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A Prayer for Zion

Oh, Lord My God

When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands have made

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul

My Savior, God to thee

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul

My Savior, God to thee

How great thou art! How great thou art!

                                How Great Thou Art – words by Stuart K. Hine

jesusOh, Lord my God.  I do indeed wonder at thy greatness, thou who created the worlds and all things that in them are.  I wonder at thy perfect righteousness, thy goodness…thy love.  I wonder, in awe, that the elements obey thy word simply because of their love for and complete trust in thee.  I wonder most, though, that thou wouldst condescend to hear my prayers, to speak to me, to comfort me, even to abide with me – one of the few of all thy creations who has been rebellious against thy perfect will.

Nevertheless, even having rebelled, I seek to offer myself, a highly imperfect vessel, to do thy will; verily clay in the potter’s hand.  I ask thee to forgive me, to purify me, to sanctify me to thy service.  I offer my heart, my will, my whole being, to thee.  This not an easy thing for me or for any of thy prideful human children to do, but you already know that, and still you love me.  Somehow, I know that you love me just for making the effort; and it is that very effort, Lord, that I pledge forever unto thee.

I approach thee this day and every day, Lord, with a heart repaired through the subtle but awesome power of thine atoning sacrifice, the crumpled pieces once offered…only to be made whole by thy grace.  I am less than the dust of the earth, yet I approach thee with confidence forged out of virtue, charity, and a knowledge of thy forgiving nature.  Indeed, I approach thee with arms outstretched, crying to receive all that thou wouldst give, even thy New and Everlasting Covenant, the Fullness of thy Gospel…yeah, even with Zion.

Lord, today I pray especially for Zion.  I pray for all those who would seek it, especially if they are currently lost and do not know fully what it is that they seek.  I pray that their hearts and minds will be opened that they might receive the knowledge you would give.   I pray further that we may all be gathered together to share in this promised miracle…the establishment of Zion.

You have told us that great tribulations are coming – the prophecies are clear – and that Zion will be a place of refuge for the righteous.  However, we few…thy humble followers, do not seek Zion only as refuge and protection.  We desire not to wait for this coming destruction before we seek thy face.  No, we seek thy face because we love thee, and because you have invited us to do so.  We are truly repulsed at the evil in the world today, but our desire is not to leave babylon as much as it is to come to Zion. We desire thy Zion.  We crave thy Zion.  This desire burns within us because we have tasted thy goodness, and we would truly come.

We know you would have a place to dwell among us; that this is thy desire; even the dream of a Savior; that your loving sacrifice should not be in vain.  We know that your love, your patience, and your forgiveness flow freely to those who seek after thee.  We know that this, thy dwelling place, must be prepared first in our hearts, and only then in the community of Zion.  Lord, that we might prepare that holy place for you, we ask thee:

  • Help us cast aside all jealousy.
  • Help us reject fear and replace it with charity for all our brothers and sisters.
  • Help us to destroy any and all idols that might stand between us and thee.
  • Remove from us all pride – that we might draw ever nearer to thee.
  • Teach us, that we may overcome – even reject – the fall, and no longer be bound by it, for we choose instead to be reconciled and sanctified to thee through thine atonement.
  • Help us recognize that, through you, our value is infinite and our souls are priceless.
  • Grant unto us thy vision, that we may see as you see.
  • Bless us that we might know the fullness and the power of thy love, and reject the counterfeits that govern the hearts of so many men today.
  • Entrust to us with the power and authority that we need to establish thy Zion.

We have seen in our hearts thy glory, O Lord, even the glory of Zion.  Though babylon would reclaim us, we cannot turn back.  You have called, Lord, and we would be chosen.  With every step, every prayer, every gift, every sacrifice we draw closer to Zion, and thus closer to thee.  The light thou hast sent us must never cease to shine, for if it ever did, the resulting flood of darkness would be too much to endure.

Because of you, Lord…because of your love for us, and because of our love for thee:

  • Though we are rejected, we will welcome
  • Though we are hurt, we will heal
  • Though we are accused, we will forgive
  • Though we may have cause to mourn, we will rejoice
  • Though we are weary, we will dance
  • Though we are hated, we will love

We would have Zion, Lord, and we would be thy people.  We would prepare a place for thee, even a place where your dreams may be fulfilled and your glory manifest – where you may abide.  We pray that we might have a hand in establishing this Zion in thy name.  We ask thee to accept this, our sincere prayer, and we offer it in thy holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Come Unto Me #4 – I Choose You!

2013-ford-f150-limited-front-angle

Shiny Red Pick-up Truck

It sat there on the front seat of the pick-up truck, that angelic feminine face staring up at me with those huge brown eyes beneath the ethereal halo of light.  We were saying good-bye to family and friend on a Sunday evening when I saw it.  I said, “What’s that book?”  “Oh, it’s called the “Second Comforter”.  “Hmmm, that’s interesting.  What’s it about?”  “Well, you’d have to read it.  It’s about Christ, of course.  It’s a lot better than that ‘pablum’ you get from Deseret Book”.

Well, that set me off, although I didn’t say much other than to patiently defend Deseret Book and the content of its shelves.  After all, I soooo felt the spirit when I walked into that store, right?  I’m sure my friends were saying something about “True believing Mormons” and how naïve we were as they drove away.  However, my interest was piqued.  During a later discussion, the friend suggested that I re-read the chapters of Christ’s visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi.  I took his suggestion and began asking questions.  I had been told that I shouldn’t read the book “until I was ready”, which, of course, perked me right up.  “What do you mean, I may not be ‘ready’?” I thought to myself.  Then, when I heard a couple of weeks later, “Well, you might be ready”, I went right off to Amazon and ordered my own copy of Denver Snuffer’s first book, “The Second Comforter – Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil”.  Isn’t it funny how the Lord will even use blatant male pride to accomplish His purposes?

So I read.  I was stunned.  I was also frightened.  According to the book, the Lord wants us, invites us, practically commands us (ok – that may be pushing it) to seek His face!  The author supported his thesis using little more than scripture and the words of Joseph, with the occasional quote from other church leaders.  My world changed just a little after I read it.  Even though my perception of Jesus Christ suddenly got a lot more personal, my perspective on the gospel only changed “just a little”.  I went on about my post-missionary business (my wife and I were less than 6 months returned from our mission in Paris), quite committed to pursuing life as a respected and faithful member of the Lord’s church.

Then, something prompted me to go back and read it again.  This time the impact on my life was even greater.  What stuck out this time, and what frightened me even more, was Denver’s assertion that a visitation from the Lord can only take place after your faith has been proven beyond any doubt, a process which will necessarily require great sacrifice…a scary degree of sacrifice…Abrahamic trial-type sacrifice…like agreeing to slay your first born if necessary based on the word of the Lord. It was with naïve courage and considerable passion that I finally brought myself to cry unto the Lord, saying, “Lord, whatever it takes, I submit myself!  I desire this gift, this experience, so much that I will do whatever it takes, because I trust you and I know that you won’t give me any trials that I cannot handle!  I know this is your desire – that I desire this gift – and I cannot reject your offer, for to do so would be to reject you!”  I quietly, of course, over the next hours and days followed that up with, “…but please, don’t take my wife!”

I really had no idea what things, what sacrifices, what trials, He was going to ask of me.  I honestly still don’t feel like I’ve been asked to go through any great trials in my quest to seek His face – to keep that “commandment”.  I do feel, though…no, I know…that, ever since that day on my knees, when I said, “Whatever it takes, Lord”, He has been preparing me.  It’s been almost 4 years now, and looking back I can definitely recognize His hand in so many things.  After all, I firmly believe it is the journey into His presence that changes us, not the event. Sharing aspects of my journey, which is not yet complete, is what this post is ultimately about.

