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Monday, September 26, 2016

Lectures on Faith 3, Part 5: Could you be in a doctrinal "box" and not even know it?

If you want to be more like the Lord, you're going to invariably mirror his passions -- one of which involves smashing down the barriers between man and God.

You need to invite Him to smash the barriers between you and God, too. If you don't, then you're wanting to have a relationship with Him on YOUR terms. And often, those terms involve choosing to remain in a spiritual or doctrinal box -- composed of prideful interpretations of scripture --  of your own making. As with all things, YOU are the reason why there's a barrier between you and God.

Hmmmmm, doctrinal/spiritual boxes...each a prideful interpretation of scripture...

Could you really have one, or even several? Could you actually be handcuffed to "truths" which aren't actually true, to opinions not based on facts?

When We Put God Outside Our Self-Built Box

Old Testament prophet: In the Old Testament, we read about the prophet and judge of Israel, Samuel, who restored law and order and regular religious worship in Israel. By all accounts, he had what it took to correctly understand the Lord's perspective of things -- even at the age of 12 (1 Samuel 3:10). Yet when he first faced the boy David, he instantly pegged David as the wrong guy to take down Goliath. Here's how the Lord bulldozed Samuel's box:
"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Yes, even the great prophet Samuel (who most people probably/easily considered infallible) was stuck in a box. Incorrectly, I might add. If Samuel made this mistake, what do you think the chances are that you could, too?

Book of Mormon prophet: In another instance, Lehi's dream included what anyone would want: a man wearing a white robe. Sounds like a godly messenger to me! This man bade Lehi to follow him to what was inevitably "a dark and dreary waste". It took Lehi "the space of many hours in darkness" to pray out of that box (see 1 Nephi 8:5-8).

Lehi thought the white-robed man as good. And who wouldn't? Yet Lehi's pre-conceived notions were based on incorrect assumptions. He placed himself inside that box, and it took effort to get out of it. How about you? If Lehi made this mistake, what do you think the chances are that you could, too?

Restored Church: Let's fast forward to a little less than 200 years ago. Another prophet -- Joseph Smith -- recognized the Saints' tendency to falsely judge (like Samuel) and believe untruths (like Lehi), and told them to break down their own boxes:
"There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 309; History of the Church 5:424).
"I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, You will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions." (History of the Church, 5:554; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 27, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards and William Clayton.)
"It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (History of the Church, 5:529–30; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 13, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.)
"Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther. Did Abraham when called upon to offer his son? Did the Savior? No." (Notes of James Burgess from a sermon in the temple grove 27 August 1843, The Words of Joseph Smith, p.243-248)
"There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40]." (History of the Church, 6:184–85; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Jan. 21, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 331)
The astounding thing here is that Joseph was speaking specifically to and about members of the church who, because of their prideful interpretations of doctrine, immediately flew to pieces like glass whenever a new revelation, a new articulation or new clarification was given to what had already been "established" in their minds. They didn't want their boxes demolished.

So, what do you think? Did such behaviors continue after 1844? Could we also have the same tendencies today?

Without. A. Doubt.

I see it all the time online, and even in conversations. Like Samuel, we may place ourselves in doctrinal boxes with high walls, believing OUR way of thinking is the only way, that OUR beliefs are right, and others' are wrong. Like Lehi, we may be merrily skipping down a path led by who we believe is God or God's servant, never knowing that we, too, are headed straight for "a dark and dreary waste" which may not take hours, but perhaps days, weeks, months, even years to get out of.

Even worse: As these teachings often go unchallenged and are allowed to survive, they become what's known as "false traditions" -- the very thing the Savior spiritually, mentally and even physically fought against.

A Huge Box: Latter-Day Miracles

One of the most profound boxes evident among church members involves miracles -- divine interventions without any other explanation.

"Consistent with the teachings of the scriptures, we hold them [miracles] sacred and share them only when the Spirit prompts us to do so."  (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Miracles", Church Educational System fireside, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 7, 2000)

Unfortunately, many members have gone overboard with this advice. Several times, I've seen miracles treated as being so sacred, they can never be discussed with anyone. Wanting to be obedient, members comply. And over the years, because the topic of "miracles" is a forbidden topic, many members begin thinking miracles were and are fictitious, the stuff of fantasy.
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:4)
What happens when you deny water and sunlight to the seed of faith? It dies. Dies, dies, dies.

What happens when you deny water and sunlight to many seeds of faith? They all die, too.

What happens when you tell others to withhold water and sunlight to many seeds? Condemnation and curses.

