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The Fruit of the Tree of Life

Lehi wasn’t dead when he partook of the fruit of the tree of life in his famous dream (First Nephi, chapter 8).

Nope, he looked around immediately, wanting to share it with his family.

“And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy, wherefore I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also, for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit” 1 Nephi 8:12

That doesn’t sound like a dead man to me.

But we can’t taste of that fruit ourselves.  We can’t even approach the tree.  You know why?  It’s because we’re addicted to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (TOKOGAE).

The problem is, we haven’t even figured out that we’re addicted.  It’s like this addiction is the metaphorical “Cherubim and a Flaming Sword” that prevents us from partaking of the fruit of both trees at the same time.

We have to give up one before we can partake of the other.

Yet – isn’t that classically considered to be the first step to recovery – to acknowledge that we have a problem?  Instead we just say, again metaphorically, “There’s a Cherubim and a Flaming Sword” guarding the way to the tree of life, and we dare not challenge it.”  So, we keep looking forward to Zion, wondering what it is that we have to do to prepare, or create, or enter into that state of existence that I believe is an obvious manifestation of partaking of the fruit of the tree of life.

But I guess Lehi could, or did, or didn’t know he couldn’t.

Yet, we can’t, or don’t, or don’t know we can.

I’ve written about the topic of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil vs. the Tree of life before, back in April, 2018, in “Two Trees”, as well as in other posts over the years.

So, if we’re addicted to the fruit of the TOKOGAE, what is that psycho-active substance in the fruit that we crave?

It is fear.

What?  We crave fear?

Yes, we crave fear.  Fear perpetuates the ego – the “natural man”.  Fear encourages us to control our environment, including other people, and thus helps perpetuate the illusion that we can control of survival.  As I said before, in those previous posts (to paraphrase):

  • We judge between good and evil, because we think we have knowledge of both
  • We fear evil because we fear that it results in death – especially spiritual death
  • We fear death, then, because we think that if we don’t judge between good and evil (we love to soften this with the word “discern”) and avoid evil, we will be punished eternally after we die

So, we crave fear, because we desire survival, in the false belief that we are subject to death.  We want to be “as the gods”, knowing good from evil, and, of course, living forever.

But all of this is a lie…an illusion…or at least an imperfect understanding.

We are not subject to death – at least not spiritual death.  We are eternal beings.  Men, after all, were created, “…that they might have joy”.

We are not subject to death, but we do subject ourselves to death.  And we do this by insisting that we can’t live without the fruit of TOKOGAE.

Sounds like addiction to me.

So, do we have the faith to not fear death?  Do we have the faith to not rely on our ability to judge between good and evil – seeking in this way to control our environment and, believe it or not, avoid death?

Do we have the faith to not judge others,  but instead to simply be joyful, and love God and others without that love being conditional upon the perceived goodness or evilness of their beliefs or actions?

Do we have the faith to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of Jesus?

Do we have the faith to live in love, in charity, in life, even when everything we observe around us tells us that this is impossible; that we cannot be perfect; that the sermon on the mount was just an allegory – an unattainable standard reserved only for “the gods”.  (“Ye shall be as the gods, knowing good from evil”)

Faith is the willingness to act on the belief that we have the power to create something that is as yet unseen and uncertain.

Do we have the faith to create for ourselves an existence that is filled with love instead of fear, joy instead of suffering, empathy instead of judgment, oneness instead of separateness…life instead of death?

Do we have the faith to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, knowing that this is our true destiny, the very fulfillment of the measure of our creation?

Let’s not forget, though, that Lehi was dreaming.  Did he ever truly partake?  Did Nephi ever truly partake?  What was the meaning of Lehi’s dream?  Did he experience the actual partaking – or was that just an invitation to what is possible?  Did even Lehi and Nephi leave this invitation unfulfilled?

