6 Comments

Come Unto Me #5 – “If You Want to Kiss the Sky…”

And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.  (D&C 84:38)

eternal marriageWriting what I want to share today is risky.  There is the possibility that some will read and think that I am exalting myself or “rushing the pass”.  I hope I can convey what I believe is a very important message while, at the same time, easing any such concerns.

If you’re like me, you’ve grown up being keenly aware that there is a presence in the world known only as “they”.  Today, as I was driving in the early morning hours, I found myself thinking, “Wow, they’re really doing a lot of work on this road”.  How many times have we heard or thought, “They’re probably going to raise taxes”, or they will do this, or they did that?  This they entity is very powerful, gets a lot done – for good and for evil – and greatly influences our lives.

Of course, they is really the Highway department, or gas companies, or commodities traders, or the government, or oil companies, or the Illuminati or something similar, but the point is that behind they are real people and forces, shadowy and mostly poorly understood, that exert their influence on our lives.

When I was a member of the LDS church, I recognized a “they” entity.  Its behind-the-scenes identity was the Corporation of the President, or the “Brethren”, or General Authorities, or individuals, committees, departments, etc. in the Church Office Building, but they were responsible for many things, including printing scriptures (a great service to the world), building temples and conference centers and meeting houses and libraries, etc.  They received revelation for the ward, or the stake, or the church, or the world.  I could rely on them to guide the course of the good ship Zion, and I trusted that they were doing so by inspiration from the Lord Jesus Christ.   I knew intellectually that someday – probably in the next life – I could receive “…all that my Father hath…”, but it wasn’t a reality to me.  The reality for man was that they would receive that, but probably not me.

Well, I’m no longer a member of the LDS Church.  Neither are many of you.  There is no longer any they for us to rely on.  We’re out there on our own, in our little row boat, navigating the vast seas, with nobody else to make decisions for us.  We chose this course, because we believed – we took action in faith – that we could and should receive all the guidance we needed directly from the Lord.  Some of us, perhaps, rely a little too much on guidance from individuals such as Denver Snuffer, but if we do, we are making a mistake.  After all, Denver’s message is ultimately, “Receive your guidance from the Lord.  Search the scriptures, pray, live righteously, choose the right, and receive Him”.

I can’t help but think about the courage, innocence, and sheer honesty of the young Joseph Smith, who looked around at the religionists in his world and decided, “You know, I’m going to ask God Himself what the truth is.  After all, He told me that if I lack wisdom, I can ask Him.  I think I’ll do just that!”  Isn’t that what we’ve all done, to one extent or another?  Did we not say to ourselves, “There’s something not right about the religionists in my world, and I’m going to set off on my own – disembark from the Good Ship Zion – and seek to know God, just as He has commanded me to do.  I don’t think I can trust those who set themselves up as a light (no – not even Denver), because, if I do, I’m only living on borrowed light.  I have to receive my own light, and I’m going to go to the Lord and find it”?  Isn’t this what Joseph did?  Don’t you think He would be proud of us, or at least empathetic?

Ok, so there is no more “they”.  It’s just us.  Yeah, we’re forming a community on line and locally, with occasional larger gatherings like the Grand Mesa Reunion, but at the core of all of this is the idea that we cannot rely on the arm of flesh (no – not even Denver) and that we must each receive our own instruction from the Lord.

There’s a potential problem with this – one that we must recognize and overcome.  There is much work to be done!  Zion must be established in the tops of the mountains.  Miracles must be restored to the earth, including healing and raising the dead and command over the elements.  The fullness of the priesthood must be received. Angels must minister.  Preparation must be made for “Elias” and Elijah to return and restore the Lord’s order.  Temples (at least one) must be built.  There is no “they” that is going to do this.  It has to be us!

I’ve mentioned before that history tends to elevate those who created it.  We think of Oliver Cowdrey and Brigham Young and Emma Smith, or of Moses or Isaiah or Elijah or John the Beloved as being larger than life.  Well, folks, I’ve got news for you.  None of these men or women had any idea who they were to become in our eyes after 3000 years or even 150 years.  They were just men and women with righteous desires just like we are.  Sure – they may have been fore-ordained for a great work – but they still had to rise up and do that work.  I do not believe that they knew, when they were making the choices that would determine the course of their lives and alter the course of history, that they were fore-ordained for such.  And how many who are or were fore-ordained for a specific task choose not to fulfill it?

