4 Comments

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.

13 Comments

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.

6 Comments

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).

8 Comments

Are We On the Lord’s Bus?

Zion busSeveral years ago, the general manager of one of my clients, who had just taken over the company, talked about his employees needing to be “on the bus” or he couldn’t keep them on. I now understand that the phrase “on the bus” was referencing a best-selling book called “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon. I have not read this book, but the meaning of the analogy was immediately obvious…are you going to help me get to where I’m going or not? Are you on the bus, or not? If not, then you probably have no place on this journey.

I have had a couple of occasions recently to study and ponder Alma Chapter 13, the chapter where Alma is expounding to the people of Ammonihah (following the standoff that he and Amulek had with Zeezrom) on the high priests that were ordained from “before the foundations of the world according to the foreknowledge of God. Verses 1 through 3:

And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.

And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.

And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

As I read this, it became clear to me that these high priests were those who, through their “having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith” had demonstrated that they were “on the bus”. In other words, they got it. They understood what the Elohim were trying to do with this great universe that had been created, and they truly wanted to be part of it – even though, perhaps, they couldn’t see the end from the beginning. That, after all, is where the faith comes in, right? Verses 10-11 say:

Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

So, for their faithfulness, they were sanctified and their garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

Now, why did Alma even teach this sermon? He was preaching to a largely wicked and clearly unconverted people who were destined to be destroyed in short order by the Lamanite armies (chapter 16). Was he preaching a message of hope – a message that, if you exercise exceeding faith and choose good over evil, you, too, can be one of these great high priests, and have your garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb? If that’s true, does that mean that there were among these wicked people some who were fore-ordained from before the foundation of the world to this high and holy calling?

Fast forward to our day. Does this message, left for us by Mormon, suggest that there are those among us who are priests who were called and ordained after the order of the Son of God? Are there those among us today who have already demonstrated that they are on the Lord’s bus? Do they know who they are? How might their ordination and calling be revealed to them? Verse 4 says:

And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

It seems from this that there was a point – a probationary period, if you will – where many had the opportunity to either accept or reject the Spirit of God. Some passed the test, but others didn’t. Have we been tested? Are we being tested?

I want to be on the Lord’s bus. I want to accept the Spirit of God, choose righteousness and goodness over evil, and exercise exceeding faith. If you’re reading this, I suspect that you do, too. Actually, I’d like to think I am (and you are) already on the bus, and that He knows it, but we’ll have to wait to see who’s standing once Elijah and the city of Enoch (and Salem?) have returned, the Temple has been built, and Christ has returned to dwell among us before any such things are made known publicly. I hope I’m there. You hope you’re there. I hope you’re there. Maybe we can all be on the bus together! Maybe we’ll all find out some time soon that we are indeed among those High Priests who were called and ordained, who were on the Zion bus.

But is there another possible scenario? Whether or not I passed some previous test, or even had the opportunity, doesn’t change the fact that I dearly want to be on the Lord’s bus. I know that babylon is the illusion, and that Zion is the eternal reality. So, what if, by boarding the Lord’s bus now, we are actually punching our ticket in this probation to be called and ordained before the foundation of some future world? What if THIS probation is the testing ground for us, while those who were already fore-ordained are playing their unique role in the drama of this world, while we wait to find out if we get to play a similar role in another drama to take place at another time?

What if? Either way, my choices remain the same – I want to get on the bus. Now, finally, we’re to the point of this post. Now is where I ask, “What does it take to get on the bus?” I’ve recently discovered a few clues that I think are essential if we are to move forward, whether we’re in the process of realizing our individual ordination from a previous time, or whether we’re in the process of being tested to prove ourselves for some future role in some future world. If I may:

