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Monday, August 28, 2017

Lectures on Faith 6: A Sacrifice That Means Something

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The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us the chance for totality

I was recently blessed to read this account of last week's eclipse. (I know, I know -- we've read a bazillion accounts of the eclipse. I think the phrase "ad nauseum" fits there. But trust me -- this one's worth it).

"I had read all the hype, and I had a hard time imagining there was any way a total solar eclipse could live up to so much promotion and praise. One account was so effusive that even my young nephew dismissed it by saying, 'It had too many superlatives.' Surely nothing could be that good.

If I had not lived plop in the middle of the zone of totality in Rexburg, Idaho, I don't know that I would have traveled far to see it. When I mentioned it to my brother a month ago, remarkably enough, he hadn't even heard about it yet. But before I could even say anything about it, he said, 'It seems like every eclipse that comes along is supposed to be the only time in the next 57 years you'll be able to see something like it.' He hadn't been that impressed with what he'd seen in the past, so he wasn't interested in driving a couple of hours north to reach the zone of totality for this eclipse.

I don't fault him. If I were him, I might well have looked at a map and figured, 'I'll just stay here and see 75% of the eclipse and get 75% of the benefits. Why go all that way just to see the sun all the way covered?'

But with solar eclipses, I learned vividly and personally today, there is a world of difference between even 98% of an eclipse and 100%. We watched with interest and amusement during the partial phases of the eclipse, but right up until a few moments before we witnessed the total eclipse, it seemed like not much more than a pleasant astronomical quirk visible only with special protective glasses.

But as the moon began to totally cover the sun and we witnessed the diamond ring and the corona visible only with a total solar eclipse, I was absolutely blown away. I thought I would remain calm, but I couldn't keep the emotions I felt inside. And neither could most of the people around me. As one writer had predicted, it was as if it touched something deeply primal within us. No photograph or video I've seen of this spectacular phenomenon does justice to it. It is simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

Afterwards, my nephew volunteered to his mother: 'Now I know why they used so many superlatives.' Despite all the hype, we discovered a total solar eclipse had not been overrated.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, this experience has reminded me of three important lessons. First, heaven is not overhyped; eternal life will be worth every sacrifice we could possible make to partake of it.

In one of my otherwise favorite songs by Train, the singer asks of a friend returning from some kind of cosmic journey, 'Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded and that heaven is overrated?' Just as my brother assumed a total eclipse had been oversold, much of the world today has come to believe heaven is not real or that it can't be all that. They doubt the reality of an eternal existence with God so exquisite that Peter described it as becoming 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4). I believe that one day, everyone will be as convinced of the desirability of eternal life with God as those who witnessed the total eclipse today were of its stunning glory.

Second, I was reminded that there is a dramatic difference between the blessings that come from sort of following the gospel of Jesus Christ-being in the zone of partiality-and striving to following Him and His teachings with all our hearts-the zone of totality. One of the reasons my brother and I underestimated how rewarding the total eclipse would be is that we based our estimates on what we'd witnessed in prior partial eclipses. But a total eclipse isn't just twice as beautiful as an eclipse where the moon covers half the sun; it is exponentially better.

And so are the blessings that come from living in the zone of spiritual totality. I'm not talking about a place where we are perfect, and I'm certainly not talking about a condition we achieve through our own efforts alone. But I am referring to a state of mind and heart where we jump in with our whole souls, holding nothing back but relying on Christ to realize our divine potential. The blessings of spiritual coronas and diamond rings come not to those who merely go through the motions and occasional effort it takes to reach the zone of partiality; they come to those who yield their hearts and souls to God in the zone of spiritual totality.

Finally, now that I know what a rare and exquisite experience a total solar eclipse is, I regret terribly the fact that I didn't try to persuade my brother and his family and all my siblings and children who lived elsewhere to join us. What a terrible waste it was to have a home located in the heart of the zone of totality with only 5 guests. I wish I'd been more like some of our neighbors, who had family members and friends stuffed into every bed and couch and spilling over onto their lawns.

For those of us who have lived the gospel of Jesus Christ enough to know just how exquisite its blessings are, there is a special responsibility to find ways to help others come to understand or even consider the possibility that it will be eternally worth the sacrifice to come to the zone of spiritual totality.

For me, in some small way, glimpsing the silvery brilliance of the corona today felt like a symbolic foreshadowing of what it might be like to dwell eternally in the presence of God-in a place with 'no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof' (Rev. 21:23). Even more than I will strive to persuade my loved ones and friends to go witness the next total solar eclipse visible in the United States in 2024, I feel inspired to do all I can to help others know that heaven is real and that moving to the zone of spiritual totality is eternally worth it. We cannot use enough superlatives to describe it."

(To the original author: Thanks for your insights. You just never know when the seeds we plant on our personal journeys end up helping others to find their way back home).

The little-known scripture which instructs us to memorize it.

Just about everybody I've spoken with who made it to the zone of totality didn't have the words to describe what they experienced. It didn't matter that they drove 5 hours, 10 hours or more. To them, it was a transcendent experience that was well worth the sacrifice of time (especially away from work), travel and money.

Yet like making the trek to somewhere within that 60-70-mile-wide zone of totality, eternal life will also be worth every sacrifice we could possibly make to partake of it.

One of the greatest passages ever written of, by and for church members regarding sacrifice is Lecture on Faith 6. As we know, Lecture on Faith 6 was accepted by the Church on August 17, 1835, as "the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote" (History of the Church 2: 243-46; also see here). It's canon, and even though it's no longer included in our printed scriptures, its status as canon has never been annulled, revoked or rescinded.

Lecture on Faith 6 is the only scriptural passage I'm aware of which tells us to do the following:
"Note. This lecture is so plain, and the facts set forth so self-evident, that it is deemed unnecessary to form a catechism upon it: the student is therefore instructed to commit the whole to memory."
(Kind of interesting, huh! Officially accepted and voted on scriptural canon which tells us to memorize a section of it).

I wonder why.

Let's find out, shall we?

So, you think you're going to be gathered among the faithful, and eventually going to heaven?

In Lecture on Faith 6, we move away from examining God's character to addressing "the knowledge which persons must have, that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, in order that they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation" (verse 1).

