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A Tie-Dye Tale

tie-dyeI had a lesson with the Lord today. It’s getting easier for me to commune with Him – to ask questions and be taught. These experiences are not dramatic or visionary, they’re just nice, and real…very real.  As soon as I recognized myself connected to Him, some questions popped into my mind, but I quickly dismissed them. “Who am I”? “What is my purpose”? I knew as quickly as they formed that I wasn’t really ready to receive the answers, and that to even ask them would be lustful because I wasn’t ready to act on them. (I love the word “lustful” in this context. It’s like seeking after something for inorganic reasons; to seek to artificially elevate myself for my own purposes, not out of love for Christ or for others.)

I did settle upon a question that I could ask for help with… “How can I learn to elevate my spirit such that it rules the ego, rather than the other way around? How can I recognize the spirit in me, as well as the ego in me? Will you please continue to help me do this, so that I CAN be prepared to receive answers to these other questions?” Of course, the answer was not really instructional, but more like, “Yes – I will continue to help you, as long as you apply yourself”. Well, I have been and will continue to apply myself to this effort. It’s really something that’s very intriguing to me, and it’s something I can work at; that, for some reason, I’m not afraid of. I know, also, that somehow this is a process that will prepare me to receive more…to do more.

At this point, before I share the things I learned this morning, I need to provide a bit of context. I have been reading (more like absorbing) a book called, “A Course in Miracles”. I have no intention of reviewing it, or going into depth about it, (This post is not about the book) but I do need to share some concepts that I have learned from my reading so far – concepts which are part of my learning process, and thus important for this post. The book, which is written in the words of Christ – in the first person – refers to the fall as “the separation”. Christ Himself refers to the fall as the separation. He even says, “…separation, otherwise known as the fall” or something along those lines. There is no doubt that the two words are synonymous. It is also made very clear that the ego is the instrument with which we maintain the separation. The ego is a self-created illusion, and works in opposition to our spirit, which is the source of truth. (The natural man is an enemy to God). We personally created our ego. It is a defense mechanism, and its very purpose is to separate ourselves from others. This ego is very good at its job, in that it separates us not only from each other, but also from God. Thus, the fall, or the “separation” is not only a separation from God, it is also a separation from each other.

As I was praying this morning concerning the ego and the spirit, I also asked, in that context, “How can I learn to overcome this separation?” It was at that point that the understanding came.
The best example I personally have experienced of being one (of overcoming separation) is in the relationship that my wife, Diana, and I have. We haven’t perfected the concept, but we’re at least at a state where I can see the goal, which is that the we own the decisions that we both make – we own them together. If one of us makes a mistake, it is our mistake. If one of us makes a decision, it is our decision, and we don’t indulge a lot of “I told you so”.

This past week we were at a store in Sandpoint, Idaho called “The Hippie Store”, or “The Love Works Tie Dye Store”. It’s full of clothing and other merchandise that hearkens back to the 60’s and early70’s. Our grandson, Gunnar, loves tie-dye, so we bought him a hoodie that was on sale. We discussed the size needed, considering how much he had grown, and we disagreed. I thought we needed a larger size, but gave in to Diana’s judgment. Well, we arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday, only to find out that he DID need a larger size. I good-naturedly poked Diana in the shoulder and said, “See?”, but I didn’t say, “I told you so”. Seriously, though, we both owned the decision, even though I was right and she was wrong. Again – just kidding.  We both own the decision on the smaller size, and we will both take steps to remedy it.

Back to the point – imagine owning, together, not only your own choices and the choices of your spouse, but the choices of all the world. Imagine having this type of relationship where you were so intimate and committed with everyone in the world; loving everyone in the world so much that you owned the decisions that they made just as you own your own decisions. Imagine owning every single fear-driven decision that results in the destruction of human lives, born and unborn. Imagine owning the decision to rain fear and misery on innocent populations in an unceasing quest for power and control. Imagine owning the decision to stick a needle in an arm in a desperate attempt to relieve some ghostly pain that has built up as the result of years of disappointment, neglect, or abuse.

Of course, this co-ownership relationship takes two, and this, I think, describes the atonement and the relationship that Christ desires to have with us…that we might be one. Christ is willing to own all of these choices with us, but He can only do so if we are willing to enter into that “oneness” with Him. The offer is extended, but we have to accept it.  We have to be willing to surrender our ego, that which perpetuates the separation between not only us and Christ, but between us and others. We have to jettison jealousy and fear and allow our spirit to rise into the position where it controls our choices instead of the ego.

Now, let’s take this one logical (as if any of this is logical) step further. When we enter into this relationship, this oneness, with Christ, then we, too, must become willing to take upon ourselves the ownership of all these decisions. We, too, become one with Him and all those who are willing to enter into that covenant relationship with Him. Let’s remember, these with whom we share this relationship are still just as imperfect as we are. They still make wrong decisions – bad decisions – decisions that we might think are stupid and that we would never make, or decisions that we know are going to be painful and destructive. Yet, we agree to own them, together…together with Christ, with our fellow humans, with ourselves. This, then, is the meaning of being of one heart and one mind. This is the type of relationship that would rule in Zion. There is no blame, there is no “I told you so”. There is only love, compassion, understanding, and, in most cases, sacrifice. It’s like entering into a marriage covenant that includes Christ, yourself, and everyone else in the world who is willing to enter into that covenant. We would need to be willing to forgive just as much as Christ is willing to forgive. Perhaps this is even what it means to be in the “Fellowship of the Suffering of Christ”, and it gives additional clarification to so much that Joseph Smith taught, including the concept of the prototype of the saved man.

It is amazing to me how the Lord teaches. I just started asking some questions – questions that I felt like perhaps I was prepared to receive answers for. The next thing I know, all of these different pieces of information, information concerning the fall (separation), the natural man (ego), the spiritual man (truth), requirements for salvation (prototype of the saved man), redemption (returning to the covenant relationship) have been distilled into knowledge and understanding that I, personally, can comprehend, but which is nevertheless a higher, more refined knowledge that will undoubtedly enable me to tolerate or receive ever greater understanding, compassion, forgiveness…oneness. Perhaps, just perhaps, such understanding will open just a little bit wider that door through which I can receive the Pure Love of Christ – and then turn around and give the same charity to another.

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Fast for Charity

On behalf of my friend, Dan Pratt:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

We would like to invite any and all to join in a 40-day fast for the Lord to pour out His Spirit and His love (charity). It will begin February 8 and end March 20th (spring equinox). This can look however you want it to look. It may not have anything to do with abstaining from food if you don’t want it to. You could abstain from something else. Perhaps you could give something “away” to those who suffer (instead of giving something “up” to make yourself suffer). Or you might simply focus on adding light to your life. It may be appropriate to include prayer, meditation, “rejoicing” and whatever else might be deemed as “all the energy of one’s heart.”

For more information as to why this might be a good idea, please see the points and cited scriptures at fastforcharity.blogspot.com.

Personally, for me, “Scoot”, I had not planned on participating in this, even though Charity is very much a focus for me (see my last post – Charity Never Faileth )  In my personal life, I have engaged in other lengthy “fasts” recently.  However, I so admire this effort, and the focus is so important, that I can’t help but participate.  The power of such a joint fast could be astonishing.  I’ll have to get creative, but I can do that.  I can figure something out that will be a sacrifice but will not cause me to lose even more weight – LOL!  What price could really be too much to pay, if I can only receive a small portion of the Pure Love of Christ.

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Charity Never Faileth

If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:44-48)

carl blochIn this post, I hope to share my recent journey of discovery and understanding concerning the scriptural charity described above in Moroni 7:44-48.

As I’m sure many of you do, I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t immediately go back to sleep. I’ve learned to just embrace those quiet hours and think…more often than not about my relationship with Christ. Such prayers, as I’m sure you know, can often yield great insights. One night recently, I was thinking also about my wife, Diana, and how much I love her. I thought about whether or not my love was unconditional, and I realized that it wasn’t unconditional at all – that it was actually very much conditional upon who she is. If this lady so sweetly lying next to me were a different person, I wouldn’t love her like I do, so my love is conditional upon her personality, her virtues, her looks, etc. So, I began to ponder…”If I don’t love her unconditionally, do I love anyone unconditionally? Do I have any idea how to love unconditionally?” I concluded that, with the possible exception of a parent/child love, the love people have for each other, no matter how pure and beautiful it may be, is not, in the end, truly unconditional. So, again I asked myself, “How can I learn to love as Christ does – unconditionally? How can I love someone simply because they exist? How can I develop a desire to serve and enrich the lives of others regardless of who they are or how they treat me? How can I gain charity?” Then, I began to ask myself, “Is Christ’s love really unconditional?” I looked up the words “conditional” and “unconditional” in the scripture search on LDS.org and discovered that those words do not exist in the scriptures. Period. Nowhere. Nada. So, where do we get the idea that Christ’s love is actually unconditional? I’m not declaring unequivocally that it’s not, but I don’t know where the idea comes from if it’s not scriptural. As a matter of fact, there are numerous scriptural references to the conditions associated with repentance and salvation – so these manifestations (forgiveness and salvation) of Christ’s love are indeed conditional. Come to think of it – aren’t all of the manifestations of Christ’s love predicated upon obedience to some law? (D&C 130:20-21) So, what is love without manifestations of that love, and if the manifestations are conditional, isn’t the love conditional?

My next thought stream concerned whether this unconditional love (which may or may not actually exist) is the same as the scriptural “charity” as described by Moroni above (as well as by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13). I reviewed the description of charity, and as I prayed about it, I prayed as I had many times in the past that I might be gifted with this greatest of all virtues.

As a brief aside – I have concluded that charity is indeed a gift that must be bestowed on us based on Moroni 7:48 – …which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…that it is not something that we can actually develop in and of our fallen selves, no matter how hard we try. I have furthermore concluded that once it is offered, it is still our responsibility to actively receive it – by surrendering our pride, jealousies, and fears (D&C 67:10) and cleansing ourselves of all unworthy (unworthy as compared to the description of charity above) personality traits and thought patterns that might actually prevent us from manifesting charity through our actions. In other words, we must believe and exercise faith that these virtues that constitute charity are more desirable than those that we must reject before we can make place for charity to abide in us.