The Lord’s checklist is very small. Believe in me. Repent. Be baptized. Keep my commandments (Love God and love your neighbor pretty much sums it up – all the rest are simply elucidating the details). To be sure, this is a mighty list, one of eternal depth and breadth…it’s just not very long. Take “Believe in me” and “Repent”, for example. In my mind, this means that we reject this fallen world, with all of its insidious teachings about competition and survival, ownership of stuff, and “God helps those who help themselves”, and truly receive (believe in) Zion, which leads us to…

The Sermon on the Mount (or at Bountiful) is not just nice advice. Actually, it pretty much sums up what it means to “believe in me and repent”. It’s crazy stuff when viewed from within babylon, but if we can’t recognize that this is the essence of His entire ministry; that it represents the framework of a Zion society; that living this way is what it means to be “on the bus”, then we’re going to miss out entirely. You want commandments? Take these! I would like to expound on just a couple –

“Consider the Lilies” (Matthew 6:28). The Lord was not kidding when he shared this. He REALLY wants us to trust Him – that He knows our needs and that if we trust Him and devote ourselves to doing the work He would have us do, He will provide for us. He is not kidding when He talks about idolatry, because the worst form of idolatry is to trust ourselves and our own efforts more than we trust in His promises.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Zion)” Matthew 5:5. My definition of “meek”? That would be those who refuse to compromise the agency of others. The ways in which we undermine the agency of others are myriad and they can be very sneaky and underhanded – so much so that we don’t even realize we’re doing it. If we cannot learn to set aside our own jealousies and fears and allow others to follow their path back to Heaven, we will never be able to live in Zion.

I don’t think these, or for that matter, the entire Sermon on the Mount, are considered by the world to be commandments, but I am of the opinion that if we want to be on the Zion bus, we’d better start treating them as such.

We’ll never learn to consecrate until we consecrate. You can’t learn to swim until you get in the water. No amount of instruction will ever suffice. No amount of practice swimming out of the water is going to teach you to swim. It’s that simple. So, at some point, we’re all going to have to “just do it”.

In summary, studying Alma 13 prompted me to consider what it means to be on the bus. I’m pretty sure everybody who reads that chapter wonders at some level, “how does this apply to me?” I certainly asked myself, “Am I among those who were fore-ordained?”, but then I realized that, whether I was fore-ordained or not, my desire, my choices remain the same. I’m going to rise up and seek to do all that the Lord calls me to do, and I’m going to try to do it with exceeding faith, humility, and meekness. I may struggle…heck, I may fall flat on my face, but I refuse to allow babylon to convince me that miracles have ceased, that the gifts of the spirit are a things of the past, or that the Lord cannot use me to do great works simply because I am imperfect. If I’m willing, He will use me. If you’re willing, He will use you.

HOWEVER, there is one very important thing that must happen if we are to get on the Zion bus: Leaving babylon requires a whole paradigm shift. It’s not about leaving behind books and movies and the internet, or about moving to an exceeding high and remote location and learning to live off the grid, or even about building a city of refuge or a New Jerusalem. It is totally about leaving behind the idols that replace Christ – the ownership, competition, covetousness, jealousy, and fear that cause us to worship our stuff instead of Christ. We must trust HIM and the promises He has given us. Manna in the desert? Quail on the plains? Why not???!!!! The Sermon on the Mount is real! It contains the framework for Zion. It’s not metaphorical or just pretty advice. We’re actually supposed to make this part of our existence.

Zion will happen. It is happening. Now is the time. Let’s get on the bus. Let’s learn to consider the lilies; to surrender our cloak, walk the second mile, and turn the other cheek; to walk in meekness because that’s what Christ did, and He gave everything. If He is the prototype of the saved man as stated in the Lectures on Faith, can we really do anything less? Then, let us rejoice when Zion, in her beauty, rises.

5 Comments

Conversation with God #7

The following conversation did take place. It is not an exact transcript, but the general idea is accurate. For example, the whole conversation took most of an hour, and even carried over into the day. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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

Me: Lord, please. May I have permission to heal my friend? She suffers so much! Every day is a mighty, frustrating, maddening struggle for her. I don’t know how she goes on!

Christ: My son, are you willing to sacrifice <this> for her? If your sacrifice would heal her, would you do it?

Me: Oh, no! Not <that>! (Much thought, pondering, preparing myself – many minutes).

Me: Yes, Lord – obviously, if my giving up <this> would mean that she would be healed of her affliction, of course I will do that. (Gulp!)

Christ: Good. I mean, after all, I gave my LIFE that YOU might be healed. I’m only asking you to sacrifice <this>, and only for 30 days.

Me: Yes, Lord. I understand. So, if I give this up for 30 days, you promise she will be healed, right?

Christ: Well, not necessarily.

Me: Huh?

Christ: What percent of a chance that she would be healed would be enough for you to be willing to make this commitment? Would you make this sacrifice for a 50% chance? 20 percent? 2 percent?

Me: Wow, Lord – I don’t know. I see what you’re saying…you gave your life while I’m only giving <this> for 30 days. I’m asking for a guarantee, but you gave all knowing that only a tiny percentage of those who could be healed, who could be saved, would actually look upon your gift and validate your sacrifice. Gee, I guess I would do this even if the chance is infinitesimally small.

Christ: Good, my son. That’s right. Now, Scoot – you don’t really need to sacrifice in her behalf. You see, I already sacrificed that she might be healed – cleansed every whit. She only needs to believe..believe in me and that I did this for her. Heal her with confidence in my power and authority…which I give to you this day, in my Holy name.  Amen.

3 Comments

Zion, Sacrifice, and the Empathy Ratio

The very fact that we think of our service to the Lord as a sacrifice is a sign that we are clinging to babylon.

Christ invites us to come unto Him and receive glory beyond glory. He invites us to become beings washed clean of all iniquity, clothed in light and truth…to know Him and to receive eternal life. “…men are that they might have joy”. He has invited mankind from the very beginning to establish a Zion society – where everyone is of one heart and one mind and where there are no poor among them. In what conceivable way could the pursuit of such things be considered a sacrifice? Only if we still love babylon, with its fear, its unbelief, its stuff and its culture of competition, would we consider the process (or act) of leaving those things behind to be a sacrifice.

If we believe in Christ, if we believe in His promises, why would we not believe that Zion is possible – even a certainty? Why would we not leave everything behind in our desire to find it?

I do not claim to have answered all these questions for myself. Perhaps, though, having asked the question, I can begin finding the answers.

The Empathy Ratio: The percentage of time that you spend thinking of the needs of others vs. your own personal needs. If we trust Christ – if we consider the lilies – our empathy ratio should rise, should it not? What’s your empathy ratio? 20%? 70%? 90%? I would bet most mothers have an empathy ratio approaching 80%! Christ? Probably in the 90% range.  It’s humbling when I take this measure of myself.

5 Comments

Cherishing the Sacrament

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy son, and witness unto thee, O God the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Moroni 4:3)

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen. (Moroni 5:2)

Over the past months, I have chosen to partake of the sacrament daily. As a result, I have come to truly cherish this perhaps most holy of ordinances. While I am thankful for the things I have come to understand, I feel some regret that I didn’t understand this during the previous eighteen years.

This morning, I was praying about some things that have been bothering me. I have been exposed over the past year to the “High Holy Days”, or the celebrations and observances (feasts and festivals) specified in the Law of Moses. I have gained reverence for the Law of Moses, but I’ve also observed that it can still be used as it was in the days of the Scribes and Pharisees – as a standard against which people can be judged. Such judgment is primarily wielded by those who have greater knowledge than the general public. It (greater knowledge) is a great tool of the adversary today just as it was then – if it is used without charity and meekness. The great irony about this is that such judgment – such power – is only effective because those over whom it is wielded are truly meek and seeking to do the Lord’s will, which they believe in their ignorance is being communicated through those with greater “knowledge”. Knowledge without meekness is a very dangerous thing.

Anyway, I was praying about this topic – the strict observance of certain aspects of the Law of Moses – when I was reminded that these observances and ordinances, in fact, all observances and ordinances, are merely reminders and pointers to Christ. Observances remind and point to Christ, while ordinances seem to carry with them, in addition, a covenant (with promised blessings) that must be ratified and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise before they are of any efficacy.

The sacrament, in my mind, is the exception to this rule. While it certainly points to Christ, it doesn’t need to be ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise before the implied promises (receiving the offered power of the atonement and always having His spirit to be with us) can be fulfilled. The sacrament is immediate. The sacrament is not pointing to Christ as much as it is communing with Christ. I have been discovering just how joyous a communion that can be.

And Were Filled

In 3 Nephi 18:3-9, when the Lord introduces the sacrament to the Nephites, He first gives it to the 12 recently appointed “disciples”, and then commands them to administer the bread to the multitude. In both cases, the phrase “…had eaten and were filled…” is used. A similar phrase (…and did drink of it and were filled) is used to describe how the wine was to be administered. I had a discussion recently where it was speculated that perhaps the “and were filled” terminology didn’t refer to being physically filled at all, but to being spiritually filled. There is something almost intangible in the terminology and phrasing (drink “of it”) that belies the idea that “were filled” refers to a physical filling. For example, it doesn’t say they ate until they were filled, but they ate and were filled. This idea, of course, changes the context completely; invokes a much more spiritual content; and assigns an immediacy to this “communion” that I hadn’t readily recognized before. Furthermore, it is obvious to me that eating or drinking until we are literally “filled” is not a requirement of the sacrament – if it were, I might be leaving my morning ordinance increasingly fat and dangerously “happy”.

A Renewal?

It has been said that the sacrament is not a renewal of our baptismal covenants. However, for me, I think it is. When I was baptized, while I may not have specifically made all the promises in the sacrament prayers, in my heart I actually did make those promises. That was my intent. I very much promised that I would take upon myself His name, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. His promise, in return, was that I might always have His spirit to be with me. As I think about it further, perhaps it is not any sort of baptismal covenant that I am renewing.  Instead, perhaps it is actually a renewal of the Everlasting Covenant that I am renewing – that covenant that describes the fullness of Christ’s desired relationship with us.  Regardless of what interpretation you might hold, for me – it is a daily kneeling in humility and offering myself to Him again. It is indeed, for me, a Holy communion during which I promise and receive promises on a daily basis.

Burning the Sacrament Prayer into One’s Heart

There have been times when I have pictured myself spiritually kneeling before the father, uttering the sacrament prayer, and promising Him that I will do the things specified in the prayer. Those have been my most spiritual experiences with the sacrament. I can’t do this if I’m reading the prayer. I can only do this if I have memorized the prayer. Furthermore, it’s simply not the same if someone else is saying the prayer and I’m only listening. I have memorized the prayers (as have many others – this does not make me special) not only so that I can be prepared to administer even if scriptures are not available, but also so that I can focus on the words in this manner. Is it possible that we all might be more focused on the prayer itself, and therefore get more out of the sacrament, if we were to memorize it and say it (at least silently) along with the one who is blessing the sacrament?

Summary

In summary, I have truly come to cherish the ordinance of the sacrament. I feel that it is the most spiritual of all the ordinances we have been given because it is so immediate and because it is a personal communion with Christ. I believe that, at the very least, the phrase “…and were filled…” carries with it a double meaning, and that it is the spiritual fulfillment that is the true purpose of the sacrament. Furthermore, I have found great joy and more meaning in the sacrament as a result of memorizing the sacrament prayer, which has the effect of burning the prayer into my heart. I love my Savior. I live to serve Him. I don’t know how this depth of commitment to Him came about. I offered my life – not knowing what such an offer really entailed – and He accepted it. Then He set about preparing me for a life lived in His name. The preparation goes on and there is, as I have said so many times before, no turning back.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: