I attended the Martin Luther King Celebration held at the Pearl Theater, presented by the Boundary County Human Rights Coalition (of Boundary County, Idaho). I enjoyed the event. It was attended by good people and it was for a good cause. While I abhor the very need for such an organization as the BCHRC, I appreciate the effort that these good folks put into this organization, for this cause.
As part of the agenda of the meeting, a presentation was made concerning racism in the US. The first half of the presentation was historical, the second half addressed racism as it manifests itself today. The first thoughts that came to me during this presentation were, “Well, this is elementary!”. Then I realized…that’s because I lived through much of it – well, not the actual slavery part, but the civil rights movement, etc. all took place during my lifetime. The second thought was, “I was never raised to think like this”. I called my mother a few days later and thanked her for that.
As the presentation transitioned from the historical subject matter to the “racism today” part, the question was presented, “Do you judge people based on the color of their skin?”. I thought to myself, “Well, of course I do. And so does EVERYONE else. As a matter of fact, I, being white, may well be judged more than anyone else based on the color of my skin”. Which brings us to the point of this essay: We all judge. We do it frequently, constantly, unconsciously, and it’s OK!” Let me explain.
The other night, I interacted briefly with a man who was new to his job. He wore a stocking cap, had multiple piercings, and had tattoos covering much of his visible skin. Bingo – judgment! Neon lights and loud bells ringing off inside my head! (actually – that’s not how I think, but I’m taking a bit of poetic license) However, I shook his hand and spoke to him with dignity and respect like I do all people, and immediately this man’s desire to do his job correctly, his humility in being willing to ask me for direction and advice, and his respect for the others in the room became apparent. My first judgment wasn’t eliminated or contradicted, but it was enhanced by his behavior. He may well have a history of rebellion, perhaps even criminal behavior, both of which were included in that original judgment. But then again, maybe not. I didn’t ask, and until I do, I won’t know.
I’m white. I was born that way. No fault of mine, of course. I’ll be 65 next month. I have shoulder length hair and I wear plaid a lot – along with denim. I’m about 30 pounds overweight, if compared to a 30 year old, but for me, I’m pretty pleased that I’m not more overweight. I have absolutely no doubt that anyone who sees me or interacts with me is going to make judgments. Besides the obvious visible attributes about me, that judgment will also be made based on how I walk or carry myself, whether or not I look a person in the eye, whether or not I’m smiling or frowning or just vacant, what kind of car I just got out of, etc. You get the drift.
Well all judge. If I see a black man walking around the streets of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, I don’t fear him, or expect him to act disrespectful toward me because he’s black, although I must admit I would love to talk to him and find out how his story brought him here. I would be truly interested to find out about that. But I wouldn’t ask, because it might make him feel uncomfortable, and well, I guess that’s kind of racist because I wouldn’t be as interested if he were white and wore plaid). However, if this man is strutting round, trying to put off an impression that he’s too cool for all of us rednecks and that he hates being here, or if he gives off a vibe of “don’t mess with me or I’ll hurt you”, my judgment will change. So – I made a judgment because of the color of his skin; I judged that he might have an interesting story to tell, but any negativity in my judgment would be based upon his actions, not the color of his skin. And, you know what, ANYBODY who walked around with an attitude, regardless of the color of his skin, or his clothes, or his hair, or his weight…or his gender (or lack thereof) is going to be judged by me according to his actions – not any of those other things.
So – we judge. We need to admit that and get used to it. It’s our judgment, and we have every right to it. As a matter of fact, we can’t avoid it. The real question is, do we force that judgment on others and interpret their actions, or alter our actions toward them, based upon that judgment – or do we treat them with trust, respect, and dignity regardless of all of the visible factors?
The presentation on racism that I observed didn’t go far enough. It advocated change, but the change it advocated only treats the symptoms. Racism is rampant among us, and we are all subject to it, regardless of our race. And it’s not just race. This guy that I worked with was white, well built, light brown hair (I think), etc. I still judged. But you know what, I would love to meet him again, and learn even more about him – about who he is, what makes him tick, what causes him joy and what causes him fear. I’d love to hear about his past, and the trials he’s overcome to become who he is today. I’d love to share my story with him, too. It’s called relationship, and relationship is what life is about.
The real answer to racism? It’s love. It’s trust. It’s feeling good enough about yourself that you have plenty of room to let other people in. I don’t want to wax religious, not that I couldn’t, but in the Bible, Christ said, when asked what the greatest commandment was, said it was to “Love God…”. The second greatest commandment was to “…love your neighbor AS YOURSELF”. You gotta love yourself first, and if you do, you’ll be able to love others. The opposite is true – if you can’t love yourself, it’s awfully difficult to love anyone else.