A Trail of Bread Crumbs

Do you ever wonder how people “get called” to serve the Lord?  I have – for pretty much all my life.  I think we Mormons are just pretty much conditioned to believe that we “get called” by a person through their inspiration from the Lord.  Most, I’m sure, believe that Zion will be built by those who are called by the prophet or someone with priesthood keys to go build it.  Such has decidedly not been my experience.  Oh, the first few callings – over the first 4-5 years of my membership, were like that – someone was generously looking for a calling for the new guy, and I accepted it – but then that pattern stopped when Diana and I volunteered to serve an “inner-city mission” in Salt Lake City.  Indeed, the last 5 callings I had in the LDS church, covering the last 12+ years, were callings I asked for.  It wasn’t “aspiring” – they were just opportunities to serve in areas where there was need, and Diana and/or I “volunteered”.  I was never satisfied waiting for someone to call me to a service.  I desired to serve, and I sought opportunities.  Now, I can’t really say my desires were totally altruistic.  I also had, and still do, a desire for my service to be seen and valued.  Such may not have been the primary motivation, but it was certainly a part of it.  Fortunately for me, the Lord overlooked that part of me, and focused primarily on the desire to please Him.  As a matter of fact, he’s always good at overlooking the rough spots, and magnifying the parts of us that He can use.

hansel and gretel

Hansel and Gretel, of course.

How, then, if not by inspired callings from a priesthood leader, does the Lord call one to His service?  How does one receive his “calling” directly from the Lord?  Well, I liken the process to following a trail of bread crumbs – kind of the reverse of the story of Hansel and Gretel.  It’s a pretty simply process, really – very similar to the concept of “line upon line, precept upon precept – here a little, there a little”.  The first step is for us to say, “Here I am Lord.  I want to serve…use me”.  At some point, the Lord will most likely drop a bread crumb.  It might be something as seemingly insignificant as going to visit a sick neighbor, or as overwhelming as “write a book”.  If you pick up the bread crumb, He will soon drop another.  You might very well skip over one and not pick it up.  If you do that, it will probably be a little longer before you see another one, but you will have another chance.  Obviously, the more bread crumbs you pick up, the more frequently He will drop them and the bigger they will be.  The more bread crumbs you accumulate, the quicker you end up arriving at wherever they lead.

A Personal Experience

Please forgive me for sharing so many personal experiences.  It’s just that they’re the only ones I can share with complete confidence that what I’m sharing really happened.  Although I’m sharing my experiences, the message cannot be about me – it must be about the Lord; about His love, compassion, empathy, mercy, and justice; and about hoping that my experiences provide insight that perhaps someone can use.  Toward that end, I share the following:

It was February 27, 2015 when the Lord first broached the subject of me quitting my job.  I was shocked.  I had planned to work for 7-8 more years before retiring, and there is no way I’m financially prepared – at least not according to the wisdom

You want me to WHAT?

You want me to WHAT?

of the world.  A week later, He was more adamant about me laying my job on the altar, but at the same time He was re-assuring – telling me to take it easy, begin to learn to shun babylon, and – as always – to trust Him.  Another week, and He said, “Love your job while you have it”.  I almost laugh out loud as I go back and read these things in my journal and reflect on the timing and upon His gentleness.  He said, “It is not yet time…you will know”.  Finally, about 6 weeks later, I knew.  I just…simply…knew.  He had told me I would be ready, and I was.  There was no longer any hesitation or any doubt – so when He said I was to quit by the end of September, I was ready.  Now, I find the job to be a burden interfering with the real work of my life.

So, what happened here?  How did I, in the space of about 8 weeks, go from being shocked that He would ask me to “sacrifice” my job, to “Ok, Lord, I’m ready now…how long do I have to wait?” I’m sure you can see that this episode is really a metaphor for the life of one who “answers the call”.  He beckons, we recoil, he waits and beckons again, we recoil not quite so much…I’m sure you get the picture.  I can’t say I really know the answer to the question, “how did it happen”, but, if you’re interested, maybe we can figure it out together.  Then hopefully, we can all understand better how the Lord works in the lives of those who are willing to…”Come Unto Me”.  Even more importantly, perhaps we can understand better what is required of us – how we need to respond and what we need to do and understand in order to even be able to respond to the call.

Putting the Pieces Together

Let's piece it together

Let’s piece it together

First, I think we need to learn to really love Him. He actually makes that pretty easy – even if we only meet Him halfway.  I remember one time reading of an encounter by Joseph F. Smith with the Savior, in which Christ bemoaned the fact that His children had all deserted Him.  I can’t find the reference, and it doesn’t matter if it’s true.  What matters is my own reaction, which was to immediately get on my knees and, with great emotion, cry unto the Lord that I never, never wanted to be one who had deserted Him.  I still feel that way today, only even more so.

Next, a bit of a dichotomy.  On the one hand, the Lord demands of us a broken heart and a contrite spirit, coupled with an awareness that we are indeed nothing without Him – even less than the dust of the earth.  On the other hand, though, I think we need a sort of confidence in Him and in His love, compassion, empathy, mercy, and justice.  If we have a testimony of His atonement, we should not fear Him, no matter how aware we are of our weakness.  After all, He did promise that He would “…make weak things become strong…” (Ether 12:27).  The result of melding these two seemingly opposite conditions is an oddly organic sort of peace.  We are, and should be, stripped of pride before Him, yet have such confidence in Him and His loving nature that we have no fear of meeting Him, of hearing Him, of accepting the fact that He truly wants to be our friend – just to be our friend.  In this way, we become willing to listen to His words – the thoughts that come into our heads as we pray – and to accept them and act on them.

We need to build a relationship on 2-way trust and honesty.  What do I mean by “2-way”.  Obviously, I’m referring to trusting and being honest with each other, but I also mean trusting in Him and in ourselves…being honest with Him and with ourselves.  This is the ultimate peace, the sort of integrity that I believe will withstand His glory when He returns to reclaim His kingdom.  Without it, I believe we will most certainly be burned at His coming.  There are scriptures and scholars who speak of the need to have a special witness, of having to see His face, to receive of His fullness if we are to be able to stand in His presence.  I’m sure they’re right to a great extent, but I think it all really boils down to complete honesty with Him, which requires, of course, complete honesty with yourself.  If we are pure, He will accept us as His.  How else could one even hope to have a relationship with a perfectly righteous being, after all?

Repentance is most certainly a major component of this – but there comes a point, I think, when it’s not even repentance and confession to Him that’s required, it’s more of an honest and loving repentance and confession to ourselves.  He already knows our faults and weaknesses – but He loves us anyway.  It’s very much like a marriage – the bride to the bridegroom – in that it is like my relationship with my wife.  Her love is as near unconditional as is humanly possible.  I rarely need to ask forgiveness, because I rarely do anything that requires her forgiveness, but when I do (I prefer Dos Equis?), I simply confess my imperfection, proclaim how worthless I am, and manipulate the situation so that she can’t possibly punish me any more than I am already punishing myself.  Ok – that’s a joke – but seriously, I think there comes a point in our relationship with Christ where our love for each other and our understanding of each other transcend “confessional” type repentance.  That doesn’t mean we get casual – we love Him too much for that – it just means…”trust me – relax” and “my love is unconditional”.

At some point, in all of this, we will hopefully catch the vision.  That vision is Zion.  It is and has always been the Lord’s will for us in this mortal existence.  Zion is a manifestation of His very nature, and if we can learn to live Zion, we can truly learn to know Him and gain eternal life.  To accept the invitation to Zion is to accept Him.  My experience is that, once we do this, we can never turn back.  Our passion for His vision grows until it consumes us, and we are His.  Babylon fades into insignificance, and there is little that stands between us and Him.

Once we have learned to love Him, to trust Him, to truly accept his friendship and trust just as He has always promised us; and once we have caught the vision of Zion, then we just need to pick up the bread crumbs, which are actually more like golden nuggets.  He will begin asking us to sacrifice.  This isn’t to try to punish us or even to make us prove we are willing to suffer.  Actually, as I wrote previously:

…every time the Lord asks a sacrifice of us – be it praying and study time, fasting from meat, or laying one’s long-promised only son on the altar – He is saying, “Do you love this more than you love me?”  If, by resisting the requested sacrifice, you answer “Yes – I love this thing more than I love You”, he says, “OK.  I will wait,” and that “thing” will continue to stand between you and Him, preventing you from truly becoming one with Him.

So, each time He drops a bread crumb, He’s offering us an opportunity to shed something that stands between Him and us.  He’s giving us an opportunity to build trust – not so much with Him – but with ourselves.  The more we learn that we can shed the things of this world, the more confident we will become with Him, and in our ability to fulfill the greater and greater responsibilities that He has in store for us!  Every time we obey Him, we gain greater confidence that we can obey Him.  This is all done with the greatest love!  He doesn’t need our obedience or our sacrifice.  It’s all so that WE can learn not to be slaves to that which cannot save.  It’s so simple and so true and so real!

The opposite of this – this willingness to sacrifice – is idolatry.  Anything that we love more than Him is an idol.  I don’t need to go into the litany of things that could qualify. I will leave that up to you, because although we might have many things in common, the list eventually becomes highly personalized, and one that only you can fully itemize for yourself.

Finally, there comes a time when He will “abide in you”.  My testimony of this phenomenon is very personal and experiential.  I’m not laying claim to any particular manifestations when I say this, I’m really just saying that it’s something I feel.  There are scriptural evidences of this.  Joseph, in speaking of the Second Comforter, said:

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a prefect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God;…(TJPS pg 149-151 – emphasis mine))

Moroni spoke twice, in Ether 12:41 and Moroni 9:26 of “…the grace of God the Father…and…Jesus Christ…be and abide in you (or with you) forever”.  I think this is what I want to emphasize…that there will come a time when His spirit, His grace, will abide in you, and you simply know it.  It’s not a magical event – at least not for me, although I’m sure it could be – but it is real, it is comforting, it is sustaining, and at times almost overwhelming.

You Will Know…

Of course, this is not really a step-by-step process.  It’s all sort of happening simultaneously to some degree – even evolving – each aspect of our relationship building on all the other aspects as we grow closer, more intimate, more trusting, more confident in our interactions with Him.  The result, though, is nothing short of amazing, and it is in this way that we end up recognizing a “calling” from the Lord, mostly because are now willing to hear, listen and act without fear.  After all, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).  When it comes, “you will know”.  Not only will you know, but you will quickly recognize that it requires talents that are largely unique to you.  I am to the point now in this process where I am also recognizing a few other things:

  • I enjoy doing what He is asking me to do. I thoroughly enjoy it!
  • I am passionate about something (His Zion) for the first time in my 62+ years of life.
  • I am filled. I have much to learn, and my capacity for such will most certainly expand to receive more, but I am filled – with joy, with peace, with love, with understanding.
  • I like myself. Isn’t that wonderful?  I’m finally becoming the man I always wanted to be; I’m more than I ever thought I could be; and I’m confident in the knowledge that there is much more on the horizon. This not because of me, but because of Him.  I am simply clay in the potter’s hands.

I testify, then, that He passionately desires a relationship with us.  He wants to be our friend.  Like any friendship, this one is built upon trust, compassion, understanding, and truth – all of which must go both ways.  Once we can learn to truly love Him; establish a humble confidence in His presence; become comfortable with complete trust and honesty; aspire to a higher principle of repentance; and learn to embrace His vision of Zion while forsaking all the other idols that the adversary places in our path…once we have learned to stop passing over the bread crumbs that He places in our path, we will find ourselves not only called but chosen.  His grace will abide with us.  We will then truly know that when He says, “Come unto Me”, there is an implied promise that, “I will receive you”.  You will not only be called, but you will be chosen.  When He has chosen you, take His word for it…you will know!

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Come Unto Me #3 – Awake, Arise…Be Strong

Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen. (D&C 88:133)

man greeting Christ.Sisters, I revere you.  Your place in God’s kingdom is unique.  You are the primary manifestation of wisdom, mercy, and love in the Lord’s kingdom.  You are the Lord’s nurturers, and you are powerful and holy by your very nature.

Today, however, I address the brethren among us, probably because I am male, and because I would not presume to speak so boldly to the sisters as I am about to speak to the brethren.  While what I am about to say applies just as much to the sisters as it does to the brethren, I suspect that they don’t need to be challenged quite as much – especially not by the likes of me.

Brethren, the end times, the times of prophecy, are here.  I just know it…”in the bones of my soul”.  I am not going to seek to justify this statement by quoting a litany of scriptures and pointing to the “signs of the times”.  Myriad are those who have done that, and they have been doing this for thousands of years – even before the meridian of time.  If you have recognized the signs, you know this is true.  I you have not, and if you have not asked the Lord about this, you will most likely still not believe.  It is your choice.

Will You Be Strong?

If you believe, I encourage you to be strong.  If you are not already strong, then I encourage you to become strong.  The Lord is going to call many to serve Him in unprecedented ways during these last days.  He will call only those who are humble and willing and who have recognized the signs – those who have chosen to believe.

I ask you to be strong for His children – for those whom we must serve.  In a very short time, all that we currently look to for our stability and security will collapse.  Such institutions as governments, the economy, even the church (D&C 112:23-27) will become unrecognizable.  There will be confusion, fear, and temporal and spiritual chaos.  Many will abandon their faith entirely as they struggle to merely survive, but many others, perhaps the “humble followers of Christ” of 2 Nephi 28:14, will be looking for something to hold onto, unwilling to abandon their core faith in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We must be there for them, and we must be there with a testimony and a knowledge of Christ that is powerful and unshakable – truly built upon the rock.  We must assure them that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed, and that it never will.  We must represent the calm in the storm.

Those who have depended so much upon others for their learning, even for their hope – will need to learn everything all over again, and we will need to teach them.  Everything they ever knew, or thought they knew, will be brought into question, and we must have the answers – at least enough to convince those who would turn to Him that all is not lost; that our Savior still awaits; that He is still in charge; and that, truly, finally, “All is well”.  We cannot, of course, become “strong men” who seek a following for ourselves, but we must stand calmly and powerfully on top of the mountain and point upward and inward to Him. We must not only point to Him, but we must be able to say, “This is the way; this is the method; this is the knowledge through which you can find Him”.  In order to do this, we must have gained that knowledge ourselves.Power of God

In this time which will shortly come, in these final days, only those with the faith to believe in miracles will survive to gather to and build Zion.  The mysteries of the kingdom will no longer be mysteries, but they will become reality – the very essentials of survival.  We will survive by the power of His word, and His word alone.  The Lord would prepare all those who understand these things.  The result will be a second restoration – truly the restoration of ALL THINGS.   We must, indeed, be strong if we would serve Him during this time.

Doctrines and gifts such as the ministering of angels, Baptism by Fire, the Fullness of the Priesthood, Calling and Election, The Second Comforter, even speaking in tongues, healing, raising the dead, and translation (the renewing of our bodies) with all its attendant “miracles” will rise from the dust of unbelief.  We, brethren, if we would serve, must embrace them.  We must learn about them, we must understand them, and we must learn to exercise these promised powers of the priesthood in behalf of His children – the children whom He loves so much.

The scriptures certainly point the way to these gifts of the spirit, and they verify beyond doubt to the serious student that they are real, but the scriptures by themselves fall short of a step-by-step instruction manual.  This, in my opinion, is totally by design because these gifts, being essential for our spiritual and temporal survival, must be obtained from the Lord Himself.  We must first study things out in our mind, but ultimately we must go directly to Him.  We must seek, ask, and knock; and we must believe.  No, we must do more than believe, we must act…in faith, nothing doubting.  We must approach Him directly.  Will this be the great sifting?  Is this the division between those with oil in their lamps and those without?  I do not propose to answer these questions, but I will say this…ultimately He will employ no servant there, and we must each approach Him and only Him if we would be endowed with the power needed to act as His servants.  There is no other way.