Regardless, I believe the invitation is there for us.  To accept this invitation is what it means to:

  • Believe in Christ
  • Love Jesus by keeping His commandments
  • Receive the Second Comforter
  • Receive eternal life
  • Receive salvation
  • Know Christ
  • “Become” love

So, we must first admit that we have a problem.  We must recognize that we perpetuate our own death, separation, suffering, damnation, condemnation (choose your own word) by carrying on in the belief that our worthiness, our eternal life, our ability to “be as the gods” is somehow dependent upon our ability to judge ourselves and others based upon our supposed knowledge of good and evil.

Having admitted this, having admitted that we “have a problem”, we may then take that first step toward recovery from our addiction; the first step in a glorious, joyful, loving, eternal walk in life; the first taste of the fruit of the tree of life.

Finally, a question.  Do you believe that the fruit of the tree of life is available to us now, today, in mortality?

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How to Receive Comfort

I said something yesterday, in the context of my blog post, about how I seek, and receive, Christ’s comfort daily.  Someone asked, “how do you go about receiving?  Anything in particular that you do?”.

I gave a partial answer:

                It’s just a matter of believing and not fearing. Believing that it’s possible, that the only “worthiness” test is to believe and to be completely at ease, trusting, and transparent.  He is complete kindness, empathy, and love. Only peace in his presence. Not VISIONS but presence.

This morning, I understood a more complete answer.

Put simply, we can’t receive what we’re not willing to give.  Furthermore, we can’t receive what we do not give.

In other words:

  • If I want to receive empathy, I must give empathy
  • If I desire compassion, I must give compassion
  • If I want to receive understanding, I must give understanding
  • If I want to be freed from guilt, I cannot assign guilt
  • If I want to receive forgiveness, I must give forgiveness
  • If I want to be loved unconditionally, I must love unconditionally
  • If I want to learn, I must teach
  • If I want to be comforted, I must comfort

In 1 Corinthians 13, which is commonly attributed to Paul, we read:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

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.

Visions, visitations, miracles, prophecies, revelations…they all mean nothing if I am do not love as I desire to be loved.

So, is there “anything in particular that I do”?  I try really hard to do give that which I desire to receive.

“He is complete kindness, empathy, and love”.

If I would receive from Him; if I would receive Him, I, too, must be “complete kindness, empathy, and love”.

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The Borg, Honor, Righteous Desires, and Zion

How do we honor another person?

I think the best way to honor another person is to interact with them.  It is to recognize and validate their existence…that they are important enough to you that you choose to spend physical, emotional, and spiritual energy communicating with them.  Obviously, ignoring another person is clearly to dishonor them.

This act of honoring another person becomes even more powerful…we might call it love… when it is conducted without judgment, without fear, and without expectations or conditions.

I have a friend (more than one, actually…I am blessed) that I often seek out just so we can talk.  I respect him.  We have some really great talks, and by deliberately, even joyfully, seeking out interactions with him, I honor him.

How can we achieve oneness without surrendering individuality?

We all loathe the idea of “The Borg” – the collective mind featured in the TV Show “Star Trek – Next Generation”.  This is a society where one’s individuality and free will is completely subjected to the desire, will, or survival of the collective.  Yet, isn’t there an element of “the collective” in our concept of Zion, or a New Jerusalem, or even Heaven?

But we know that Jesus prayed passionately in John, Chapter 17 that His desire for all of us is that we might become one as He and the Father are one.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:21-22

I have heard it said recently that Jesus had no free will; that He had surrendered it to the will of the father.  I think that is an unfortunate understanding.  I don’t think Jesus surrendered His will to that of the Father at all.  I don’t think that was even possible.  I think He loved the Father’s will so much that He aligned His will with his understanding of the Father’s will.  Then, he chose to take deliberate steps – incarnating, learning, experiencing, teaching, and surrendering to martyrdom – to share with others his understanding of the Father’s will in a way that His teachings would be remembered – that they would be perpetuated.  What was (is) that will?   I believe it is that we choose to honor, even love, each other, and figure out how to become one without surrendering our free will and individuality…without becoming “The Borg”.

So how do we do this?