We love to label people. This labeling, though, starts with labeling ourselves. We do it out of a desire for comfort, for acceptance, a desire to fit in or belong, even to simplify. We built boxes around ourselves, and then we judge people who don’t fit into our box as being something to fear. Everyone’s got a different box, of course, but chances are, if you live in the same place I live in (Boundary County, Idaho), our boxes overlap…a lot. They overlap a whole lot more than they would with someone from rural China, or Pakistan, or Morocco, or the east side of Chicago.
I hate labels. I’m much more complicated than the label that people attach to me, and so are you. So is everyone. But isn’t judgment just the very first application of a label? Yeah, we love to label. One of my favorites that I see used in this area is, “Snowflake” – a derogatory term for someone who expresses liberal (another label), or less than conservative ideas; a term that reduces them to a thoughtless, stupid person who has no grip on reality. Well, that label is right up there with “racist”, or “homophobe”, or “misogynist”, or…get ready for this… “Fascist”. These labels are all just ways for us to marginalize those who disagree with us so that we don’t have to consider the possibility that perhaps their point of view is just as valid, just as well-thought-out, just as a important to them as ours are.
So, the answer to racism? Love. Humility. Compassion. Empathy. Yeah, we judge. And we all get judged. Every minute of every hour of every day. And we get judged based on the color of our skin, our age, the length of our hair, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the house or the part of the world we live in, our accent, our vocabulary, how we walk, etc. And the only thing guaranteed about these judgments is that they are, at best, incomplete, and at worst, completely wrong. As I go through life, as I interact with my fellow humans, I hope I have the opportunity to give each of you something with which you can judge me more fully, more honestly, more accurately. Before that can happen, though, I have to make sure I give you the same opportunity. My hope is that I am able to love and respect you for who you truly are, not for who I judged you to be when I first set eyes on you. Because ultimately, for each of us, the only label that accurately describe us is the label listed on our birth certificate.
January 20, 2018: 1 a.m.
I had been asleep for about an hour when I was awakened by a dream that was breathtaking in its carnality. The physical excitement, the adrenaline, the temptation lingered way too long. It was shocking to me, and it frankly filled me with fear and dread. I began to ask the Lord to take it away, but I was reminded of a revelation that I had received a couple of days ago: that even though the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins is free and immediate, we have to let the sin go, and we do that by replacing it with virtue, or charity – replace the darkness with light. As our soul fills with light, there is no room for sin, but we have to invite the light, that it might push out the darkness. This is OUR part of the process. It is the fruit of repentance.
As I remembered the revelation, it appeared. There are so many contradictions in the following description, but somehow they are not contradictory, but are, instead, completely harmonious. I say it appeared, but I didn’t see anything. I just knew it was there – just out of my reach. It was the Christ. It wasn’t Jesus, it was the Christ within Jesus. It was something that I knew I had the capability of knowing, of comprehending, of being. It was goodness, and perfection, and compassion, and love, and charity. It was something that I knew was the essence of Jesus, of the Father, even of the Godhead – whatever form that actually takes. I also knew that it was ultimately the essence of me, but that somehow I had to reach out and take that essence into me, to receive it as me. I had to know it. I knew somehow that this was what was meant by knowing Christ. I knew that this was the fruit of the tree of life. It was there, it is there, and it is waiting for me to partake of it.
After about 30 minutes, I got up and approached this on my knees. I continued my struggle (many things came into my mind, including Jacob’s wrestling with the Lord) to partake of this Christ, this fruit of the tree of life, this essence of the divine. I knew that this was just that – the essence of what it means to be divine. I tried to reach out and grab it and pull it to me, to absorb it into my own being. To some extent, I think I was successful, because I sort of feel like it’s part of me; that while there is still more to know – I feel like I can know it, and I desire to know it, more deeply and fully – I now at least know that it exists. I sense it, I feel it, I have knowledge of it, and I know that it is there for me to take onto me; into me; to become me. It is now part of my consciousness, and I can judge everything that exists against it because I sort of know what it is. I can tell if something is in harmony with it, or if it is not. I can tell if something is part of it, or if it is in conflict with it – whether some thought or action (actions, of course, being derivative of thought) would be absorbed harmoniously or be rejected by it as disharmonious.
In my effort to know it, I began to try to sense it using my senses. To the touch, it was at once silky soft and smooth, while at the same time hard and firm, unyielding, like the proverbial rock on which we are to build our house. To the taste, it was sweet; well, at least I knew it was sweet beyond sweetness, although I can’t say I actually tasted it, I just knew that it was so sweet that it would fill my soul. To the smell, it was fresh, clean, crisp – like going out on a winter morning when the temperature is about 15 degrees and the skies are clear, and new snow blankets the ground and everything is just completely free of pollution. Its sound was like that of a soft, perpetual breeze but also like powerful rushing waters – both at the same time. It was peaceful but powerful, non-threatening but invincible and undeniable. To my sight, it was simply inviting. Fuzzy, soft, kind of like a multidimensional hourglass with a dark band around the middle. It was something easily penetrated, like a huge, billowy parachute that would absorb you, but also, like I’ve said, giving off a sense of pure, perfect power.
