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Come Unto Me – Hear My Voice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seek His Voice?

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

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

Let me just cut to the chase on this topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try This

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

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

Insights

I want to make a couple of points about this:

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

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

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

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

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

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An Apostle’s Lament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Please Believe – A Love Story


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

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

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

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

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

IS THIS REALLY APOSTASY?

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

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

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

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

Payson Temple

Payson Temple

 

DISCERNING THE VOICE OF THE LORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXTRAORDINARY TIMES – EXTRAORDINARY FAITH

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

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

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

PLEASE BELIEVE

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

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

Scott and Diana

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Risk All to Gain All – A Very Simple Formula

I apologize in advance for being repetitive, as I have touched on this topic twice before:

https://scottstover.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/of-promises-safety-and-the-fullness-of-the-priesthood/

https://scottstover.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/comfort-in-zion/

riskdiceI also apologize in advance that this post will most certainly become highly rhetorical as I attempt to drive home my point, and that it will also likely become very emotional.

On second thought, I cannot really apologize at all, especially not for:

  • Repeating myself, because I feel strongly compelled to share this message, even for the third time. I feel impressed to say it 3 times, kind of like the Wo, Wo, Wo to those who will hear.  Perhaps you will need to get a third witness somewhere other than the pages of this blog.  If that’s the case, then I plead with you to do so.  The best third witness would, of course, be the Lord Himself.
  • Waxing rhetorical. This, I believe, is an extremely important message.  It is so important, in fact, that those who do not receive it may find themselves regretting this for eternity.  If rhetoric is required, then I will use it.
  • Becoming emotional. I don’t get emotional about a lot of things.  In this case, I feel emotional and passionate because I have been commanded to share the message.  It is very rare that I get even an inkling of how Nephi’s tears watered his pillow every night, but this is one time when I may understand just a little.

Background

In discussing recent dramatic developments in our lives and in our relationship with our God with a dear and concerned friend, this friend pleaded with us again to “stay with the safety” of both the church and the economic system.  This friend’s concerns are sincere, and were expressed with love.  The plea, however, neither has had nor will have any impact on these decisions that will forever change our eternity. (If any of you want to know specifics, we will be glad to share one-on-one.)

A couple of hours later, after we had returned home, and just as I was going to bed, I was flooded with the sadness of a safety culture in actionrealization that this concept of “safety” as we pursue our return to His presence is completely contrary to the scriptures. Contrary to popular conception, the strait and narrow way is not safe.  Thus, it is very concerning to me that it seems to be an acceptable mantra that we seek safety in our lives.  On the one hand, many offer the counsel to stay safe, suggesting that such is the path to exaltation.  The scriptures, on the other hand, seem to say, “If you want to be exalted, you must throw all considerations of safety out the window!”

The Rhetorical Part

In the interest of testing this for yourself, I issue a challenge.  I challenge you to search the scriptures for any example of a prophet, of a faithful people, or of heroes who “stayed safe”.  Were those whose Calling and Election were made sure examples of living a safe life?  What about those who met the Savior?  Were they seeking safety at the time?  These are blessings and experiences reserved only for special people, right?  So, then perhaps God really is a respecter of persons.

Anyway, let’s examine some examples here, and let’s start from the beginning:

  • Adam and Eve – nope, not safe.  Eve knew what she was doing, but she took the leap anyway.
  • Enoch – could have “stayed safe” in his shell of being “slow of speech” but chose not to.  He ended up walking and talking with God and establishing a Zion city.
  • Noah – ultimately saved from the floods, but not by conforming to tradition and social norms.  Instead, he built giant ship in the face of historic derision from his contemporaries that he and his family might re-establish mankind after the great destruction.  Considering the upcoming destruction that has been prophesied throughout the scriptures, one might consider the possibility that being just a little crazy – crazy like Noah – might not be such a bad idea.noah's ark
  • Abraham – perhaps the ultimate example of not staying safe.  He submitted to the sacrificial altar in Ur; left with His family for the journey to the promised land; then, in a repeat of the experience of his own youth, laid his only son on the sacrificial altar in obedience to the commandment of God.  Yep, a safety-oriented life, indeed.
  • Old Testament Prophets – Name them: Melchizedek, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Malachi…they were all ostracized to the extreme in myriad ways.  David risked everything multiple times, but then he got comfortable and…well, you know where that led.
  • Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) – No safety here.  They rejected the decrees of the Persian king Nebuchadnezzar and had to be miraculously saved from certain death by the hand of the Lord.
  • Ruth – a Moabitess who married a Jew – faced ostracism from both her people and her husband’s people for the choices she made, but she made them anyway.John the baptist - prophets
  • John the Baptist, The Apostles, Stephen, Paul – the list of New Testament martyrs could go on and on.  No safety to be found here.

Just so as to not bore you to death, let’s simply mention a few of the Book or Mormon examples that only further illustrate the point.  You know their stories well enough, I’m sure:

Lehi, Nephi, Abinadi, Alma the Elder, Amulek, Alma the Younger, the Sons of Mosiah, Captain Moroni, the Jaredites, Mormon, Moroni, the Anti-Lehi-Nephites.abinadi burning

And then, of course, martyrs and reformers throughout the history of apostate Christianity, including Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Huss, and many, many others.

In our own history as Mormons, can we not readily admit that the doctrine of the reformation would never have been revealed if those who brought it forward, especially Joseph Smith, had played it safe?

So, why are we suddenly supposed to play it safe?  Why were we given all these examples in the scriptures of those who risked everything for their God, if we, in turn, are supposed to stay in the safety of the church?  That is completely incomprehensible to me.

Another question: How in the world can we expect to receive exaltation as a reward for being safe?  We consider many in the above pantheon to be exalted beings.  If they are, how can we possibly hope to be exalted equally with them if we are not willing to make the same sacrifices they made…if we choose instead to “be safe”?

In a previous post “The Gift of Sacrifice”, I quoted from the Lectures on Faith 6:7 –

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation…

According to the Lectures on Faith, which was the text for the School of the Prophets, salvation is clearly contingent upon the requirement that we sacrifice all things!  That is NOT being safe.

This sacrifice is not simply a sacrifice of “stuff”.  It will entail the sacrifice of pride, of false beliefs, traditions, even of our own will.  Zion will most certainly require the sacrifice of all things except our desire to serve Him by obeying the two great commandments – to love God and to love our neighbor.  I guarantee that it will even require us to sacrifice our fear of death, for if we fear death, we will not be able to serve Him to the extent He requires.

Will We Ever Learn?

harbingerIn Jonathan Cahn’s “The Harbinger”, a prophetic book about the historical and eternal significance of 9/11 and its still-evolving aftermath, the author quotes Isaiah 9:10, which says:

The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.

This scripture describes the Hebrews’ spiritual response to being rescued from the Assyrian siege in 701 BC.  Having been saved by the Lord when His angel destroyed Sennacherib’s army in one night, they nevertheless looked to their own strength to prevent future occurrences rather than expressing gratitude for and reliance on the Lord’s hand.  In this book, Cahn likens this response to the American response to 9/11 and foretells that the Lord’s patience will soon run out – as it did with the Hebrews who, a little over 100 years later, were carried off from a destroyed Jerusalem for a 70 year captivity in Babylon.

To me, this illustrates that the Lord wants us to turn to Him, not to ourselves, for our salvation.  Our continued reliance on the fruits of our own labor, upon our own strength, is anathema to Him. Our sacrifice of all things, including the social, political, and economic structures within which we hope to find safety, is necessary if we are to receive exaltation.  Risk all to gain all.  It is a very simple formula in my mind.

Deceived?

I have been told more than once that I am deceived, or that I am listening to a lying spirit.  My friends cannot comprehend that the Lord would be telling me (and Diana, by the way – she is soooo courageous!) to do what He is telling us to do.  By worldly standards, they are crazy.  But I ask you – when did obeying the word of the Lord ever adhere to social norms or conventional wisdom?  Is our God a changeable God?  No?  Do we really believe that? (re: the rhetoric above).

I don’t know – I really don’t know – exactly when we started to hear, believe, and understand.  It was very gradual.  The Lord has been gentle, but persistent.  It began for me with what I now call “sound bites” – small 5 to 10 word phrases that seemed to be “inserted” into my prayers.  Needless to say, it has evolved far beyond that, and we fully expect it to evolve even further, because miracles on the order of those experienced by Lehi, Nephi, and Joseph will be necessary if we are to build Zion.

Lately, however, a sense of urgency has arisen.  Deadlines have been provided.  Messages like, “Don’t worry about what’s beyond, just do what I’ve told you – then more will be revealed”.  We didn’t start receiving these, though, until we were prepared.  He knew!  He has been totally in charge.  Things are different.  There’s a different feeling in my mind, in my heart, and in my body.  The level of understanding and clarity has elevated.  The level of passion has increased dramatically.  Most of all, our attachment to the things that we were so attached to in the past has been eased.  He has prepared us to carry out His marvelous work.  He has given us courage – courage beyond anything I ever thought either of us was capable of…courage to depend upon Him to sustain our lives while we are in His service.

My response to those who think we are deceived?  First – you simply cannot say.  You are not in our hearts; our minds; our bodies.  You have not received the things we have received, in the way we have received them.  You cannot judge.  Furthermore, I simply quote the following very familiar scripture:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? (Luke 11:11)

I trust my Lord.  He will not allow me to be deceived as long as I continue to look to Him with humility and charity in my heart.

The Emotional, Passionate Part

I crave Zion.  I don’t crave it because I look around me and see all the evil in the world and I want a way out.  I crave it because I see that the Lord desires it.  He desires it for us and for the earth.  He desires it because that is what He died for – not only that we all might be resurrected, but that we might have eternal life.  He desires it also because Zion must be built, by our very real hands and very real hearts, that he might have a place to come.  Zion must be built before His work – the work for which He gave His life – can be completely fulfilled…yeah, even before we can receive of His fullness.

Again – Zion must be built before His work – the work for which He gave His life – can be completely fulfilled…yeah, even before we can receive of His fullness!

Zion will not be built by people who are seeking safety, be it spiritual or economic.  It will be built by those who have the courage and the love to sacrifice everything.  It will be built by those whose only safety is in the word of Christ Himself.  It will be built by those who seek His voice, who seek His face, and prepare themselves to lay all things on the altar of sacrifice.  I know many who have been preparing all their life – wonderful people.  My heart knows who you are.  He knows who you are.  You have been called.  Will you then prepare to be chosen?boat in harbor

My friends, the time is now.  We’ve all believed this day will come, haven’t we?  The scriptures assure us of this, don’t they?  We take the Lord at His word…don’t we?  Then why do we continue to believe we can stay in the safety of the harbor?

We can stay safe, or we can risk all.  Risk all to gain all.  It is a very simple formula in my mind.

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My Grace is Sufficient

In His ArmsI have, for a long, long time, thought that I had to become perfect in order to become one with Christ.  I now understand that this is not true doctrine – that it is in fact a false belief that demeans my Savior’s love and sacrifice – the sacrifice that He made for me…and for you.

I can certainly be excused for this mistake.  Pertinent scriptures include John 17:20-23:

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

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

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

As well as Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

And 3 Nephi 12:48:

Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Just today, however, I was given to understand things differently.  Rather than me having to gradually perfect myself, I now understand that the Lord’s heart – His perfection – can actually expand to take in my imperfections.  In other words:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)

The Lord says nothing about being perfect – only that His grace is sufficient.  The condition for His grace to be sufficient?  “…if men come unto me…” and “…humble themselves before me…”  I don’t have to fit into His mold.  He will expand His mold to include me.  This, then, is the definition of His grace – that He has been perfected; that His strength is such that He actually can take unto Himself my imperfections and we can still be one.  My weakness and imperfection can be absorbed by His strength and perfection.

Of course, this seems to contradict the common belief that the Lord cannot be in the presence of sin – that He cannot endure sin.  I looked up the scriptures on this, also.  D&C 1:31 says (emphasis mine):

For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;

Similarly, Alma 45:16 says (emphasis mine):

And he said: Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.

There are two issues here that need to be addressed.  First – what does it mean to “look upon”?  Doesn’t that give the image of being detached?  Indeed, if we remain far from Him, rejecting Him, He can do no more than “look upon” – I’m sure with great sadness.  If we come to Him, however, if we humble ourselves before Him, and seek His grace, are we detached?  Are we being “looked upon”?  If He is to cleanse us of our sins (consider the ordinance of washing the feet in John 13), would His hands not get just a little dirty in the process?  Did He not endure, even overcome sin in the Garden of Gethsemane?  He not only endured sin, He conquered it in an eternal, painful, intimate battle.

The other issue is the definition of sin.  I think we wrongly equate willful, rebellious sin with weakness and imperfection.  He gave us weakness that we might be humble.  He encouraged us, even commanded us, to become perfect, knowing full well that we are not.  Are we rejected of Him, then, because we have weakness and imperfection?  If we come unto Him, and humble ourselves before Him, even though we are as yet not fully aware of all our weakness and imperfection, He has promised that He will make our “…weak things become strong..” unto us.  How can He possibly do this without understanding, perhaps even becoming intimate with, our individual weakness and imperfections?

I have received permission to share the following from the Lord.  I pray that none will be offended.  I do so not to draw any attention to myself, but only that we might all feel the warmth, the compassion, the beautiful love and understanding that He offers us:

Feel my love for you. Receive it. You have not rejected me, and I will never reject you.  We are one, and we rejoice over this.  Even in your imperfection, my grace is sufficient that we can be one – just as with your children.  Through my grace, I can absorb your imperfection and we can still be one.  See – now you understand much better, don’t you?  This you can absolutely share.  This, in fact, you must share. 

His words are to each of us…to all of us…that if we will come to Him and bare all, humbling ourselves, hiding not our weakness and imperfection either from ourselves or from Him; if we will ask Him to help us to become, therefore, perfect, His grace is indeed sufficient, and this dream of “oneness” can be realized – even today, now, at this time.  Can we believe?

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The Gift of Sacrifice

…But the riches of a dreamer

And the gift of sacrifice

and the guts to stand alone

Will take you home

……The Poet, The Preacher and the Prophet – Scott Stover

Abraham and Isaac Laurent de La Hire, 1650

Abraham and Isaac
Laurent de La Hire, 1650

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life

and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life ; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most

assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (Lectures on Faith 6:7)

During the past few months and years, I have found myself being asked to sacrifice many things in the interest of truth – actually in the interest of keeping my covenant to know God, even to become one with Him.  It’s been an interesting experience so far.  The Lord has been very merciful with me during this time.  He has also been very patient.  The sacrifices required have gradually increased in intensity, gravity, and difficulty.  With each one conquered, blessings increase, and the next one is a little more grave.

I learned just yesterday why this is so important.  It all just sort of fell into place for me while I was sitting in seat 2D on the flight from Burbank to Salt Lake City.  You see, every time the Lord asks a sacrifice of us – be it praying and study time, fasting from meat, or laying one’s long-promised only son on the altar – He is saying, “Do you love this more than you love me?”  If, by resisting the requested sacrifice, you answer “Yes – I love this thing more than I love You”, he says, “OK.  I will wait,” and that “thing” will continue to stand between you and Him, preventing you from truly becoming one with Him.

When we start our journey into His presence, there are many things that stand between us and Him.  Babylon likes it that way, and the adversary has done an excellent job of making sure that is the case.  We each have our own unique line-up of things that we love more than Him.  If we wish to approach Him, they must be taken down, one by one, as we willingly lay them on the altar.  As we do, we grow closer to Him and the blessings of being nearer to Him increase.  If we are slow about it, it’s ok.  He will wait.  Unfortunately, although I am not an expert on the nature of the next life, I suspect that our opportunity to lay these things on the altar is limited to this mortal probation.

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3:25)

We see from the Sixth Lecture quote above that it is ONLY through the sacrifice of all things that man can hope to achieve eternal life.  In verse 9, we read the following:

As all the visible creation is an effect of faith, so is salvation also—we mean salvation in its most extensive latitude of interpretation, whether it is temporal or spiritual. In order to have this subject clearly set before the mind, let us ask what situation must a person be in in order to be saved? or what is the difference between a saved man and one who is not saved We answer, from what we have before seen of the heavenly worlds, they must be persons who can work by faith and who are able, by faith, to be ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation ; and they must have faith to enable them to act in the presence of the Lord, otherwise they cannot be saved. And what constitutes the real difference between a saved person and one not saved is—the difference in the degree of their faith —one’s  faith has become perfect enough to lay hold upon eternal life, and the other’s has not.

Where can we find this prototype of a saved man?  Also from verse 9:

We ask, then, where is the prototype ? or where is the saved being? We conclude, as to the answer of this question, there will be no dispute among those who believe the Bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this, that he is the prototype or standard of salvation ; or, in other words, that he is a saved being.

So, Christ is our prototype of a saved man – the “standard of salvation”.  The Christ who sacrificed all things to the will of the Father.  The Christ who condescended to come to earth, only to suffer the burden all the sin, injustice, mourning, sickness and pain associated with the fall – to suffer these things in Gethsemane.  The very Christ who gave his life on Calvary that we might be resurrected.  If He is the prototype, we must become like Him.  Thus, we, too, must ultimately lay all things, even our life, on the altar before Him.

The formula for salvation; the formula to gain eternal life; is very simple.  We must lay “all things” on the altar before the Lord.  We must be willing to sacrifice anything the Lord asks of us, until we love nothing more than we love Him.  Ordinances may invite us to be saved, and they may show us the way, but they cannot save us.  Only if we are willing to sacrifice all things unto the will of the Lord, that we might become one with Him, can we hope to gain our salvation.  If we are slow to lay some things on the altar, it’s ok.  He’s very patient.

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Through My Eyes – Grand Mesa Reunion

grand mesa 3Our trip to the Grand Mesa Reunion began early Friday morning when we went to pick up our neighbors Mary and Rita.  I love early mornings.  Things were crisp and alive with anticipation of a weekend that would prove to be unlike any other we had ever experienced.  It was a pleasure to really meet Mary’s husband, Ben.  I think we’re friends now.  We then drove North and gathered Stephanie.  We prayed for guidance and protection, comforted her dog and cat, and headed off to Bluffdale to complete our convoy – a truck and travel trailer driven by another friend.

We prayed again, calling down shields and angels to protect us as we journeyed toward Grand Mesa.  We quickly discovered that convoys such as ours do not move as quickly or as steadily as single cars.  A 6 hour trip turned into a 10 hour trip.  The trip there and back was marvelous.  Our traveling companions were each delightful.  There was never a moment the entire 20+ hours when there was not conversation.  We bonded, we trusted and we loved.  It was beautiful.  Needless to say, we had solved most of the world’s problems by the time we arrived at the High School in Cedar Edge, Colorado at about 8:30 – 2 hours late.

Before I actually talk about the reunion, let me first say that

There were about 200 people (a very rough guess) gathered in the auditorium at the time we arrived.  I was greeted immediately by Sean May and his son.  This was the first of many meaningful greetings and meetings.  We quickly found out that one rule had been established at the opening of the reunion – “No handshakes – only hugs”.  The first order of business, as you might expect after a trip like ours, was to visit the men’s room.  As I came out, a hymn, “Beautiful Savior” was being sung.  I stood off to the side soaking in the sound of 200+ voices, with a few adventurous soprano voices soaring above the melody.  I quickly realized that this was going to be a very special gathering.  Were those angels’ voices I heard joining the chorus?  It would be impossible to convince me otherwise.  I think that hymn set the tone for the whole weekend.  I felt like we were in for a very special time.

The Formal, Assigned Talks

We missed Rock Waterman’s talk as well as Marti Grobecker’s talk and dance exercise, but we did arrive and settle in time to hear Jaqueline Olsen.  Here, I want to switch from a travelogue-type account to simply sharing my impressions.  The talks were inspired, not only in their content, but in their sequencing.  On Friday night, Jaqueline and Larry Winn shared their testimonies of Christ – of His power, of His grace, and of their very personal experiences with Him.  In doing so, they established the focus of the gathering – The Lord Jesus Christ.  Larry closed his personal story with a song about how dependent we all are on Him.  I think this set a precedent that testimony in song was acceptable, even encouraged, and there were several testimonies through the weekend that were expressed or accented through song.  It proved to be a wonderful form of worship.

On Saturday, the theme of the prepared talks was Zion.  I spoke about 4 scriptures that point us to Zion, and then Rob Smith shared his impressions about the realities that face us as the last days scenario plays out.  The two talks seemed to be perfect bookends.  On Sunday at the sacrament meeting, Garth and Melanie Turley shared striking personal stories of miracles and grace, followed by an hour of testimonies.  Adrian Larsen’s closing talk exposed through scripture many myths about the building of Zion prior to issuing a call to action – a call to prepare ourselves to respond to the Lord’s voice.  It was a perfect capstone to a marvelous weekend filled with messages of gratitude, understanding, preparation, and action.  Each talk was delivered with confidence, humility and sincerity.  I’m sure I speak for all the speakers when I say we were so thankful for the opportunity to share our thoughts and feelings in such a setting.  There were many others who could have done equally as well, but I am convinced that the selection of speakers, as well as their individual selection of topics, was inspired.

Testimonies

On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, ample time was set aside for personal testimonies.  This was simply a beautiful thing.  Many stood and testified.  There were songs.  There were tears. There was gratitude – primarily for the grace and mercy of our Savior.  There were testimonies born by grizzled old men and innocent children; by the scholarly and experienced, and by the child suddenly alive and burning with wonder at what they were witnessing and feeling.   One very young man quietly bore a testimony of meeting the Savior.  I’m certain that most in the audience missed this – it was so quiet and unassuming.  Yet, when he walked away, I could see the sincerity and power in his tears as he ever-so-subtly indulged in a spiritual fist pump, as if saying to himself, “Yes, I did it!”  My friend John and I thought, “Did that really just happen?”

Many who stood were clearly uncomfortable.  When this became obvious, the audience was quick to show support and encouragement with confirming “Amen’s” and appropriate applause.  One of the most touching testimonies came from a young man named Travis who testified standing by the side of a lake high on the Mesa, shirtless, in preparation for his baptism. His friend Vaughn entered the icy waters with him, praying with hands lifted high to the heavens for the authority to perform this sacred ordinance.  This intimate scene was witnessed by only a fortunate few who happened to have been delayed in heading back down the mountain.

Meet and Greet; Facebook Accounts to Faces

Oh, the Joy!  I’m not even going to attempt to name names, for fear of leaving someone out.  When we arrived, it was made clear that there had been an announcement of some sort at the beginning that handshakes were out and hugs were in – and hug we did!  Bonds were formed that will never be broken.  The smiles that beamed from faces on Sunday at the pot-luck were evidence of the love that had prevailed throughout the weekend.  I don’t recall hearing a single word of contention the entire weekend.  If ever there was a “yea, yea – nay nay” gathering, this was it.  The spirit of Christ flowed through us all and was somehow magnified each time it was passed through a hug, a warm greeting, whispered encouragement, a shared testimony, even a gentle pat on the hand or an arm around the shoulder when the occasion called for it.

Organization

Let me just say that it seemed as if no detail were missed in the planning of this event.  If there were “hiccups”, they were minor and completely transparent to me.  As might be expected, the occasional speaker went over their scheduled time, but we adjusted.  It seemed as if there was a perfect blend of structure and schedule with flexibility to allow the spirit to move, and without rigidity that might detract from that same spirit.  I noticed many little details such as green table cloths on the table that held wine for the sacrament and white table cloths for the grape juice table.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Oh, my – maybe that explains why I was feeling particularly “gladdened” during the sacrament meeting.  These details were a testimony to the diligence and hard work offered by all who helped bring this together.  My heartfelt kudos to Brett and Samantha and the many less visible volunteers who helped carry out the Grand Mesa Reunion.