It could well be said that our free will is manifested through our desires.  These desires, in turn, are typically motivated by one of two forces – love…and fear.  Desires that are motivated by love are “righteous” desires.  These righteous desires do not require that someone else surrender their free will in order for them to be brought about.  Conversely, desires that are motivated by fear often can only be brought about by surrendering either your own or someone else’s free will.  These unrighteous desires are in violation of the very nature of God and creation.

The key to being one without losing our individuality is in the cultivation of only righteous desires – again, desires that need not engender fear in others.  If we all have only righteous desire – desires that are motivated by love, and not by fear – we can easily celebrate each other’s desires – even help each other to bring them about, without feeling the need to protect our own desires. In short, it becomes easy for us to honor each other…even love each other.

In a post from June of 2018, I wrote:

Love is encouraging the fulfillment of all righteous desires – mine or yours. A righteous desire is a desire that is not motivated by fear.

In a post from Christmas Day, 2017, I wrote:

What if partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil sows the seeds of Comparison that guarantee that we will never ascend to a state of peace and love because we will always be separated from God and from each other?

What if Comparison leads inexorably to Competition, which leads likewise to Contention, which results in exercising Control over the choices, actions, and lives of others, or, conversely, surrenders control over our own sacred agency to others?

What if these “4 C’s” comprise a perpetual cycle that ensures that we will never be able to abide the presence of God, because we remain sinners, polluting each others’ agency, acting in the absence of love; sustained by fear, relying on our knowledge of good and evil rather than the grace and goodness of God…forever incapable of obeying the two great commandments – Love God and Love your Neighbor? What if, furthermore, these forces – these “4 C’s” – are the antithesis of God, completely contrary to His nature? Can we then ever, as long as we cling to these things, have a true understanding of His “character, perfection, and attributes”?

So, for close to 2 years now, I have been cultivating understanding about what it takes for us to be one without surrendering individuality.  I have written much about this journey.  I have learned to pray that I might “become love”.  I have picked up building blocks along the way – insights and understandings such as:

  • There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18)
  • Sin is acting in the absence of love (A Course in Miracles)
  • If you will strip yourself of jealousies and fears (D&C 67:10)…
  • No power or influence can or ought to be maintained… (D&C 121)
  • Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22)
  • The 4 C’s – comparison -> competition -> contention -> control. (personal revelation)
  • “Trust Me. Relax” (personal revelation)

These principles have built on each other, but they have never contradicted each other. The more I learn and understand, the more the truthfulness of these things becomes profoundly clear and pure.  In fact, the more I understand them, the more I realize that they are expressions and manifestations of the very nature of God, and of the Christ.

In order for us to learn to be one, while still retaining our individuality; in order for us to be able to honor Jesus, or the Father, or anyone else, for that matter, by interacting with them without judgment, without fear, without expectations; in order for us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, we must cultivate righteous desires, which are:

  • Desires that do not require compromising the free will of others
  • Desires that do not contain any element of control over the lives of others
  • Desires that lift, elevate, exalt
  • Desires that engender trust, peace, and comfort
  • Desires that are filled with compassion and empathy for all people
  • Desires that are in no way motivated by fear

When we have learned to cultivate such desires, they will become the manifestation of our will, and we can be sure that our will is then aligned with the will of God..

When we have learned to cultivate such desires, we have become love.

Having cultivated such desires, their harvest will be sweet.  We will have Zion, and Zion will simply be.

****

As an additional thought…How do we honor God?

Of course, we honor God in the same way we honor others.  But we further honor God in a different way, and this way is the way that we also honor ourselves.

We honor God, and ourselves, by experiencing joy, by loving, by rejoicing…by manifesting in ourselves that which is the nature of God…and the true nature of ourselves.  This is the way that we can know God, honor God, love God, even worship God.  By fulfilling the measure of our creation (men are that they might have joy), we participate in the fulfillment of the nature of God’s creation.

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The Power of…?

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love un-feigned; By kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…D&C 121: 41-42.

 

What is power?

