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Polluting the Love of Christ

I have come to recognize just today that I perpetually pollute my relationship with Christ. I do that by putting conditions on His love, and as a result I put conditions on my love – my love for Him and my love for others. When I do this, I can’t receive His love unless I am “worthy”, and I can’t love Him unless I am “worthy”. I then, of course, force myself to be worthy of the love of others, and I force them to be worthy of my love. This is all a lie, and believing this lie, living this lie, will prevent us from becoming one with Him. It will ultimately rob us of our salvation.

I feel like I have to earn His love by being obedient. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true, but emotionally and spiritually, even doctrinally, I impose this condition on Him – on US – every minute of every hour of ever day. The checklists that define most churches are extreme examples of this condition, but we can reject those checklists, as I have, and still not be free of this belief, or this form of unbelief – unbelief because we do not believe HIM – because we continue to put conditions on His love. It is a great irony that I actually think that by rejecting the checklists of the churches I am somehow closer to earning His love. In rejecting the checklists of the churches, I have done nothing more than to create a new checklist – this time one of my own making, but a checklist nonetheless. It’s just a different list of conditions. I’ve still put conditions on His love that do not really exist. I will even go so far as to say that we put conditions on our salvation that do not really exist.

You say, “but baptism is required for salvation!”, and indeed it seems to be, but what does baptism really symbolize? Repentance? Repentance from what? From transgressing against a checklist? So, we’re supposedly burying the old and arising a new person? What if it really means burying this old person who insists on having to earn everything in life, including someone’s love; and who insists on distinguishing themselves from others by perpetual judgment; who insists on creating checklists that qualify us for Christ’s love? What if arising means arising a new person who truly believes; who truly believes that love and peace is the default condition of this universe, and that, like intelligence, it can neither be created nor made…nor earned – it simply is. What a brilliant plan of Satan – the deceiver, or the spirit of deceit – to plant in our hearts that we must “eat our bread by the sweat of our brow”. How does this compare to “consider the lilies”? In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ is calling us to redemption – to redemption from the fall, where we must earn our survival by the sweat of our brow. He is calling us to the redeemed state where, indeed, love just is, just as Christ is the I AM; where we can be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect, and where we can consider the lilies.

I don’t know how I personally am going to overcome this, but I know I must. I must stop competing with others in every thought – because, think about it, to compete I must judge. To compete I must maintain separation. If I have to earn Christ’s love, is that not competition? If I’m competing with Christ, or for Christ’s love, am I not perpetuating the separation? Do you think you do not suffer from this? I encourage you to look deeply, because I assure you that 99.9999% of us do. I don’t recall meeting the person who does not.

I know this – I have been shown a key to Zion. I have been shown a key to ascending from a telestial existence to a terrestrial existence. Is it really that simple? I don’t know that yet, but it is essential. Until I can learn to just love, without conditions; to receive love, without conditions; to BE love, without conditions; I cannot be part of Zion. There may be more that I have to learn, but until I learn this, everything else will be insufficient for me to exist in Zion.

Of course, I have to ask myself…have I not just created another condition? Have I not just begun another checklist? Is it now a condition that I place no conditions on love? I suppose I have, but that condition is the one condition that defines our true existence. All other conditions are distractions and illusions. This condition is the condition of truth. It is not a distraction, it simply is. It IS real existence. It IS intelligence. It IS eternal life.

This journey – this journey to “seek to know Him”, that I began who knows how long ago – keeps getting more difficult, more strenuous, and more challenging, but it is the only journey worth taking. I might be frightened at the prospect of Zion. I AM frightened at the prospect of Zion. None of us are ready. It is going to be painful and stressful and it will test most of us beyond our ability to endure. I suspect most will fall away, broken and disillusioned. But Christ’s love will endure forever regardless of what we do or become. And if we can learn to love as Christ loves – with charity – the pure love of Christ – unconditional love – then we can do it. Any other journey we might take will only result in death. Only a life of charity can be worth living…for eternity. That life will be, must be, fueled by love without conditions – love that just IS. God bless us all that we might seek this love; that we might receive this love without seeking to earn it; and that it might flow through us unto all the world.