So, as I reviewed the definition of charity, and as I prayed that I might be gifted with charity, the following things occurred to me:

  • This description of charity is actually a very good definition of Christ’s character.
  • This same description is the very antithesis of babylon, or the natural man.  It refutes the lies that have been told us by satan since the garden drama took place.

This is probably not a particularly astounding discovery, although I’ve never heard it put quite that way, but where it leads me proves interesting and affirming – like wrapping a whole bunch of things with a nice, neat bow.

Allow me.

If charity describes Christ’s character – His very essence, if you will – then if we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, would this not be the same thing as receiving charity? Is His name not a label that represents His character, His personality, His essence? Therefore, to take upon ourselves the name of Christ = to receive charity = to reject the natural man = to leave babylon. Furthermore, would this seeking after and receiving of charity not be necessary if we are to know Christ and experience eternal life? (John 17:3)  Does this not give new meaning to John 14:23                                                                                    :annunciation-to-shepherds-949488-gallery

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him…

…as well as to all the versesin John 14, 15, and 17 referencing God abiding in us and being one with us (or us with Him)?  If we are able to receive and nurture the attributes that define Christ, could that not be how he abides in us (his attributes are part of us) and how we become one with Him (we share the attributes that define us). This seems pretty all-encompassing, as if it is the very definition of redemption, even salvation.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that without this charity we are nothing. In other words, no actions, thoughts, or knowledge can make up for the lack of this attribute. Moroni says the same thing in verse 44, then, in verse 47 he says, “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni thus softens his message just a little, but the point is the same…without charity…without Christ…we are nothing. We are terminal. The purpose of our existence, therefore, is to become what Paul and Moroni describe as “charity”.  

Paul, also in 1 Corinthians 13, offers a very similar description of charity as Moroni did – than he says:

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – emphasis added)

Moroni describes charity as “the pure love of Christ”. The pure love of Christ must, then, equal the description of charity offered by both Paul and Moroni. It is perfect. It reflects perfection (…”Be ye therefore perfect”…) Not only that, but it…”endureth forever”. Charity describes what the perfect, eternal…saved…being must be like. Christ is charity.  According to Joseph Smith, Christ is the prototype of the saved man (Lectures on Faith 7:9), therefore charity describes the saved man.  We are pretty much commanded to receive charity – the pure love of Christ – unto ourselves and become perfect.  Such conclusions completely contradict the pernicious lie which has been perpetuated (I hope unwittingly) for millenia by the cultural churches and religions that further satan’s agenda, teaching that we cannot be perfect or that only Christ is perfect.  This is a perfect lie, actually, one worthy of the great deceiver, in that it convinces that we cannot receive all that Christ offers us.  It keeps the true disciple down, buried under the weight of unbelief.  It is indeed a contradiction of epic proportion, but what a glorious contradiction it is!

In summary – my journey of discovery has resulted in the following understanding:

  • Charity, as described by both Paul and Moroni, is the personality – even the very essence – of Christ. It is forever, it is perfection, it is all things, and without it, we are, even He himself is, nothing.  If He were not these things, He would not be the Christ.
  • Christ’s love is pure (unpolluted by the conditions of the fall?), but not necessarily unconditional.
  • Charity may be bestowed upon us, but we must, in turn, receive it , and this is done by casting off the stakes of babylon, of the natural man in order to make a place for it in our hearts; that our actions might in turn reflect this charity – the essence of Him whom we worship.
  • To “know” Christ, and thus to receive eternal life, we must take Him unto ourselves – this is synonymous with receiving and nurturing charity. It is in this way that He and the Father abide in us, and it is in this way that we become one with Him. Charity is required if we are to be saved.

I offer this perspective simply for your consideration. Perhaps it will lead you to a similar, or even a different, understanding. As for me, I will continue to seek to fully receive these virtues that constitute charity, the pure love of Christ, the essence of Christ, the very name of Christ – and I will seek to receive them by rejecting the jealousies, fears, and pride that Satan has imbued in the natural man, who is an enemy to God. (Mosiah 3:19)

PS…

The treatises on charity by Paul and Moroni, the Sermon on the Mount, and D&C 121:34-46, in my opinion, constitute Christ’s instructions on how we are to live the gospel; how we are to believe in Him, know Him, become one with Him, and gain eternal life. Pretty much everything we need to know, everything we need to do once we have been baptized, is contained in those scriptures.  They represent the blueprint for how we are to treat each other, and it is by this blueprint that the desires of our heart are assessed – those very desires of our heart by which all men will ultimately be judged. (D&C 137:9 – “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts”) This is how we manifest our belief in Him; this is how we love Him and each other. We take them lightly and justify deviations to our damnation. People far too often get caught up in the do’s and dont’s of their religion; put up their stakes; resort to tradition and the philosophies of men in redefining that straight and narrow path that leads back to His presence and our redemption from the fall.  Scriptures become allegorical, or are superseded by the interpretations of conspiring men.  This “fog of religion” (terminology from Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge) tends to dilute, even displace, these pure, essential instructions with man-made commandments and false doctrines that have no power to save. They are a poor substitute for the doctrine of perfection and salvation given in these golden scriptures. To the extent that people – or churches – allow this displacement or dilution to take place, either personally or institutionally, they are in grave error, and have fallen into the same trap as the Pharisees of Christ’s day, loving the construct of the law more than they do Christ, who is the giver of the law.  In Christ’s own words:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (Matthew 23:25)