This widespread reluctance to mention (let alone acknowledge) miracles at all has led to generalized silence, and silence to disbelief, and disbelief to spiritual estrangement from God. And you can't tell me this doesn't happen, because I've seen this happen in my own family (hence my lament over "Why Don't We See Spiritual Gifts Very Often"). In fact, something tells me I'm not alone in this observation:
"What is being valiant? I believe that John, in the book of Revelation, says something about valiancy. He is speaking to the people at Sardis, one of the cities which Paul had proselyted. He is speaking to the Saints, mind you, not to the people in the world. He says: 'I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.' (Revelation 3:1)
There are many people in this Church today who think they live, but they are dead to the spiritual things. And I believe even many who are making pretenses of being active are also spiritually dead. Their service is much of the letter and less of the spirit." (Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, April 1951, p.104-105)
"The idea that events are brought about through divine power is rejected by most irreligious people and even by some who are religious. All of us have known people who have what Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once called 'the anti-miracle mind-set.' This rejection of miracles in the last days was prophesied. The prophet Nephi foretold that the Gentiles would 'put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain' (2 Ne. 26:20). He also prophesied that churches would be built up in which persons would teach with their learning, deny the power of God, and tell the people that if someone should “say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles' (2 Ne. 28:6).
Some people reject the possibility of miracles because they have not experienced them or cannot understand them. In contrast, President Howard W. Hunter declared, 'To deny the reality of miracles on the ground that the results and manifestations must be fictitious simply because we cannot comprehend the means by which they have happened, is arrogant on the face of it.'" (Elder Oaks, ibid).
Here are two facts about miracles:

1. God doesn't say to "shut your trap" when it comes to discussing miracles. He tells us to use our common sense and consult the Spirit before we speak and share:
"Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit" (D&C 63:64).
Note that God didn't say "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must not be spoken of" or "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must only be shared with the proper priesthood leader". In fact, He didn't say, "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and can only be accessed through properly ordained priesthood holders". So if you believe any of those things, repent. They're lies.
"I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference, and of your carelessness." (Elder George Q Cannon, Millennial Star, Apr. 1894, pp. 260-61)
2. As we grow closer to Christ, we become believers, and manifest signs which underscore that discipleship. Why? Because miracles are a sign of true belief. Christ said so in Mark 16:17. He said so in D&C 63:9. And He said so in D&C 84:65.

So, let me set the record straight for you:

Miracles ARE happening, right under our noses, that are very much a continuation of the miracles we read about in the New Testament. Here are a few real examples:

Healing plants: A (female) friend of mine recently contacted me with this account: "My grandparents have a muscadine vine in their yard that is about 15 years old and it has never produced. Last fall as I was walking by the vine I had a memory come to my mind of a story I was told about my Great Grandmother commanding a walnut tree that never had any walnuts to start producing. Sure enough it did. Well, after having the memory, I was told to command the vine to fulfill the measure of its creation and produce fruit. My boys came in today [Tuesday, 9/13/16] with muscadines and I asked where they got them from, when they told me I was completely in awe! It is completely loaded with muscadines!!! My grandmother was excited because earlier in the year she had asked my dad to cut it down because it never produced but he still had not gotten around to taking it out, she was in complete shock. I'm full of gratitude!"

Healing the lame to walk: A friend of mine has two teenage daughters. Recently, both were attending a meeting which was also attended by a lame man, who needed a cane to walk. After the meeting, in a very private setting, the girls were prompted to approach the man and ask if he wanted to be healed. He did. At that point, the girls laid their hands on the man and, in the name of Jesus Christ, commanded the leg to heal, and be restored to its proper frame and be whole. It was healed that very minute, and his cane was rendered unnecessary.

Healing the lame to run (!): Another friend recently stated, "Today at church we had a powerful service where many of us received a new revelation of what we are called to do for God. I had powerful confirmation of the call to lay hands on people and heal them. As I type this, my son, who has been limping significantly on his right ankle for a week, just got back from being outside, running. (He LOVES to run, and being a gimp has really taken a toll on his usual goodnaturedness.) I laid hands on his ankle, and it was made whole. God has told me to heal. And I'm just getting started."

Raising the dead: In the aforementioned talk by Elder Oakes, he mentions two modern-day examples of people who were raised from the dead -- the first, witnessed by Elder Matthew Cowley, and a second under the hands of a true disciple of Christ, Iohanni Wolfgramm. If you haven't read these accounts, please do so; they're compelling.

The gifts these disciples manifest are personifications of the Lord, who is reclaiming ground on this telestial earth. Every healed lame man, every renewed muscadine grape vine, every dead person who's raised, is an extension of He who makes all things new and whole. It is the Lord working subtly, yet unmistakably, at pulling down the strongholds of Satan and re-establishing His rule and reign here. And, I can say with a high degree of confidence, that "you ain't seen nothing yet"!

The miracle of this whole thing is that He's succeeding in ways we wouldn't ordinarily expect. He's shattered the box that says only adult men can exercise spiritual gifts:
"The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons." - (Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, “Magnifying Our Callings in the Priesthood,” Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 66).
“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things, men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61; emphasis mine)
He's also broken out of the box that says that only priesthood leaders "with keys" can exercise spiritual gifts:

"It is not position in the Church that confers spiritual gifts. . . . Rather it is personal righteousness; it is keeping the commandments; it is seeking the Lord while he may be found. God is no respecter of persons." (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Rock of Salvation", Improvement Era, December 1969, p. 85; Acts 10:34).