But there was another sense involved in my knowing of this Christ, this essence of the divine – perhaps an infinite number of senses; of forms of knowledge. It was like I somehow knew of the essence of all things. This essence of all things was contained in that soft, hard, sweet, fresh, clean, silent, powerful, billowy, amorphous existence. It was divine, but it wasn’t separate or unapproachable. It was mine, and it was Christ’s, and it belonged to the universe. I knew somehow that when I knew this, ,when I had made it me, that I would be one with Christ, and in harmony with the essence of the creation of all things divine, because somehow all things are divine, and that divinity was contained in this essence of which I now am aware.
I have much work to do, I think. I have to make this divine essence me, not part of me, but me. Somehow I know that doing so is redemption, sanctification, partaking of the fruit of the tree of life…it is eternal life. This perfection, this goodness, this righteousness, this love – it is real, and it is at the heart of all things. Once it fills me, there will be no room for anything else. It is light, and it will push out any darkness that I may be continuing to tolerate within me. The yearning that I felt, the desire that I felt – the need to make it part of me, to let it fill me, that was somehow me, the essence of me. It was the fulfillment of the measure of my creation. I saw it, I knew it, it was there. It is there! I know it now. I have seen it. I have felt it, touched it, smelled it, heard it, tasted it. I have known it and it knows me, and it waits for me to be one with it, heck it expects me to be one with it, because somehow it will not be complete until I am…until we all… are one with it.
So many things are coming together. I stand all amazed.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light – Matthew 11:30
A facebook friend mentioned recently that she asked the Lord, and I paraphrase, “why this has to be so hard”, and He responded, “It doesn’t”. I believe that.
When I was a child, I didn’t have a very close relationship with my father. That’s just the way it was; just the way He was. He died at a relatively early age, and I have long since recognized that he was just being who he was, that he didn’t know how to be any other way; and I look forward to the time when we are able to embrace, accepting each other, loving each other, for who we are, not in spite of who we are. One of the things I remember was that, if we ever worked together on something, like fixing the car, he had little patience for letting me do things and figure things out myself. He took over the work, and “working together” quickly devolved into me watching him do it. As a result, any time I participated in such a project, it was either out of guilt because I knew he didn’t really want me to help but he asked me anyway (his guilt), or resulted in guilt because I couldn’t ever be good enough. Aren’t families great?
This morning I prayed, asking the Lord to help me become a “more nimble servant”; to teach me, guide me, etc. I asked ( asked of myself, really) how this instruction would manifest itself, and I quickly realized that it would be the exact opposite of my instructional experiences with my father. I understood that the Lord’s instruction would be very hands off, with guidance and insight offered, but not imposed. This, of course, leaves me in a situation where I need to be aware of when my thoughts, actions, and feelings are counter-productive to my desire to become a more nimble servant. In other words, I need to be open, inviting correction or instruction, and receiving it willingly. Otherwise, the instruction may well go unnoticed, un-received, and unproductive; and my sincere, even passionate desire to become a more nimble servant is likely to go unrealized.
So, I’ve presented two concepts early on in this essay. First – Christ’s way is easy. Second, I need to be constantly aware of and sensitive to the Lord’s instruction, because it will never be forced upon me.
I think these two concepts are actually integrated with each other. In other words, if I can learn to be constantly aware of and sensitive to the Lord’s instruction, not throwing up roadblocks to that instruction, His way will indeed be easy, and His burden will be light. As awareness of this truth came to me this morning, I continued to pray and, as so often happens, little bits of knowledge and understanding started coming together into a knowable truth, kind of like the atoms of Captain Kirk and Spock being reconstituted in the transporter on the star ship Enterprise – they existed before, but had yet to be organized (or re-organized) into a recognizable form.
Here’s that recognizable (I hope) form. If I’ve invited Christ to abide in me, and I hope to have Him honor my invitation, I need make sure my carnal manifestation, my body ,my temple, His abode, is a place where He is comfortable abiding. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfectly clean all the time, but it has to be comfortable enough that His hope for a fruitful harvest is greater than any discomfort I might inflict on Him from time to time. To put it another way, my thoughts and feelings need to be as pure, smooth, uplifting, and light-filled as possible if I am to be considered a gracious host.
As I have pointed out so many times before, the scripture D&C 67:10 comes to mind:
And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you stripyourselves from jealousies and fears, and humbleyourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.
