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Sunday, November 20, 2016

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT and Lectures on Faith 4, Part 2: Why you may not be going to Zion

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Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukkah
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Why You May Not Be Going To Zion

We have become a people who won't admit it, but we do, in fact, elevate and exalt mortal leaders and teachers (be they LDS church members or not) to practical infallibility. We are silent if and when said leaders/teachers don't refute, and allow these beliefs in infallibility to become behaviors so the adoration, the praise, the deference and perhaps even the cash flow perpetuates unabated. Boy, do we love our rock stars.

We habitually justify mixing Babylon and Zion. We believe God smiles kindly on making a profit, while millions (even billions) live in abject poverty. We have become too engrossed in that which is temporal and fleeting. We prioritize sports above the scriptures and gold higher than gifts of the spirit. We proudly post Facebook pictures of our cruises and Diamond status in whatever organization while showing off our nice wardrobes, our gaudy homes, brand new cars and trucks. Yep, we are cool, successful saints! And as for that beggar in front of Walmart or other organizations (like the womens and childrens shelter)? "They probably deserve it. Somebody else will help them" (once heard in a Priesthood meeting lesson; it went unrefuted by past bishops/church leaders).

When we want something, we treat God as if He is a cosmic vending machine. We bargain with Him, saying, "If I do A, then can I get B? Please???? It's for ME, and I'VE been (or promise to be) so good!!!"

We exhibit blank stares when asked to explain the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon. Not only has the condemnation (regarding our taking the Book of Mormon lightly) remained, but we have likely added more condemnation upon ourselves as we take the priesthood lightly, our family responsibilities lightly, our work ethics lightly and even our covenants with the Lord lightly...often believing God's OK with it.

We steadfastly cling to our prideful interpretations of scripture (aka "doctrinal boxes"). Not only are we more than willing to destroy relationships in defense of our boxes, but we also say God has justified the destruction of said relationships. We are experts at mixing pride and arrogance with ignorance and feigned humility.

We prioritize, as high as possible, OUR Baptism of Fire, OUR spiritual gifts, OUR parted veil, OUR visions, OUR dreams, OUR conversations with angels, OUR Second Comforter and OUR Calling and Election. While these things are critically important, it's our prioritization of them -- our love affair with individualism -- which becomes the very reason why those blessings are often withheld from us.

We wonder, "When the crap starts hitting the fan, where will I go? What about MY tents and MY food/clean water supply? What about MY kids and MY loved ones?" We have become the poster children for the "I / MEMY" generation, and are baffled why successive generations which are even moreso.

And we've been this way for a very, very long time.


We honestly and sincerely believe that "When the crap starts hitting the fan", the Lord will pull it through for us, no matter what happens. Why? Because we've been baptized. We take the Sacrament. We go to church. We have the priesthood. And because we've checked off all the important stuff, by dangit, we're entitled to someday be part of a terrestrial society in which all are of one heart and one mind, dwell in righteousness, and have no poor among them (Moses 7:18).

So here's the truth:

If you think you can become eligible for Zion by focusing
on just little 'ol you, and your idols, think again.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6; emphasis mine) 
"O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways." (2 Nephi 12:5; emphasis mine) 
"They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall." (D&C 1:16; emphasis mine) 
"None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10; emphasis mine) 
"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Ecclesiastes 7:20; emphasis mine) 
"They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." (Psalms 14:3; emphasis mine) 
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isaiah 64:6; emphasis mine) 
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23; emphasis mine) 
"And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds." (D&C 33:4; emphasis mine) 
"For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—" (D&C 38:11; emphasis mine)
If we find ourselves distanced from the love of God, He is not the one that has moved.

Orient Yourself To Zion

Despite these scripturally-substantiated facts, I refuse to believe Christ would have us remain in this state. I wish all of us could realize, first-hand, just how forgiving, just how eager He is for us to move onward and upward from the telestial to the terrestrial. I don't think we'll get there by trusting in the arm of flesh; He's condemned such justifications way too many times (see here and here). Instead, He wants us to turn to Him (see here).

1. Reorient yourself by losing yourself.

Did you ever see the movie "The Blind Side"? If you haven't, do it. Tonight.

It stars Sandra Bullock playing the real-life Leigh Anne Tuohy. Leigh Anne met, then adopted, a 6'4", 309 lb high school boy who ended up being picked up as a first-round 2009 draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens. Michael Oher helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl in 2013 as its starting left tackle.