Indeed, knowing that the course you're pursuing in life is aligned with God's will is also what "enabled the ancient saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions, and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing, (not believing merely,) that they had a more enduring substance (Hebrews 10:34)" (verse 2). It also helped them obtain confidence that despite their sacrificing their character and reputation, everything important in life and even their own lives, they would be easily accepted into heaven (verse 3), obtain that crown of glory (verse 4) and not only experience, but also partake, of God's glory (verse 5).

To cut to the chase: It's ludicrous for you to think you can make it to the same degree of heaven (or exaltation) as those who made such sacrifices, when you yourself would not (verses 8, 10).

And lest you start thinking that all this doesn't apply to you, check out Lecture on Faith 6:9:
"and in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice. Psalms 50:3-5: Our God shall clime, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant unto me by sacrifice." (emphasis mine)
And then we read elsewhere in verse 9 that this knowledge (that what you're doing is God's will, which is strong enough to give you hope through whatever trials you're expected to go through) "is obtained by offering sacrifice" (verse 9).

Last days? Check. Before He comes? Check. Wanting to be gathered (by Jesus)? Check. One of His saints? Check.

Made a covenant with, and obtained special knowledge by, Him...via sacrifice?

Ummm, what covenant? What sacrifice?

"You Can't Get Home Without It"

The Lord has given much to you. Conversely, He expects much in return.

You covenanted in the waters of baptism to love and serve Him, to keep His commandments, and to put His kingdom first in your life. In return, He has promised you eternal life in His Father's kingdom. In that status, you're in a position to receive and obey some of the higher laws which prepare you for that eternal life which you so sincerely seek.

We read that:
"He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory" (D&C 88:22)
The Law of Sacrifice and the Law of Consecration are inseparably intertwined, celestial laws. If you want that celestial reward which you so devoutly desire, you must be able to live these two laws now, not after you die.

(The Law of Consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the building up of the Kingdom of God. The Law of Sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth's sake-our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be; see here).

So, how can you have any hope of attaining the highest possible salvation for your soul, if you haven't been asked to make these sacrifices?

Chances are, God hasn't asked you to consecrate all your possessions, time, money etc -- and/or sacrifice your reputation and even your very life -- in building up His Kingdom.

However, He probably has asked you to make some other sacrifices...all of which (I believe) are rooted in at least some core, fundamental principles:

Sacrifice Principle #1: The Ultimate Aim of Divinely-Sanctioned Sacrifices

Ultimately, the most profound sacrifices -- those which resonate throughout the heavens -- are (again!) found individually, in you:
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17
"Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit." (D&C 59:8)
"And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not." (3 Nephi 9:20)
So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the "sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit," (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving "away all [our] sins" in order to "know God" Alma 22:18 for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness", April 1995 General Conference)

Sacrifice Principle #2. "Small moves, Ellie. Small moves."

The Lord is a God of gradualism. There's a reason He starts us on our spiritual journeys not in the 9-foot end of the pool, but in the kiddie pool. He then says "Together -- you and me -- we're going to confidently make our way down to the 9-foot end. And I promise that once you get down there, you'll never want to get out!" Unfortunately, there are some kids who will immediately jump out of the pool, run (when they're not supposed to run -- hey, you know the pool rules!) and cannonball into the spiritual deep end. It doesn't take them long to start struggling, choking and drowning in the spiritual deep end, because they chose to short-circuit the correct process.

I see evidences of this all over the place. There are many very knowledgeable doctrinal swimmers -- far, far more knowledgeable about "swimming" (so to speak) than I. I mean, I'm a dog paddler compared to their triple-Lindy high dives. Yet, these other swimmers are a little different. Not only do they jump out of the three-foot end, they get their other friends to do so as well. Then they all go do cannonballs in not the 9-foot end, but the 12-foot end. Only a couple "kids" are just now starting to realize where they are; they are hurt, scared and ashamed. Others are confused and bewildered when they see other kids (who may themselves be unaware that they are) doctrinally drowning.
"For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith." (D&C 98:12)
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" (Isaiah 28:9-10)
The Lord's instruction to us is so gentle and so merciful. Instead of throwing us in the 9-foot end of the pool (then teaching us how to get there), He starts us off in the shallower end. And as we listen to him teach us how to dog paddle, and breast stroke and other progressively-more-difficult swimming moves, we're transformed into skillful, confident swimmers way before -- not while -- we're in the deep end.

And as for those kids struggling in the deep end? Our Eternal Lifeguard throws His life preserver rings to them, too. All they need to do is grab hold of it (that's the hard part; see Alma 34:15). Once they do, He'll instruct them to get out of the pool, get their bearings, and re-start where they left off...this time, under His personal, expert tutelage.
"But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." (Romans 10:21)

Sacrifice Principle #3: Individuality

Are all of us on the same level of spiritual development? Are all of us on the exact same path back to God? Are all of us being taught the same lessons, at the same time, in the same way? Are the personal commandments God gives you the same ones He's giving me, at this time?

I'm sure you'd agree with me that the answers are no, no, no and no.

Our individual sacrifices, covenants and required consecrations are as varied as snowflakes.

I'm amazed at how beautiful the Lord's curriculum is for us. I mean, really, really amazed.

It is so individualized, personalized, customized. Your whole mortal education -- from pre-school to post-doctorate work -- is based on textbooks and lab courses with your name and birthdate on them.

It's no wonder that the sacrifices the Lord requires of us, and are acceptable to Him, are given directly by Him:
"Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice-yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command-they are accepted of me." (D&C 97:8)
Salvation always has been, is and always will be an individual, not collective, effort. Is the covenant of baptism offered as a group? No, people are baptized individually. How about the covenants you make when receiving your endowments? Nope, that's individual, too. And the covenants you make when being sealed to your spouse? Each partner in the marriage agrees to their covenants individually.
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31: 31-34; emphasis mine)

Sacrifice Principle #4: Sometimes It'll Be Painless (AKA The Parable of the Broccoli Lover)

There's a belief that for a sacrifice to be valid, it must hurt. I don't believe that's true in every circumstance.

For example: Eight years ago, a friend of mine and their spouse felt prompted to quit consuming processed food and refined sugar (Disclaimer: I'm in awe)! They also gave up eating other types of food. Both have tried, tempered and tremendous testimonies of the Word of Wisdom. You know that part in the Word of Wisdom about those who receive it "shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures" (D&C 89:19)? Yep, they'll tell you the Lord's been fulfilling that promise way, way more than they expected. (They even learned to love broccoli, which is just...astounding).

Sacrifice Principle #5: Sometimes It'll Hurt

Yet then again, no one ever promised us that discipleship in the last days would be a picnic in the park.

If you want to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, you'll have to prove yourself worthy of it. And if you think you can just skate by without proving your valiance, think again. God repeatedly tells us that mortality is a proving and testing experience (See Abr. 3:25; Mosiah 23:21).

When you're serious about aligning yourself -- in experiencing "totality" with Jesus -- you're eventually admitted into what Paul called the "fellowship of [Christ's] sufferings" (Philip. 3:10). Accompanying that admission may be illness or loneliness, injustice or rejection, abuse or neglect. It's whatever the Lord deems necessary to burn the spiritual impurities out of you.
"Did you ever know it is necessary that we should be tried in all things? If you do not you will find it out before you get through, and we are not through yet quite. In this connection, I am reminded of what I heard the Prophet Joseph say, speaking more particularly with reference to the Twelve, "The Lord will feel after your heart-strings, and will wrench them and twist them around, and you will have to learn to rely upon God and upon God alone." (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 259 -260, March 2, 1879)
"I heard the Prophet Joseph Smith say to the Twelve, 'You will have all kinds of troubles and trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried, even as Abraham and other men of God.' And said he, 'God will feel after you and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings. And if you cannot stand it, you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.'" (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 24, p. 197; Church News, October 7, 1972, p. 14)
Yet for those who turn to the Lord, reassurances will come. Remember the story of Elisha's young servant? When he was encircled by an overwhelming enemy, he sought reassurance from the prophet and seer, who told him, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." (2 Kings 6:16) It didn't seem that way to the young man until after the prophet's prayer. Then, when the young man's eyes were opened, he saw the mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire. (See 2 Kings 6:17).

When You Fear the Pain

Sometimes the sacrifices the Lord asks of us can be painless. We can give up our processed foods and sugars, and move on with life.

Yet sometimes He asks more of us. And on this subject, I know what you're probably thinking: That you're all for qualifying for the Celestial Kingdom, but man, why do these sacrifices often have to hurt so much? It's kind of like knowing you need to climb this hill, and a part of you even wants to, but you don't look forward to it. Sometimes it even feels like you're a tennis ball being sucked through a garden hose.

I get that. Several years ago, I myself grappled with a number of serious setbacks and tragedies, all occurring within one month. None of the incidents were related to the other, and none were my fault. They were heart-wrenching, painful and depressing.

Yet through it all, I begged and pleaded with the Lord that He would forgive me of my weaknesses and sins, that despite my shortcomings, that He would draw closer to me as I was endeavoring to do as well. I also asked for increased knowledge and discernment about the nature of the trials and tests I was having to endure. I wanted to know what I was supposed to learn from it all.

At first, the answers came almost imperceptibly. Yet over time, I grew more and more convinced that God really did love me, care for me, and desired that I enjoy greater happiness in Him. All of these good things, and much, much more, I attribute to a Father who is not only overly-anxious to shower us, but to also immerse us in gifts beyond anything we could expect. And He keeps giving and giving and giving, in so many unexpected and amazing ways.

I am nobody special. I have no significant importance or responsibilities. I don't want or seek acclamation, praise or followers. I cherish anonymity. I consider myself just as ordinary as any person sitting down the row from you in church. Yet this one thing I do have a testimony of: that God delights in exceeding our expectations of Him every chance He gets.
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Taking the Leap of Faith

"The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it." (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, April 1988 General Conference; or Ensign, May 1988, p. 4)

Is it hard to know the Lord, and still trust Him?  Yes, sometimes it is.

For example: In six weeks, I'm going to be required to do something I really don't want to do. For years, I've avoided doing -- I mean, adamantly, profoundly refused to do -- this one thing which may very well lead to disastrous consequences. Yet I'm moving forward with it. As I've told my friends, "The Lord's never let me down yet. Why would He do so now?"

So here's my personal invitation to you: What's your sacrifice? What is the Lord requiring you to do that may likely be very uncomfortable, even dangerous?

I invite you to ask the Lord. If you're feeling your spirituality stalling, then there's nothing that'll un-stall it faster than asking God to help turn you away from the telestial straight to the celestial.

I also invite you to join me in consecrating your heart, mind and body. Put your hand on your heart, put one foot in front of the other, and step onto what appears to be thin air.

Sometimes it's tough deciding to stand where the Lord wants you. He'll invite you to take that multi-hour trip and turn your back on what many would consider a pretty good thing.

But when you take Him up on that offer...when you stand exactly where He wants you, when you seek that totality, and spend even just a couple of minutes in it...

You'll be amazed at how far the Lord will lift you and how much He will show you. And in the process, your life will never, ever be the same.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Rend the Veil of Unbelief, Part 5: Hearing Him

I believe that God is communicating with us all the time. He's far more loving, caring and wanting to be involved in our lives than we may suppose.

The fact that we don't hear Him (in our hearts and minds) as often likely isn't a deficiency on God's part, but ours.

When we're able to clear the static from our spiritual radio tuners, and able to tune into the signals that God is constantly broadcasting, we are far more able to hear Him. And in the process, we're sent on the most thrilling, exciting journey of our lives. Because it's with Him.

Your Spiritual Radio Tuner

On September 5, 1993, Elder James E. Faust gave a little-known but terrific BYU Fireside Address (the entirety is found here) about tuning in to the Spirit.  If possible, please listen to this brief, excerpt of his speech; it’s well worth your time…

One of the passages in this talk particularly resonated with me:

“Learn to ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings; filter out the static generated by Satan. As you become attuned to the Spirit, ‘thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it’ (Isaiah 30:21).”
In the May 2004 First Presidency message, Elder Faust expanded the metaphor of the radio:
"My first radio was a crystal set. It was hard to tune to the frequency of a particular radio station. I had to literally scratch the receiving wire whisker over the top of the rough crystal to find the right pinpoint, a little valley or peak on the crystal where the signal was received. Just a millimeter off on either side of that point and I would lose the signal and get scratchy static. Over time, with patience and perseverance, good eyesight, and a steady hand, I learned to find the signal point on the crystal without too much difficulty. 
So it is with inspiration. We must attune ourselves to the inspiration from God and tune out the scratchy static. We have to work at being tuned in. Most of us need a long time to become tuned in. When I was a newly called General Authority, President Marion G. Romney, who was in his 70s at the time, told us, “I know when I am working under the Spirit and when I am not.” To be able to recognize when one is being guided by the Spirit is a supernal gift. 
In terms of modern communication, crystal radio sets helped us emerge from the dark ages of communication. With advanced technology, cellular phones are used for much of the communication in our time. Occasionally, however, we find dead spots where the signal coming to a cell phone fails. This can happen when the cell phone user is in a tunnel or a canyon or when there is other interference. 
So it is with divine communication. The still, small voice, though still and small, is very powerful. It “whispereth through and pierceth all things” (D&C 85:6).  But like my old crystal set, the message may be there but we fail to pick it up. Perhaps something in our lives prevents us from hearing the message because we are 'past feeling' (1 Nephi 17:45).  We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit."
Indeed, the signals of the Spirit are so subtle, they are almost imperceptible to the telestial soul.  And in our harried, busy, distracted modern-day lives, we need every advantage, every strategy possible, to effectively “tune in” to the Spirit so we can ponder God’s words.

I know these days, many people are envious (whether they'd admit it or not) of those who have seen the Savior, had an audience with Him, or even been ministered to by Him. And there's no doubt, such experiences are significant, sacred and rare. But in my experience, even rarer are those who hear Him often and know His personality with crystal clarity. In my opinion, they have a constantly, ever-evolving relationship with Him which those who've only spent a few minutes with Him often don't have.

Those who do hear Him with that frequency and clarity often display three characteristics:

1. They Turn Their Back on Satan

"Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10) and "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men" (Matthew 16:23) are phrases commonly thought and uttered by those who seem to hear Christ well. They have no problem with casting Satan out of their homes and offices. They prioritize immersing themselves in His word, and do what they can to ensure a wholesome environment, like playing inspirational, uplifting music -- the frequencies of which add light, life and love. In so doing, they take refuge in His word and in His holy name, ensuring a shield of righteousness around them:

Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

For our shield belongs to the LORD, And our king to the Holy One of Israel.

But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

2. They Turn Their Heart to Jesus

"O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth." (Helaman 12:4-7)

Simultaneous to their taking refuge in Jesus, and ensuring His status as their spiritual shield, is a concerted effort to rid themselves of sin and the elimination of anything and everything that stands between them and God.

These obstacles come in a thousand different forms. Some lesser-known -- but very poignant -- examples include:

"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)
Those who hear Christ in their hearts and minds actively seek out and eradicate idols from their midst (to see a list of some definite possibilities, click here). This is often painful, because these idols are tremendously beguiling. And everybody loves them. So, it sets these people at odds with other family members, friends and co-workers who have little to no desire to do the same. Banish idols from your midst, and you very likely will end up feeling a lot more alone. That's OK, though; it's often in our "aloneness" that Jesus makes Himself a little more "obvious".


I'm only aware of two instances where the Lord was destructive/negative: His dealings with the Pharisees/Sadducees/Scribes (who had unrighteously assumed authority over the Church) and clearing out the temple (which had been allowed to be defiled by the Pharisees). Did He lash out at the Romans? Not that I'm aware. Of them, He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).

Today, I see a tremendous degree of negativity and destructiveness, especially online (often involving groups of hundreds or thousands of people, even church members), often by those who believe that said destructiveness/negativity is endorsed by none other than Jesus Himself. True, we are to warn our neighbor; no doubt about it! (D&C 88:81) But when we self-justify exceptions to His commandment "That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34), it's easy to run contrary to another injunction that we "follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." (Romans14:19)

“As the showdown between good and evil approaches with its accompanying trials and tribulations, Satan is increasingly striving to overcome the Saints with despair, discouragement, despondency, and depression.” (Pres. Ezra Taft Benson, “Do Not Despair”, Oct. 1974 General Conference).
Boy do I know a lot about this obstacle. When I was on my mission, my first companion was what they called a "dead companion". He had almost no desire to proselyte and teach, even though he was very good at them. Just six hours of both activities in my first six months there. Now imagine for a minute being in a foreign country where you can't understand a written word, you can barely ask where the bathroom is, your parents aren't supportive of your mission and you know no one in your home ward. You're as enthusiastic a missionary as there ever was, and you're spending your first months in these circumstances. I felt beaten, broken, defeated. I honestly felt I had no one to turn to. Amidst the frustration, I did the only thing I knew I had left: I turned to God. I cried, begged and pleaded with Him. I remember telling Him, "I'm out here working for you. I've left my home, my family -- everything, and I mean everything -- for you. All I need is for you to just say hi. Say something. Please. Because you're all I've got left."  It was then that I heard, clear as a bell, my name ringing through my heart and mind. It was honestly like a bell had been rung. Then I was given a flood of images in my mind of different aspects of my life, all the while saying "I was with you during <this life event>. I was with you during <that life event>". It was undeniable who was talking to me and the feelings (of peace and enlightenment) I felt. Since that day, all those miles and years ago, I still remember that singular event which permanently changed me, like it was yesterday.

There have been some stellar talks and articles given over the years regarding self-doubt (here and here). But for me, there's only one way to know for sure that God exists, knows you and loves you, and that's to experience it first-hand.
“But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; … He will not forsake thee.” (Deut. 4:30–31; pleasealso see here)
There's one way -- and only one way -- to shed these spiritual barnacles off the hulls of our souls: To turn to God. In many cases, this requires repentance.

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

Almost four years ago, I documented my search for what repentance is. I was surprised to learn that repentance is not suffering. It is not punishment. It isn't confession or remorsefulness, either. I replaced those words with others like shube and metaneoeo. I discovered a beautiful simplicity in repentance.
No matter if you know all about repentance or not, I invite you to discover -- or rediscover -- the true meaning of repentance. After re-reading these links, I have fortified my testimony that repentance is (or can be) highly motivating, inspiring, uplifting and can (by itself) trigger some touching, sincere, understanding, non-judgmental conversations with God:
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7; emphasis mine)
This is not only Isaiah's testimony to the world, but mine as well. I've lived it. I've experienced it. And because of His infinite mercy, I've been overwhelmingly blessed because of it.

Thinking of Others Ahead of Yourself

In June, 1829, both John Whitmer and Peter Whitmer, Jr became deeply concerned over the matter of their individual duty (see D&C14 Introduction). The Lord's answer to both was synonymous and brief:
"For many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you. And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen." (D&C 15: 4,6; 16:4,6)
I don't think the Lord wanted these two sections included in the D&C just to fill up some space. No. I believe He included them because that would be His message to you, today, as well. Because the Lord isn't known for His changeability (3 Nephi 24:6), I think it's a safe assumption that these verses apply to you as well.

I've always believed that if you want to grab heaven's attention, pray about others. If you want to solutions to your problems, seek to help others discover solutions to their problems. In a previous blog post, I posited "Why Your Efforts to Part the Veil May Be Failing". My conclusion was simple: One of the reasons why the veil isn't parting for us is because we're thinking of ourselves, not others. When you turn your back on Satan, and eliminate the idols and sin which separate you from God, you really are making efforts to put God first in your life. That's the First Great Commandment. When you seek after the welfare of others, there's the Second Great Commandment.

Putting It All Together: Two Blog Readers' Personal Experiences

But I suppose the real test of what I've said in this blog post, and this five-part series, is what effect it's had on others' relationships with Jesus. Here are two emails from blog readers (used with their permission):
"When I heard people talk in church about having a 'personal relationship' with Jesus, I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn't understand how you could have a relationship with someone you can't see or hear.  I've been your average spiritually-asleep church member almost my entire life.  When I 'awoke' and learned that other everyday church members were hearing His voice and having conversations with Him, I knew immediately that I wanted that type of relationship with Him, and had absolute confidence that it could happen to me too.  I turned myself more and more toward Him, yearning to hear and converse with Him.  I had many one-sided conversations with Him while running, during the day, and driving around in the car.  My thoughts changed to the extent where I was focused on my spiritual desires a large percentage of the day. Sometimes it was frustrating because I didn't have any sense that anyone was listening.  But I kept at it. 
One night I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time falling asleep again because I was worrying about something.  As I was laying in bed thinking, I suddenly heard my name very clearly in my mind.  I was very surprised.  My previous thoughts had had nothing to do with my name, and I was pretty sure the voice wasn't the same voice I associate with my own thoughts.  'That... was not me!!!' I realized.  'That.... was Jesus?!!'  I quickly called out to Him in my mind, thinking of Samuel's boyhood experience.  No response.  I wondered if I was dreaming, but I was pretty sure I was awake, even opening my eyes to verify it.  Soon afterwards, I finally fell asleep. 
Since then, it's been witnessed to me that that was indeed the Lord's voice who spoke to me that night. It was the greatest day of my entire life, the single most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.  Jesus spoke to ME!  He knew my name!  I had gone from having strong faith in Him to feeling like I absolutely KNEW He was there and that He was aware of me and my righteous desires.  I felt like if I could hear His voice, I could accomplish anything He wanted. I had done my best to draw near unto Him, and He was reciprocating.  My life has never been the same since then.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone who pays the price."
This other account happened within the walls of a temple:
"I again want to thank you for your insights in these latest blog posts!  This approach has very literally opened up the avenue for personal revelation and interaction with the Lord in ways that were greatly lacking for a long time!  As a testimony to that, I just want to share this tender experience which I had tonight. 
As I finished some of my assignments within the <location> temple tonight, I found myself with about 50 minutes before needing to be anywhere.  So I slipped quietly into the empty chapel to simply spend some uninterrupted time with the Lord in His house. 
I sat on the back row of benches and cleared my mind, inviting the Lord to be with me.  I thanked Him for the priceless opportunity to be in His house to spend time with Him and participate in the eternally important work which occurs there.  I imagined Him sitting next to me on the bench so that we could talk like old friends. 
As I sat pondering about what I felt impressed to converse with Him about, I began thinking about the importance of a person’s name.  I thought of how when the Lord spoke to the young prophet Joseph Smith and called him by name, how much meaning that must have conveyed to Joseph, just to hear his name spoken by God.  The same could be said for any of the prophets in the scriptures.  I had the impression that when the Lord calls you by name, there is a deep and significant meaning behind its use, which conveys His feelings towards you as an individual. 
As I sat thinking about the importance of a name, I considered all of the many names and titles the Lord has.  Some of these might include: Jesus, Jehovah, Yeshua, the Lord, the Christ, the Prince of Peace and countless other names, all of which describe him accurately in some way.  But I felt impressed to ask Him as part of my personal conversation with Him, “What is the name you prefer the most, Lord?”  “Of all the many names and titles you have, do you have one which you love or prefer to be called above the others?  This way I will know what I should call you that will convey my love to you.” 
I received no specific response to this question, but it served to at least open my personal conversation with Him. 
I next began to thank Him for the wonderful opportunity I had this past weekend to go and spend some time with <family members>, and to participate in the blessing of <family member>.  Even thinking about how I felt around the precious young souls of <family member> and <family member> made my heart swell with love.  I thanked the Lord for how precious those feelings were to me.  In response came the sweet and tender impression, “That is how I feel about you!”  This answer warmed my heart to consider. 
I next pondered about the love of Heavenly Father and Mother, and thought about how I can envision the Lord and through Him, have a glimpse of what Father must be like, but I considered in my heart, “But what is Mother like?”  In response came the reply, “She is very much like all of the divine qualities you see and love in your own dear wife.”   This reply felt so natural and correct, and not only helped deepen my understanding of Heavenly Mother, but also gave me a deeper and greater affection for my lovely wife and the potential of what she will someday become.  (When I shared these impressions with my wife later that evening, she was deeply impacted and moved to tears). 
Trying to shift things away from my own thoughts and questions, I then asked the Lord, “What was the best part of your day today?”  The simple and quick reply was, “Spending this time with you!”  I considered all the eternally significant things He was involved with all the time and replied, “I can’t imagine that with all you have going on, that spending a few minutes with me would be the best thing in your day.”  His answer was a quick and gentle rebuke, but one filled with love and encouragement, “That is where your faith is still lacking!  That is your veil of unbelief!” 
I was humbled and quickly asked for forgiveness for doubting in His love for me.  I expressed how I longed to be with Him and to have the faith to put aside such doubts and believe how much He truly desired to be with me and have a personal relationship with me. 
I asked Him what I could do to deepen that relationship and connection with Him.  The reply came, “Show more sincere interest in others around you and be truly concerned about their well-being.  That is how you will draw closer unto me, because that is how you will become more like me.  And as you become more like me in this way, you will see as you are seen and know as you are known.” 
These simple and profound insights and revelations came quietly, yet profoundly, as I simply took some time to be with the Lord and converse with Him through the eye of faith…in the temple. 
I can’t tell you how much this simple concept has profoundly impacted opening the heavens and making a connection to divine insight and truth.  For much of my life, I have offered prayers that felt as if they were unanswered, which were lists, asking for blessings and seeking for answers to things that were important to me according to what I wanted.  Many times, I felt the heavens were closed during these attempts and the answers were hard to come by.  But this new approach of having a more personal conversation with the Lord, trying to envision Him not far away in heaven, but near me and wanting to talk to me, has made so much difference in just the past few weeks! 
These experiences are a testimony to me that not only does the Lord want to have a closer and more personal relationship and interactions with us, but that He is actually near us all the time.  We literally are His primary concern, His work and His glory.  And this concept reminds me of a quote, by A. W. Tozer, which I have long loved and am now striving to actually believe,

“An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. 
He does not distribute Himself so that each may have a part,
but to each He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.” 
I pray that I may continue to develop this faith, belief and my relationship with Him, until it becomes a literal reality in His own time, and in His own perfect, divine way!"
I couldn't have put it better myself.

Lorenzo Snow said that it is the “grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint … to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives [so] that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark” (in Conference Report, April 1899, 52).

Can you find Him? Yes...when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul. Can you hear His voice? Yes. I have, and others have as well.

I close this series (grateful for, and) seconding not only my friends' witnesses, but also Moroni's (note the usage of the word "when", not "if":
"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)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rend the Veil of Unbelief, Part 4: Visualize Him

Special Announcement

LDS Perfect Day now has a YouTube channel here!  At this time, you'll find five playlists:

The video book of John Eldredge's book, "Beautiful Outlaw"

Videos of Jesus which are meaningful to me

Insightful Videos

Inspiring Videos

Favorite Music (now up to 30 songs!)

It's my hope that these videos can help you feel the Spirit a bit more, and grow closer to He who adds life to all He touches, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

The New Mormon Pioneers

170-ish years ago, many of our ancestors were pioneers. They traversed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles in search of truth, of a better life, of God. They hoped, they dreamed, they envisioned what their new homes in the fabled Rocky Mountains would look like.

Today, the Lord beckons you to also be a pioneer.

Only this time, it doesn't involve walking many physical, but spiritual, miles.

The journey is just as tough, and its stakes much, much higher.

He beckons you not to the Rocky Mountains, but into His presence. He encourages you to dream, to imagine, to visualize His presence, and like our pioneer ancestors, literally step foot into that envisioned realm.

This blog post won't get you there. Instead, I hope it serves as kind of a booster, an ever-so-slight push forward, with you on your spiritual bicycle.

Keep pedaling. Stay straight. And definitely...keep smiling!

When Mankind Shattered a Type of Colorblindness

One in 12 boys/men, and in 1 in 200 girls/women, have hereditary red-green color blindness. To these people, red and green look the same. Everything looks the same -- just different shades of gray.

Enter EnChroma -- a company which produces revolutionary, new glasses which enables the colorblind to see colors. For those with trichromatic color blindness, light wavelengths overlap too much, causing color confusion. But when they put these glasses on, one wavelength is made a little brighter and the other a little less, so they can better tell the difference between colors. Even though EnChroma advises people to wear the glasses "for 3-5 days to allow visual processing mechanisms in the brain to adapt to the new information", for most, the results are immediate and life-changing:

"This whole end of the spectrum I was completely not aware of"

"I never realized like how much I was affected by the fact that I can't see the world like the way other people see the world."

"All these things that are intentional in life, I never caught on to it."

"I don't want to take them off"

"I never really thought about my colorblindness that much. It's just something that I had that I dealt with, and that wasn't really a big deal to me. But color is an amazing experience, and I think people probably take for granted."

We, too, are colorblind. Spiritually colorblind.

It hasn't always been this way. Anciently, people knew that the dark veil of unbelief exists in our minds. They had an active knowledge of how spiritual creation precedes the physical creation. And they knew that by seeing through their spiritual eye of faith, they would someday see what they had visualized with their physical eyes.

These people saw spiritual technicolor. We ultra-cool Gentiles? I'd have to say, for the most part, that we're trichromatic color best.

What do modern-day people say when they put on their spiritual EnChroma glasses?

Necha said...
"I went and tried it...visualizing. Can I just say...WOW! One of the most sacred experiences I've had!" (here)
...Dane said...
"Wow! I couldn't stop reading your post. I feel this is what is missing for me to see my Savior. Thank you for sharing this with me." (here)
...and finally, C said (in a private email to me),
"It [visualizing] was something I stumbled upon on my own, being led to it with the help of the Spirit. It's now my barometer for my relationship with God and Christ. And it is true testimony to me that they are here and with us. I don't feel alone when I focus my mind in their direction. It also shows me the very nature of the veil."
These are real people, who read and/or listen to this blog, just like you.

And there's one name missing in this list of those who visualized the eternities as was done anciently -- yours!

So, let's put a halt to your spiritual colorblindness. Let's put on your spiritual EnChroma glasses. Now.

INSPIRED Visualization

A few points before we dive into the details:

1. "Inspired Visualization 101" is based on Stephen Covey's September, 1974 Ensign article, "Likening the Scriptures Unto Ourselves". There, he states,

"Visualize. This means to see in your mind’s eye the characters and events portrayed in the scriptures. Such an empathetic effort will help you understand the situation that produced the teaching. Then you can relate that situation to yours and distill the universal principle that may apply in both.

When you visualize, you’re exercising faith. Visualizing is a powerful mental process, one of man’s unique endowments. Most of us neglect this power. Realize it or not, control it or not, the spiritual creation precedes the physical creation in all things. Most of life’s battles are lost in this private phase."

I don't think the Church would have published this concept in its Ensign Magazine -- and sold Covey's book which includes the above quote since the early 80s -- unless it had considered the usage of the word "visualize", and the concept of visualization, spiritually beneficial.

The term "visualize", and its accompanying concept, has also been used by Elder David A. Bednar:
"The Restoration of the gospel in the latter days provides an important companion account of the Savior’s birth in the Book of Mormon. My message highlights this additional description of the first Christmas. As we consider this episode together, brothers and sisters, I invite you to visualize yourself in these events and not merely listen to the words." ("The Light and the Life of the World", Dec. 2015, here and here)
And Elder Claudio Costa in the October 2015 General Conference:
"I love to read scriptural passages about His sinless life, and after reading the scriptures which tell about the events experienced by Him, I close my eyes and try to visualize these sacred moments that teach me and strengthen me spiritually.
Moments such as:
  • When He spat on the ground and, having made clay of the spittle, anointed the eyes of the blind man and said unto him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” And the man obeyed, “and washed, and came seeing.”
  • When He healed the woman who had an issue of blood and had touched the border of His garment, believing that just by touching Him, she would be healed.
  • When He appeared to His disciples, walking upon the sea.
  • When He went with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and opened the scriptures to their understanding.
  • When He appeared to the people in the Americas and told them to come unto Him and thrust their hands into His side and feel the prints of the nails in His hands and His feet so they could know that He was 'the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and [had] been slain for the sins of the world.'” ("That They Do Always Remember Him", here).
In fact, the church's New Testament Teacher's Manual has a whole section on "Visualizing the Scriptures":
"Visualizing the Scriptures: When students create a mental picture of what they are reading, the persons and events in the scriptures will become more real to them. Help students visualize the scriptures by asking them to describe how they “see” in their minds certain people or events taking place in the scriptures. Encourage them to focus on words and phrases in the scriptures that help them better understand the scriptural context." (here)
(There are many, many more instances of the term, and concept, of "visualize" or "visualization" in [here]).

2. "Inspired Visualization 201" and beyond incorporates several truths: It demands that the person "Pray and ask for the Holy Ghost to be your guide", to "start with a prayer", asking Heavenly Father to bless and sanctify your experience. You "ask that the Holy Ghost will be" your guide. These concepts are grounded in some core truths: Light. Love. Peace. Righteousness. And most importantly, Jesus. These differ (or should differ) from other forms of visualization, particularly New Age philosophies, which encourage people to lose control of themselves. Such are not rooted in prayer to Heavenly Father, faith in Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  As we know, Satan counterfeits all truths, and inspired visualizing -- seeing with the eye of faith -- shouldn't be an exception. I outright condemn any meditative or visualization practice which sacrifices your control to another, or diverges its focus from Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

3. One good way to determine a practice's truth is, what fruits does it bring about? As we know, a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. So, one should be discerning if such techniques lead people closer to God or not. I've included some fruits above. If we condemn the fruits which others have tasted, which have indeed brought them closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, then we are setting ourselves up as judges of others.

Now -- below are some methods to help you visualize the divine. I've organized them so that you start with a basic visualization technique, and once you've mastered that one, you can move on to the next one.

Note that these are just examples. If you sense it would be best for you to add/delete/change a step, then do it. That's OK. Everybody's experiences differ.

1. Inspired Visualization 101

I stumbled upon this first method quite by accident: I was listening to an mp3 of the Book of Mormon just as I was going to sleep. As I did so, I started to imagine the events being described in the narration. The results were profound. Over the years, I've encouraged others to do the same. They have, and the results have been profound for them, too. Here's how it works:

  1. Go here to access 3rd Nephi Chapter 11. Don't start listening to it quite yet; just be ready to do so.
  2. Pick a quiet, calm time to visualize. I recommend finding a peaceful time and place where there are no distractions and no pressing appointments. "Peace" is a prime prerequisite of the Spirit.
  3. Pray, expecting God will grant you a heightened awareness of what you are about to hear, and thank Him for the opportunity.
  4. Play the YouTube mentioned in step #1.
  5. Immediately close your eyes.
  6. As you listen to it, place yourself in the environment being described.  Imagine the surroundings.  If possible, feel the temperature of the air and hear the ambient sounds. See and feel what's being described.

Note that in this exercise, I gave you a special, slowed down version of this chapter. Feel free to download other mp3 scriptures by going to the scriptures page, then go to a desired book and chapter. So, for example, to listen to the non-slowed down version of 3rd Nephi 11, go here. Right above where it says, "Third Nephi The Book of Nephi", you'll see a download icon. Click that, then select if you want a male or female voice. It'll download the mp3 onto your device. NOTE: Sorry, I can't help you with any technical issues.

And feel free to try any verse of scripture! This is just an example. You can try it with the story of the woman with an issue of blood, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Peter walking on water, or what Jesus was doing when He was talking about children.

2. Inspired Visualization 201

My friend M shared this with me, and has graciously allowed me to share it on this blog. She has had many profound visualization experiences using this protocol:

  • Relax and take it slow.
  • Pray and ask for the Holy Ghost to be your guide.
  • Prepare.  Get into the right frame of mind.
  • Write your experiences down, they are your personal revelation.
  • Share only when you feel prompted.  Not everyone will treat your sacred experience as such.

  • Don’t lie down because this process is so calming, you will fall asleep.
  • Don’t do this while driving – this point is obvious.
  • Don’t do this with too much expectation.  Most of the time my experiences exceeded my expectations.
  • Your experience is unique and sacred; don’t compare your experience with someone else’s experience.

I usually start with a prayer.  I ask Heavenly Father to bless and sanctify my experience.  If I have a question or a specific experience I am seeking, I will include it in my prayer.  I ask that the Holy Ghost will be my guide and that I will be open minded for this experience.
For most people, this is not something they are used to. They might feel uncomfortable -- or find it hard -- to let go and let the Spirit guide them.  The advice I was given that put my mind at ease was knowing that there is no right or wrong way.  Everyone has a different experience.
Close your eyes and sit comfortably.  Imagine that you are wearing a worker’s overall.  It is damp, cold, dirty, heavy and uncomfortable.  All your sins and weaknesses are attached to this overall.
Imagine yourself taking the overall off and handing it to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is going to give it to the Savior.  The Holy Ghost then hands you a new overall.  It is white, clean, warm and it has your name on it.

The Holy Ghost informs you that Jesus Christ washed it Himself and ironed it.  You put it on and you feel rejuvenated and refreshed.  It smells so wonderful and clean.  It is soft and warm against your skin.
You feel new and clean, like a blank piece of paper.
Process of ascending
With your eyes still closed, imagine you are walking in a forest with tall trees all around you.  Feel the soft green grass underneath your feet.  Feel the rough bark against your hands as you touch the trees walking past them.  You look up and see the most beautiful variety of green leaves swaying gently in the breeze.  Imagine feeling the cool breeze on your face as you take a deep breath and smell the fresh air.  You listen to the sounds of the birds singing in the trees.  It is the perfect day for a stroll in the forest.  Take your time as you enjoy the beauty around you.
Ahead you see an open field.  You notice the vast contrast of the shadows cast by the trees and the sun light ahead.  You get excited knowing that you are going to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.
As you walk into the light of the sun, you feel the warmth all around you.  Let it soak into your body.  Feel the rays of the sun enter every molecule and cell in your body.  Imagine the rays of the sun lighting your heart.  If the light in your heart had a dial to increase or decrease the light, increase the light all the way so that it is as bright as the sun.  Let that light grow and expand.  This light is pushing all impurities and everything of a Telestial state out of your body.  That includes evil, illness and pain.  This light expands outside your body and forms a perfect dome around you.  This is your shield.  It will protect you.
In front of you, you notice a stairway all the way to heaven.  You are unable to see where it ends.  You feel excited and intrigued to climb the stairs.

Imagine yourself climbing up the stairs.  You are amazed how fast you are able to climb.  You look down and see the trees far below.  The sight is breathtaking.  You start climbing again.  You notice that every step you ascend makes you feel calmer and more relaxed.  When you reach the top of the stairs you notice a door.  It is white with a golden handle.  You notice that you have a key in your hand.  You unlock the door... you open the step through...
What do you see?
When you are done, you can either climb down the stairs back to the open field or just open your eyes and thank Heavenly Father for the experience.
Some of what you experience might not make much sense, but I have found things come to pass what I have seen in a meditation a year later.

Write down what you have experienced.
What to expect
  • You might find that you step into a white glorious room embraced by the light.  This is a sacred place of healing and comfort.
  • You might find that you step into a magnificent garden, filled with flowers of all colors and variations.  There might be a stream and a beautiful tree that represents the Tree of Life.
  • You might find that you enter a Heavenly Place with golden roads and majestic building.
  • You might find that you enter a familiar place that has brought you feelings of exceeding joy and peace.  “Your happy-place.”

You might be greeted by a deceased family member or friend.
You might be greeted by an angelic guide.
You might be greeted by a younger or more advanced version of yourself.
You might be greeted by the Savior.
There is a possibility that you are alone and just need to be around nature.  This solitude can bring healing and peace to your soul.
Your experience might be for healing.
Your experience might be for understanding.
Your experience might be for clarification.
Your experience might be for learning.
Your experience might be for revelation.

3. Inspired Visualization 301

  1. As is noted above, prepare a calm, peaceful environment while you're alone. Pray. Ask that you be cleansed of all iniquity.
  2. IMPORTANT: Clear your mind. If you're too concerned about other stuff, then get yourself to a state where you can just cast those concerns aside for a few minutes.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Visualize yourself in the Sacred Grove. See Joseph enter the Grove. See him pray. See him struggle. See a light appear.
  5. "Pause" or "Freeze" the scene, so there is no movement whatsoever.
  6. Look into the light.
  7. Move right up to the light, and gently reach your hand into it.
  8. Feel what it's like to have your hand in the light. Feel the temperature, the vibration, the emotional feelings it may elicit.
  9. With your hand in the light, gently close your hand around a small portion of the light.
  10. Pull your hand out of the light, and look into your hand. See the light that you've acquired. Feel it.
  11. Now, with your eyes still closed, leave the Sacred Grove scene, and imagine yourself right back in the time and place where you are, only you still have the small amount of light in your hand.
  12. Clasp both palms around the light, so it's like you're holding a small snowball in your hands.
  13. Still, with your eyes closed, think about all the things you've been blessed with in your life. Blessing after blessing after an endless stream of blessings.
  14. Note the feelings this contemplation brings about in you. Do you feel greater love for Jesus, who gave you these blessings? If so, then redirect this love into your ball  of light in your hand.
  15. Note what happens to your ball of light. Does it get brighter? Does it get bigger?
  16. (Assuming the light gets bigger as it's fed more light and love), keep feeding it light and love. How big does it get? What happens to anything that's dark or negative when it tries to penetrate your ball of light?
  17. Keep feeding the ball of light with light and love until it's big enough for it to envelope you. Continue to feed it until it encompasses your room and your home.
  18. Feel what it's like to be in this ball of light.
  19. Ask, within your mind and heart, what it will take to maintain this ball of light at its current diameter.

4. Inspired Visualization 401

  • Implement "Inspired Visualization 301" so that the ball of light encompasses your entire home.
  • Direct a thought to your heart, and imagine rays of light emanating from your heart to the outer layer of the ball of light.
  • The thought is this (it can be varied/adapted as you feel inspired):
Dear Lord, I thank you for your invitation to draw near unto me, as I draw near unto you. 
I've prepared my heart and my home with one intention: that you may be invited in to both, and spend some time with me.
  • Next, envision Jesus sitting across from you.
  • With your mind still blank, be especially sensitive to any thoughts which may pop into your head. It may be your name. It may be a word. It may be a phrase.
  • If you get nothing, then don't force it. Just stay and bask in the spiritually-created light that you're in.

Closing Thoughts

  1. These techniques are simply methods which I, and others, have used to help draw closer to the Savior. They're grounded in some core truths: Light. Love. Peace. Righteousness. And most importantly, Jesus.
  2. This takes a lot of time to master. You may spend a year just at the 101 level. Don't rush things. Don't be impatient! Just ask Brother Joseph what happens when you want to do things on your terms, not the Lord's. Bad juju, huh. Be smart and await the Spirit's invitation to try any -- or a a more involved -- level of visualization.
  3. If you tell yourself "I can't do this!", then you're exactly right -- you can't! Our words are powerful, and if you allow Satan to dissuade you from trying to spiritually create with your mind's eye, then you're headed in the wrong direction. Repent and be believing.
  4. If you're expecting Christ to physically show up right in front of you after having done any of these exercises, you're missing the point. The point is to create a situation and an environment where it's far easier to draw closer to Him, and He to you. Like I said, this may take some time. Leave any results in His hands. Let go, and let God.
  5. You may be tempted to contact me and ask, "What if I do this?" or "I don't understand how to do that?". Please don't. I can't and won't step in between you and God. Go ask God your questions; He has better answers than I'd provide!  : )
  6. However, if you do have successes with any of these protocols, then please email me here or click on my contact page. I'd love to anonymously share your experience with others. You never know when the things you share might help someone else.

I know that for a while, I've been saying that this would be a four-part series. This last week, I felt very strongly impressed to make it a five-parter.

So, in Part 5, we'll discuss one last concept in parting the veil:

Hearing Him.