There are conditions in this scripture that may not apply to me or you or to this particular topic, but I choose to grab that meaty phrase, “…strip yourselves of jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me…” and hang on to it ferociously. I choose to adapt it to myself, to my own life, and to believe that, whether I’ve been called to this ministry or not (let’s not forget, of course, that D&C 4 makes it clear that if we have the desire to serve, we are called), this scripture is a key to removing the elements of my carnal nature that might make His abiding in me uncomfortable. I choose to think that this stripping yourselves, etc. describes the rejection of pride, and that there is a strong correlation between rending the veil and seeing the Lord’s face, as specifically promised in this verse, and having Him choose to abide in me, instructing me in how I can become a more nimble servant. I choose to think that if I can fulfill this requirement, rejecting jealousies and fears, and along with that pride and all of its base manifestations, the windows of heaven will indeed open up to me, and the separation between me and the Lord, and between me and you, can indeed be healed. I choose to believe that the veil will be rent, and that the Lord will manifest Himself to me in whatever way He, in His loving wisdom, will choose. I choose to believe that in doing these things, I offer to Him an invitation that, as with the brother of Jared, He is unable to refuse.
Ok, so where’s the easy part? If you’ve thought much about it at all, you realize, as I do, that stripping oneself of jealousies and fears is nowhere near easy. It’s not even in the same universe as “easy”.
Well, I think I have a clue. The secret to this being easy lies in adopting a personal “zero tolerance” policy – zero tolerance for any thought, feeling, emotion, or especially action, that is not peaceful. Yep, here we have a pretty simple standard. We need to be peaceful (can you say “peaceable followers of Christ?). I figure you’re all very much like me. We KNOW when we’re engaging in thoughts and feelings that are not Christ-like, that are not born out of charity. We KNOW when we have thoughts that generate from and perpetuate contention, or seek to control others. We just need to implement a zero tolerance policy for these things.
Upon the death of President Monson, there were a lot of things posted on facebook about Elder Nelson’s impending ascension to the top spot in the LDS Church. Some of those things were not particularly nice. Sarcasm, criticism, and a mocking tone were readily apparent. And this was among us who supposedly have risen above such things – those of us who proclaim to be seeking Zion. Of course, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon (no pun intended – really!) to know that such expressions of disdain and disrespect for another human being, or an organization of human beings, are not going to get us, either individually or collectively, any closer to being ready for the Lord to bring again His Zion.
If I want my journey into His presence, however His presence manifests itself, to be fulfilled; if I want Him to be so comfortable abiding in me, instructing me, on how to be a more nimble servant, then I need to learn to be very, very quick to reject these things as they almost inevitably pop into my consciousness. The more diligent I am in rejecting them, the more hope, even confidence, Christ will have that abiding in me, in spite of the occasional discomfort I might inflict upon Him, will bear sweet fruit. Furthermore, the more I practice rejecting them, the more sensitive I become to them; the more uncomfortable they will be for me, too, and, of course, the more I will become Christ-like. You see, I think these thoughts, fueled not by charity, but by jealousy and fear and pride, are the real sins that we must repent of – the sins that Christ cannot look upon with the least allowance. These thoughts – the precursors of any action – are the things that separate us from Christ and keep us from recognizing, let along carrying out, His will. This is one of the key messages of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ sought to instruct us how to go about fulfilling the two great commandments.
It occurs to me that I have not yet defined what it means to be a more nimble servant. Well, actually, I have. A “more nimble servant” is one who does not have to think hard in order to determine what the Lord’s will is because it has become instinctive for them; the Lord’s will has become part of their nature; because this more nimble servant has stripped himself (or herself – more likely herself, actually) of the thoughts, feelings, emotions – the jealousies and fears and pride – that separate us from Christ, and hide from us His true nature, and thus His will. To know Him (john 17:3) is to have eternal life, is to be one with Him, is to be free of these pollutions that prevent us from ascending to the realization of all that we were created to be.
In my prayer this morning, as I said, I prayed that I might become a “more nimble servant”, a servant who doesn’t need to stop and think about whether I’m doing the right thing or not, because not only is the Lord comfortable abiding in me, but my own nature is such that His will is my will, His nature is my nature. I have no illusions about the process of becoming a more nimble servant. There remain many pollutions that must be cleansed before these conditions will have prevailed. I have to begin with brutal honesty, addressing my fears, my resentments, my judgments and prejudices before Him. I think He can handle the honesty, offered in humility, but not deception. I think nothing will more certainly drive Him from me, and damn this process into fruitlessness, than deception.
