones

04. The Daily Return and Report

05. How Do You Know You're Forgiven?

06. The Oft-Neglected, Final Step in Having Your Sins Forsaken

07. Crying Repentance Without Tears

True Ascension Begins With You

If I were Satan, and knew that repentance is a prime way of closing the distance between man and God, I would do everything possible to make it big and bad, difficult and demanding. I hope you don't fall for his trap.

What I do hope is for you to recognize the sadness on Christ's face as you choose to not take advantage of the sacrifice he made for you 2,000 years ago, and the joy He experiences as you do. I have no doubt that he is enthusiastic when one takes his moments in Gethsemene seriously.
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa. 55:6-7; emphasis mine)
I like that phrase, "for he will abundantly pardon." Regarding Isaiah 55:6-7, Isaiah scholar Avraham Gileadi, PhD. notes:
"Unfortunately, many of Jehovah’s people have grown weary of him (Isaiah 40:27-30; 50:4) and don’t inquire of him or call upon him (Isaiah 8:19; 9:13; 30:2; 43:22; 65:1). Because the verb 'return' (swb) also means 'repent' (swb) (Isaiah 6:10; 21:12; 31:6; 44:22; 59:20), repentance is here defined as calling upon Jehovah, forsaking sinful thoughts, and refraining from evil ways. Only on those conditions does Jehovah mercifully pardon their faults. Without mercy, his justice alone operates, implying a prolongation of covenant curses until such time as his people do their part (Isaiah 1:5; 27:9-1)." (
In my opinion, God not only mercifully pardons us, but as the verses above demonstrate, He -- and/or the heavens -- also draws nearer to us...because we first came nearer to Him.
"They shall be purified, even as I am pure." (D&C 35:21)
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48)
"Therefore, 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)

Video: "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" by Casting Crowns

Monday, March 9, 2015

08. Spiritual Ascension Step #3: Align (KNOW Christ, Not Just Know About Him)

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

Praying always/continually is a heck of a challenge. In our busy society, with everything that tugs on and at us, just being able to focus on anything can be cause for celebration.

The Importance of Knowing His Voice

Nevertheless, we have these scriptures staring us in the face:

Jesus Christ speaks to YOU.
"And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel." (Isaiah 45:3)
The righteous know He speaks to them.
"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)
"...mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7)
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27)
If you don't know His voice yet -- in fact, if you're not even acquainted with it -- get cracking:
"And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me." (D&C 84:52)
"And upon them that hearken not to the voice of the Lord shall be fulfilled that which was written by the prophet Moses, that they should be cut off from among the people." (D&C 133:63)
"And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved." (D&C 45:2)

Do You Know Christ, or Just Know About Him?

The Lord has spoken it: it IS possible for billions of people to spend their lifetimes reading the Bible and attending church, and yet not know God. By the looks of it, very, very few of us actually know Him.

How about you?

I think much of the reason why people struggle in establishing and maintaining a truly intimate, personal relationship with Jesus is because they don't know Him. Indeed, reading the Gospels without understanding the true personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off.

For example: Does Christ have a sense of humor? Of course He did! Then quick, give me an example of His sense of humor. Even better, how it's been revealed to you, personally. Truth be told, He is not the sad-looking guy from stained glass windows. He is fun! He’s the life of the party, quick to share an inside joke or memory with his close friends, and always beyond generous.

What about His disruptiveness? Many people (and even some movies) envision Christ as kind a human version of "elevator music" -- a very sweet, sappy, waaay overly-gentle, almost effeminate person. But Jesus could be radically disruptive, unnerving and unsettling. In the clearing of the temple, he made a weapon, then expelled men and animals. That's love in action, which is often fierce and protective. Sometimes love requires that you refuse to let the drunk drive himself home.

How about His fearlessness? Jesus was never motivated by fear of man. Tense situations were commonplace to him, yet he said such startlingly honest things to people. What do you think the modern-day equivalent would be for "vipers" -- a word he targeted at Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes alike? Love is not always a get-well card; sometimes it's an intervention.

How about His interactions with others? Let's see, he hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans and lepers. Who would be modern-day equivalents of those groups? Also, who did He disdain? Read the paragraph above. Who are the modern-day equivalents of those groups?

And kids? Didn't Christ tell us to become like a child? Didn't He say "Don’t keep the children from me!"?  The playfulness of children was synonymous with the playfulness of the Messiah. He was a person who would get down on the floor and play cars or build sand castles with the kids, leaving the religious elite to their discussions. Jesus was real. Jesus was about relationships. And good relationships are cultivated through playfulness.

You see, knowing about Christ -- yet not knowing Him (and His personality) -- is like trying to understand someone's vocal inflections via an e-mail. It's like trying to love a get-well card. You catch the niceness and virtues, but you miss a whole higher dimension: Him.

It's that whole higher dimension that is one of the most important truths of the restoration: You can know Jesus Christ for yourself, independent of any other person. Just ask the Brother of Jared, Nephi or Joseph Smith what they were trying to get across in their writings.

It's what Christ would want. After all, He preferred Israel to come to Him personally. They demurred, and said they wanted Moses to serve as an intermediary. And because of that, they were cursed with a lesser priesthood.

Know The Real Christ

Brother Joseph said that
"It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 345; see also Ether 12:39; emphasis mine).
Here it is -- the first principle of the Gospel! Yet how well do you know for a certainty the character of God? How well do you converse with Him as one man converses with another? Or shall I ask, how well do you want to be able to converse with Him as one man converses with another?

Obviously this is do-able. Otherwise, Joseph wouldn't have encouraged us in that direction. Obviously it's important, because what's the first principle of the Gospel? Yep, you just read it.

So here's my invitation to you:

1. Ditch the smart phone and/or computer games, Netflix, watching college or pro sports for a while. In fact, show God that you place a higher priority in getting to know His son than anything the telestial world can offer you.

2. Resolve to get to know the real Jesus. Tell Father that you want to switch from knowing a fuzzy, black-and-white image of Jesus to a High Definition, full-color, even 3-dimensional image of the most important man who ever lived. You want to be able to hear Him so well, you'd think He's standing a few feet away from you. ;)

3. Become acquainted with His personality. To do that, get informed. Out of everything I have ever read, the one resource I'd recommend buying that effectively addresses Christ's personality is John Eldredge's book (or watch his Youtubes of) "Beautiful Outlaw". Here are the videos, in order:

Beautiful Outlaw

Chapter 1: The Playfulness of God
Chapter 2: The Missing Essential -- His Personality
Chapter 3: Is Jesus Really Playful?
Chapter 4: Fierce Intention
Chapter 5: The Most Human Face of All
Chapter 6: Extravagant Generosity
Chapter 7: Disruptive Honesty
Chapter 8: A Scandalous Freedom
Chapter 9: Cunning
Chapter 10: Humility
Chapter 11: Trueness
Chapter 12: Beautiful
Chapter 13: Loving Jesus
Chapter 14: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- With You
Chapter 15: Clearing Away the Religious Fog
Chapter 16: Letting Jesus Be Himself -- Encounters
Chapter 17: Letting His Life Fill Yours
Epilogue: One Last Thought

(Note: In Chapter 1, Eldredge disparages organized religion. I disagree with him on that point. All throughout the New Testament, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord has endorsed organized religion. As long as the Lord does, I do, too. There's not an author around who's gotten everything 100% correct. Still, let's not lose sight of what Eldredge is trying to get across regarding the importance of developing a one-on-one relationship with the Savior, and not letting anything -- anything -- come between you and Jesus).

4. Calm your mind. Cast out anything and everything that's trying to seize your attention. This is because the Lord's voice
" a still, small, and whisper-like voice. It is one that is felt more than it is heard. It comes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and impressions. To hear such a voice, you must be still and quiet in your own soul, laying aside your excess laughter and light-mindedness. While it may not seem easy to so discipline your life, hearing the precious, loving voice of the Lord will sustain you in every circumstance and is therefore worth every effort" (Elder James J. Hamula, "Winning the War against Evil", October 2008 General Conference; also see 1 Kings 19:12; Helaman 5:30; 3 Nephi 11:1-7; D&C 85:6; D&C 88:69, 121).
5. Then, knowing what His personality is like, reach out to Him in your thoughts. Listen for His reply.
"What we find in some accounts is more than just a thought or an impression that comes into the mind. Some people have revelation that they describe as being like someone is speaking in their mind. These experiences seem to come as actual sentences, as clearly defined direction, or answers to a question. Enos described it thus: 'The voice of the Lord came into my mind' (Enos 1:10)." (Gerald N. Lund, "Hearing the Voice of the Lord", p. 71).
"This (experience of Enos) 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." (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1964, p. 124).
6. Give it some time. Don't rush into things, and don't expect things to go "from Zero to 60" overnight:
"Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is like learning a language, the language of revelation. Learning any language takes time. It takes repetition and practice. It takes an immersion in that language. And it takes learning the rules that govern the language. If we were learning Portuguese or Chinese, we would not only have to memorize vocabulary words but learn syntax and grammar as well. Similarly, as we set out to better learn the language of revelation, there are guidelines and rules to govern us." (Sherri Dew, "No Doubt About It")

My Testimony

I invite you to know Jesus as He is: a vibrant force of personality. An enigma, a paradox, a multi-faceted three-dimensional individual. And someone with whom we can experience and play, revere and worship, every minute of every day.

Knowing the real Jesus, in an intimate and everyday way, is life-changing.

Your life will never be the same.

Every step you take, every person you see, will be seen in a whole new light. His light. He will astound you as He brightens your darkest days in very personal ways. He will teach you things about yourself you hadn't even considered. He will amaze you with the acts of generosity and compassion He will encourage you to perform. You will fall in love with Him all over again.

As you do this, you will naturally draw closer to Him...

And He will draw closer to you...

Until you arrive at that one specific day, which you will always and forever cherish among all the days of your life, which you will call...

"The Perfect Day"