Brothers and sisters, WE must rise up and become the noble and great ones of our day – of the millennium!  WE are the ones who had the courage to stand up as Joseph did and set out on our own, in our little row boats, to seek God!  We may not all be transfigured and introduced by the Son to the Father.  We may not all see “all creation” in one sweeping, timeless vision.  We may not ever be visited by angels, or heal the sick, or raise the dead, or change the course of rivers (actually, I expect that we will, but for the sake of argument…)  We may not lay a single brick of the New Jerusalem, but we must prepare ourselves to do all of these things.  If we do not believe that we can receive all that the father has, then we are saying, in effect, “Father, I am willing to serve thee – courageously, faithfully – but only this much”.  We must ask, seek, and knock on every door that the scriptures reveal to us, and seek every gift and every power that the Lord offers us.

We must ask, seek, and knock for the fullness of the priesthood, and for every gift, power, and responsibility that comes with it.  We must ask for the power to heal.  We must ask for the power to raise the dead and command the elements and to prophesy of future events unto the blessing of His children and the fulfillment of His plan for them – for us.  We must seek to become so trusted of the Lord that He says unto us:

Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.

 5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. (Helaman 10:4-5)

You know – it may not be the Lord’s will that we will receive all things in this life, but the failure to become a fully empowered servant cannot be because we didn’t ask, or because we waited around for “them” to receive these things.  What kind of condemnation would that bring upon us?  Of course, we must wait with patience until we are prepared, but we must ask the Lord to prepare us, and then we must pray always, and seek always after His righteousness, that we might indeed be prepared to receive these greatest of gifts.

If you’re like me (and you probably are), you’ll quickly find yourself saying, “I cannot do this by myself.  I am too selfish, and too weak, and too fearful…but I know that through you, by the power of the gift of your atoning sacrifice…all things are possible”.  You will submit yourself to His grace and mercy.  This is as it should be, but we cannot allow knowledge of our imperfection to limit the power and authority and effectiveness with which we serve.  We must gain that perfect testimony that “through you, I can do all things” and we must believe it.

Brethren and Sisters, the Lord is going to need many Josephs and many Emmas in order to bring about Zion.  Enoch didn’t build Zion, the people of Zion built it.  They were of one heart and one mind, and that heart and mind was one with the Lord!  Joseph couldn’t build Zion.  He needed a population of Josephs and Emmas, of Hebers and Vilates to build it, but the community of their day didn’t have that.  The Saints wanted them to do it all, and it didn’t work.  I cannot tolerate the thought of Zion being built by them.  I want it to be built by me…and you and you and you and you…by us!  In order to do this, we each have to take the personal responsibility to be willing to build Zion all by ourselves, then have the charity to share that responsibility with all who desire to join us.  We each have to seek after the power and authority of God…seek after “all that the Father hath” and then wait patiently while He grants unto us that portion that will enable us to serve Him according to His will.

When it comes to building Zion, there is no they, there is only us!…an “us” who have opened themselves to receive the fullness of the priesthood, to become one with the Savior, to be fully empowered servants who serve according to His will and who are not limited by their individual unbelief.

After all this, I close with a quote from the band U2, their song “Mysterious Ways”.  I hope it alleviates any of the concerns that I mentioned at the opening of this post.  I also think it nicely summarizes the entire message:

“If you want to kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel (on your knees, boy!)”

4 Comments

To the Valley View 9th Ward – a Love Story #2

Gundersen Lane Chapel

Gundersen Lane Chapel

I saw Katy Robbins hobbling across the street yesterday afternoon.  We had just parked our new home – cleverly disguised as a 33’ fifth wheel – on Colt Haven circle, where it is to stay for two weeks before we take it into the wilds of Boundary County, Idaho.  She, in turn, was walking off the stiffness from the half-marathon she had run earlier in the day.  My heart warmed at seeing her, simply because I like her and her family.  She also reminded me of the relationship that we had up until a couple of months ago with all the members of the Valley View 9th Ward – a relationship that brought Diana and me great joy over the course of 17+ years.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Katy’s father, Bruce Gundersen, riding his lawn mower down Gundersen Lane.  At first, I thought it was John Gundersen (yes – it’s not called “Gundersen Lane” for nothing), but quickly realized that the lawn mower itself was much larger than John’s, so it had to be Bruce. I walked towards him, and he could probably see my smile from 50 yards away.  We greeted enthusiastically, and I was genuinely glad to see him and chat for a few minutes.