A Challenge

Brethren, I indeed challenge you.  If you are reading this, you have a decision to make…Am I talking to you?  If you think I am, then will you answer the call – the call that has been given in the scriptures for millennia – the call to “awake and arise” in these last days?  Will you take it upon yourself to learn of these gifts, the loss of which Moroni attributed to our unbelief in Moroni 10:24-33?  Will you seek to receive, understand, and exercise the gifts that will be required in order to serve Him and His children as this final act unfolds?

power-of-god-oneI feel to emphasize that it is only through His infinite mercy that I am even in a position to recognize the weight and urgency of what I have shared here.  I issue this challenge as the least among you, one who is merely seeking, as you are, for the ability to serve Him according to His will.  If we are willing, He will prepare us.  This is His promise, and He does not break promises, for He is a god of truth and cannot lie.

A Servant’s Prayer

Lord, receive this, the prayer of thy humble servant.  I pray that I might gain your trust, that I might then exercise the authority and power of thy priesthood in its fullness.  I ask thee to grant me the gift of charity, that I might love thy children as you have loved me.  Lord I pray for the gifts of the spirit, that they might be exercised unto thy glory.  If, according to thy will, I would speak with the tongue of angels, be it unto thy glory.  If I would heal the sick and raise the dead, be it unto thy glory.  If I would move mountains and change the course of rivers, be it unto thy glory.  If I would stand shoulder to shoulder with an army of thy servants, be it unto thy glory, but if I must stand alone against all the forces of the adversary, be it also unto thy glory.  Let all things be unto thy glory and according to thy will…that thy work and they glory might be brought to pass.  I humbly submit the only gifts I can offer…verily my heart, broken and contrite, and my will, that it might be aligned with yours. Such is my humble prayer, which I tender in the sacred name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen

So…Art thou a brother?  Is He speaking to you? Will you hear His voice?  Will you awake and arise and prepare yourself for this service in these last days? Indeed, will you be strong?

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Come Unto Me #2 – Scriptures

john-the-revelator-1-GoodSalt-lwjas0174We live in a time, a time unprecedented in our history, which is filled with change, hope, anxiety, fear, joy, faith, and action.  Questions like, “Are these the end times”, and, “Will the world end soon” are on many people’s minds. What of the signs of the Heavens?  What do they portend?  Concepts such as compassion, inclusion, exclusion, tolerance, civil rights, nature vs. nurture, hatred, love, God’s law vs. natural law vs. man’s law – all seem to be at odds with each other.  The message of babylon is clear, but then really not so clear…”if you don’t keep up with the change, you will not only be left behind, you will be marginalized”.

Now, I’m not against change – not by any means.  Change is what keeps us alive.  Despite the fact that people tend to spend their whole lives trying to arrange things “just so”, they are truly at their best when they are in the midst of change.  The faith cycle, of which I have written previously, and which prescribes desire, hope, belief, action, faith and knowledge, and which in turn fuels new desires for more knowledge, is God’s perpetual change machine.  If we, as individuals, are not changing, we’re dying.  I would venture that the same is true of any organism, of society, even the earth and the universe itself.  If it weren’t changing, it wouldn’t be living.

Dealing with Change

Change is essential, but it’s not easy.  Life is not easy.  It’s ironic, actually, that our #1 mechanism for dealing with change is stability.  We want an anchor, a life-line, something we can count on to NOT change, so that we can more easily deal with the change that is swirling around us, more often than not out of our control.  Children look to their parents; spouses look to each other; religionists look to their churches, their doctrine, and their leaders. We all look elsewhere for stability.  Denver Snuffer, in his April, 2014 lecture entitled “Zion”, emphasized the idea that we all look for a “strong man” – someone to whom we can go to make the hard decisions and to guide us through the changes that we don’t feel like we can control ourselves.  In other words, we doubt ourselves, so we look outside ourselves for security.  We trust in the arm of flesh.  Christ, of course, says, “Look to me – I will be your stability.”  Most of us, though, are not very good at that.

One of those anchors that we often cling to is the scriptures.  That’s pretty much a good thing, but even this can be a stumbling block if we’re not careful.  For most of the Christian world, “The Scriptures” means the bible.  For Latter-Day Saints, or “Mormons”, scriptures include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  Many are those who have been heard to claim, “If it’s in the scriptures, it’s true” as well as its corollary, “If it’s not in the scriptures, it can’t be true”.  I’ve had more than one interaction recently where an individual questioned something that was proposed, or which had been said, because they could find no precedent in the scriptures.  I would also point out that it is not uncommon at all for tradition, culture, and policy in various organizations to take on the weight of scripture in these thought processes.

What is Scripture?bible image

I revere the scriptures, and let there be no mistake on that.  However (and I know this is going to be considered heresy by some) I think we put too much stock in scriptures.  Allow me to explain:

First, we can’t even agree on the definition of scripture.  Of all of the writings that record man’s perception of the dealings between man and God; over all the thousands of years of that relationship; the Christian world somehow narrowed the canon of scripture down to the 66 books in the current King James Bible.  This canonization process has taken place over almost 2000 years, with different denominations including or rejecting various writings, such as the Apocrypha, based on their own preferences and proclaimed inspiration.  In Latter-day Saint scriptures, even such staples as he Doctrine and Covenants have undergone changes and revisions.  The veracity and accuracy of certain sections is often questionable when their history is scrutinized.  The Lectures on Faith were once included, but no longer are.  Are they scripture?  They were at one time – but they’re not now?  How does that happen?  What about the Book of Enoch?  The Gospel of Thomas?  The various works known as Pseudepigrapha?  Why are they not scripture, while other writings are?  It’s all very complicated, and very confusing.

thSecond, all scripture has gone through multiple levels of translations.  If we accept the belief that scripture is revealed through the mind of God, then we have the following levels of translation:

  • From the mind of God through the mind of Man to paper. This translation occurs very frequently through the added filter of many years between the actual occurrence and the actual recording. (Take, for example, the 4 gospels and the book of Acts)
  • From one language to another – e.g. Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English
  • From the written word to the mind of man (the reader).

Furthermore, at every stage, man is filtering through the haze of their tradition, previous learning, limited understanding, and potential influence of personal, church, social, or governmental agendas.  This is probably why Joseph Smith said “…that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth…”, simply because it went through fewer layers of translation.  Even in this case, though, if it’s origins are reasonably correct, it was translated from its original authors’ version of the “Reformed Egyptian” through Mormon’s and Moroni’s version of the Reformed Egyptian” (do we really think the language didn’t change over 1000 years?), through Mormon’s abridgment process, and then through the mind of Joseph Smith into English.

We can learn much from the scriptures – they are indispensable, even sacred, if we are to learn to know God, and thus gain eternal life – but we need to keep in mind that the only sure source of knowledge is the Lord Himself – as testified to us through the Holy Ghost.  We are often told that we should test the words of the prophets against the Holy Ghost, that we may gain our own testimony of their truthfulness.  I maintain that this counsel is no less necessary as we read scriptures.  We risk being deceived if we take them literally, or, worse yet, accept someone else’s interpretation as truth.

The Purpose of Scriptureisaiah-writes-of-christs-birth-full

I think the primary purpose of the scriptures is to help us learn the nature of God and His will for us.  Such knowledge is to “know God”, and is the source of eternal life (John 17:3).  In the Lectures on Faith, lesson 6, verse 2, we read:

…An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life.

One might argue, “But the scriptures give us commandments and laws, and penalties, and they speak of judgment, and they prophesy of future events, and…”  The Lord Himself, when asked what are the two greatest commandments, said:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I ask now, is there a more succinct description of the nature of God and His will for us?  Everything else in the scriptures is secondary and facilitative of these two commandments – to love God and love your neighbor.  Even the more specific commandments in the scriptures are primarily for the purpose of leading us to a knowledge of Him.

To the extent that scriptures speak specifically of doctrines and ordinances, we should certainly observe them.

And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 11:32-35)

To the extent that they speak of commandments, we must keep them:

Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.  (3 Nephi 15:10)

Scriptures are therefore of great worth as we seek to know the God whom we would serve, and as we seek to serve Him according to His will.  However, let’s consider the fact that all writings that are now considered scripture were at one time quite leading edge – they were “new”.  Indeed, Moses, when he wrote the Pentateuch, we most certainly drew on oral history, and may well have been cognizant of the fact, through the Lord Himself, that he was writing for a great purpose.  Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni all certainly knew they were writing for our day – for readers that would live sometime in the distant future, and Nephi was certainly drawing on the previous writings of Isaiah (The preciously-preserved Brass Plates).  However, I suspect that most of the writers of what we now consider scripture did not know, at the time, that they were writing something that would be canonized into “scripture” by some council or synod at some future date.  So, we might ask, why did they write?  What motivated them?

Of course, some reported having been commanded by God to write.  Isaiah, John, and Nephi certainly come to mind.  The Old Testament Prophets in general were commanded to write of their visions and prophecies.  Others might well be derived from oral histories – Ruth, Jonah, The Kings and Chronicles that were ultimately put down into writing.  I doubt that Paul or James or John, when they were writing their epistles, wrote them with the intent of their being included in our modern canonized Bible.  Why did they write, then?  To answer I would ask, “Why do I write?  Why do YOU write?”  We write because we love the Lord; we adore Him; and we want to record His word which was given to us!  We want to record the significant events in our lives and history.  Our writing is often, I think, a particularly pure form of worship.

My point, then, is this – scripture is and always has been created as our relationship with God unfolds.  In that it helps us understand the mind and nature of God, it prepares us for the future.  In that scripture often contains prophecies or patterns and types, it can help us recognize the nature and impact of current events and help us prepare for future events.  All of that is secondary, though, to their primary purpose of helping us to gain knowledge of God.  If we are not seeking that knowledge, all else is futile and of no eternal worth.

Extraordinary Times
apocalypse9

We are living, as I said, in extraordinary times.  I know it in the bones of my soul.  Throughout the history of man’s relationship with God, this time we are experiencing is on par with the Creation Drama, the Garden Drama, the Flood Drama, the Meridian of Time, and the Restoration as key eras or milestones in God’s plan for this earth.  If we compare all of our knowledge and experiences against scripture, and force them to correlate, are we not in danger of missing out on, or misunderstanding, what God is actually doing to bring about this next act?  If we rely on past scripture alone for our knowledge of God and of His works in these last days, who is going to write the scripture for this time?

I quote from a Wikipedia article on Biblical Canon:

Most of the canons listed below are considered “closed” (i.e., books cannot be added or removed),[3] reflecting a belief that public revelation has ended and thus the inspired texts may be gathered into a complete and authoritative canon, which scholar Bruce Metzger defines as “an authoritative collection of books.”[4]

The accuracy of this article is not the issue – it is the idea that the canon of scripture could be closed.   This is a concept that is bedrock to most Christian faiths, but less so in Latter-day Saint Doctrine…or is it?  Are we really open to new scripture?  I’ll answer that.  NO, WE’RE NOT!  The fact that we’re not is a symptom of the condition of the Latter-day church today.  Furthermore, are we really open to receiving direction from God that has no precedent in scripture?  Unfortunately, most of us are not.  Let’s look at this in perspective.  We have scripture from…let’s count them again: The Creation Drama, the Garden Drama, the Flood Drama, the Exodus Drama, and the Meridian of Time, and the Restoration.  Why in the world would the Lord abandon the practice of inspiring scripture to be recorded during this, one of the most critical, most prophesied events in history?  Furthermore, why would He limit himself to doing things that have already been recorded in previous scripture, when this unfolding drama has never occurred on this earth before? Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles

So, if we cannot always measure new commandments and direction against canonized scripture, how can we know if we are receiving the word of God?  How can we know we are not being deceived?  To answer this, let me quote a new revelation, specific to me, but which might indeed be helpful to each of us:

You are not being deceived.  Moroni (Moroni 7:11-19) made it clear indeed that all voices that encourage the worship of Christ, all voices which encourage charity, humility, and the power that grows from them – together as one package – are from me.  You have no desire for control, compulsion, or dominion.  This is the sign by which you may know that you are being led by my word.   If you or anyone ever begins to demonstrate that desire – they are not of me.  This is a great key –one by which you may be sure.  This is a glorious truth that will give you much peace concerning what is happening with you.  You can be sure of this – I give you my promise – the promise of Heaven.  Yes – the relief that you feel is very real, and it is very appropriate.  Do not doubt.  As long as you can observe this key, you will be safe from the adversary.  I repeat – this is the grand key by which you may judge between my voice and the voice of others. 

joseph-smith-translating-the-bible_1163143_tmbAccording to this revelation, there is a grand key whereby we may know that the voice we hear is the voice of the Lord.  If the voice:

  • Encourages the worship of Christ
  • Promotes charity, humility, and the power that comes only from them
  • Does not engender a desire for control, compulsion, or dominion

…then it is His voice.  Furthermore, I will go so far as to state that any new scripture can be measured against old scripture by determining whether or not it denies the nature of God and His will for us, individually and as a people.  I have already stated that this is the true primary purpose of the scriptures.  We cannot, however, let God’s purposes be thwarted because His current word is not validated in detail by existing canonized scripture!  If we are following Him, if we are receiving His word and stepping forth in power and service, we will be writing new scripture – not just by our words on paper or in a computer, but through our actions; through our very deeds; through our sacrifices and our labors.  Indeed, our love will be the source of the power by which we will bring about Zion!  The things we do during these latter days will be part of the scriptures that are referenced during the millennium. How they will be preserved and selected is not up to us – that is up to the Lord Himself.  It is simply up to us to do the work.  Forgive me for being so bold, but our deeds in building Zion – in carrying out His will during these last days – will constitute the legends of future generations for 1000 years or more!  We must rise up!  We must recognize who we are!  We must learn to hear His voice and to trust Him.  We cannot restrict ourselves to what has been written before, or to what has been done before.  We must make new history and we must write new scripture.

<Deep Breath>

I cannot share with you via this feeble post the desire, the hope, the power, and the knowledge that rose inside my breast as I wrote these words.  A burning in the bosom?  Perhaps.  Perhaps, indeed.  I hope that you can receive your own witness of the greatness of the work that many are being called to do.  If these words here this day, in this post, inspire you to seek that witness, then the work of this post is done, and I await the next instruction.

I praise my Lord and Savior.  His goodness and righteousness is supreme and all-powerful.  I repeat, “His goodness and righteousness is supreme and all-powerful”.  He is thus the source of all power in the universe.  He is a god of truth and cannot lie.  I so testify, in His holy name – even Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Come Unto Me – Hear My Voice

Christ - come unto me“Monty” is 96 years old.  He grew up in Payson, Utah and joined the church at the age of 13.  His mother was a Latter-day Saint, but His father saw no need for religion of any sort.  “We never even had a bible in the house”, he said.  While I’ve heard this story before, perhaps suggesting a tad of forgetfulness, this man’s mind is amazing, and one would be a fool to dismiss him in any way.

A friend had told me the previous day that he has asked about us – Diana and me – and why we weren’t in church.  I knew that I needed to go visit him and explain.

For the past 10 days or so, I have been bombarded by people who have expressed a mixture of genuine concern, disdain, confusion, disbelief, and out-right rejection upon finding out that Diana and I had resigned from the church.  Some have been exceedingly kind while others have been exceedingly cold, with many variations in between.  There have been subtle suggestions – and some not so subtle – that we are motivated by pride and arrogance.  Even more conclude that we are listening to a deceiving spirit.  I offer this description of their reactions primarily as a contrast to that of my 96-year-old friend.

As we sat on the couch together, me with my right leg crossed in front of me, and my right arm on the back of the couch so I could be facing him, he said, “So, I haven’t seen you in Church recently.  I’ve been worried about you”.  I proceeded to tell him that we had resigned from the church.  He calmly, with just a hint of surprise – the kind of understated surprise that one would expect from a man who has lived for 96 years – and said, “Why?”.  I wish you could have heard how he said it.  There was a tone of pleading, but not like, “Why in the hell would you do that?”  There was a bit of surprise, but there was also a healthy dose of respect, like, “I know you’re not stupid or a liar or insincere, so I’d really like to understand what would cause you to make that decision.”  He truly wanted to understand.  There have been several friends who sought understanding in their responses to the news, but they did so with at least a hint of condemnation, absolutely convinced, and making no bones about it, that I was wrong.  “Monty”, however, seriously sought to understand.  He wanted to know what would cause someone like me to leave the church.

Well, this post is not about my answer or my reasons.  That’s old hat, and it’s not going to bring anyone closer to Christ.  You see, I was arrogant in posting my last blog – because I sent links to people that I knew would reject it.  I have repented of that act, and in doing so, I learned that I am not to write anything that does not bring people closer to Christ, or at least present them with the opportunity to draw closer to Him.

This post is, however, about something Monty said while we talked.  As part of my explanation, I updated him on our plans for the foreseeable future, which have been defined for us by direct commandment from the Lord.  I told him that we had learned to hear the voice of the Lord, that He talks to us, and that we listen.  When I said that, he got this very reflective look in his eye and said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever asked to hear the voice of the Lord.”   Later, he said, “I’ve just always known that what I was doing was right for me, so I never asked Him what I should be doing, I just knew.”  Monty said something like this about ½ dozen times during our 30 minute conversation.  Each time, he seemed just a little more thoughtful, until at the end, I could clearly see that he was wondering, “What would my life have been like if I had?”

Monty asked sincerely, seeking to understand.  He did not judge, he just loved.  He pondered deeply what I told him while sharing experiences from his own life that he thought applied to our situation, but he never condemned.  All of this was quite refreshing, but the thing that impacted me the most from our conversation was him saying, “You know…I don’t think I’ve ever asked to hear the voice of the Lord”.

I was rather stunned when I heard this, and just a little bit saddened.  He said this one last time just before I left, and I finally said, “Monty – ASK HIM!”  Wouldn’t you love to hear His voice?  Wouldn’t you love to hear him tell you that your life has been pleasing unto Him, because I know He will.”  Knowing my friend, I suspect he will do exactly that.  I suspect that he did so that very night.

Which brings us to the point of this post.  Have you asked Him if you can hear His voice?  Have you asked Him to speak to you?  Scriptures are myriad that invite, suggest, and even command that we seek, hear, and listen to the voice of the Lord.   Yet, how many of us go through life like my friend, Monty – who at age 96 is suddenly faced with, “How would my life have been different if…?”

Seek His Voice?

Why do we not seek personally to hear His voice, and then listen and obey?  If I may speculate:

  • We think we are not worthy
  • We have succumbed to the myth that only certain people are privileged to hear His voice (very similar to thinking we are not worthy)
  • We are afraid if we do, we might have to listen
  • We are afraid we won’t be able to distinguish between His voice and our thoughts
  • We’re lazy, or we think we already have enough
  • We don’t pray long enough or often enough to ever be able to hear His voice

Let me just cut to the chase on this topic:

It is my testimony that He wants to talk to us.  He craves talking to us.  He wants us to hear His voice. This is what He lives for – it is even what He died for!  Why in the world would He sacrifice as He did in order to just sit up there on the right hand of the Father and watch from a million miles away as we flail around here on the earth without even knowing Him?  Is this the Christ that you know?  It’s certainly not the Christ that I know!

So, let’s examine a few things that might make this easier to do; that might make it easier to seek, hear, understand, and obey the voice of the Lord:

  • Live righteously. Not necessarily perfectly, but righteously.  Especially, live with integrity.  I don’t know why exactly, but guilt and hearing the voice of the Lord just don’t go hand in hand.  They tend to interfere with each other.  D&C 121:45 says:

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.

  • Learn to discard pride. If you are trying – that is enough.  Just trying…because He will help you.
  • Ask questions, and then listen for the answers. You’ve all heard things like, “you need to ask the right questions” or “start out with yes or no questions”.  This is nothing new – but you have to ask, and you have to listen.
  • Finally, when you listen, believe. Learn to listen, and then believe the answers.  Remember, we’ve already established that you’re living righteously, right?  Why, then, would your thoughts necessarily be at odds with His word?    Let’s try a few very familiar scriptures:

And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. (2 Nephi 18:20)

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9-10)

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)

Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (3 Nephi 9:14)

As I said, these scriptures are very familiar.  There are, of course many others that communicate a similar message.  There’s nothing earthshaking here.  So why do we not believe?  It’s not as if the Lord’s sitting up there thinking, “How can I confuse them even further?  They’ve asked, but I’m going to make them work for it!”  No, if you ask for a loaf, He’s not going to give you a stone.  Can’t we just believe that the answers – typically in the form of thoughts – that come into our head are truly from Him?  Furthermore, what does it mean to “come unto me?”  Can we do that, can we have eternal life, if we do not speak to Him, and hear His voice?  Can we really be passive bystanders and expect to gain eternal life?  Would the Lord really encourage us to do something without providing the means to do so?  (I know – dumb question.  Really dumb question.)

In Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5, we read:

Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

  1. First, the idea that he actually exists.
  2. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
  3. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive ; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

How can we hope to gain a correct idea of God’s character, perfections, and attributes, and gain actual knowledge that the course of life which we are pursuing is according to His will, if we can’t hear His voice?

Try This

May I suggest an experiment?  Pick a day, maybe a Sabbath day, but any day – a day when you can spend an hour in communion with the Lord.  If you’re fasting, that’s good.  Get a tablet, or a computer, or some type of writing medium and put it close by.  Now, pray.  You may need to pray for 30 minutes.  Praise Him – the creator of Heaven and earth and Savior of the world.  Pray for forgiveness – that you might be worthy to approach Him.  Give thanks…for everything!  Pray for others, then ask Him for knowledge.  Declare your intention, of course – that you are seeking to hear His voice.  You might have something specific on your mind, or you might ask Him what He would tell you.  You might say, “Is my life pleasing to you?” or even “What would you have me learn today?”  If you’ve done this for 30 minutes, as I said, you may well be in position to hear His word.  Once you have done this, when you feel the time is right, begin writing or typing.  Let the words flow.  Whatever comes into your head is fine.  Just do it!  Don’t second guess, just let it flow.  Be sure to think like you’re hearing the word of the Lord unto you.

You will want to do this many times.  I was lucky.  I was surprised when He said, “Get up and write” for the first time.  I am convinced that if you will do this, if you will practice, you will learn to hear His voice and understand it.

Insights

I want to make a couple of points about this:

Many are the cautions about “seeking signs”.  Korihor sought after a sign, and it was accounted to Him for evil (Alma 30:43).  That’s because he was saying, “If you’ll show me a sign, I will believe, but without it, I do not believe.”  This is very different from “Lord, I believe.  I love you.  I desire to serve you and to please you.  Please, will you show me a sign, that I may know that the course of my life is pleasing unto you?”  Many are those who will discourage this type of “sign-seeking”, but I firmly believe that is a tool of the adversary.  It’s a lie and a deception! Do not fear to ask the Lord, in faith, desiring to believe, for a confirmation that He has heard your prayers.

Any and all Heavenly manifestations, whether it be a personal revelation through hearing His voice,  the burning in the bosom, a baptism by fire, angelic visitation, or an interview with the Savior and the Father, are worthless if they do not empower us to better serve Him.  Seeking such “signs” or manifestations for any other reason is simply to satisfy our own lusts – for power, for the honors of men, or for personal gain.  Such desires could easily bring about individual condemnation rather than the power to serve.

Brethren and Sisters, I have heard so many who express a desire to hear the voice of the Lord.  I testify again that He wants us to come to Him, and that if we will, He will receive us.  How He receives us is up to Him.  We must be forever grateful for any and all communications that we have.  Then, as we receive, we must act – in love, in charity, in service.  I close with D&C 50:24:

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

It is my prayer that we will each ask, seek, and knock; that we will each believe; and that we will each, in the Lord’s time, cast our eyes upon the bright, bright light of that perfect day.

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An Apostle’s Lament

quorum of the 12The following post is actually an extract from my journal of revelations.  It came to me very quickly one night when the Lord said, “Get up and write”.  I have made a few grammar corrections, but I was amazed at how little it needed to be changed.

*****************************

This fictitious scenario speculates about the possible plight of one who has been called as an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but as I was writing it, it became obvious that it may very much apply to any honest seeker of truth.  The dissonance, the, “wait a minute – this was supposed to be different” phenomenon applies to all of us.  This post is intended to encourage charity, and to urge caution in exercising judgment.  The first is an attribute that should define a Zion people – the second not so much.  Judgment without charity is, after all, poison to the soul.

Imagine yourself in their position.  Your ancestors were leaders in the church, probably pioneers.  The church is your life. Despite what you might know intellectually – that there is a difference between the church and the gospel – in practice you have found that they’re very hard to separate.

You worked hard preparing yourself to provide for your family, perhaps even to serve full time in the church.  The expectations were largely implied, but they were there nevertheless.  Your parents followed this path, so must you.  So, you studied, you practiced, you built.  You became a lawyer, or a doctor, or a successful businessman (or an airline pilot).  You made money and became very secure.  You overcame.  You “became”.  Unfortunately, you looked to the wrong place for your security, and what you became is not exactly what you had dreamed of.

You served as a bishop, then stake president, mission president, university president or all of the above.  You received revelation that came with the mantle of responsibility.  You know it was revelation.  You came to believe that you had His approval.  Over the years, maybe you came to know the Lord, and to trust Him.  You raised your family and were largely successful in doing so.  Most went on missions, earned degrees, and became successful, just as you had.  After all, the programs and direction in the church truly do help children grow up “in truth and light” – to a point.  The hearts of the children successfully turned to the fathers.  After that, of course, they must press forward on their own.  It is right that it should be so. The promises of those programs and direction were largely fulfilled as your family and your career grew.  You became “successful”.  You recognized the blessings of the Lord.

Your church responsibility increased until the day you were called to be an apostle – a “prophet, seer, and revelator”.  Your calling implies that you are called to ultimately lead the church to Zion.  Again, you know that intellectually, but you begin to wonder how this is ever going to happen, and as you face the day to day, the dream begins to fade.  You look around you, and you see a church filled with good people who are missing the mark…they have forgotten about Zion.  You see people who are looking to you to guide them.  Perhaps you know in your heart that they need to be following the Savior; that He employeth no servant there – but it’s too late.  The tide will not be stemmed.  They will not look away.  Your only choice is to actually BE their shepherd – to accept the mantle that they would force upon you.  Perhaps a few will be saved, as long as you do nothing to dispel the myth.

As an apostle – a “prophet, seer and revelator” – you expected to be privileged to receive heavenly manifestations.  Perhaps you have, and perhaps not.  If not – why not?  You might even begin to ask yourself, “Am I worthy?”  Your responsibility is great – of eternal import.  You cannot forget the exhortation that Oliver Cowdrey gave to the first quorum of the 12:

It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.

Indeed, the burden is great before the Lord, but it is made even heavier by the assumptions heaped upon you by the culture and traditions of the church.  You wonder about these manifestations that the culture assumes – you even develop righteous desires for the same.  What if they do not come?  What then?  As an apostle, you are supposed to be a special witness of Jesus Christ – with all that implies.  What if you never have that “special witness”?  While the mirror is relatively kind, there’s a dissonance that you can’t quite place or reconcile.  You’ve done well, but you, like everyone else, have fallen short.  After all, we are not Zion.  YOU are not Zion.

So, you teach and you testify, because that is what a prophet does.  You administer, because that is what an apostle in the LDS church does.  You learn.  You continue to study and seek, to knock and ask.  You strive to know Him – and to do His will.  You exercise the keys.  Seership, revelation – they largely elude you.  D&C 70:14 actually becomes a source of comfort, because it provides an explanation as to why these promised manifestations elude the leaders of the church.

Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70:14)

Perhaps you learn of great things, but those for whom you are responsible don’t want to know – they are far too comfortable in babylon.  Perhaps you personally dream of Zion, but they’re just not ready.  Your teachings and your testimonies become more and more hollow in comparison as the glory of the gospel opens up to you, but the people haven’t changed.  Your flock is still made up of sheep, looking to you for guidance and inspiration.  One day, you have an epiphany.  You are presiding over a telestial church – a dying church.  It will never, in its current form, achieve Zion.  You have to make a choice – step down and leave this imperfect organization, with its culture, its “policies and tenants and traditions” – or you stay and do your best with the hand you’ve been dealt.  You inquire of the Lord.  You are told to stay. You do so quietly, humbly.  Perhaps you look around in the upper floors of the temple and you wonder, “Do the others feel this way?”  You don’t dare testify of these feelings, not even to them.  Do they know?  Are they, also, just holding on – humbly, patiently bearing the mantle they’ve been given?  Perhaps, to some extent, you … “mourn out” your days, as did the people of Jacob (Jacob 6:26).

***********************

In the aftermath of the “Boise Rescue”, many, including myself, have given in to the temptation to condemn, to ridicule, to criticize.  I was just as appalled at what was said as anyone else, and the errors and manipulation were astounding.  We, my friends, must nevertheless rise above this.  There will be no place in Zion for such sentiments.  Judgment without charity is, after all, poison to the soul.

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Please Believe – A Love Story


kirtland temple
I’ve been tempted to write this message to you, my friends, many times before, but it never seemed like the right time.  Now, obviously, it is.  It’s the right time because now I can write it without judgment, without rancor, and in profound peace.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has changed – a lot.  It changed while Joseph was alive, taking on the form of a New Testament church.  It changed during the presidencies of Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff under the burden of polygamy.  It changed during the post-polygamy era as its presidents changed their focus from survival in the face of government take-over to survival in the face of financial insolvency.  It has continued to change in the last half of the 20th Century with the introduction of correlation and an emphasis on following the Brethren – hopefully in preparation for the trials and tribulations of the last days.  Through these years, changes have occurred in doctrines and/or practices on marriage, tithing, priesthood, observance of the Word of Wisdom, temple worthiness, temple ordinances, missionary work, and many other areas.  Comparisons between the church of the early days in Kirtland and the correlated, corporate church of today are striking, to say the least.

There are many who believe, as the Church currently teaches, that these changes are effected by the Lord’s own hand, salt-lake-mormon-temple1-thumbthrough Christ-appointed prophets, seers, and revelators; that they are necessary in order for the church to adapt to the world around us – that it might continue to fulfill its 4-fold mission.  These people see these changes as the manifestation of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 2:45) of a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, rolling forth unto all the world.  There are others who mourn the loss of the church (or gospel?) that Joseph sought to restore, going so far as to say that the restoration initiated by the great prophet of our dispensation was hijacked by conspiring men and that, as a result, today’s church is a church of man, the very embodiment of “the philosophies of men…mingled with scripture”, and that it actually wields little of the priesthood authority it claims to have.  In between these extremes lies a broad spectrum of beliefs and interpretations, all of which probably portray some degree of truth.

It is not my purpose in this post to judge who among these seekers of truth are most correct.  I leave it to each of you to personally determine that for yourself, and I bring these things up only as an essential context for what is to follow.  I do desire, however, to explain to you as fully as possible – in a short essay – what has happened in my life as I have sought diligently, even passionately, to receive a fulfillment of the promise the Lord made in D&C 93:1:

Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

IS THIS REALLY APOSTASY?

As I have learned more and more about the gospel – about the nature of Christ and His relationship with man (especially with me) – I have found myself increasingly at odds with the doctrines, policies, traditions and culture of the 21st century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  At first, as I began to learn these things, I wanted to share them with everyone, but my motives were selfish.  I sought to say, “Look at me!  Look what I know!”  I was prideful, even foolish, and I was in great need of repentance.  Although my repentance was imperfect, even naïve, it was sincere, and it continues to this day as I seek to fully align myself with His will and His nature.  Fortunately, because I was consistently repentant of my weakness as I kept searching for more truth, aka “Further light and knowledge”, the Lord continued to provide it.  As I diligently sought His face, He slowly, carefully nurtured me such that I might actually be able to receive this supernal gift.  For the past 3 years, I have been blessed with profound personal revelation about what I need to be doing in order to prepare to meet my Savior; about the church and its future and my place in (or out) of it; and about the need for drastic changes in our (Diana’s and mine) living circumstances moving forward.  I have even been graced with occasional visions and visitations to guide and prepare me for the mission that lies ahead of us.

nauvoo temple imageAs a result of this process, I have found that I no longer have a place in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For various reasons, the work that I am called to perform cannot be tolerated within today’s church.  I’m ok with that.  I understand to some extent why it has to be that way.  I know my Savior more intimately than I ever have, and I have been given knowledge concerning this mission that is at various times frightening, inspiring, sustaining, exciting, and, by the standards of the world (babylon, if you will), quite crazy.  I am forever grateful for the time I spent as a member of the church.  I was nurtured, challenged, and loved.  I grew tremendously.  The church itself does so much good in the world.  It enriches lives.  I believe it teaches more true doctrine than any other church in the world today.  I have learned so many things, made so many wonderful friends, and become an entirely different person than I was prior to my association with the Church.  It was an absolutely necessary preparation and proving ground for what I must now do.  There are many, many good, faithful, loving, generous people in the church, especially in my home ward and stake.  I am often in awe of their beauty before the Lord.  I know that He loves them and will continue to watch over them.

I also know it is very difficult, given most Latter-day Saints’ beliefs concerning the church, for my dear friends to understand that I could be called by the Lord to perform a mission outside the church.  I am sorry for that, but I can’t change it.  It truly grieves me that there are those who are hurt by our resignation; those who are convinced that we are making a grave mistake with eternal implications.  Well, the decisions we are making most certainly do have eternal implications, but they are not as many believe.  I described these eternal implications recently to my mother; “Mother, what would you do if you knew the Lord was telling you to do something, and you were afraid, or too prideful, or too blind to do it?”  She said, “I’d be scared.”

Please understand.  If we (Diana and me) were to turn away from what we have been called directly by the Lord Himself to do…then that would be to our eternal damnation.

Payson Temple

Payson Temple

 

DISCERNING THE VOICE OF THE LORD

We have been told by some who love us that we are deceived; that we are listening to a lying spirit; even that we are being prideful and arrogant.  We have been labeled apostate, and told that the blessings bestowed upon us by the Lord, as a result of our faithfulness, are forfeit.  I think I understand why these friends think this way.  I think it is because they believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only authorized vehicle through which the Lord will work to bring about His purposes in these last days, and thus that anything that takes one away from the church must be a deceiving, lying spirit or force.  I counter this belief by quoting two things.  First, this from Moroni 7:11-18:

For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every good thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.

Second, I quote from the mouth of the Lord Himself.  He said to me:

You are not being deceived.  Moroni (Moroni 7:11-19) made it clear indeed that all voices that encourage the worship of Christ, all voices which encourage charity, humility, and the power that grows from them – together as one package – are from me.  You have no desire for control, compulsion, or dominion.  This is the sign by which you may know that you are being led by my word.   If you or anyone ever begins to demonstrate that desire – they are not of me.  This is a great key –one by which you may be sure.  This is a glorious truth that will give you much peace concerning what is happening with you.  You can be sure of this – I give you my promise – the promise of Heaven.  Yes – the relief that you feel is very real, and it is very appropriate.  Do not doubt.  As long as you can observe this key, you will be safe from the adversary.  I repeat – this is the grand key by which you may judge between my voice and the voice of others.  Peace, my son.  All is well between us.  Treasure your wife and your family – even your new family of brothers and sisters.  Glory awaits – my glory.  I love you.

EXTRAORDINARY TIMES – EXTRAORDINARY FAITH

My friends, these are extraordinary times.  These are the last days that have been prophesied of for millenia.  They approach rapidly, and many are being called to prepare places of refuge, to prepare to be strong when others are in need and to actually live the principles of Zion.  This is according to the Lord’s love and mercy.  In order to do this, these saints must divorce themselves from babylon so that, when the tribulations come, they are prepared – not with guns and ammo and whiskey – but with the shelter and sustenance of the everlasting gospel.  They must prepare themselves to encounter the forces of the adversary in very real battle.  They must become so pure in heart as to be able to perform miracles that are rarely heard of except in the scriptures.  Such miracles must become commonplace among us, or we will never survive.

These faithful saints are indeed being prepared, and we have found ourselves to be among them.  We rejoice in being asked to fulfill this mission.  It will be beyond difficult.  It can only be carried out if we can strip ourselves of pride and humble ourselves before God, making ourselves willing to do all that He commands us.  Nevertheless, the Lord has promised that He will prepare us, even in our advancing age.  Such has been done before (3 Nephi 28), and it will be done again; whether to us or not is yet to be determined.  We, however, must simply believe.  It is indeed an extraordinary promise, but we must believe and we must act in faith.

Yes, we must believe.  We must believe in the literal gifts of the spirit and that all men may receive revelation and visions – even the vision of Christ Himself.  We must believe in miracles to be performed in accordance with the will of the Lord (Mormon 8).  We must believe in the promised fullness of the priesthood, even unto the renewing of our bodies.  We must believe in the reality and immediacy of all the promises and prophecies that have been made since the dawn of man.  Furthermore, the only safety that will be afforded us is safety in Him.  Babylon will fall and great will be the fall thereof.  If we are dependent upon her and all her trappings, we will fall with her.

PLEASE BELIEVE

Although I have written this in the first person, please know that Diana and I have never been more united.  We have found, both individually and together, stores of faith and courage that we never knew existed.  Together, we ask for your prayers.  We ask that you pray to know that we are in the Lord’s hands.  We ask that you pray to know His will for you.  We ask that you pray that we all might truly humble ourselves before Him and be willing to do all that he asks of us.  We ask you to pray for our very survival, as we will pray for yours.  In this – our prayers, our faith, and our obedience to His voice – is our only refuge.  Please understand – we are not falling away.  We are following Him.  We are following Him with great love and great passion – love and passion that we never knew we were capable of.  He has lifted us.  He has shown us the way.  He has called.  We have answered.  It is that simple.  Please do not condemn us for doing that which the scriptures repeatedly command us to do.  Please believe…in us…in yourselves…in Him.

With all our love…in Jesus Christ, our Savior…

Scott and Diana

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