No, it's not church calling nor gender that determines who can or can't break out of our biggest, strongest boxes. It's the weak things of the world who have faith in Jesus Christ coursing through their veins. The Lord, in His infinite mercy, is subtly raising up others you would hardly expect to counterbalance self-importance, unbelief and faithlessness with humility, faith and righteousness. Truly, the wheat and tares are growing alongside each other, and truly, the Lord deserves boundless praise for using unorthodox means to bring about unbelievable results.

The Indescribable Joy Of Breaking Out Of Your Box

You and I have something in common: we both want to be counted among the wheat, not the tares. That requires us to allow God to mold us, shape us, craft us into a being far better than what we could ever imagine.

Case in point: The real-life Giordano Bruno. Please watch this video to see how God literally lifted one man out of his box to breathtaking vistas.

Yes, sometimes breaking out of that box may hurt physically, or emotionally. I know what that's like; I've lived most of my life under such conditions. As God has demolished many, many boxes of things I once really believed in, friends and loved ones (who still clung to their self-made boxes) shunned, ostracized and even attacked me. I ached (and still do) for these lost relationships.

Yet I can also tell you that Father has been way, way overly generous in counterbalancing it all. There are parts of that Giordano Bruno animation I can relate with. On the other side of my box (or outside of my curtain), I have found a Savior who actually really knows me very well, is extremely personable, mind-blowingly humorous, superbly sensitive and overly generous. He gives far, far more than I ever expect. And forgiving...whew, too forgiving.

Even moreso, I have rediscovered a Father and a Mother outside that box/curtain as well, who live in a universe which transcends endlessness and eternity and is filled with life in ways we dare not imagine, let alone verbalize to others.

And it all starts by sincerely, incessantly asking Christ to break down your boxes (which you quite likely don't even know exist). That may include renouncing and revoking every limit you've ever placed on Jesus. Then ask Him to forgive you for restraining Him in your life. Give Him full permission to be Himself with you.

Tell Him, "I want you -— the real you. ALL. OF. YOU."

If you do this, and you really mean it, and do it over and over again, I can guarantee you a couple of things:
  • Christ will take you up on your offer.
  • You'll be tested to see if you really mean it.
  • Eventually, you will know -- through and through -- what it's like to have the Savior of the world smile at you, and to be truly thrilled and enthusiastic about you.
And just behind Him, two other people whose smiles are brighter than a thousand suns.

Special Note: Thanks to all who responded to my "Request To Help A Family" request (here). You have made a breathtaking difference in others' lives, for which they, too, are profoundly grateful.


  1. I really enjoy your posts. I just wanted to point out that it was Lehi's dream where a man in a white robe appears and leads him to the dark and dreary waste. Nephi's vision starts with the Spirit of the Lord appearing to him. Not a big deal, nor does it take away from your message. I make the comparison between those two visions at as I had a dream that began like Lehi's.

    1. Doh! Thanks for the catch, Coder Hero. Change made.


  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to post such uplifting articles. I have loved this series on the Lectures on Faith, and have followed you for a long time. Yesterday I told my husband, who posts podcasts on gospel doctrine each week, that he needed to teach a class this Sunday night on "Stepping outside of the box". I was thrilled at your well presented article on that very subject. I agree, we all live way below our privileges and the Lord's expectations. The traditions of man get in the way all to often in our approach to deity.

    1. Hi Margie, I have just been introduced to your husband's podcasts and both my husband and I are enjoying them so much. Thank you both for your generosity in sharing them.

    2. Thanks so much for this. It's a subject I have been praying about and have had answered by numerous witnesses this very week. :)

  3. Wow! Brother PerfectDay, I was scared at first but I didn't stop there, I asked myself what was I scared of, I'm unworthy I said. I was told that that was taken care of, the then spirit that came in was like they were just waiting for me to ask to know them better. Thank you so much for the article! Now, to live it like I know it!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Yeah, that's one of the biggest contradictions I see in life -- how we can be so unworthy, and still, God is positively persistent in wanting a deeper, more fulfilling relationship with us. Best of luck and have fun.

  4. Thanks so much for this post, and all your others! These past several years the Lord has been breaking through my boxes, and the vision beyond those walls is so much greater and inspiring that the limitations we place upon the gospel and our Saviors love. Thanks for sharing your testimony and witness of these concepts!

  5. That video about Giordano Bruno was incredible. I never heard of him before, but less heard that even people like Martin Luther opposed him. Neal Degrasse Tyson dismissed him vision as a lucky guess, but it had all the earmarks of some of the greatest prophets in history.

    FWIW, the graphics in the video remind me a lot of some of the stories of visions people have had