We miss our friends in the Valley View 9th Ward.  We really do.  Even though we’ve officially left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and thus no longer attend meetings, we have not left Christ, we have not left His gospel, and we have not, in our hearts, left our friends.  Yes, we’re going to be moving away very soon, rarely to return, but we will never forget you.  Mary Louise Wilson is our Utah “Mom”.  Kirk and Kris Gundersen will be life-long friends (hope I’m not being presumptuous).  Kent and Colleen Smith, likewise – Kent, who performed our wedding ceremony, will always by “my Bishop”.  I’ve probably already named too many names – for fear that someone might feel slighted because I didn’t mention them specifically.  Well, the list of people in the VV 9th who have had a significant impact on our lives is too long to even try to list.

Many of those have died and left this earth, but not our hearts and memories.  George and Shirley Grover were sooo kind to us when we first moved into the ward – inviting us more than once to partake of their holiday celebrations.  Orson and Effie Gundersen “adopted” us into their family, and we hope to never lose that honor. (Guess that made us “Gundersens” too.)  I still remember the adoption ceremony.  Effie was sitting in a folding chair on Kris and Kirk’s lawn.  We were introduced, and the pronouncement was made.  As usual, when Effie pronounced something, it was done. (Let it be written, let it be done).  Who were we to argue?  Oh, how we loved that matron of the Gundersen clan!

We bought our house from Bing Jacobs, who became a respected friend.  I will never forget the time that he stood on our front porch, and recounted the day that he and his wife had returned from the grocery store, and she, having grocery bags in both hands, lost her balance, falling backwards onto the sidewalk.  She never came home again.  The intimacy of that moment, him being 92 years old and sharing that most painful of memories with me…well, I will never forget it.

So, my friends, I want to take this opportunity to testify one last time of my love for you.  I would not be the person I am today if not for you.  Your kindness, encouragement, and pure love will never be forgotten.  In marvelous ways you exhibited over and over again the charity of Christ.  In fact, you were an instrument in the Lord’s hands in bringing me to Christ.

I know you’re probably confused about the decisions we’ve made.  Mercifully for us all, all truth will be known in the Lord’s time.  If I may, I’d like to bear my testimony one last time.  It hasn’t changed a lot, but it has gotten so much more real – made real, perhaps, by sacrifice:

Jesus Christ lives.  He not only lives, He knows you and you and you and me.  He desires to abide with us – yes, abide with us. (John 14:23), and to manifest Himself to us. (John 14:21)  This is not a metaphorical promise – but it is very real.  For this to be possible, we must submit our will to His.  The Bible testifies of this.  The Book of Mormon testifies of this.  The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price testify of this.  The Lectures on Faith testify of this.  My own personal revelations testify of this.  All are scripture– some for the world, and some more personal, but all are scripture.

Joseph Smith is the prophet of this restoration.  He saw God the Father and Christ the Son.  They and other heavenly beings, the very powers of heaven, came to him and taught him, that he might, in turn, teach us.  What did he teach?  He taught that Christ lives, that He knows us, and that it is His desire to abide with us.  Furthermore, he taught that we, each and every one of us, must approach the Savior personally if we are to seek the light of truth.  (1 John 2:27).  He taught that we are not to trust in the arm of flesh. (2 Nephi 4:34) but we are to seek diligently the very face of the Lord (Psalms 105:4, Ether 12:39-41).

Furthermore, Joseph taught of Christ’s love, and I speak as another witness, one among so many, of that love.  Even the very 2-edged sword of His word is edged in love, because if we do not live in harmony with the laws of the universe, which laws bind it together and were created, in love, by the Father Himself, we can never abide with Him, either in this life or in the next.  We’ve already established that he wants us to abide with Him, and He with us.  The intimacy that He desires is beyond words.  It can only be felt by the spirit of revelation.