Now, when you watch the movie, I want you to pay close attention to Leigh Anne Tuohy from the first minute she meets "Big Mike" until the end of the movie. Not once do you see her thinking of herself. The entire time, she was focused on Michael. At one point in the movie, a friend of her's said, "You're changing his life, Leigh Anne", to which she replied, "No, he's changing me."

Leigh Anne Tuohy was (and still is) a tremendously successful person. In terms of the world, she's fully justified to point all her arrows to herself and say, "Look at how successful Sean (her husband) and I are! Look at how pretty I am! Look at how cool my kids are!" Nope. She got all those arrows and instead turned them to not only help another, but to also enlist others in helping another.

So, how about you? Where are all those metaphorical arrows (that are just outside your body) pointing? Are they all pointing inwards because, after all, it IS all about you, and what you need or want? Or are they all pointing outwards, and seeking to help uplift another soul?

It's fascinating that when you focus on others, you end up being benefitted in ways you could scarcely imagine. In my opinion, this is why the Lord says,
"He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 10:39; see also Matthew 10:32–41; 16:24–28; Mark 8:34–38; Luke 9:23–26; 17:33).
And so it is with you: You can just keep plodding through life, focusing on your past, present and future self...or you can focus on others. It truly is a fact that when you have another's back, the Lord has yours.

The path back to God (the "means") begins with "end" in mind. Optimally, our "end" is God's, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). Logically, that should be your end, too. But I don't think God's work and glory is to save just one person. It's to save all of us.

So, if you want to qualify for Zion, then it's high time you show God that you deserve to live with those having one heart and one mind, dwelling in righteousness and no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)

You must quit focusing on yourself and start focusing on others.

Although this isn't scripture, this quote rings true to me:
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Joseph Smith echoed Dr. King's sentiments:
"The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs. … If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 241).
This responsibility to lose yourself, your obligation to humankind, is an absolute. True, focusing on others isn't an easy choice. It means being willing to sacrifice individual wants. Sacrifices are almost always necessary for the larger good. Many of us resist this path.

But here's the payoff: As you do so, you'll see others as God sees them. As you seek to lift their burdens, Christ will lift yours.
"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." (Psalms 41:1-3)
Life takes on a whole new meaning as you spend it caring about others more than yourself. You become an active, enthusiastic partner with Christ in helping to build our Father's kingdom:
"And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen." (Mark 16:20)
Dr. King again:
"The surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others."
How do we apply this counsel? Here's what the Lord told Lyman Sherman in D&C 108:7:
"Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations and in all your doings." (D&C 108:7)
The word "all" appears four times in that verse. It doesn’t leave much room for exceptions.

2. And be careful how you point those arrows towards others.

We love to say, "I know the Book of Mormon is true!" Yet in many cases, we fail to be
"...humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive." (Alma 7:23)
So, in our zeal to promote truth, we publicly "correct" those who aren't doing what we believe is correct. Instead of loving and healing and helping to save one another, we often spiritually (and often publicly) attack or mortally wound one another. And then have the gall to think/believe/say Jesus is just fine and dandy with our behavior.

How often do you hope for celestial ends by using telestal means? Online? At work? At church? In your family? With your spouse?

It amazes me how many people who focus on the future -- say, economic collapses, call-outs, earthquakes, floods, tent cities, mobs, invasions, plagues, pestilences and wars -- yet tend to neglect focusing on developing their "Zion muscles". We mortals are proficient at omitting "the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith" (Matthew 23:23)

So...what's your focus? If you aren't prioritizing, above all else, the development of Zionlike behaviors now (when things are relatively peaceful), what makes you think that -- bing! -- you'll suddenly have them when the heat is on?
"When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Love of God", October 2009 General Conference).
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)
"And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing." (D&C 18:19)
“to mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9)
Ironically, sometimes, we do our level best to express sympathy to others who are having a rough time. While sympathy is nice, empathy is better. This can be very hard, especially when it may be impossible to understand someone else’s struggles. It's OK to say, "I have no idea how that feels. I am so sorry."

3. Understand what would be the greatest worth to you right now.

Now, don't get me wrong -- having an awareness of the future is important, so we're not caught unaware and considered a foolish virgin.

But in terms of priorities, nothing -- absolutely nothing -- exceeds the worth of a human soul. Or, to be more specific, being part of God's work in helping to bring His children back to Him.
"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" (D&C 18:10, 13-16)
So, I guess the question you need to definitively answer is, what are you doing to help bring souls unto Jesus Christ? Start with yourself. Your spouse (if you're married). Your family. Those you associate with. And, perhaps, those you don't even know. Could you be doing more? How? (Hint: That's an awesome question to ask Father -- the kind He loves to answer; see D&C 4)

When you get your definitive answer, and you're doing it, you're employed by God. You're no longer a believer. You're no longer a follower. You're no longer a disciple. In fact, you're even beyond just being a friend of Christ; instead, you're a partner with Him (Mark 16:20; also see here) in helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).

4. Once you have the proper orientation, seek to obtain the word, power and authority of God to further your efforts.

"Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had 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 isn't all; they had given themselves to much prayer:" (Alma 17:2)
"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)
They also gave themselves to much 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.
And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him." (Alma 17:2-4)
I find this passage pretty fascinating. Note what the sons of Mosiah did. They didn't search internet forums or websites for the truth. They didn't turn to another flawed, imperfect mortal. They went to where? The scriptures! Also note they didn't just read the scriptures. They didn't just study them. They studied them diligently. And after all that, even then, it doesn't say that they knew the word of God. For that, they added prayer (and I'll bet you anything these just weren't ordinary, everyday prayers; they had heart and passion in them, too) and fasted. In other words,

They studied.
They sought.
They sacrificed.

And for that, they were blessed with "the spirit of prophecy" and "the spirit of revelation." "And when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God."

5. Then your tongue will be loosed.

Sometimes we start off with the best of intentions. We tend to declare God's word **before** we actually obtain it. We need to reverse that process:

"Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men." (D&C 11:21)

Again, the Lord says we shouldn't turn to the words of others. We should first seek to obtain HIS word. The sons of Mosiah got an A+ in this task. How about you?

6. Then you're ready to teach, preach, expound and exhort all to come to Christ.

At this point, when you're able to obtain God's word, you're clinging to the word of God, aka "the iron rod." When you're doing so, you ensure that you will not spiritually perish. Satan's temptations and fiery darts have no power over you (see 1 Nephi 15:23-24).

About Those Who May Make It

I'd like to say one thing about a different set of people: those who I believe will, indeed, be blessed to enter the gates of New Jerusalem, of Zion, in this lifetime. This is my opinion, and my opinion only:

These people have incredible weaknesses. They have fears which conflict with having a total, complete trust and confidence in the Savior. They are often unrefined, crass, tasteless, tactless. They're the poster child for "the least of these, my brethren (or sisters)". No one is more aware of their sins and flaws then they.

Still, despite the mountains of muck they often create for themselves and walk through, they have at least one deep-seated, immovable, genuine characteristic: their hearts are not set upon the things of this world. They ponder Jesus Christ, His Gospel and His Father constantly. They have, either knowingly or unknowingly, taken upon themselves His name as they implement the Beatitudes in their lives. They go to sleep pondering ways to help people, often those they haven't met. Their prayers begin not on thoughts about themselves, the powerful, the esteemed, the exalted. Instead, they plead, with time and tears, for the poor, the sick, the hopeless, the helpless. They voluntarily choose to have their hearts "swim in deep waters" so they can touch another life.

Because love can move mountains, I believe they will someday not only move mountains, but also subdue principalities and powers, defy powerful armies, divide the earth, move rivers out of their courses and break every band. Because they believe in God, and have the gifts of God as fruits of their devotion to Him, they will indeed stand in the presence of God....while in the flesh.

Isaiah mentions a "strange work" and a "strange act" to be performed by the Lord (Isaiah 28:21). We can only conjecture what those are. My bet: that the Lord will use these incredibly weak souls to help establish Zion. Earth's history is replete with stories of incredibly weak people who helped accomplish miraculous things because they were meek and cared more about others than themselves.

Look: We don't have a lot of time left. Please, please re-read the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12; Luke 6:20–23), then live your life as one who takes them seriously. Elevate the Lord's sheep above TV, sports, internet forums and other temporally-based trivialities.

You control your own destiny. Now is your time to shine...because one of these days, the Lord's going to hit the reset button, and the days of your preparation will be everlastingly too late.