A Call to Action

At the end of the event, Brett Corbridge addressed the group.  He said there had been many references to “next year”.  He made it clear that, at least at this time, there were no plans for “next year”.  I immediately understood why.  This was a highlight, a gathering.  It was a one-time event of great, even eternal importance.  Many had been prepared before coming here, and now they are prepared to go forth and serve.  It’s not that there won’t be other gatherings at other places and with other people, or even with the same people, but this event was singular.  A message was clearly given by the Lord…”I am here!  I am calling you – you who are listening – to the work!  I will prepare you; I will sustain you; my angels will accompany you.  You must sustain each other.  The work will be hard, but we will prevail.  There are many dangers ahead, but the work will roll forth.  Love, love, and love some more!

A Sad Accent – A Further Call

Over the weekend, one of our sisters, a young mother, died.  She had been hospitalized for several days and hopes were apparently high for her recovery, but her condition suddenly worsened on Saturday and she died.  I am told that during the sisters’ breakout session on Saturday, they held a prayer circle on her behalf.  I may be sketchy on the details, but you get the idea.  On Sunday, my daughter, Jules, confided in me the following:

“Why couldn’t we heal her??!!!  We are supposed to have the power to do this!  The Lord wants us to learn to use this power!  We MUST learn this!  Why did someone have to die because we haven’t learned how to use His power yet?  It’s there for us!  We must overcome this unbelief and lay hold of it.  I see it.  I know it.  We ALL must come to this knowledge and this power or we will fail.” 

Please understand that this was a very passionate confession with many tears and emotions, and I have recounted the words and the essence as best I could.  I would also add my testimony to hers.  This was a wake-up call to me.  I am very casual about many things.  I have great faith and confidence that the Lord will teach me what I need to know as I need to know it, and as I am prepared.  However, if I need to become prepared to receive this power, then I must accept the urgency to prepare myself.  Gifts such as healing the sick and raising the dead have been, for me, something that I expect will come, but they are not real for me.  I guess this is called disbelief.  The message I received from Jules is that we must seek after these gifts – this power.  I must ask the Lord what I must do to prepare that I might be empowered.  I cannot remain casual.  How many more powerful servants might die because of my failure to prepare?  We will never be able to serve Him with power if we do not prepare.

My friends, I do not claim this message to be coming from me.  I am merely passing it on.  However, there truly is an urgency.  This reunion, with its call to action, was real and seminal.  It was, or it should have been, transformational for all of us.  It was beautiful and glorious and the love flowed, but above all it is a call to prepare and to serve.  As Adrian was reaching the end of his talk, I was sitting on the grass toward the back of the audience.  I suddenly felt as if I were lifted off the ground.  I stood – because I felt like I needed to stand as a way of saying, “Yes, Lord, I will answer.  I will stand for you!  I will do whatever it takes!”  I know there are many who have preceded me in this realization, and many who will follow when it is their time.  Jules’ lament that we must prepare ourselves that we might gain access to the greatest powers of heaven – even the power over death – struck a powerful chord in my heart.  The need is urgent!  We must pray!  We must cry out!  We must humble ourselves, but then we must be powerful.

Again, my thanks to all those who orchestrated this “Reunion”.  They were truly guided by the Lord, and this showed not only in the success of the event, but in their faces.  They truly acted as His servants, seeking no honor unto themselves.  Most remain nameless. They worked tirelessly that His message might be delivered.  Let us not allow that service to be wasted.  Let us each rise up in our own way, with our own power flowing from Him, trusting in Him, but stepping forward in faith that we, too, might serve Him; that we each might carry out our assigned role in this strange act – this one, last, final, and oh-so-glorious act.  Praise be to Him in all things.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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