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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September, 2015


We survived it!

It's now been a couple of days since the Hebrew calendar day 29 Elul, the Shemitah, and we're still here. So is the stock market, the dollar and pretty much every national economy.

This calls for celebration. While I'm not quite to the celebratory level of getting up on top of a table and dancing, I do believe our survival through this well-patterned and well-predicted day of gloom deserves my raising my glass of ice-cold lemonade and a "well done" to everybody.


That's the attitude I see with quite a few people who believe their consistently saying that "all this Shemitah stuff is a bunch of horse pucky" is now vindicated. Even national media has hopped on the bandwagon within the last week, with many pointing their fingers of scorn and derision at all those crazy Mormons stocking up for the end of the world.

I hate to rain on anybody's "happy happy joy joy" moment, but I think there's a part that a lot of these pre-millennial party animals are forgetting.

In speaking of the last days before His second coming, Christ highlighted a similar situation:
"But the evil servant is he who is not found watching. And if that servant is not found watching, he will say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants, and the maidens, and to eat, and drink, and to be drunken.
The Lord of that servant will come in a day he looketh not for, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him down, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant who knew his Lord's will, and prepared not for his Lord's coming, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not his Lord's will, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom the Lord has committed much, of him will men ask the more." (Luke 12:54-57 JST; emphasis mine)
Many years ago, my son once asked me, "Dad, what does air look like?" Good question. We really can't see air, let alone gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, cosmic rays, gravity and magnetism. But just because we haven't seen something, in the way that we expect, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

In my humble opinion, the fact that more than a few people are essentially saying "My Lord delayeth his coming" is itself a fulfillment of prophecy.

Keep your eye on the ball. Keep preparing spiritually and physically. And please, don't forget to pray for those who are quick to scorn and ridicule you for your preparations.

Make no mistake: Even though we saw nothing significant happen on 29 Elul and the economy didn't crash, the Lord delayeth nothing.

An Egyptian adornment worn over the chest which
shows the duality between between the rival gods
Horus (the god of light) on one side and Seth
(the god of darkness) on the other.


Next Tuesday, September 22, is the autumnal equinox. While this day is often noted as the first official day of fall (and to me, it is a day closer to egg nog being available in local stores), it also has far greater significance: it is one of two days on the calendar when there is equal day and equal night. Light and dark have equal time. They are in balance.

Granted, this date depends on your latitude, and can vary by as much as several weeks from place to place (go here for more details).  Nevertheless, the vast majority of those reading this blog have or will experience the fall equinox.

On Wednesday, the balance is broken, as the amount of darkness overtakes the amount of sunlight as it climbs to the apex of calendrical darkness, the winter solstice. On the surface, fall seems to be a time for us to prepare for another time when we must face darkness and death.

Yet, under the surface, the fall equinox can be a time of unprecedented light breaking forth. 192 years ago, just before the fall equinox, Joseph Smith prayed "to commune with some kind of messenger." He got his wish that night, and every year after that until September 22, 1827, when the angel Moroni presented him with the plates of the Book of Mormon.

Again, God acted in a manner and time when no one was expecting it.

It can be so for you, too, on a personal basis.

Next Tuesday, I invite you to kneel before God in the profoundest of ways, repent and recommit to Him (on this day when physical darkness begins to overtake physical daylight) your dedication to choose light over dark, good over evil, celestial over telestial. Like Joseph, invite and beg God to let His light break forth into your life in truly profound ways, even when everything else is going dark.


I'm by no means a college or pro sports enthusiast, and no, it's not my intention to turn my blog into a referendum on sportsmanship. But this last Saturday, I witnessed something during the BYU-BSU game that really disappointed me (click here for the Youtube, if you don't see it on the left):

What's even more interesting: (1) the BYU player who threw the crotch punch is receiving "internal school discipline," with no apparent loss of playing time, and (2) this is the second punch BYU has thrown in its last three games (click here for #1). As one online commenter stated, "BYU has turned into a team with a chip on it's shoulder willing to engage in unbecoming behavior, which doesn't represent the institution very well..."

The church's football players don’t play organized sports on Sundays, but it's no biggie if they throw punches? Just what do we stand for? Just what do the phrases "exceptional sportsmanship," "respectful behavior," "honor code" and "higher standards" mean?

True, most of us will never throw a full-force crotch punch at another. But how often are we guilty of throwing spiritual punches, like judging others? Rumor-mongering? Unforgiveness? Lacking charity (even for those we feel don't deserve it; see Mosiah 4:17)? Do you think God considers those "no biggies"?

Even though we may feel we can get away with deplorable behavior, the moral of the story is simple: If you are going to have higher standards in life, then you'd better live up to them.

Choose light over dark. And always be found knowing -- and doing -- the Lord's will.

In so doing, you'll have nothing to fear, be ashamed or concerned about when you someday review the YouTube of your life with Father.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Alignment, Part 1 of 6: Face To Dirt


In a spiritual sense, it happens when you -- yes, you -- are in a position of cooperation, agreement or alliance with God to such an extent, that He lifts you up so you aim higher, reach further and attain greater.

It's the internal realization that without Him, you are nothing; and with Him, you are a god in embryo.

Today, I'd like to take you on a journey -- one that I started almost three and a half years ago. It's a journey which takes you to the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, which invariably includes hearing the voice of Jesus Christ, seeing His face, and knowing -- truly, truly knowing -- how close He is to you as you walk this journey with Him, and no one else.


Approximately 2,000 years ago, the Savior fed an entire crowd of about 5,000 men ("beside women and children", making the total quite possibly closer to 10,000) five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15).

This miracle has at least two implications:

First, I believe it symbolizes the word of God. The scriptures can be likened to the five loaves and two fishes in that by partaking and receiving even teeny tiny portions of them, we can be filled to overflowing with spiritual insights of God, the eternities and ourselves. For example, D&C 93:1 can provide many, many basketfuls of spiritual nourishment.

Second (in light of my first point above), I believe it is miracle which one can prevent themselves and others from experiencing.

A case study: I recently read a first-hand account of a Sunday School teacher who testified to their class that "there is no need for us to study and worry ourselves and learn what's written in the scriptures, through our own prayer and revelation, because it's so convenient we have leaders and a prophet today to tell us what to do." (I kid you not; this was really taught).

Anyone who preaches neglecting, minimizing or outright withdrawing from the direct word of God, in any way, shape or form, is espousing an anti-Christ, apostate and Satanic doctrine -- period.

Unfortunately, the minimization of the scriptures is an all too-common report across the entire spectrum of Christian belief systems.

Here's another one: Some of those who believe they are spiritually enlightened profess that God has told them that their personal revelation trumps God's written words (thus making God contradictory). For example:
  • They believe there is no sin, because God said so (to them).
  • They take addictive, mood- or mind-altering substances into their bodies, supposedly because "God said it's OK." Yet they still believe that their body is a temple of God.
  • They engage in fornication or adultery, claiming that the God of chastity, faithfulness and cleanness told them it's OK.
  • They make absolutely no effort to be self-sufficient (despite being able to work) and instead live off the wealth of others, because God granted them a special exemption from embracing the basic characteristics of a Zion-like society.
  • They make a host of claims, and profess beliefs, which contradict doctrines detailed in the scriptures...all with "God's special permission".
In my opinion, such beliefs and behaviors stem from a very basic deficiency: these people esteem not the Word of God. They believe they are somehow superior to, immune or exempt from, the Word of God.

Elder Dean L. Larsen explained that anciently, the Israelites "got themselves into great difficulty" because they
"placed themselves in serious jeopardy in spiritual things because they were unwilling to accept simple, basic principles of truth. They entertained and intrigued themselves with ‘things that they could not understand’ (Jacob 4:14). They were apparently afflicted with a pseudosophistication and a snobbishness that gave them a false sense of superiority over those who came among them with the Lord’s words of plainness. They went beyond the mark of wisdom and prudence, and obviously failed to stay within the circle of fundamental gospel truths, which provide a basis for faith. They must have reveled in speculative and theoretical matters that obscured for them the fundamental spiritual truths. As they became infatuated by these ‘things that they could not understand,’ their comprehension of and faith in the redeeming role of a true Messiah was lost, and the purpose of life became confused. A study of Israel’s history will confirm Jacob’s allegations." ("Looking Beyond the Mark," October 1987).
"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God." (2 Nephi 9:28-29)

How to Know If You Are Truly Hearkening to the Counsels of God

If you want to sincerely, truly align with God -- and dialogue with Him -- you must first cherish the words He's already given you:

"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." (Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256)

Interestingly enough, the Greek word for receive -- lambano -- is used 239 times in the New Testament; 131 of those in the four gospels). It means "to take with the hand, lay hold of, any person or thing in order to use it; to take in order to carry away; to associate with one's self as companion, attendant." Think about it.
"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)
You see, by knowing and obeying the General Commandments (the scriptures), you are schooled and prepared to discern and obey the "Personal Commandments" which can potentially be given you by the Holy Ghost. That's why
"...we never inquire at the hand of God for special revelation, only in case of there being no previous revelation to suit the case..." (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, 1:339)
It's no wonder that the sons of Mosiah
"...waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God." (Alma 17:2-3)
Or, put formulaically,
Search "the scriptures diligently" (to know the word of God)
+ "Much prayer"
+ "Fasting"
= "The spirit of prophecy"
= "The spirit of revelation"
= The ability to teach "with power and authority of God"
Those aren't the only benefits:
"And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction." (1 Nephi 15:23-24)
I believe that if you are searching the scriptures correctly, then you enjoy [1] a heightened knowledge of the goodness of God and [2] an awakened sense of your nothingness, your worthlessness and fallen state (Mosiah 4:5; Alma 26:12).

Indeed, you are invited to humble yourself to the depths of humility, and call on the name of the Lord daily (Mosiah 4:11).

To what extent should that depth reach?
"less than the dust of the earth" (Helaman 12:7)

"For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return"

"Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying," (Genesis 17:3)

"Then Abraham fell upon his face..." (Genesis 17:17)

"...he [Enoch] bowed himself to the earth before the Lord..." (Moses 6:31)

"And until then I had been prostrate on my face, trembling: and the Lord called me with his own mouth, and said to me: Come hither Enoch and hear my words" (1 En. 15:24)
"And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped." (Exodus 34:8
"And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces." (Leviticus 9:24
"And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?" (Numbers 16:22
"Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them;" (Numbers 20:6
"Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground." (Numbers 22:31
"And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5:14-15
"And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads." (Joshua 7:6
"Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" (Ruth 2:10
"And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." (1 Kings 18:39
"And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces." (1 Chronicles 21:16
"And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord." (2 Chronicles 20:18
"And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (Nehemiah 8:6
"Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6
"For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth." (Psalms 44:25
"As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake." (Ezekiel 1:28
"...and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face." (Ezekiel 3:23
"And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?" (Ezekiel 9:8
"And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters...and I fell upon my face." (Ezekiel 43:2-3
"...and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord: and I fell upon my face." (Ezekiel 44:4
"And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you." (Mosiah 2:25
“And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
'O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee.'" (Alma 22:17–18
"That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." (Alma 34:38
"O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility." (Alma 42:30
"O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God." (Helaman 12:7-8
"And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39
"And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him." (Mark 14:35
"And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." (Luke 5:12
"And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5
"And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God," (Revelation 7:11
"And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God," (Revelation 11:1
"Then they [the pioneers] cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. This was literally fulfilled, for we were faithful in calling on the Lord; we bowed before Him in the morning, we humbled ourselves before Him in the evening, and we prostrated ourselves before Him in our secret places. His hand was with us, He heard our cries, our prayers came up before Him, and He delivered us from all our afflictions." (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses. Vol 12:89)
There you have it -- 34 scriptures and one historical account which detail what our fathers and mothers did, saw or understood while interacting with divinity: they bowed their heads (touched their foreheads) to the ground, thus placing their hearts above their heads. *

Why? Because they knew that the only way to bend God's ear was to be totally, completely and utterly humble -- spiritually, emotionally and physically.

There's not an ounce of insincerity to it. And there's no other prayer posture has as much meaning packed into it as this one:
"Prostrating to the ground and touching the ground with one’s forehead is a further expression of the link between the person and returning to the dust of the earth in death; it expresses the willingness of Jesus to humble himself in obedience to the Father even to the point of death.
...the proper intention of prostration [is] an act of contrition and repentance. In the same way that a person who dies falls to the ground, the act of prostration expresses the need to allow the human will to die, and subject it to the will of God. Rising from the ground after the prostration expresses the repentant and transformed will that the person chooses to follow.
Prostrating is a statement that can demonstrate the virtue of humility, and is seen as an act that can help overcome the vices of pride and honor. Falling to the ground allows the person to remember his own weakness in the presence of God.
Then, in rising up from the ground, they express the belief in the strength, courage, and victory over evil, all of which a person shares in through grace. Rising from the ground after prostration is an acknowledgment of salvation." (Bishoy Dawood, "Stand, Bow, Prostrate: The Prayerful Body of Coptic Christianity", December 8, 2013)
The Lord said regarding Martin Harris:
"Behold, I say unto him, he exalts himself and does not humble himself sufficiently before me; but if he will bow down before me, and humble himself in mighty prayer and faith, in the sincerity of his heart, then will I grant unto him a view of the things which he desires to see." (D&C 5:24)
Could that scripture also apply to you as well?
"Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:" (Psalms 10:17)
"I will lift him up inasmuch as he will humble himself before me" (D&C 106:7)
"Nevertheless, inasmuch as thou hast abased thyself thou shalt be exalted...
Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers." (D&C 112:3,10)

Recruitment via Pit

Isn't it interesting how in the scriptures, just about every instance of the words "dust," "dirt" and "ground" is synonymous with either death or humility?

Even the Savior bent Himself to the ground. That being the case, then how much lower should we bow as we approach the throne of grace every night?

Yet just knowing the Savior and emulating Him -- especially in humility -- is just a beginning of alignment to Him. We must approach Him with an unparalleled degree of humility. Our hearts must match our bodies.

I believe bodily worship -- which has thousands of years of precedence -- is a very understudied, underappreciated form of worship. Its significance is profound -- not only in proclaiming a belief in God, not only in demonstrating reverence before Him, but also in its results. God eagerly and consistently inclines His ear, manifests His presence and even exalts those who voluntarily, willingly bow their faces into the dirt, while elevating their hearts to God.

Now, here's my question:

What about you?

*   In this post, I'm not discounting other postures used in prayer. I'm only highlighting this posture because of it's profound historical relevancy and spiritual symbolism.