Finally, I share the following quote from the Prophet Joseph:

“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! … (Teachings: Joseph Smith, Chapter 22, Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths)

Diana and I offered our love to you over the past 17+ years.  You received it, and returned it in kind.  We will be forever thankful for that.  We continue to offer it, even if it is from a distance, both geographically and emotionally.  That love is real, and I hope you will continue to receive it.  May the Lord bless each of you in all that you do.  May your lives blossom with joy, and may each life bring glory to our Savior – even Jesus Christ, He who alone stands worthy of such glory – and that by His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.  I speak these things with a heart full of joy, testifying and witnessing of Him, of His name, and of His eternal plan for each of us, and I do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

8 Comments

Joseph Smith – “I am not an adulterer”

joseph smith photoMy friend, Bret Powelson, posted a blog recently that I want to share.  It is found here, and it is well worth reading:

my-views-on-joseph-smith.html

I also feel compelled to share my testimony on the topic.  It is short and sweet.  Joseph Smith is not, and never was, an adulterer.  How do I know this?  I am not a scriptorian, nor a church history expert.  I don’t think I’ve ever even sniffed a primary source document.  However, that is not the only way one can know things.

I have never had a waking vision of anything, but I have “seen” things, and I have had visitors.  I rarely share these things outside my family.  One of those visitors was Joseph.  He told me during that visit that, “I am not an adulterer”.  I take him at his word.

Now, you can choose to believe whatever version of history you choose to.  As for me, I now realize that Joseph shared that with me for a reason – that I could share it with you. I regret that it took me 2 months to do it.  In the spirit, then, of defending one who is not here to defend himself, I repeat: Joseph visited me in the spirit and told me directly, “I am not an adulterer”.

I testify that the words I have written are true, and I do so in the Holy Name of Jesus Christ.

23 Comments

Revisiting the Second Comforter

jm_300_BOM2.p-P9.tiffMy purpose in writing this blog is not in any way to demean the soul-defining experience of seeing the face of our Lord and Savior in vision.  For most of us who have prayed to have such an experience, it still awaits – beckoning – a mighty hope that has, thus far, remained just that, a hope, perhaps even a promise, for the future.

Just today I received an e-mail from a dear friend describing how he received that experience for himself.  He shared it with a select few, his purpose being to confirm that such experiences are not a myth – that someone whom we know very well, someone who endures faults and imperfections like we all do, has actually been blessed in this glorious manner.

Among those of us who declare openly that we believe it is not only possible, but practically a commandment to seek the face of the Lord, we largely believe that this experience of receiving a visitation from the Lord, either in dream or waking vision, is the event whereby we receive the Second Comforter.  I’ve seen no scriptural support for that belief.  I suggest, instead, that there is much more for us to learn about this Second Comforter, and that it is not necessarily synonymous with “seeing the face of the Lord”, in vision or dream.  Allow me to explain.

Whether it was by coincidence, or as a result of shared interest between my friend and me, or by heavenly design, I had prayed about this very topic just before reading His e-mail this morning.  I was also seeking assurance that the experiences I had had over the past months were real; that I hadn’t “made them up” to satisfy my own lusts; and that they had indeed come from true heavenly messengers.  I had prayed that I only wanted to hear the voice of the Lord, and that, in the name of Jesus Christ, I rejected all other influences.  While I was praying, my mind was directed to the story of the brother of Jared, and I was reminded of the following:

  • The brother of Jared was already highly respected among his people as a man who, in a time of great impending calamity, could be asked to approach the Lord on their behalf. He was “a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord” (Ether 1:34).  Upon asking the Lord, he received revelation that the language of their family would not be confounded.  Then, at Jared’s request that his brother “Cry again unto the Lord”, this favored circle was enlarged to include friends of the family.
  • Through the brother of Jared, the Lord guided this chosen community to the Valley of Nimrod, with a promise that he would bless them and their seed…”and raise up unto me…a great nation. (Ether 1:43). And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed upon all the face of the earth.  And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me”.
  • Through the brother of Jared, this family was led toward a promised land, even building barges to cross a great inland sea – seemingly a dress rehearsal for an even greater miracle to come. The Lord went before them in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel, eventually leading them through lands where “never man had been” (Ether 2:5) to the shore of the great sea that divided the lands.
  • After 4 years, perhaps 4 years of rest, the Lord came again to the brother of Jared in a cloud and “chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord” for all those years (Ether 2:14). He forgave the brother of Jared and His family their sins, but warned that “my Spirit will not always strive with man” (Ether 2:15).  Nevertheless, he promised again a land for their inheritance which is “choice above all other lands”.
  • The Lord then proceeded to instruct the brother of Jared in how to build the barges that would take his people – now, I’m sure greatly enlarged after many years of traveling together in the wilderness – across the great sea to the promised land.