If we are to make the inside of our cup clean, we must reject the natural man (babylon) with his house of pride, jealousies, and fears built so deceptively on the foundation of sand. We must take these key scriptures as our unwavering guide. We must seek to receive, nurture, and cherish this supernal gift of charity; truly take upon ourselves His name; know Him; and become one with Him. Only charity, bestowed by Christ and received by each of us individually, can save us. This last paragraph (4 sentences) I declare unto you in the name of Jesus Christ.

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Testimony of Christ – Oct 25, 2016

Sometimes, when I pray, I am aware of Him – of His essence, His nature. It’s an awareness of a being, a presence, an intelligence that is simply good. He is forgiving, and merciful, and patient, and kind, and understanding. He is just good – goodness personified, one might say. It’s really kind of hard to describe, but at different times I get more of a concrete sense of His being. It’s not a glorious light or anything, just an awareness of who He is, of His nature – a nature that embodies all the goodness that I am capable of comprehending. I’ve never “seen” Him, but in this way, I guess I “know” Him. Sometimes, but not always, it feels as if I can almost break though the veil and touch Him – come face to face. That hasn’t happened yet.

At other times He has come to me. Again, I don’t “see” Him, but I know He’s there. I can’t say how I know it, or how I know it’s Him, but I do. I remember the first time I was completely shocked. It kind of gently caused me to take a deep involuntary breath – like “taking my breath away”, but not that intense. I just suddenly knew He was there, and that I could ask anything of Him that I wanted. Without hardly thinking, I asked Him to save our children. I was very gratified later to realize that, when finding myself in His “presence”, my first, almost instinctive request, was for the welfare of our children. That was quite reassuring. Another time, He made me to know that “I am”. Just as He is, so I am. It’s like, whatever I am I already am. I’m not going to change – I’m already what I’m supposed to be. I just don’t know it yet. It’s my knowledge and understanding of who I am that evolves and changes. Of course, this suggests my existence outside the context of time, which remains pretty much incomprehensible to me. It was also clear that this “me” that “I am” is pleasing unto Him and loved by Him. Again, nothing flashy or glorious – just…nice.

Why do I tell you this? Well, there’s this belief that we have to “see” Him in order to receive the Second Comforter. That may be true – it probably is – but I’ve never “seen” him…still, somehow I “know” Him. I don’t understand how it works. I would expect to be overwhelmed by His glory, even by His goodness. Instead, I just feel His gentility and kindness. I’m always comfortable. I’m relieved every time He comes to me again like in the second account. I’m like, “Oh – I’m so glad you will still come to me like this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”. Then we have conversation. My thoughts – His answers. It’s never anything overwhelming or exhausting, but it’s very reassuring. It give me peace.

I don’t know why these experiences are not like other accounts we’ve all read. He has cautioned me on a couple of occasions not to compare my experiences with those of others. Satan as an angel of light, you might say? I really don’t think so. It’s just too mellow, too good, too comfortable. He doesn’t flatter me, except to remind me that I am good (I am – I really am a good person) and that He loves me. He has told me to do things that seem to be exceptional, but they’re never, ever anything that exalts me in any way. I’ve made the mistake of feeling like I was going to do something really special, but as it turned out, it was really all quite humbling and instructional – and all I had to do was step along and try to be consistent with what I know of His goodness – the very goodness that I want to take onto, into, myself, the very goodness that I want to become. So – its was a gently humbling experience, and one that has changed me and continues to change me.

Christ, this Christ that I know, is good. He’s just this great big beautiful bundle of kindness and humility and power and perfection bursting with the desire to know us and love us and lift us – to save us. He is patient. He is kind. He is understanding and compassionate. His power comes from His ability to love us more than He loves Himself.

So, I can’t say that I’ve seen Him. Perhaps that is a joy that awaits me some time in the future. Yet, I know Him. He knows me. It is this quiet joy, this gentle assurance that keeps me, in spite of all my weakness and imperfection, on that straight and narrow path. He lives and He loves. How could we ask more than that for ourselves?

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Looking for You – A Love Song

I left Norman Oklahoma in 1979
With a dream and a guitar
and a love song burning insided-28 pic
I fell in love with the bottle but her promises all fell through
And little did I know the whole time I was looking for you

Looking for you
Looking for you
I wandered and I rambled
But I kept on looking for you
Looking for you
Looking for you
Little did I know the whole time I was looking for you

There were pretty painted ladies
But they all had something to hide
I did a dance with the devil
But he filled my head with lies
I chased the sun and moon
Howling for my dream come true
Little did I know the whole time I was looking for you

Looking for you
Looking for you
Yeah I searched the world over
But I never stopped looking for you
Looking for you
Looking for you
Little did I know the whole time I was looking for you

Now we’re driving down the road
Heading towards that great divide
Got my dream and my guitar
And my sweet love by my side
I’ve got the sun and the moon
Shining on my dream come true
And I’m thankin’ the Lord that I never stopped looking for you

Looking for you
Looking for you
I thank the Lord
That I never stopped looking for you
Looking for you
Looking for you
Little did I know the whole time I was looking for you
I wandered and I rambled but I never stopped looking for you
I searched the world over but I never stopped…looking for you

I began writing this song two weeks ago while was standing alone over a 2’x5′ screen assembly, sifting weeds, grass, and other undesirable matter from the dirt in a 20’x40′ foot garden plot. It was mindless work, indeed, and perfect for receiving inspiration. (This is my first new song in 6 years, and it came together very quickly – so in my mind it was definitely inspired). Initially, I thought it was the long over-due love song for my wife – and it is – but as I pondered the lyrics, I realized it actually has a double meaning. The “you” I was looking for could also be Christ.

As concerns looking for my wife, Diana, one could say my search is over – I have found her and our marriage is one of great joy – and the ballad in the lyrics is complete. In other words, I no longer sigh with an empty longing during a good chick-flick. When we turn the focus to Christ, though, it is most certainly not complete, as I continue to look for Him.

Lately, I’ve had occasion to ask myself why I continue look for Him; why I continue to seek His face. I’ve read or listened to multiple accounts from those who have had a “Second Comforter” experience. For me, it’s hard not to be jealous. Although I tell myself I’m not, (I refuse to be is actually more like it), I really do have to fight it. It’s also hard not to view such experiences and the relating of them as a status symbol among those of us who acknowledge that a personal visitation from the Savior is not only possible, not only desirable, but approaching a commandment. Obviously, to be jealous or view them as a status symbol is itself highly undesirable, and such tendencies must be rejected immediately. To seek after His face in order to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others feels like a horrible, particularly heinous transgression.

Still, I ask myself why. Personally, I’ve had some recent setbacks in my journey into His presence. These personal setbacks have likewise prompted some soul searching. “Why do I seek Him?” What price am I willing to pay? My recent experiences have included one instance where I found that I was not willing to pay the price asked. I was stunned, of course, and quite discouraged. What does this mean?!! It is clear now that I am not willing, or not prepared, to offer the sacrifice of all earthly things. Am I damned? Will I never see His face? Am I now unqualified to receive and exercise the priesthood(s) needed to fully serve Him and His children? Are my dreams of Zion even possible?

Obviously, no person who is sincerely seeking after righteousness would experience this without great soul searching. I’d like in this post to share some of the results of that searching:

I am fallen. I am imperfect and filled with jealousies and fears – of which I must strip myself if I would see His face. (D&C 67:10) There are some in my life whom I have yet to forgive. Still, for some reason, as a result of sheer grace I suppose, I am able to know to whom I look for my completeness, and I still sense what that completeness is like. (I am reminded of the Psalm of Nephi from 2 Nephi chapter 4) I know, deep, deep inside, the meaning of “…to fulfill the measure of their creation”. It’s as if I can see across the chasm between the fallen me and the exalted me. To be sure, I still believe that I will cross that chasm someday, somehow.

That completeness for which I hunger and thirst…which is manifest in Christ…is defined by righteousness, honesty, kindness, patience, long-suffering, justice, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, charity, and, ultimately, power – the power that can only be derived from perfect goodness; by the sacrifice of all earthly things. I know Him in this way. I feel Him. I can’t really describe how I know Him, but I do. I feel His goodness, His righteousness, His perfection. It’s in me in spite of myself. He has not left me because I was unprepared to sacrifice that which (I think) He asked of me. When I commune with Him, He is still there, and He is still all of those things I just described. Even more, there’s something that I know and feel that I simply can’t put into words. Perhaps it is His essence, or His perfection. I don’t know, and I have no idea how to relate it, but it is real and it is part of my knowledge.

I am humbled, of course, by what I perceive to be a great failure. I seek even more fervently than before His forgiveness and patience, praying that He will continue to guide me down my path, the path that I must follow. It is indeed a strait and narrow path, but I pray it will remain open to me. I honestly believe it will, even if I don’t deserve it.

Many of you know that in the past year I have quit my job, resigned from the church, and moved away from Salt Lake City – all in response to what I believe the Lord asked me to do. Diana and I went through this process with great hope and enthusiasm…we were going to help build Zion! We were doing what the Lord asked of us, and making a great, extraordinary sacrifice. (actually, you can read more about this “sacrifice” here) We did indeed exercise considerable faith. Our faith remains steadfast, but we have been humbled – very humbled. Reality is often a harsh teacher. We have been taught much about ourselves and each other. We have learned much love, (Much love! Please do not let any melancholy tone of this post detract from the beauty that prevails in our lives) but we have mostly learned how far we, as individuals, need to progress before we can ever hope to accomplish all that the Lord needs done. Similar to my own recent personal experience, we have discovered that the path to fulfilling our dream is strewn with stumbling blocks – both temporal and spiritual. We have learned that we have much more to learn than we previously realized. This is actually progress, though, as learning truth – experiencing reality, regardless of how “harsh” a teacher she may be – is a highly positive step, just as me learning that I am not yet prepared to sacrifice all earthly things is a positive step, in that now I can deal with that unpleasant reality.

So, the path becomes more clear. It is steep, narrow, and strewn with the proverbial stumbling blocks. Why do I continue on this path? I was sharing with my friend today that, even though I really desire to be a great High Priest, to help build Zion, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and “move mountains”; even though I desire to be among the Gentile remnant who will support the Remnant of Jacob in building the New Jerusalem, this cannot be a motivation for me. No, my motivation must be simply that I desire righteousness – that I desire to fulfill the measure of my creation – which measure is to become as nearly Christ-like as I can be. My motivation must be because I seek righteousness and goodness and meekness and perfection for its own sake – not because of some reward or status that awaits at the end (?) of the journey.

My motivation must be because I love Christ. It must be because I believe in Him – in His name – and in His vision of Zion. The execution of this search must be done in great humility, with great patience, and with great trust in Him – in His love, His patience, and His promises.

Lord, I do believe! Please, Please, Please – help thou mine unbelief! Be patient with me as I encounter and seek to overcome these stumbling blocks! I cannot turn away from my pursuit of experiencing your love and your glory while I yet live in mortality. I understand that I may not receive this supernal gift, perhaps because of my own inadequacy and fear, but I cannot stop asking. I cannot stop seeking. I cannot be permanently distracted from my quest. If I am temporarily side-tracked or lose focus, know forever that I love you, and I believe in Zion, and I will find my way back. I believe in goodness and love and perfection of spirit. I believe in beauty and charity and perfect kindness. I truly believe that the universe is bound together by your perfect love and the perfect love of our Heavenly Parents.

Lord, if there are some who would recoil at the knowledge you have given me of my imperfections, and perhaps even turn away, know that I will not do that. I will continue to seek after your face and seek to fulfill the expectations that you have of me. Lord, I will continue, forever…

Looking for you.

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The Bedrock of babylon – the Spirit of Competition

sports1I went with my friend last week to find a rock to place on the altar that would be built that day. The rock was to represent something that I felt like the Lord wants me to sacrifice in His name. I found it in a stream bed – a perfect rock for the purpose; just big enough that I had to strain to carry it, but not so big that I risked hurting my 60+ year-old body carrying it around. Upon returning to my friend’s house, I anointed it with olive oil and with wine and prayed as led by the spirit. My prayer essentially went something like this:

rock1“Lord, you know I’m not really big on symbolism. I’m much more about trying to truly learn, do, and become more like you. As I anoint this rock, I cast out, in your name, the spirit of contention and competition from my soul. It is my desire to let it go, to root it out, so that it is no longer part of my thoughts, desires, or being. Furthermore, as I dedicate this rock, I symbolically cast out this same spirit from your Zion to come. When I place this rock upon the altar, I not only pray for protection for myself, but I pray for protection for all who would come to Zion, that they, too, will reject this spirit, for I know that it can have no place in Zion. Lord, this is my desire, and I declare it now, vocally, tangibly, to you. I also declare this symbolically through this rock for all those who will be brought to Zion. Lord, this is my humble sacrifice this day, and I ask you to receive it – in your Holy name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.”

When I was asked to participate in this event that precipitated this anointing (the details aren’t really relevant), I asked myself, “What would the Lord want me to sacrifice”. It wasn’t long before it came to me. I was to sacrifice the thought processes, the “spirit”, of competition, that I know will keep me out of Zion. This spirit is imbued in us as part of oursports2 western culture. It’s the source of the desire to accumulate more, to be better, stronger, more powerful than the next person, and the source of what a friend recently called, “the curse of western society” – the need to control others. None of these things are compatible with living in Zion, where the inhabitants must be pure in heart, of one heart and one mind, and have all things in common.

For the past few months, I have been living in a situation where my faults are highlighted daily. It is a marvelous experience – the growth has been more intense than at any time in my life. One thing that I have come to realize is that, for me, almost all personal discomfort is the result of one thing – the fact that I am in the habit of determining my individual sports4progression or self-worth by comparing myself to others; am I as good as them or am I better than them? Am I as kind, as resourceful, as smart, as hard-working, as meek, as rich, as loving, as knowledgeable, as worthy…you get the drift. I’m convinced that we all indulge in this sort of thinking to some extent, but I didn’t realize how pervasive it was in my own life until recently, and when the light finally did come on, I decided I just didn’t want to carry that burden any more.

Guess what, I don’t think I’m alone, or even unusual in this. I strongly suspect that most people are just as heavily burdened by this spirit of competition as I am, and perhaps even more so.

Competition, of course, is something that drives people to “succeed”. It is considered by babylon to be the life-blood of our society – necessary for not only its progress, but it’s very survival. However, it necessarily results in some having more than others – whether it be the accumulation of material wealth or the development and demonstration of mental, sports3emotional, and spiritual attributes. It perpetuates the lie that our value is only to be determined by comparison to the “value” of others. This, then, begs the question of “how is value determined”, which in turn results inexorably in some form of idolatry. Whatever measure is used to determine our relative worth becomes that upon which our hearts are set (this is our very existence, self-awareness, and self-worth we are talking about here, so how we measure it all becomes very important to us), and could likely becomes that which we worship.

Obviously, the only thing that should be used to determine our self-worth is our relationship with Christ. He and He alone is our judge. Everything else is a substitute, a counterfeit, and thus a false idol.

I began cluing into the importance of this truth a couple of years ago when I realized that I am much more likely to be kind to and tolerant of people whom I perceive to be somehow “less” than me, while I am not likely to be as tolerant and kind and forgiving in my relationships with people whom I perceive to be “more” than me. Those who are “less” are “less” of a threat. Those who are “more” are “more” of a threat. Thankfully, this realization made me uncomfortable, and I’ve pondered ever since why I’m that way. I’ve remained unsatisfied with that aspect of my nature, and now pray that I’m prepared to try to do something about it.

Consider this idea, which was offered by another friend and which I cannot claim as my own; that when you compare yourself to another person, there are basically only two possible results. You either measure yourself as being better than them, which engenders pride, or you measure yourself as less than them, which engenders envy. This, of course, is an oversimplification, and all relationships are much more complicated than this, but many times there is great truth in looking at things this way – similar to seeing the forest for the trees.

Perhaps I’m wrong about how widespread this is. Obviously, I don’t read the thoughts of others, so my claim that this is widespread and endemic in babylon is absolutely speculative. Perhaps, indeed, I am unique in this, and perhaps this post will fall on deaf ears. I suspect not, though. The symptoms are so obvious as we look at our society that I’m not even going to list them. It is actually, I think, the spirit that is telling me that this spirit of competition can have no place in Zion. It is also based upon my own experience in examining myself and what motivates me. In my attempt to love others in the way they need to be loved, I am forced to look inward when there is conflict. If I am to live in Zion, I must rid my heart of impurities, and this is undoubtedly a profound impurity – an impurity that may well reflect the very essence of the fall. I have a hard time envisioning a society of “one heart and one mind” where everyone is constantly trying to elevate themselves above their neighbor in various aspects of their existence.

I now see things very clearly. In babylon, the individual’s worth is measured by their relative value as measured by false idols. In Zion, the individual’s worth is determined by Christ, who loves unconditionally and is no respecter of persons.

Zion will come. It will be a place where the Lord Himself will dwell. It will be built by those with humble hearts and willing hands – and by those who are able to cast out the spirit of competition.

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Truth Inventory

scrollIt was approximately one year ago that my wife and I resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has been a year filled with profound learning. The Spirit has taught me eternally significant lessons that it could not have taught had I not been obedient to the word of the Lord and left my old life (job, home, friends, family) behind and pursued the path that the Lord laid out for me. After trials unlike anything I had ever previously experienced, peace has prevailed in my life and in the lives of my companions, and I feel confident in saying that the Lord is pleased with our efforts so far.

Our resignation was largely prompted by our publicly questioning the doctrines, policies, and teachings of the church to the extent that we were no longer welcome in the temple. Excommunication loomed, and we saw no point in creating a situation that would cause pain for people whom we considered to be friends. However, our questioning has continued. As a matter of fact, pretty much everything taught by the church is subject to review. The house of cards that is the post-Joseph Smith LDS church has, in my view, come crashing down, and I am left to reconstruct my beliefs. I must determine which of my beliefs are derived from the philosophies of men, and which are derived from the light of truth that is Jesus Christ.

I offer a few examples of things that I formerly believed but which I now question:

  • Unfortunately, I have been forced to question the scriptures. Before you recoil in shock, allow me to explain. Until 1921, the Doctrine and Covenants contained the Lectures on Faith. Then, a committee decided they didn’t belong. My own study of D&C 132 suggests to me that it has been interpreted to promote polygamy, when in actuality it does no such thing. The bible once contained several books that are now relegated to the apocrypha. I can deal with things being added to the canon of scripture, but when something is taken away – that suggests either that the canon that was once complete and sacred really wasn’t, or that the new canon isn’t really complete and sacred because of the things that were formerly sacred but were removed. So, which is it?
  • The Doctrine of Christ.  No – I don’t question the doctrine of Christ. It is stated quite clearly in 3 Nephi 11:35-40:

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.

And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.

And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

What I question, though, is where did all the other things that are taught for doctrine by the myriad churches, all the things that supposedly distinguish one church from another, including the LDS church, come from? (can you say, “…there are save two churches only?”) If Christ Himself – by His very mouth – declares His doctrine as quoted above, and then warns about the gates of hell standing open for whoso shall declare more or less than this…well, that’s pretty heady stuff. How is it that, for example, children of gay people cannot be baptized? How is it that one must obey the word of wisdom or be married or testify of the church president being a prophet, seer, and revelator before one can be baptized? Exactly when and how and by whose word were such things added to the doctrine of Christ? What happened to the simple “Believe in me, repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost”? It seems to me that there are a lot of philosophies of men that have been taught as “doctrine” and now need to be weeded out. Which ones are the doctrine of Christ and which ones are the doctrines of “the church”?

  • Ordinances.  Only baptism and the sacrament are taught in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  Are the rest real?  Necessary?
  • Temples and sealing. Per the study mentioned above on D&C 132, I’m not sure that anyone had the right to delegate the sealing power as is done today. Plus, there was a written, published revelation commanding the saints to build the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo Temple (and the Far West temple, for that matter), but there is no such revelation telling Brigham Young or anyone else to build a temple after that. Did Brigham Young just take it upon Himself to start building? Are there revelations that were received but just not published? (That, of course, is a whole other topic) How accurate is the endowment? We can’t be changing ordinances. What about the changes that have occurred to the endowments and initiatories? Similar to the situation with the scriptures – which version is right – before the change or after the change? Hmmmm….

These are just a few more sweeping examples of things that I now question. It’s not intended in any way to be an exhaustive list, and it is most certainly not. That is not the point of this post. No, the point is that where there were once firm (even if they were false) beliefs, there are now questions. A void is left. That void must be filled quickly, and it must be filled with truth, or it will simply be filled with more lies and more of the philosophies of different men. A truth inventory is in order.

As I was praying this morning, I was lamenting the situation before the Lord, and was prompted to take an inventory of the things that I DO believe – things that I DO NOT question. The result:

  • Christ lives. My knowledge of Him has never wavered. He abides in and with me as He promised he would in John 14:16. He is perfect righteousness. All justice, mercy, goodness, and love abide in Him. They define Him, and they define my desires.
  • Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Denver Snuffer is a true messenger – as described to me by the Lord’s own voice.  They are messengers only, pointing the way.  They have no control over my salvation.  Only Christ stands at the gate, and He employs no servant there.
  • Zion will come. This I simply know in the bones of my soul. It will be built by willing hands and humble hearts, and it will be inhabited by those who can cast off the spirit of competition that is so ingrained in us as a result of the fall.
  • I desire goodness and righteousness. I have zero desire to control other people – to exercise unrighteous dominion. My heart is pure before God – even if my execution of His will leaves something to be desired. My life is meaningless if it is not dedicated to serving others and thus serving Christ. I am NOT perfect, or even very good at this, but this is the target of my hope, dreams, and desires. Everything else that I do is ultimately meaningless.
  • The Book of Mormon is the word of God provided especially for us in these latter days. I currently live in a community that includes a lot of very sincere Christians. My belief in the Book of Mormon is a bit of a problem for them, and they can’t seem to understand that I will not surrender that belief. Oh, well…
  • The “Gifts of the Spirit”, if they are not being experienced, are only absent because of our unbelief. This is painful for me to admit, but Moroni makes it very clear in Moroni 7:37 and other places in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, I will not stop trying, seeking, and believing.
  • D&C 121:34-46 is every bit as profound and important as it ever was. It is never ok to attempt to exercise control, compulsion, or dominion over the souls of the children of men. That is what Satan does. It’s that simple. The principles laid forth in this section of scripture (and it IS scripture) are the guide by which I live my life.
  • Ordinances are important, even if I don’t really understand why. Baptism and the Sacrament are especially important – possibly the only ones that are essential and real. I’ll have to be taught the rest by the spirit, because as I said above, I don’t trust what men have told me.
  • The Sermon on the Mount is the key to Zion. It is the Lord opening a window to the society of heaven. Principles such as repentance, forgiveness, humility, and meekness are essential. Consider the Lilies. Most people dismiss it as unachievable, but I would just say, “I don’t think He was kidding”.
  • The universe is organized and held together by love. Don’t know how it works, but I believe it. It was created by faith, but the faith was and is motivated by love. In other words, the Lord said, “I think this can be, and it should be, so it will be”. Now, that’s faith.

This is a brief (and likewise incomplete) list of things that have not been shaken by my experiences of the past couple of years. I suspect that most of you who have been through this process of leaving the LDS church while maintaining your faith in the restored gospel will find this account familiar. There is much for us to question and re-examine, but there is also much to build on. I have rejected or at least questioned much of the philosophies of conspiring men that have been mingled with the word of the Lord, but my house is built firmly on the rock of revelation and the foundation of the doctrine of Christ. He is my desire, my hope, my inspiration…my purpose for being. I have no desire to sin, but only to be obedient, and especially to love, love, and love some more. I have complete confidence that I will continue to be taught and led by the Spirit of Christ, and this is what will fill the void left by the fall of the great and spacious building – even the pride of the world (1 Nephi 11:36).

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