There are 895 mentions of the word “power” in the scriptures as canonized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“ You keep using that word.  I do not think that word means what you think it means”

 – Indigo Montoya, “The Princess Bride”.

The common definition of power in physics is simply the rate at which energy is applied to the accomplishment of work?

What is work, then?  That is defined as the mental or physical effort required to achieve a desired purpose or result.

One might now ask, “What purpose or result?”  Might I suggest that work is the effort required to change the existing state of something into another state – whether that be moving, converting, destroying, building, etc.  In other words, we are not satisfied with the state of something, so we apply energy for the purpose of changing that state.

Power, then, is the energy applied toward achieving or fulfilling the desire to change the state of existence of something.

“ You keep using that word.  I do not think that word means what you think it means”

 – Indigo Montoya, “The Princess Bride”.

 

Again, what is power?

Switching gears, though, from power in physics to spiritual power.

What is the “power of the priesthood”; the “power of God”; the “power of the Holy Ghost”?

What is the power of man?

What did Jesus mean when He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”?

Is there a difference – between physical and spiritual?

Physical power implies the use of force.  Whether it be atomic power, police power, IRS power…power is used to change the state of something by the use of force.

But force isn’t really an option for God, is it?  I mean, doesn’t the use of force require compromising the agency of the object of that force?  That’s why force is required isn’t it?  The object doesn’t really want to change.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

So, the power of God cannot rely on force.

It can’t rely on the threat of punishment, either, because that is the threat of force.

It can’t rely on guilt, or fear

So what is the power of God?  How does God exercise that power?

Oh, yeah:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love un-feigned; By kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…D&C 121: 41-42

While this scripture from Joseph Smith’s trial in the Liberty Jail clearly refers to man, I maintain that it applies equally to God.

God’s power is the power of love; of persuasion, of invitation, of patience.  Any other exercise of that power, and He would cease to be God, at least the God that I know.

It is not the power of judgment under threat of punishment, or of destruction, or the fear thereof.

It is the power of invitation:

“Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye will find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

How many throughout the centuries, and how many today, bow under the burden of the threat of damnation?  How many carry each day the burden of judgment of themselves and of others?  How many crave the purity of oneness with Christ…with God…yet remain separated by their reliance on, and blindness to, the philosophies of men?

My friends, God love is real.  It is active.  It is patient, it is unconditional, and it is forever.  There is no fear in love, and there is especially no fear in God’s love.

Love Him.  Then love yourself, and love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.  No separation.  No comparison, no contention, no control

Strip yourself of jealousies and fears, and see for yourself that He is, and that He is love.  Jesus gave His life that we might know this.

So, that we might know this…is my prayer on this day.

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The Mystery of the Holy Ghost

What is the Holy Ghost?  For me, at least, this has been one of the most elusive mysteries of doctrinal religion; even of mystical religion and spirituality.

At various times, in various traditions and through various interpretations, I have heard the Holy Ghost described as:

  • A divine being without a body, enabling it to be manifest in all places at all times
  • A member of the trinity, one with the Godhead, but somehow separate.
  • A source of inspiration, truth, guidance, and correction accessible to all, but more easily accessible to those who have received it’s gift through the LDS ordinance of confirmation.
  • Synonymous with the “Holy Spirit”, the communicative manifestation of the mind of God.
  • The Spirit of Truth
  • The Holy Spirit of Promise

There are certainly other definitions and understandings from different traditions, mostly variations of these general beliefs, but I make no claim to have covered them all, and that is not the point of the post.

Similarly, I make no claim to have exclusively or uniquely discovered the truth of the nature of the Holy Ghost.  However, a friend asked me today what my thoughts were, and I found that, over the last year or so, I had developed an understanding that makes sense to me, and that I would like to offer for your consideration.

In this understanding, I perceive:

  • Truth exists; truth of things as they were, as they are, and as they shall be.
  • This truth could be described as the mind of God. I personally do define truth as the Mind of God.
  • This truth, then…this mind of God, is the Holy Ghost.
  • This truth is accessible to all of us, at all times, in all places.
  • Since we are creations of the mind of God, and thus manifestations of the mind of God; since we are each a component of truth; of things as they were, as they are, and as they shall be; then we are part of the mind of God, and He part of us. Thus, the Holy Ghost is, in a sense, our higher self…our divine self; even the “perfect” self that Christ counseled us to become when He said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I am”.

So, this Holy Ghost, this Spirit of Truth, is accessible to us all, all the time, and is equivalent to the mind of God.  Therefore, we each have access to the mind of God. There are no conditions on its availability to us.

However, there are aspects of our existence that prevent us from accessing this truth – the mind of God…the Holy Ghost.  I have spoken of these multiple times before.  When we indulge in the following, we are blocked from accessing this Spirit of Truth, this Holy Ghost, this Mind of God:

  • The 4 C’s of the fall – Comparison, Competition; Contention, Control
  • Jealousies and Fears
  • Judgment and guilt
  • Belief in hierarchies of value, worthiness, and righteousness.
  • Trust in the arm of flesh

Interestingly, there are characteristics of how we experience the Holy Ghost that lend themselves to some of these traditional beliefs about its accessibility:

Our access to the Holy Ghost is rare, but not impossible, when we are fully immersed in our fallen condition.  The veil is thick.  We don’t even recognize that it is there.  We think our reality is just that…reality.  Our desire for truth is dormant.

However, when we begin seeking truth with greater desire and resolve, and thus begin to shed some of the burdensome characteristics mentioned above, our access to this Spirit of Truth becomes easier and more frequent.  The veil of our reliance upon the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil becomes a little thinner.  This desire could be, and often is, symbolized by the ordinance of baptism.

As we further distance ourselves from these trappings of the fall, the veil – and our separation from the Mind of God becomes gradually thinner and thinner, and we gain greater and great access to the Spirit of Truth – the Holy Ghost.  Revelation comes easier.  A sense of peace with who we are, and with the decisions that we make increases.  We begin to recognize inspiration that comes more and more freely throughout our daily lives.  This stage of our ascension is often, but not exclusively, equated with the Baptism of Fire and (ironically) the Holy Ghost.

Ultimately, the time may come when we are “redeemed” from the fall.  We have stripped ourselves of jealousies and fears.  We no longer carry the burden of the spirit of contention, or the desire to control others.  Judgment and guilt lose their place in our thought processes.  The veil has become extremely thin, and our will is essentially aligned with the will of God; our mind virtually one with the mind of God.

Joseph Smith defined this state quite beautifully in His great revelation from Liberty Jail:

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

So, in summary, my perception of the Holy Ghost is as follows:

  • The Holy Ghost is you and me. It is also God, and thus a member of “the Godhead”. It is creation.  It is truth and light.
  • The Holy Ghost exists. It simply is.  It is its own I AM.
  • The Holy Ghost is, of itself, passive. There is no need for it to be otherwise, since it is as eternal and as infinite as all truth.
  • The Holy Ghost is the entirety of truth, the entirety of creation. There is no truth, no existence, that exists independent of the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of Truth.  It encompasses, and is encompassed by, all things.
  • The Holy Ghost is available to us all. All the time.    Completely.
  • We, and we alone, are responsible for the perception that the Holy Ghost is elusive, or only available to some, under some circumstances; or that its availability is somehow tied to our “worthiness”.
  • We, and we alone, control the veil of separation that separates us from truth; from light; from the Holy Ghost; from God.

The Holy Ghost (as the spirit of truth and the mind of God), God Himself, Jesus the Christ – this great Godhead – awaits us with infinite love and infinite patience.  It would be against their nature to do otherwise.  When we heal the separation by first recognizing and then abandoning the trappings of the fall; when we discover our true nature, the nature of our creation and of all creation; the mystery the Holy Ghost will no longer be a mystery.  We will be one with it, and it with us.  It will simply be truth…and light…and love.

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The Devil’s in the Details

I don’t think there are many, if any, humans, living in this mortal existence, who really comprehend ultimate truth.  But there is an ultimate truth that I choose to accept, and that I seek diligently to comprehend.  That truth is…

Wait for it…

Love.

This truth is summed up in the phrase, “God is love”.  In other words, somehow, at the core of all creation, the force, the power that drives, powers, organizes, and perpetuates that creation is love.

This brings me great comfort.  From this concept, simple as it may seem (it’s not simple at all), I gain the assurance that, no matter what I do or think, if these actions and thoughts are constructive and not destructive, then I am doing what I need to do.  If they are accepting, trusting, understanding, respectful, compassionate, patient, and non-judgmental; if they are focused on encouraging and assisting each individual, each unit of creation, to be the best they can be; if I can dedicate myself to learning to “be” love; then I am fulfilling the measure of my creation.

The details of how I accomplish this don’t really matter.  Whether the details reflect a Christian doctrine of truth, or Islamic, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or “New Age”; as long as they are infused with, and focus on, love, then those details don’t matter.

Until they do.

The details matter when they become a distraction from the goal, which is truth.  When we allow ourselves to believe that the details are the goal, then they matter.  That’s why “The devil’s in the details”.

  • When we allow ourselves to believe that ordinances save…
  • When we allow ourselves to love others less (note above – “accepting, trusting…respectful, compassionate…non-judgmental”) because the details of their seeking are different from ours…
  • When we think we have the truth, and understand truth better than others to the point that we look down on them, or seek to save them…
  • When we try to tell others “you should…” or “you need to…” do something a certain way…
  • When we imply the threat of eternal damnation, suffering, or hell because their details are different than our…
  • When we indulge, or escape into any of these thought forms, we’ve allowed the details to overshadow the truth, and that’s when “the devil’s in the details”.

That’s when we’ve allowed the ordinance to subordinate the truth that it illustrates.

That’s when we’ve placed obedience above love, commandments above truth.

That’s when we’ve trusted in the arm of flesh.

That’s when we’ve crossed over into idolatry of the form, the scriptures, even idolatry of God and/or Jesus.

We are all equal in the eyes of God.  God’s love is so perfect that none are loved more or less than another, and the manifestation of that love – which is the truth of all creation – is available to all who will receive it.  I personally have observed that we all seem to be unequally prepared to receive of the manifestations of that love, but preparing ourselves to receive that love is the purpose of this life.  And the next…and the next.

And this is where the devil is in the details.  They can either help us to comprehend the truth, or they can blind us to the truth.  They can either prepare us to receive the fullness of God’s love, or they can separate us from the fullness of God’s love.

Yep, the details don’t matter…until they do.

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Men Are That They Might Have Joy – NOW!

During my prayers today, I was reminded of something I’ve been told before…”Trust me.  Relax”.  This counsel first came to me in 2015, and has been repeated regularly ever since, both in the same words, and in different words.  Today, it was different words.  I was told to just not worry; that if suffering, discomfort, loss…even Armageddon loom in the future, it will all be passing, and represents only a pin-prick of time in the expanse of eternity.

This message is a treasure, of course, if I…if we…will fully receive it.  But the next counsel was new – at least in the way it was expressed and/or in the way I received it.  It was that my greatest regret, the greatest waste of my life, will be if I fail to squeeze every last ounce of joy out of my life today.

I did not take that to mean that I was supposed to go out and create mountains of joy, or pleasure.  No, it was a reminder that my life today, right now, filled with joy, and that I should be recognizing it and cherishing it.

Now! 

Today! 

Every second, every minute, every hour. 

I was reminded of my good health.  I was reminded that I have love all around me – especially that unconditional love of my precious wife – and that I am in a position to both give and receive love every day.  I have a job that fulfills temporal, intellectual, and even spiritual needs all in one.  I have my music, friends, and comfortable, by many standards even luxurious, living circumstances.

This counsel helped me realize once again that we humans tend to spend way too much time and vital energy repenting of the past and hoping for the future, both of which prevent us from cherishing the now.  Now is the greatest gift we have.  The past cannot be changed, and the future cannot be controlled.

It is obvious that we can learn from the past, and we can consider the future consequences of the choices we make today.  But when we allow the past to define us by wallowing in regret and guilt, we risk ignoring the only possible positive outcome of our past experiences, which is to experience the joy of who we are today.

And how many people have you known – no doubt ourselves included – who are constantly looking forward to tomorrow?  “I’ll think about that tomorrow”, or “When I have more money, I’ll be happy”, or “If I’m good today…if I sacrifice and suffer…then I will experience joy after I die” – these attitudes and modes of thinking I view as common traps that prevent us from experiencing joy – from cherishing joy – today.

The past is gone, and only its lessons remain, manifest in who we are today.

The future is not yet, and will only become relevant when it becomes now.  Obviously, if we never learn to cherish the “now”, the future will never become relevant, because it will always remain the future, and thus never be more than a wish, and desire, a dream.  And what good are wishes, desires, or dreams if they never become reality, of if we live so completely in them that we never take the time to experience their fulfillment?

…Men are that they might have joy. 2 Nephi 2:25

It is commonly said that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I’m not sure that’s true.  I think God is only the same in that God is always evolving – if only through creation.  One thing I am sure of, though, is that God cannot be known, experienced, or loved in the past or in the future.  God can only be known and loved in the now.

If, as Christ said in John 17:3, “…this is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”, then we can only experience eternal life in the now.

Now, let’s look at some staples of religious “truth” (dogma?) in light of this understanding:

  • Repentance – irrelevant, even useless, unless it leads, through lessons learned, to greater ability to experience joy, love, and knowledge of God
  • Guilt – totally useless. Does nothing…absolutely nothing…to help us know God, and thus gain eternal life.
  • Eternal life – no value whatsoever if not experienced…now!
  • Judgment – the only judgment required is whether or not we know and love God – and in doing so, know and love all creation. Any other “judgment”, if forced upon us, only prevents us from knowing and loving God, which is completely counter to His expressed will, which has been described as “…to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”.
  • Forgiveness – Forgiveness is a given.  Unless the past has some sort of power of the now, or over the future, which we have established it does not, then forgiveness is unnecessary – except when we hold on to the past.  So, forgiveness is acknowledging that the past has no power over the now.
  • Salvation – to know and love God. That’s it.  To know God, we must strip ourselves of jealousy and fear, of pride, of guilt and judgment. We must be “saved” from these things – these self-inflicted illusions that we mistake for truth.  We must instead be  Salvation can only be in the now, because God can only be known in the now.  If salvation is always future, it will never be.  Salvation is the ability to experience joy – even divine joy.
  • Hell / Damnation – to be separated from God. To not know Him.  To not know ourselves.  To be so consumed by concerns for the past and the future that we can never know the joy of being one with God and with each other in the now.

And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

We can never know truth until we can know God, for God is truth…and light…and love.  We will never be free as long as we allow ourselves to be bound by the chains of regrets of the past and fear of (or unfulfilled hope for) the future.

God loves us now!

God can only be known now!

Peace can only exist now! 

We can only love now!

Given that time is counted only unto man – but that it is counted unto man – that it is our experience – if we wish to escape the bonds of time, we must neutralize those chains by maximizing the joy of now! 

Now makes time irrelevant!

Men are that they might have joy. 

I know – somehow I just know – that the key to unlocking the divinity within us, which is the will of God, is to be able to perceive, experience, and cherish the joy that is the purpose of our existence.

As always, these thoughts come with a disclaimer.  I personally have mastered nothing.  I am just as subject to the pains, sorrows, fears, uncertainties, and imperfections of this mortal experience as anyone else.

But slowly, the truth is being revealed. Patiently, I’m being taught.  Gradually, I’m learning…

…To trust peacefully

…To understand more completely

…To receive more fully

…To give more freely

…To be joyful

…To be love

Now!!!

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