Still, I have faith unto action. I have no control over how the baptism of fire is (or was) manifested unto me. I have no control over how the Lord chooses (or chose) to manifest His promised comforts unto me. But I have control over the things I mentioned above; and I have faith in the concept that if I can purify myself, thus opening myself up to His instructive wisdom and purifying love, I can fully receive every promise He has ever made – and those promises are many. And you know what? I don’t care about the promises themselves. I really don’t. I care about the fact that He has offered them, and that he paid a great price for the privilege of offering them, and I simply cannot tolerate the thought of leaving these gifts on the table, simply because I am too fearful, or jealous, or prideful, or selfish to honor them.
“My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Why in the world should it be difficult for us to invite peace to rule our thoughts? Why is it not easy to become a more nimble servant? Christ says that we are to take upon us His yoke. His yoke is free of jealousies and fears and pride. If we take upon us His yoke, it will be easy. We know. We have the ability to recognize. This is in our control. On this we can exercise faith unto repentance, and then unto action. We just need to adopt a zero tolerance policy for anything that tweaks or dims that light of Christ within us. If we do this, then we can become one with Him, His sons and daughters…His more nimble servants.
The following is the result of years of study and pondering and learning from the scriptures as well as, most recently, the books “A Course in Miracles”, “The Aquarian Gospel”, and Max Skousen’s discussion on Moroni 7, among countless other inputs along the way, including 20 years of prayer and teaching from the Lord. What I have discovered is that these sources, some of them canonized and some not, do not contradict each other. The non-canonized sources do, however, often shed new light, providing a new perspective on the canonized scriptures. This new light and perspective can be perceived as being in contradiction of how we have been told to interpret the canonized scriptures, but the correlation between all of these sources, canonized or not, is, in my mind, readily apparent when all are taken together. This essay, then is the result of me questioning the traditional interpretation of the canonized scriptures as manifested in most all widely accepted Christian bodies of doctrine. In other words, this is me questioning the “…philosophies of men, mingled with scripture”.
There have been some few among us who seem to think that because I share and discuss these things, I have mastered them or fully implemented them in my life. Such is not the case, and I have never claimed that it was. I’m just trying like everyone else to reach a little higher every day. Continuing on, then:
What if, when The Lectures on Faith teaches that it is essential that one acquire “…an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will”, it actually means that the course of our life is by default according to God’s will, and that we must gain knowledge of this truth if we are to gain eternal life?
What if, again from Lectures on Faith, having a “…correct idea of his character, perfection, and attributes” reveals not a judgmental, rules-based God, but a God filled with love and charity; a God who is forgiving, understanding, patient, and kind; a God whose “perfection” extends to His creations and who, in His love, did not create beings who were destined or even likely to fall short of the “measure of their creation”?
What if gaining this knowledge of God’s true character, and of the fact that our “…course of life…is according to his will” is what is meant in John 17:3: “and this is life eternal, to know thee the only true God…”? (emphasis mine)
What if, in thinking that we can or must force, or will, or discipline ourselves (and others) to choose to be good, and righteous, and loving, we are actually denying our own endowed nature, denying His nature, and creating a society that contradicts the very nature of God’s creation?
What if truth is that we are perfect as we are. What if truth is that the path we are pursuing is always as it should be – that even in the event of what appears to be rebellion against God, we are merely Gods learning what it means to be gods? What if truth is that we are all saved, and we will all eventually learn to be like Christ, to be Christ, because such is the measure of our creation?
What if, even though we say we desire peace, we really don’t know what to do with it, so we tend to sabotage peace in our lives. What if we actually fear peace because, without some sort of opposition or contention, our ego – the natural man – would no longer be able to control our lives; the ego could no longer validate its necessity or existence? What if this is at least part of what is meant by “the natural man is an enemy to God” – an enemy to peace, addicted to fear and opposition?
What if we’ve been lied to for millenia? What if “commandments”, as we perceive them – a checklist of dos and don’ts – represent a “lower law” for those of us who desire to be told what to do and what not to do; who are still clinging to the original lie that knowledge of good and evil makes us as the gods? What if commandments are for those of us (all but a very, very few of us) who don’t understand simply that He awaits, only needing for us to recognize Him for who He really is – our friend, our brother; indeed the prototype of the saved man because HE discovered the truth and embraced it, even glorified it? What if love is the only truth, and all else represents lies and illusion?
What if the principle of sacrifice is a lie? What if we only think we sacrifice because we place value on something but still choose to relinquish it to the cosmos? Would Christ really even ask us to sacrifice something that had real value – eternal value? What if, instead, we recognized that anything that is not eternal has no real value, and losing it, or giving it away, is really no sacrifice at all? What if sacrifice is an illusion, or what if sacrifice is merely an exercise in learning to recognize those things that have true value? What if, even worse, sacrifice far too often degrades into an attempt to bribe the Lord, to force Him to accept us, to redeem us, to sanctify us – all by giving up something whose value was illusory in the first place?