Here we have a picture of a man, the brother of Jared, which is very similar to that of Abraham, Moses and Lehi.  The brother of Jared clearly hears the Lord, receives instruction, great blessings, and promises on behalf of his people, and acts in every way as a designated prophet of God.  Yet – this all happened before he saw the Lord.  In Ether 3:15 the Lord says:

And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.

Again, I do not mean to diminish anyone’s experience of receiving the Lord in vision or dream, of feeling his hands, perhaps touching His face, and feeling of His love.  The accounts seem to vary widely from a face of fiery glory to one that is accessible and welcoming.  The scriptures that speak to this are legion, whether directly or by implication.  I hope to have this experience myself, but let’s examine whether this experience is really synonymous with receiving the Second Comforter.

In the oft-quoted talk from the Prophet Joseph, he says:

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a prefect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions — Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn. (TJPS, pgs 149-151) (emphasis mine)

Notice, that Joseph does not describe how the second comforter is received, only that when any man does obtain “…this last comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time…”  Note again, that these are not presented a conditions of receiving the Second Comforter, but of events that will unfold in the future, as indicated by the usage of the phrase “…from time to time”.  These are clearly the results of receiving the Second Comforter – perhaps manifestations of having received it – but not so much the means by which the Second Comforter is received.

Let’s consider, also, what it means to have the Savior and the Father take up their abode with him – or to “abide with him”.  This abiding can certainly be manifested in multiple ways, but 1 John 3:24 says,

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him and he in him.  And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

What are “his commandments”?  In their simplest, and purest form, they are “Love God” and “Love your neighbor”.  So, according to John, if we truly love God and love our neighbor, we can dwell in Him and He in us.  The Lord wants to be with us, and if we will purify ourselves by keeping His commandments, He will do just that.  The First Epistle of John is rich with understanding of this concept, and I highly recommend absorbing it (upcoming blog post).  This makes me wonder if a lot more of us might have received the Second Comforter than realize it – having received it “…by the spirit which he hath given us” through our obedience to His commandments.

There is clearly much we have to learn about obtaining this intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that we have come to call “Receiving the Second Comforter”, and how it manifests itself in our lives.  I have come to believe that we often conflate this blessing with that of “seeing His face” and receiving a personal visitation in dream or open vision.  Again, I do not desire to devalue that incredible experience.  I just hope that we don’t devalue ourselves, or our service, or our ability to exercise His priesthood power and/or authority, or His love for and trust in us simply because we haven’t yet seen His face.  The brother of Jared is an example of how a man who was clearly a prophet of God could hear His voice, follow His direction, and lead His chosen people without having seen His face.

Finally, I have been cautioned more than once not to compare my experiences with that of others – the implication being to be sure not to devalue the experiences I have had with the Lord just because they do not match that of others.  I think this is probably good advice for all of us – lest we fail to recognize and be grateful for what we have received because we are focusing on that which we think we should receive.

I love my Savior Jesus Christ so much.  He is so gentle and so merciful and so understanding and compassionate.  I long to see His face, to feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, and to lose myself in His embrace.  I cannot imagine not continuing to seek Him and His fullness.  Until that perfect day, however, I remain grateful for the ways in which He has come to me, taught me, comforted me, and lifted me.  I invite Him daily to abide with me.  I thank you, my Lord and my God for your love.

10 Comments

A Prayer for Zion

Oh, Lord My God

When I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands have made

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul

My Savior, God to thee

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul

My Savior, God to thee

How great thou art! How great thou art!

                                How Great Thou Art – words by Stuart K. Hine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Comments

Come Unto Me #4 – I Choose You!

2013-ford-f150-limited-front-angle

Shiny Red Pick-up Truck

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

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

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

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

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

A Trail of Bread Crumbs

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

hansel and gretel

Hansel and Gretel, of course.

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

A Personal Experience

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

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

You want me to WHAT?

You want me to WHAT?

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

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

Putting the Pieces Together

Let's piece it together

Let’s piece it together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Will Know…

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

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

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

12 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Will You Be Strong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Challenge

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

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

A Servant’s Prayer

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

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers

%d bloggers like this: