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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Why There May Not Be A General Warning Before Prophesied Calamities Strike

A Reality Check

"And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.
And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.
And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel;
But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.
And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolations; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another." (D&C 45:26-33)
The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. $19 trillion (and counting) government debt. Porous borders. The threat of Islamic terrorism. Pre-WWII military readiness levels. Escalating racial tensions. Lack of trust in national leaders. Abortion. Illicit drug use. Decaying education. The resurgence of Russian and Chinese military. Increased missionary restrictions. Dwindling belief in God.

Never in the history of our country have we faced so many simultaneous, destructive threats.

A few weeks ago, I watched a YouTube where a man predicted that the short-term future of the U.S. is bright, and that it will enter an era of peace, productivity and prosperity unimagined by anyone. While I hope he's right, the truth is, at this point, only repentance and God's mercy can make America great again. Because neither are even distantly, remotely part of the national discourse, the writing is on the wall: America is sitting on a powderkeg, and worse trouble is coming.
"And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations" (D&C 87:6; emphasis mine)

The Blessed Ones

If you think societal decay is only evident outside our church, think again.
"We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be." (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "The Power of the Priesthood", April 2010)
How do you think the priesthood has done in the last six years since Elder Packer's observation? If you asked ward or (even better) stake priesthood leaders about the impact pornography has had on the quantity and quality of the Melchizedek Priesthood, what do you think they'd say? How are home teaching percentages doing?

Difficulties exist even among priesthood leaders. Here's a text I received just today from a friend:
"I attended church today. I was confronted by Bro. T right after sacrament and he showed signs of distress so I focused my attention on him and spent 2 hours invested in his topics of conversation. While listening to him I noticed no one reaching out to say hello, no one recognizing him or I, no one asking us to attend a class, and.......the first and second counselors in the stake presidency actually went out of their way to recognize others and when they walked past us, they looked the other way and walked by like we were not there. It made me sick to my stomach. The HPG Leader is concerned about Bro. T and didn't even say hello, yet walks by. Bishop is concerned and he walked by. He saw us and kept walking. What is wrong with this stake/ward?"
While I don't intend to pick on church leaders (none are perfect; all make mistakes), I think I can safely say that Elder Packer's observation that "the authority of the priesthood" racing ahead of "distributing the power of the priesthood" is just as valid -- and quite likely, even moreso -- than it's ever been.

We latter-day saints have been blessed with an astounding amount of light and knowledge -- moreso than any other time in history. Yet many have minimized or even disregarded these blessings. Perhaps this is why Pres. Heber C. Kimball said,
"This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with glory. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess a personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got this testimony, you must live right and call upon the Lord, and cease not until you obtain it.
Remember these sayings: The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within themselves. If you do not have the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, how can you stand?" (Heber C. Kimball, 1856. Quoted by J. Golden Kimball, Conference Report, October 1930, pp. 59-60; also quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, "Be Not Deceived" Conference Report, October 1963, p. 15-19;;

Where to Go...What to Do

Clearly, all of us -- member and non-member -- face a sifting which will only grow more pronounced as time goes on. But how will it all come about? How will there be a "full end of all nations"?

There are a million different possibilities, all of them equally plausible. Here's mine:

1A. There's a disruption in the Middle East, the stock market or basically something which causes fuel prices to dramatically skyrocket. Interstate commerce quickly becomes impractical and ceases. Store shelves are cleared out within hours. Looting becomes increasingly commonplace.
(or) 1B. There's a sustained escalation in racial tensions.
2. Local law enforcement struggles to maintain control.
3. To establish some semblance of peace and order, an "emergency declaration" (martial law) is declared.
4. Insurrections against National Guard units/local law enforcement apparently escalate, forcing martial law to be racheted up.
5. Private transportation is severely curtailed, then ceases.
6. Employment and productivity stop.
7. Metropolitan areas become extremely dangerous.

Here's another scenario:
"Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy land, and thou shalt have no more soothsayers;
Thy graven images I will also cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee, and thou shalt no more worship the works of thy hands;
And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, shall be done away.
For it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel;" (D&C 21:12-20; emphasis mine)
Interestingly, the bolded portion above is mentioned elsewhere in the D&C:
"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)
Now, it seems to me that there's a convergence of concepts here:

  • Come unto Christ.
  • Repent.
  • Hearken to His voice.

Will There Be a General Forewarning?

We latter-day saints passionately believe in prophets, seers and revelators. And because of that, we've always assumed that prophets, seers and revelators will let us know when it's time to wake up, shake our heads, pack up our necessities and head for the hills.

The only problem is that there's no scriptural, historical or prophetic justification for such a belief.

Scriptural justification: The Lord provides a modern-day interpretation of Matthew 25:1-13's Parable of the Ten Virgins:
"And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day." (D&C 45:56-57; emphasis mine)
Historical Precedent: One could say, "Well, I'll consult the Holy Spirit when the church leaders get up and tell me when it's time to head for safety." However, at least with respect to U.S. history, (as far as I know) we've never been forewarned by church leaders, with a timeframe, about impending societal catastrophes:

Prophetic Statement: Additionally, even a prophet has stated that there will be no general warning before prophesied calamities strike:

While it is true that a church president -- and some individuals -- have prophesied that the work of gathering the righteous will be coordinated by Church leaders, there's no definitive indication if such gatherings will take place before, during or after calamitous times emerge.

In fact, those who choose not to act, but to be acted upon (where someone else is pulling their strings) are not counted as righteous (see Elder James E. Faust, "Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon", October 1995 General Conference).
“ and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are the children, youth, and adults we serve acting and seeking to learn by faith, or are they waiting to be taught and acted upon?" (Elder David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith", Liahona, September 2007)
Too many rely on the "arm of flesh" to tell them what to do and when to do it, rather than developing the ability to listen to the Spirit -- the Lord's voice -- which the Lord has told us to do time and time again. The Inspired Version of the Bible illuminates this point:
"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not." (Matthew 25:10-11 JST; emphasis mine)

Improving Your Chances to Survive the Coming Tribulations

God has warned you multiple times of the coming calamities. In fact, there has never been a time in scripture where God has not warned His people.

To survive them, the onus is on you to seek and reach out to Christ...before it's too late.

The onus is on you to repent and become aligned with Him...before it's too late.

The onus is on you to hear His voice and hearken to it...before it's too late.

You've now been warned with Christ's own words. Will you act on them by repenting and hearkening to His voice, or will you agree that these things are important but allow other things to assume greater importance in your life, or will you show Him you're serious about aligning with Him, and having a shot at surviving what's coming?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Lectures on Faith 2, Part 2: Recognize and Avoid Satan's Pick Up Lines

Yesterday, how many minutes did you spend listening to Satan?

It's an interesting question, because if you really read Lecture on Faith 2, you'll see that it's more than just a discourse on the importance of hearing God's voice. It's also powerful prose about a consistent mistake we humans have made since we were in Eden: listening to the adversary.

We read in Lecture on Faith 2:5-17 that Adam and Eve heard God's voice...and Satan's, too. In verse 29, we learn that Cain was tempted by, and hearkened to, Satan. As we continue through Lecture 2, we read about Noah, Moses and others who were both imperfect. In other scriptures, we read how they, too, even succumbed to temptation.

The Predictable Pattern of Satan's Attacks on You

The pattern Satan uses to attack you are no different than the ones he used in Genesis, throughout all scripture and even throughout time. As Elder James E. Faust stated,
"Who has not heard and felt the enticings of the devil? His voice often sounds so reasonable and his message so easy to justify. It is an enticing, intriguing voice with dulcet tones. It is neither hard nor discordant. No one would listen to Satan’s voice if it sounded harsh or mean. If the devil’s voice were unpleasant, it would not entice people to listen to it.
Shakespeare wrote, “The prince of darkness is a gentleman” (King Lear, act 3, sc. 4, line 143), and “the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose” (The Merchant of Venice, act 1, sc. 3, line 95). As the great deceiver, Lucifer has marvelous powers of deception. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14; see also 2 Nephi 9:9)." ("The Great Imitator," October 1987 General Conference)
In fact, Satan's methods are so subtle, that the First Presidency stated,
“He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods.” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:179).
Those methods were well-defined by Nephi:
“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:21–22).

This Part is for Those Seeking God's Voice

Good news and bad news:

Good: Whenever you start seeking God, hearing God and hearkening to God, God reciprocates.
Bad: Somebody else steps up his game, too.

Satan -- the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:10) -- is hell-bent on distracting those who hear Christ's voice with other voices which are equally powerful.
“The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes” (The Prophet Joseph Smith, in Orson F. Whitney, "Life of Heber C. Kimball", Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967, p. 132).
Thus, knowing how Satan speaks to you is essential if you're to recognize his voice and turn away from it -- hence Paul's admonition that we "not [be] ignorant of his devices" lest "Satan should get an advantage of us" (2 Corinthians 2:11).

What Satan is Saying to Those Seeking God

There's no doubt that Satan's pick up lines are effective. They've proven over the millennia to be startlingly simple and definitely destructive.

And there's no end to his list of pickup lines, either (Mosiah 4:29). Here are some of his top faves (feel free to add to this list in the comments below):

FALSE VOICE #1: You're NOT the Right Stuff -- "You don't have the right [church calling / gender / genealogical pedigree / longevity as a church member / temple recommend status] to see (let alone hear) God." / "It's presumptuous to think you can [hear/commune with/see] God." / "It's prideful." / "It's the height of arrogance."
"Let us here observe, that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God, and power with him to behold him face to face." (Lecture 2:55; emphasis mine) 
"Seeing the Lord is not a matter of lineage or rank or position or place of precedence." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Promised Messiah," p. 569). 
(Click here for about another dozen quotes reiterating this point)

Thus, we see how the minute you try boxing God into a corner (for example, by stating that only those the right credentials can see God), you're on very tenuous ground. The requirements are clearly set forth: "any portion of the human family...shall...behold him face to face" (Lecture 2:55) and "every soul...shall see my face and know that I am" (D&C 93:1).

FALSE VOICE #2: You're a failure -- "You're not good enough." / "You don't have what it takes."
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness” (D&C 50:23)
FALSE VOICE #3: It's impossible -- "You can't do it." / "It's futile to try." / "It's not worth it." /  "It's too tough."
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23)
"But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
FALSE VOICE #4: Unforgivable...That's what you are -- "You'll never be forgiven" / "Honestly, you deserve the self-inflicted punishment for what you did."
"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)
FALSE VOICE #5: Wrong priority -- "Everyone does it" / "If you feel all right about it, it’s OK" / "Yes, that stuff is important. But you don't need to worry about that today! So, go ahead! Enjoy ___________ instead!"
“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance” (2 Ne. 28:21–22)
Want to know what Satan's most popular telestial distractions are? Go here.

FALSE VOICE #6: You! Are! Awesome/Special! -- "You are worthy of a high and noble calling, even as a/the [impressive title]!!!"

Could Christ claim the title of Savior and Redeemer before He had completed his work? Of course not.

Then why are there so many people in the world claiming important latter-day authority (like the sealing power) and/or titles, including "The One Mighty and Strong," "The Servant," "The future New Jerusalem Temple President" and more?

Even more curious: Why are so many latter-day saints falling for these deceptions?

FALSE VOICE #7: Cheap Imitations -- "Tell 'Em What They Want to Hear"

Closely aligned with #6, there's an interesting phenomena occurring these days:
  1. Aforementioned important title/authority-holding person (I'll call them a "VIP") seeks out people who are interested in the last days, spiritual gifts and mysteries of God.
  2. "VIP" befriends these people.
  3. "VIP" discreetly shares that they have a special title and/or authority.
  4. "VIP" unilaterally offers to give person or persons a special blessing.
  5. Person or persons (either believing in "VIP's" claims, or not wanting to offend them) accept gracious offer.
  6. Blessing given under the hands of the "VIP" contains grandiose ("excessively grand or ambitious") promises which are, in fact, NOT divinely authorized.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3)
“Some have received revelations and heard voices that are put there deliberately by wicked sources to lead astray. You can learn to recognize those and tune them out, if you will." (Elder Boyd K Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World”, October 1989 General Conference).
It's a fact that we can do all sorts of cool spiritual stuff and exercise profound spiritual gifts. But just because people say they do it under God's authority doesn't mean they really have it:
"And many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name; and in thy name cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I say, Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity." (JST Matthew 7:32-33)

Recognize and Cast Out These False Voices Now!

Even (and especially) the best and the brightest among us are vulnerable to heeding these false voices (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:22).

The potential long-term problem here is that by giving credence to false voices, and being comfortable with them, you expand the possibility of doing so with greater regularity...until you have gradually, yet effectively, tuned out God, and totally tuned in Satan. At this point, you may either be ignorant of this status (because you're so spiritually blinded), apathetic or in denial.
"We all have an inner braking system that will stop us before we follow Satan too far down the wrong road. It is the still, small voice which is within us. But once we have succumbed, the braking system begins to leak brake fluid and our stopping mechanism becomes weak and ineffective." (Faust, ibid)

Get A Proper Perspective

Sometimes, the signals can get so confusing, we aren't able to effectively discern who's signals we're receiving. We desperately want to do the right thing, and don't want to do the wrong thing.

Is there a way to filter out all these conflicting signals and discern God's truth for us, personally?

Yes. Could I leave you with some personal insights?

First, consider improving (and maintaining!) your spiritual filtering. As President James E. Faust stated,
"We need to learn how to ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings-to filter out the static generated by Satan. As we become attuned to the Spirit, we 'shall hear a word behind [us], saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.'" (First Presidency Message, Liahona, June, 2006).
Below are some filters for you to consider, all elaborated here:
  • Filter 1: The Source Filter
  • Filter 2: The Scripture Filter
  • Filter 3: The General Wisdom Filter
  • Filter 4: The Time Filter
  • Filter 5: The Godly Counsel Filter
Second, please do not underestimate Christ's willingness -- in fact, enthusiasm -- to forgive you! Remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)? Even today, after almost two millennia of teaching about God's grace, the Father's willingness to forgive his runaway son is shockingly generous. In my opinion, those who don't believe they deserve forgiveness are likely unfamiliar with Jesus Christ, because if they knew Him, they would know just how enthusiastic He is to forgive us.

Finally, I encourage you to go back and read one of my past blog posts, "Don’t Just Know About Christ…EXPERIENCE Him!" Not only be one of His sheep who follows Him (John 10:27), but also experience Christ as often as possible!

In Conclusion

Words cannot describe how deeply both Jesus Christ and His Glorious Father wish to be part of your life.

There's no thrill quite like hearing the voice of Jesus Christ simultaneously resonating, reverberating, through your heart and mind.

There's no laugh quite like those generated by His sense of humor.

There are no words of appreciation you can adequately express when you've heard Him tell you, in a very unique and personal way, how much He loves you, and why.

You don't have to be perfect, or have some kind of important status, to hear Him. In fact, I'd say it's your imperfectness that brings Him closer to you, because He loves broken things.

Seek Him. And in the process of seeking Him, you WILL find Him. You WILL hear Him.

And, having heard Him, you will be launched into the greatest, most exciting adventure you could ever imagine.