What if the only things that have value are things that, if we give them away, we still have them; their presence has not been transferred, but instead has been multiplied? In other words, if I give you something, and I no longer have it, then it does not have true value – it’s value is carnal and ego-driven. If, on the other hand, I give you something – share something – and I still have it, then that thing has value. I speak of things such as knowledge, love, and kindness. Unfortunately, the same thing applies with things of what we might call negative value. If I give you hatred, or lies, or fear – I still have them, but now you have them too (if you choose to receive them) and their presence has still been multiplied.
What if “partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” is a metaphor for establishing standards against which WE are able to judge ourselves and others; thereby perpetuating a separation between ourselves and God (when we judge ourselves against God we create or perpetuate separation), and between ourselves and others (judging ourselves against others, whether favorably or unfavorably)? What if we cling to this method of judgment because we think we we are in control of how it is applied? I repeat from above; what if Satan lied to us when he said that, having knowledge of good and evil, we would be like the Gods? What if having all that knowledge of good and evil, and applying it, actually just separates us from God?
What if partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil sows the seeds of Comparison that guarantee that we will never ascend to a state of peace and love because we will always be separated from God and from each other?
What if Comparison leads inexorably to Competition, which leads likewise to Contention, which results in exercising Control over the choices, actions, and lives of others, or, conversely, surrenders control over our own sacred agency to others?
What if these “4 C’s” comprise a perpetual cycle that ensures that we will never be able to abide the presence of God, because we remain sinners, polluting each others’ agency, acting in the absence of love; sustained by fear, relying on our knowledge of good and evil rather than the grace and goodness of God…forever incapable of obeying the two great commandments – Love God and Love your Neighbor? What if, furthermore, these forces – these “4 C’s” – are the antithesis of God, completely contrary to His nature? Can we then ever, as long as we cling to these things, have a true understanding of His “character, perfection, and attributes”?
What if, while Jesus was a man, he discovered, acknowledged, nurtured, and glorified the Christ within Himself, (thus becoming Jesus Christ or Jesus the Christ, receiving grace for grace) and that the way in which we become one with Him is by discovering, acknowledging, nurturing, and glorifying the Christ within us? What if the binding unity that we seek – oneness in Christ, even being of one heart and one mind in Zion – is actually that very Christ within us?
What if “Christ” is the love of God, or the power, the goodness, the perfect nature of the universe; love, integrity, righteousness; and Jesus the Christ was gloriously the first man who discovered and, in turn, manifested that Christ in mortality, showing us the example of all that we are created to be – again acting as the prototype of the “saved” man? What if salvation is actually the result of discovering and manifesting the Christ within us?
What if “Faith in Jesus Christ” means to have faith that this man, Jesus, was who He said He was, that he did what He said He did, and that He showed us what we must do, indeed can do, if we are to know Him and become one with Him and thus fulfill the measure of our creation and have eternal life? What if this is what is meant by “…If you love me, keep my commandments”?
What if forsaking the 4 C’s and glorifying the Christ within us is the ultimate meaning of repentance? What if everything else is just fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and is either only good as a stopgap measure to lead us to true repentance, or as a sure-fire way to prevent us from every arriving at true repentance? What if repentance is recognizing who we are, rejecting the lies perpetuated through the tree of knowledge of good and evil; seeking to accept everyone else for who they are, where they are, and ceasing to fear; and ceasing to fear because we have faith in the very nature of our loving, perfect creator?
What if this harsh, judgmental, competitive, contentious world that we live in – a world largely defined by our competitive relationships with each other, is itself an illusion – an illusion created by us – by the ego or natural man – in order to perpetuate the ego’s existence, creating opposition as a tool to ensure our individuality and separation (the ego)? What if we are participants in our own damnation or separation from God, and we don’t even recognize it?
What if, as one begins to transcend these principles of babylon, of our fallen nature, of life lived clinging to the knowledge of good and evil, we get really lonely, because no one understands us? What if our relationships with people start to seem shallower and shallower, because there’s just no way we can explain what we’re learning, and how we’re trying to live our lives? What if we begin to sorrow in our alienation? What if we begin to discover that only Christ understands us, because He’s been there?
What if, as we begin to truly repent, we start to come across people, each one like a new, bright star in Christ’s constellation, who do understand, and who are learning the same things? What if this happens very slowly, because such people are very rare, but when it does, you are immediately attracted to them, simply because they understand, and nobody else does, and because they, too, have discovered that Christ is the one that truly understands (because He’s been there), and that they, too, now truly know Him, because they, too, have a correct understanding of His “character, perfection, and attributes”, and have begun to discover the Christ within themselves.
What if Zion is actually an organic gathering of these people who have truly repented (forsaken these “4 C’s”) and have exercised faith in the Christ in Jesus and within themselves; a gathering of people who, as a result, truly know Christ (…all shall know Him) and have ascended or transcended this fallen existence into what we might call translation or a terrestrial state; a gathering that happens naturally,, simply because it’s a lonely, lonely world when nobody else understands you or the forces that define your existence?
What if this is all the Lord’s plan? What if this will all unfold perfectly if we will simply love Him and our neighbor, as He has commanded us, and otherwise let Him do His work? What if the Lord really means it when He says, as He has told me multiple times, “Trust me. Relax.”?
Diana and I have been traveling for the past month, largely visiting family. Since we moved up to North Idaho, and don’t really have money for plane tickets like we used to, we drove. A lot. Salt Lake City, LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City. I’ve stayed abreast of most of the goings on with the Statement of Principles. I’ve had thoughts and opinions, but have largely been pleased that most of the things I might have to say had already been said before I even got around to adding my voice. This is a good thing – a very good thing. There are so many good, talented, well-spoken, well-meaning people among us. It’s great to see.
However, there is one thought that I think is very important, and which I don’t think has been expressed among us – at least not in the way I have constructed it in my mind. I would like to share that thought today.
Zion will be like a marriage – although one without benefits except among monogamous couples joined by God. I think herein lies the secret of achieving mutual agreement. I think herein lies the secret to becoming one even while we are clearly individuals with individual personalities, talents, dreams, hopes, fears, etc.
I consider it to be the greatest blessing of my life to have the kind of marriage I have with Diana. One of the defining characteristics of this marriage is the way in which we are united – the way in which we are one. We do not always agree on matters, but we always achieve mutual agreement. Then, when we do, there is rarely any “I told you so” between us.
You see, once we have agreed (after honest and open discussion) on a course of action, even if we initially disagreed, we move forward together, in unity, trying to insure together that the agreed upon course of action results in the desired outcome. We don’t seek to prove that one or the other of us were right, subtly seeking to sabotage the decision that we initially disagreed on. Actually, we tend to rejoice when one of us is proven to have been correct. Every such experience makes us stronger and more confident in our combined wisdom and ability. And if the chosen course of action eventually is proven to not have been ideal, the other is quick to admit their error, and bow to the gained wisdom of the experience, seeking together a new course.
In our marriage, there is no fear of the others’ success, only rejoicing. There is no jealousy, only love and sacrifice. Pride – usually exhibited by me – is quickly recognized and extinguished by honoring the wisdom of, and the need for, humility between us. Anger can no longer flourish, because we so quickly recognize the pain it causes, and how quickly it can destroy our oneness – which oneness we have learned to cherish greatly.
I pray that many of you will recognize this type of relationship in your own marriage. I describe this, though, because I think this is what the Lord is leading us toward in preparation for Zion. This is the ultimate goal of all marriage covenants, whether it be between two earthly individuals (and Christ, of course); or between an individual and Christ; or between a covenant people and Christ. This type of sociality is the goal of the scripture project and its capstone, the statement of principles. If we can learn to come to an agreement, even if we initially disagree, and sincerely and energetically work together to bring about the best possible outcome of that course of action, without harboring any anticipation of an “I told you so” moment, should things not work out as desired; this is the oneness that the Lord seeks. It’s all in our hearts. It’s the difference between a faithful bride and a prideful, adulterous one. Do we seek individually to be right, or do we seek for the best possible outcome of our mutual agreement, no matter how imperfect we might initially and individually think it is?
Even a majority decision can become mutuality if we can work and live this way together. If one is participating in a council or committee meeting, and all voices have been spoken and heard, and a decision is made by majority vote – mutuality is still attained when each member of the council says to themselves, “Well, we came together to decide on a course of action. We did so. Even though I don’t think this is the optimal course of action; even though I’m in the minority; I will still do my best to bring about its success, and if we experience failure, then we will have experienced failure together, and we will all come together again, having mutually gained the wisdom of the experience, and seek a wiser course of action – and we will seek it together!”
This kind of mutuality, this kind of cooperation, this kind of love, is the key to Zion. This is what the Lord is trying to teach us. It is a simple lesson, and it is one of the lessons that I am most grateful for in my life. The opportunity to learn this lesson with such a meek and wonderful person as my wife is just an added blessing. I must grudgingly admit that she has made it infinitely easier for me just by her nature. “Yes, sweetie, I know. You told me so.”
Can we each commit ourselves to making it easy for our neighbors to learn this lesson though our humility, our honesty, our selflessness, and our charity? Can we each be an example of this type of selfless love? Can we do this so that we might become one with each other; achieving unity and mutuality; while still extolling the differences that make us each a unique and, hopefully, complementary entity in the Lord’s universe? If we can do this, I truly believe we can become the covenant people the Lord has sought since the beginning. I truly believe we can achieve the mutuality that He requires of us. I truly believe we will be able to learn and apply the lessons that will bring about the oneness, the unity, the social and spiritual perfection, that must eventually define His Zion.
As we prepare to leave for Boise today, I’m experiencing doubt. I’ve found in my life it’s not good to run away from things, especially fears, but it is better to face them. Why the doubts? Let me count the ways:
- There are some who talk about secret things they know about Denver and/or the inner circle that they won’t share (c’mon guys – that’s like saying, “I know a secret, but I’m not gonna tell you. Neener, Neener, Neener!)
- People whose voice I have respected in the past who are so vocal against this covenant idea. What’s their reason. Is it just fear? Some deep seated ego competition with the persona that we’ve created for Denver?
- The idea of an inner circle period. I guess that shouldn’t bother me. I have an inner circle that I communicate with – private things that I wouldn’t share publicly. It seems like a pretty natural development in any community. Am I just jealous because I’m not included in it?
- This whole John Doe thing – not because of John Doe, but because of how the rumor mill just shot sky high almost immediately. I’ve seen judgment and self-righteousness shoot out of control – accusers at every turn. Lots of “shake my head” moments. “WHERE’S THE LOVE AND FORGIVENESS?”What kind of people am I joining up with? Of course, here I am judging and accusing the accusers
- Things I’ve heard of others within our group who are equally inappropriate in their actions – ahh, more rumors.
- My own knowledge that I rely much more on personal revelation than I do deep scripture study. I rely on love, not rules. This is my strength. Is it betraying me at this stage in my journey?
- Awareness of my own fallibility in receiving revelation. Am I being told to do only what I want to do? Well not any more, because I’m feeling like I’m doing what I’ve been told to do by the Lord in spite of the doubts. In other words, I’m braving the hurricane, kicking and screaming, trusting my first revelation before all the opposition began swirling with such force. You see, this is a perfect conundrum – one so evident in the LDS church. “If you have doubts – that’s just opposition from Satan”. Sure to keep you in line, eh?
- We have created a cult of Denver. It exists. He may not want it. I and others may not want it, but it has happened. Is Denver secretly soaking this up and manipulating it for his own purposes? I’ve never met the man. How do I know for sure?
So – why am I not running away, screaming at the top of my lungs?
Well, let me count the ways:
- Nothing as amazing as the opportunity to be part of Zion is going to be easy.
- What is happening here is unprecedented. It has never been done. Searching the scriptures for precedence is fruitless. There may be patterns, to be sure, but we’re breaking new ground here. The limited prophecies that we have – what are they going to look like as they unfold? How can so many be so sure that this is not EXACTLY the way it is going to look?
- Despite all the railing about Denver and his possible motivations – this is NOT about him. It’s about each of us and Christ – learning of His nature (guess what – His nature is LOVE – CHARITY!) Regardless of what others may be doing to elevate Denver into a role created by us – I am not doing that. I do not want to do that. I only want to stand side-by-side – all of us together, to embark on this journey.
- What an amazing opportunity to learn charity! We have a group of people, each with their own particular brand of weakness and insecurity, each with their own manifestation of sin – including myself – who need to experience the pure love of Christ. They need to see it, they need to receive it, they need to give it. How is Charity made manifest? Through human relationships! I can have all the charity in the world in my heart, but if I don’t manifest it through relationships, it does no good. If I’m the only man in the world, and I go around giving love, is it really love? I don’t believe we’re going to start Zion in perfection. The Lord will mold us into Zion, and we have to start somewhere. Then we have to let Him do His work.
- I cannot believe that, if I am moving forward with the purest of motivations, even in the face of intellectual (not spiritual) opposition such as that swirling around us, Christ is going to condemn me or abandon me. Warnings have been voiced – “You will suffer! You don’t know how hard this is going to be! There will be trials!”. My favorite – from someone unwilling to move forward with this, “Let me know how that works out for you!”.
- There really is nothing in this covenant that I have not already committed to. It’s not a new thing – it’s just a shared thing.
- This people, this community, if nothing else, manifests hope. We hope for salvation. We hope for peace. We hope for Zion. We hope for love. We hope for redemption. We hope to see the Lord’s face, each individually. We hope to experience Christ walking among us. We who accept this covenant will move forward in faith. Lots of faith. Tons of faith. Hard faith.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Well, now there’s a scriptural precedent – one I can sink my own teeth into.
So, my friends. This post has been therapeutic for me. I feel much better now. I’ve had to type it in a hurry, so please forgive any clumsiness or lack of polish. As we move forward, let us do so in love, because love is the only manifestation of human endeavor that is eternal. Everything else is a temporary illusion. Faith and hope exist only to lead us to charity – the pure love of Christ. As we exercise this faith and hope, let us not forget the ultimate goal, and I hope and pray that we will soar on its wings.