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1)

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Separation, Salvation, and Unconditional Love

I had a wonderful prayer yesterday morning. It was one of those prayers where you just kind of receive knowledge and comfort and assurance all at the same time. They don’t happen often, but it’s really nice when they do. At the center of this prayer – kind of the anchor on which hung all of the knowledge gained before and after – was a vision or impression. I don’t want to make a big deal out of me having a “vision”. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a “vision” – but there’s a picture in my mind and the picture represents knowledge and understanding. Call it what you want; it remains a memory, with accompanying knowledge and understanding that I hope to relate to you.

This “vision” was very simple. I saw myself standing between Christ and another person. The other person wasn’t anyone in particular. It clearly represented “my neighbor” – all mankind. I was reaching out to both with my arms, but I was still separated from Christ, and I stood between Christ and my neighbor, indicating that my neighbor was even more separated from Christ than I was. The implication was that I was somehow more holy, or more advanced, or kinder, or whatever – I was somehow closer to Christ. As I took in this situation, though, I was realized that the situation, the relationship, as I viewed it is wholly unacceptable to Christ. I guess one could say it was “anti-Christ”.

What I understood during this prayer was that if I view myself, in any way, as being superior to another person, I am merely perpetuating the separation, not only between me and the other person, but also between me and Christ. In other words, I cannot be one with Christ if I am not one with my neighbor. I hope you’ll pause now and let that sink in before I proceed and attempt to relate the gravity of this concept.

SEPARATION

Before I proceed much further, I need to clarify my understanding and usage of the term “The Separation” or simply “separation”. The terms “The Fall” and “The Separation” are, in my theology and understanding, synonymous. When Adam and Eve chose knowledge over oneness, they were separated from the presence of and a oneness with god and from each other. Then, like all of us, they experienced the pain of the separation, and found themselves faced with the challenge of overcoming that separation that they had chosen. They were not only faced with the challenge of redemption for themselves, however, but I speculate that, because their choice resulted in the separation for all their children – because they “fell” together and all their posterity were born into a fallen state – they must somehow be healed of that separation, together. In other words, it is conceivable, at least to me, that Adam and Eve are responsible for bringing their children – all of them – home. I don’t mean to imply that this was all a bad thing. I really don’t understand all the Eden drama, and that is not the point of this post.

This separation from God is perpetuated and re-affirmed by our every thought, every decision, every choice, every action, every belief that is not in harmony with the nature of God. And what is the nature of God? God’s nature is love. I recently discovered a beautiful definition of “sin” in a book called, “A Course In Miracles”. This definition is very simple: Sin is to act in the absence of love. Therefore, if I do not love – if I act in the absence of love – I sin, because I have acted in opposition to the nature of God. We all know that God cannot not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. That sin, then, keeps me from being with God – from being “one” with Him.

SALVATION

I should probably also attempt to define salvation, at least for the purposes of this essay. It seems to me that there are two definitions of salvation at play in the doctrines of Christianity as understood by most of us:

  • The first is salvation from Hell – from eternal damnation.
  • The second definition of salvation is to be permitted to return to God’s presence – to again be one with Him – to no longer be separated from Him.

My observation is that most who profess Christianity throw this term salvation around without really understanding what it means – far too often without even questioning it – and that they also confuse the two definitions. Ironically, since I believe Hell, or eternal damnation, is nothing more than separation from God, the two definitions are really the same, and not different at all. Since Hell is the failure to return to a oneness with Him – to abide in Him and Him in me – my not being one with Him is indeed Hell or eternal damnation. This failure, to the extent that it is within my control, is nothing more than rebellion. The way is prepared for me to return – I just have to follow it.

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. He chose to separate from his father, but then he chose to come home. He came home and received back, by the grace and love of his father, his greatest inheritance (perhaps not the money he squandered). Nothing real (love) was withheld upon His return. The father’s love was unconditional, despite the temporary rebellion of the son. As long as the son remained separated from his father, they were not one, but as soon as the son chose to return, the oneness was given freely. The son had returned! Kill the fatted calf! Most importantly, we must take notice that there was no judgment in the father’s love.

I maintain, then, that salvation is ultimately to be one again with God. As long as I continue to openly rebel by acting in ways that contradict His nature, which is love, I cannot be one with Him. It is my choice. Another result of this choice, if made wrongly, is that I continue to reject Christ. He died in His innocence and perfect love that I might return to God’s presence, but I cannot continue to sin. I cannot continue to willfully and knowingly act in the absence of love. This sin, then, prevents me from being saved, because, despite all that Christ did for me, that I might be saved, if I continue to sin, or act in the absence of love – the very nature of the Christ, I cannot be reconciled to Him or to the Father.

That is not to say that I can do this – become one with God – on my own. The most I can do, actually, is to be willing – to seek, ask, knock – and stay out of the way.

CONTINUING TO SIN

So, what is this, that I continue to sin and willfully rebel? Might it not be said that I keep the commandments in that I do not steal, or kill, or lie, or commit adultery, or covet, or worship other gods? Might I not even say that I keep the commandments in that I am kind, and loving, and gentle? Might I not even feel like I obey the commandments because I tithe regularly and am honest in my business dealings?

Recall my definition of sin – to act in the absence of love. The obvious sins that are detailed in our current canon of scripture, and have become part of our western culture – mostly the “thou shalt nots”- certainly fall within this definition. Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It should be noted that there are many levels of commandments – culminating, similar to the integrated hierarchy of performance measures in a business organization, in the two greatest commandments:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)

All “commandments”, however you view them, are, in my mind, subordinate to these two commandments, and none of them can be contradictory to these. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. If I act in the absence of love, love of God and love of my neighbor, then I sin. If I continue to sin, I must remain separated from God, in a state of damnation. I must at least sincerely desire and strive to fulfill these commandments. Might I suggest that, although I keep the letter of the law or the letter of commandments, primarily some of the subordinate commandments, if I don’t do this in the spirit of charity; if I cannot learn to love unconditionally, I cannot be one with Him, because, as I said, I am acting contrary to His nature. I must remain to some degree in a state of separation or damnation (are there really degrees of separation or damnation?).

ONE WITH GOD AND CHRIST

I have mentioned multiple times so far the importance of being one; of overcoming the separation. Why is this so important? We need only turn to the Gospel of John to find the answer to this. I will begin with John 17:3, which says, simply,

…and this is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”.

This short scripture has become the mantra of my own life – that I might know God and Christ. I’ve become kind of a broken record on this. As I have continued to pursue this goal, as they have continued to teach me what this really means and what I must do to accomplish this, it has become very apparent that “to know” someone in this sense is synonymous with “becoming one” with them. I cannot know someone in an eternal sense while remaining separate from them.

It should be noted here that this and the following scriptures from John 17 are taken from the great intercessory prayer offered by Christ after the Last Supper and before the experience in Gethsemane. Aside from the prayers uttered in the Garden and on the cross, I am not aware of any other prayers from Christ to the Father in the Bible. From this very important prayer, then, come the following utterances:

Speaking of the apostles, Christ says in verse 11,

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Verse 14 says, still speaking of the apostles:

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Then, verses 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.

To be one, the separation can no longer exist. Just before Christ goes to perform the great atonement – the agony in Gethsemane, followed by that on the cross, Christ prays “…for them also which shall believe on me through their word…all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…”. One could certainly deduce from this that at a significant goal of the at-one-ment was that all might be one; that the separation might be healed and overcome.

HEALING THE SEPARATION – BECOMING ONE WITH CHRIST AND WITH EACH OTHER

In my vision, I was not one with Christ. Why? It’s simply because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I continue to openly rebel against His nature. I reject the oneness that He offers. Oh, He waits. He even watches, that He might see me “…from afar off” as did the father of the prodigal son, watching for signs of willingness. My journey back into His presence has certainly begun, and in great earnest, but as long as I continue to work to maintain separation from Him and from my neighbor, I cannot know HIM! I cannot be ONE WITH HIM. I cannot be saved.

In my vision, I was not only “not one” with Christ, I was also not one with my neighbor. Why? Once again, it’s because I continue to perpetuate the separation through my own thoughts and actions. I viewed myself as superior to my neighbor because I was closer to Christ than he was. Now here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Little did I know that by perceiving that I was closer to Christ than my neighbor – that I was somehow superior (or inferior, for that matter), and thus separate, I was in open rebellion against the nature of Christ. I can never be one with Christ unless I can adopt His nature as my own. Again what is His nature? His nature is love. Unconditional love. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! I must learn to have unconditional love for all – for my neighbor, for myself, and for HIM!

The faithful son in the parable of the prodigal son was no closer to oneness with the father than was the prodigal son, even though he was, on the surface, the obedient one. As a matter of fact, in this sense they were both prodigal. The “faithful” son’s love for the father was no more unconditional than was that of the prodigal. Actually, once the prodigal son returned, his love for the father was indeed unconditional, because he wanted only to return as the least in the household, while the eldest son became angry and withdrew his love when the conditions of that love were violated. So, if we place conditions on Christ, such as “If I keep the commandments, I can be saved”, even our love of Christ, or His love for us, is not unconditional.

In order to become one with Christ, I must become one with my neighbor. This is the only way the separation can be healed, the only way I can be saved.

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

How can I learn to love unconditionally, as Christ does? The answer is simple, but executing it is not easy. I must not judge. It is that simple. It is also that not easy!

The world will tell us that it’s ok to judge, as long as we’re right. Even Christ says in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteously”. I declare here and now that it is this judgment that perpetuates the separation; that prevents us from being one with our neighbor, and thus with Christ. It is this judgment that prevents us from loving our neighbor, ourselves, and Christ unconditionally, and stands in the way of our full reconciliation with the Father. It is this idea that we can judge righteously that will damn us. News flash! We are incapable of judging righteously. We just don’t have the knowledge required to judge perfectly. Furthermore, the necessary knowledge is blocked because we judge – because we choose to carry around this poisonous burden of judgment; a poison that we cannot tolerate spiritually, and a burden that weighs us down and prevents us from ascending. We cannot love unconditionally as long as we continue putting conditions on our love in the form of judgment. Wow! What a web we weave!

As I’ve been writing this post, I’ve continued to learn. Unconditional love cannot be learned. It is just in us. It is a gift of our creator – the essence of Him given to us as we are created by Him. However, we CAN learn to reject the characteristics of the natural man which prevent us from manifesting that perfect love. Fear, guilt, and judgment not only prevent us from receiving unconditional love from Father and Christ, but they also prevent us from feeling and manifesting it toward others. This morning, I was praying for someone, and I realized that I just glossed over the prayer, like it was almost mechanical. I stopped and recognized an almost empathetic feeling for this person’s suffering, but I found that I feared to go there. I felt like my prayer was a substitute for true empathy, for true charity. I am right now in the process of trying to learn how I can jettison the fear and see if it will allow me to experience this person’s suffering just as Christ experienced our suffering in the garden.

In my vision, I viewed a separation between me and my neighbor. I saw something in my neighbor that I perceived as being less than me. Perhaps it was less knowledge. Perhaps it was less compassion. Perhaps its was less self-discipline (hard to believe). Perhaps it was less love for his neighbor. Nevertheless, I judged, and because I judged, I did not love unconditionally. I was not one with either Christ or my neighbor. Somehow, I was allowing fear, judgment, or guilt to prevent me from a perfect connection with my neighbor.

Now, my neighbor may well choose not to reciprocate my offer of unconditional love. Once I have offered, I can do little more than continue to love and be patient, without judgment. That is the position Christ finds Himself in. I cannot judge my neighbor because he is unprepared to receive my unconditional love any more than Christ judges us because we are unprepared to receive His unconditional love. The love is unconditional. That means there are no conditions placed upon it. Does Christ withdraw His love, or attach conditions to His love because we choose to put our faith in temporal things, or in culture, or all manner of false gods, or in rituals, ordinances, or scriptures instead of Him? Does He attach conditions because we wrap ourselves in thoughts motivated by jealousy, fear, and guilt? No, he waits patiently, watching for us to approach from afar off. He waits, loving unconditionally, for us to recognize that His love is perfect, and even that we, the creations of the Father, are perfect.

DID YOU SAY “PERFECT”?

What a masterful, perfect lie has been perpetuated throughout the history of God’s relationship with Man. Countless hours and thoughts have been dedicated by Christians and their ministers to attempt to reconcile this lie. Only one perfect being? Hogwash! How can Christ say, as the culmination of His great Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect…” if being perfect is impossible for us – the target of His sermon? How can we be one with a perfect being if we ourselves are not perfect? Are we not to believe Christ? Are we to pick and choose which of His teachings we are to adopt into our lives, obeying some while ignoring this one? Yet as long as we continue to indulge ourselves in judgment of ourselves and others; as long as we continue to entertain thoughts of fear, jealousy, and guilt, and project those feelings onto others – heck, even to project those feelings onto Christ Himself – we separate ourselves from Him and from our neighbor’s perfect self. As long as we are separated, we are not perfect, and we cannot be one with Him. If we are to believe Christ; if we are to keep His commandments (love God, love your neighbor, be ye therefore perfect), we must seek healing of this separation. We must surrender our reliance on the ego, or the natural man, with its lies and illusions, and look to the Holy Spirit for truth. We must recognize that, in eternity (in the absence of time – for time is appointed only unto man), we are already perfect – as God created us – as one with Him. Our creation is not separate from Him. He created us as part of Him – perfect and one in that perfection. Once we can realize this, it is much easier to view ourselves and our neighbor as His perfect creations who, as a result of our essential quest for knowledge, are temporarily experiencing a probationary, illusory existence which we must overcome in order to return to our naturally created state – that of perfect oneness with God and all creation.

FAITH

As a side note, but not completely, I’d like to talk briefly (well, maybe not so briefly) about what we exercise faith in. My faith is in the message that Christ teaches – by His words and by His example. This message is that love – unconditional love, without judgment – that quality which we call charity – is the essence of the universe. It is the purpose behind all commandments. It is the purpose of our existence. All ordinances, all rituals, all scriptures point to this, and that is their purpose. They have no purpose or even value in and of themselves – only in that they point to Christ’s message of charity. Any man (or woman, of course) who does not teach this does not represent Christ, and listening to their teaching may well cause you to miss the whole point of your existence.

I have observed so many who put their faith in these symbols without even understanding their purpose. This purpose – this message – is so radically contrary to our experience on this earth that few are willing to truly receive it. As a result, we receive the law; we receive the scriptures; we receive the ordinances, hoping that somehow receiving and honoring these things will save us. We seek the magic, believing that somehow Christ will elevate us into oneness with Him. I no longer have faith in these things. I don’t even have faith in the person of Christ. Oh, I believe in Him. I even believe Him. I believe His promises. I trust Him – although I must admit I do so imperfectly. But it is His truth, His message – this message of hope and goodness and righteousness, even of perfection in our creation, that I have faith in. All else is idolatry. It is this message that I am choosing to pattern my life after – as massively difficult as I am finding it to be. This message, by the way, is also the message of Zion. It is the only way Zion will be – on the basis of unconditional love without judgment, of ourselves and of others, absent guilt, fear, and jealousy. We can baptize and sacrament ourselves to death. We can revise and fine-tune, even write new scriptures from now into the eternities – all of which is good – but if we do not develop this attribute of charity, we will never realize this great promise, the fulfillment of which is to the greatest glory of Christ and the Father.

SUMMARY

I admit that I’ve rambled a bit. This vision, and the knowledge that came with it…well, it was at once a distillation of things I’ve been learning all my life – especially the last couple of years, along with some new understanding of what it all means that distilled upon me suddenly. I will attempt to summarize the point of this essay:

  • Hell, or damnation, is separation from God. Salvation is being one with God, with Christ, and with each other. Christ is the prototype of the saved man because His is no longer separated from God.
  • We are born into separation. The ego or the natural man is all about self-preservation. He seeks to validate his existence by creating separation. In order to heal this separation, we must learn to subordinate this ego – not eliminate it – to the Holy Spirit. This is done by recognizing the power that guilt, fear, and jealousy hold over us. These are tools that the ego uses to validate itself, to maintain its separation, and they can have no place in our oneness with Christ. They are not part of His nature, and can, therefore, not be part of us.
  • As long as we continue to entertain the purpose of the ego, or the natural man, we sin. Such is counter to the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and therefore is done in open rebellion to their nature. Thus, this sin – this acting in the absence of love – perpetuates the separation.
  • Unconditional love – love without judgment – charity – is the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and extending it to ourselves, our neighbor, and to Christ Himself, is the requirement for healing the separation, which in turn results in salvation.
  • Perfection is our natural state. Everything else is a lie – an illusion. Our task here on this earth is to recognize that and, in doing so, to honor and glorify God and Christ. The flowering of this perfection must be enabled by casting out guilt, fear, and jealousy. The flower exists, it just hasn’t, within the context of time, bloomed yet. However, in the context of eternity, it already exists, and it is the essence of who we are.
  • Faith in anything other than Christ’s message – the message of truth, light, hope, charity, and perfection – is idolatry. Faith in ordinances, scriptures, even doctrine is useless without understanding what they all point to – which is the message, the truth. This is the message of Zion. It is the message that is Christ’s glory. It is the message that is, ultimately, our salvation. There may be many steps leading to this – steps that represent a degree of glory, a stop by the wayside, but only charity, only unconditional love without judgment, can bring about our ultimate salvation and the fulfillment of the purpose of our existence. This salvation, by the way, is incomplete – Christ’s mission is incomplete – until all are saved – one with Him and with each other. In other words, even damnation is a temporary state – a stop by the wayside. Christ will leave no man (or woman, of course) behind, not matter how long it takes.

I believe it is essential that we understand these principles – that we apply ourselves to healing the separation between Christ, ourselves, and each other. This has become so clear to me, and it is the purpose of my life, even my existence.

FINALLY

A quote – in the words of Christ – from the book “A Course in Miracles”

I who am host to God am worthy of Him.

He Who established His dwelling place in me created it as He would have it be.

It is not needful that I make it ready for Him, but only that I do not interfere with His plan to restore to me my own awareness of my readiness, which is eternal.

I need add nothing to His plan.

But to receive it, I must be willing not to substitute my own in place of it.

And from me: Individual ascension can only be accomplished if one focuses on enabling the ascension of others.

When I apply these principles not only to myself, but to others, it is much easier to comprehend ourselves having unconditional love for everyone. I pray that the Lord will teach me – teach us – how I can lay aside those thoughts and beliefs that interfere

.with His plan for me. I pray that He will prepare us to become one with Him, and thus to glorify Him.

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Crime, Punishment, and Forgiveness in Zion

Zion, when it is established, will be revolutionary. Little about the society, the culture, perhaps even the inhabitants, will be recognizable if viewed through the lens of our 20th and 21st century experiences. For this reason, I suspect that most of us have little idea what it will truly be like. In this post, I wish to highlight some characteristics of a Zion society that I believe need to be understood today…now…because they are very pertinent as we consider individually and as a society the possibility of a Holy covenant being offered this September.

korihor before AlmaI recently re-read the story Korihor in the Book of Alma from the Book of Mormon. In Alma, chapter 16 (RE), we read:

Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.

However, in the following story, we read of how the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, “…took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.” So, even though there was no law against a man’s beliefs, and, I would assume, no law against a person verbalizing those beliefs, these stalwart people thought themselves justified in exercising force – physical force – on this individual in binding him and kidnapping him and carrying him before the high priest – who held NO civil authority whatsoever. WOW!

Now this was not, apparently, a truly Zion society (the scriptures do not claim such). This Nephite people, the people of King Benjamin, had only been living under the system of judges for 16 years, and the people of Ammon for barely one year, so it’s understandable that they might be feeling their way through this new system of government, both civil and spiritual. My intent is not to criticize, but to use this as an example of something that I see looming before us.

One of the concerns that I have heard expressed on the topic of the anticipated covenant associated with the restored scriptures swirls around the fear of the exercise of unrighteous dominion. There’s not a lot that is specific to point at, but there’s an undercurrent that I think needs to be addressed. The concern, which I personally share, is that the more rules, or principles, or words of wisdom that exist, the more likely it will be that these rules are used to judge and force people to do things against their will.

Denver Snuffer, in his talk, “Things to Keep us Awake at Night” from March, 2017, said:

No matter who it is you trust at the beginning, even so great a man as Joseph Smith– everything is susceptible to corruption and abuse. Any institution that permits inequality (emphasis mine) will lead inevitably to abuse. Therefore, we need to be equal. We need to be on the same footing. I have seen what result will follow if we organize ourselves into an institution led by a hierarchy. I would rather denounce that inevitable result than to help bring it about. I have taught for years against the gentile “strongman” model. My view has never changed and cannot be changed. I know even the mighty and strong can remain as a servant; for that is the example set by the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” If so great a One as He can remain a servant, then a mere servant can do likewise and shun the opportunity to “rule and reign”—instead teaching and serving alongside peers, friends and fellow-servants.

In the Nephite reign of the judges, as quoted above, it was stated that, “…it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.”

Yet, even these righteous Anti-Nephi-Lehis, these miracle people who would rather surrender their lives to the brutal swords of their enemies rather than stain their own swords with another’s blood, when confronted with teaching that they feared might be harmful, or which they believed was inaccurate and untrue, resorted quickly to judgment and force. It was the only way they knew, and it is the only way we know, to protect themselves (ourselves) as a society from perceived threats to the individual or social welfare.

Zion cannot be that way.

Zion will be revolutionary.

It must be. If it is not; if we choose to set up a society based on what we have done in the past; we will get what we have had in the past. We will ultimately have hierarchy, judgment, punishment, use of force, and people will be on unequal ground. Strong men will arise. The society will most certainly not be of one heart and one mind, and there will most certainly not be “no poor among them”.

Of One Heart and One Mind

How many of us are totally intimidated by the idea of being of one heart and one mind? Be honest now. Raise your hands. Oh, my…so many! Just as I thought. How can we ever be of one heart and one mind when there are so many different beliefs, experiences, and expectations? How can we be of one heart and one mind when we all carry our own set of jealousies and fears, most of which we have not even learned to recognize? Well, I believe the answer to this is in simplicity and flexibility, and, of course, being in tune with the spirit.

Churches today are built upon complex doctrine – doctrine complex enough that each church can distinguish itself from the others because of their different doctrines. 3 Nephi 5 (RE), in the context of the doctrine of Christ, reads:

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

If all churches merely declared the doctrine of Christ, the sermon on the mount, the seeking of charity – there would only be one church. There would be no disputations among us. Oh, there could be many fellowships, but there would be no need for so many individual churches. There would be nothing to distinguish one from another. Each church’s doctrinal box would be very simple, but very large at the same time, with plenty of room for individual exploration and understanding without threatening the integrity of the box. Since the church was no longer trying to protect itself, there would be little need for doctrinal discipline.

Each box would not only be large, it would also be flexible. In Isaiah 19 (RE), we read:

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations, spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes, for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left, and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. (emphasis mine).

If my tent is small because I have restricted its walls, and I fear searching outside my current realm of knowledge, I will never be able to learn and understand all truth; I will be limited in my knowledge. I recently had a delightful visit with a local pastor. We had many ideas and beliefs in common, but it quickly became clear that he believed, perhaps to the point of idolatry, that the Bible is the only source for God’s word. He admitted, when challenged (gently, I might add), that the Bible does not contain all truth, but he held to the premise that if something contradicted the Bible it can’t be true. He even stated that there is only one true interpretation of the Bible. He didn’t realize it, but the length of his cords was very short, and his stakes were driven very deep. In Zion, where we theoretically have so many who are fanatically dedicated to keeping the commandments of God (this is not a bad thing), and receiving revelation from Him, there will be a great risk that we will begin to idolize the knowledge that we think we have. Whether that knowledge comes from the canon of scripture or from the traditions that will most certainly continue to develop, we will likely fall into the trap of discouraging any who might seek or teach knowledge that lies outside our tent. Of course, unless our tent already contains all knowledge, his would be a pretty damning development. We’ve seen this phenomenon before, and it will most certainly arise again unless we keep things light and simple. A glass house cannot withstand the strike of even a single stone. Rigidity is the enemy of knowledge. Such rigidity (read “correlation”) will also make it practically impossible to be of one heart and one mind, precisely because it will tend to discourage the individual quest for truth, and will not be able to tolerate the differences in individual belief. Any attempt to force a state of one heart and one mind will, ironically, have just the opposite effect.

We each learn in different ways. We each have different gaps in our knowledge, and have different needs when it comes to filling those gaps. We have each been taught by the Lord in the way we, individually, need to learn. Even in Zion…no, especially in Zion…we cannot allow ourselves to force the learning and growth process on anyone or bind the Lord’s hand in this process. Instead, we must be dedicated to the proposition that there shall be no poor among us.

No Poor Among Them

….does not only mean that we have to ensure the fulfillment of each others’ temporal needs. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those that mourn. Blessed are the meek. Learning, growth, healing, loving are all just as much part of have no poor among us as is food, clothing, and shelter. Judging someone’s behavior will make them poor – placing them,, and us, on unequal ground. Binding them over to the high priest is an exercise of force, and has no place in Zion. This is a pretty bold statement, I know. It’s pretty revolutionary. Oh wait, “Zion, when it is established, will be revolutionary”. Yes, I’m quoting myself – I realize that, but this is the premise of the paper – that we cannot continue to think the way we have thought in the past. To tell the truth, I don’t claim to know how it will work, but I can see that this is the ONLY way it can work. I trust that,, if I can claim charity unto myself, I can even help it work.

As soon as we begin to try to force people in Zion to behave in a certain way, or believe a certain way, according to certain standards, we have violated the principles of D&C 47 (formerly 121). As soon as we begin holding disciplinary councils, we open the door to unrighteous dominion. In a recent blog post, Dan Pratt proffered that if we canonize the guiding principles, then not only are they no longer flexible (for they are canonized), but we will immediately begin to open the door to enforcing them. Once we start enforcing behavior in Zion, well, then I don’t believe it can be Zion any more.

Consider this…if I enter into a Zion community, I most likely will have given all my worldly possessions, with the possible exception of personal items (essential clothing, my toothbrush, my guitar!) to the society. Under those circumstances, I have little choice but to remain in the society. If I were to leave, making a new life for myself on the outside would be very difficult. To the extent that I fear such a transition, I kind of have to stay. So, if I were to experience any disharmony within the community, whether it’s my fault or the community’s, (or, more likely both) my choices are limited. This is a form of force and control. Furthermore, if I were to be asked to leave the society, such a request would likewise constitute the exercise of force or control.

Does this mean that all behavior must be tolerated? Yeah, I know. Tough question. However, if we are to eschew the exercise of force and/or control, what choice is there? This is crazy, is it not? Revolutionary! Revolutionary, indeed! It requires a whole new mind set…the mind set of Zion; a mindset that even the miraculous Anti-Nephi-Lehi people had not discovered.

A True Miracle of Forgiveness

Can this really be brought about? Can we really conceive of a society where this is no judgment, no discipline, no enforcement? Consider with me the idea of forgiveness. If you think about it, forgiveness implies judgment. We judge, but we forego the punishment. This is the minimum definition of forgiveness required of us by the Lord.

However, there’s another possibility. What if we don’t even judge in the first place? What if we assume that an individual is doing the best they can, and that their motives are pure? What if a perceived transgression is truly viewed as an honest mistake, and thus no transgression at all. What if, as long as the person is not physically harming another or themselves, we teach only by example and encouragement? What if we refuse to be offended? What if forgiveness is simply a state of being – a person is forgiven simply because they exist and we simply forgive because God loves them as much as He loves us, and therefore they must be His perfect creation? Can we do this? I offer that, if we are to have Zion – the Zion that will invite Christ and the City of Enoch to return, this is the level of forgiveness that we must practice.

Crime and Punishment: Enforcement

As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, I have detected an undercurrent of concern about the possibility of the exercise of unrighteous dominion should there actually be a covenant people arise from this next conference in Boise. This concern is certainly based on the assumption that, if there is a covenant, there will be terms of the covenant; that such terms must be enforced within the resulting community, and that transgressors must be corrected, if not punished. If there is no punishment, there is no law, for the law must necessarily be null and void. However, if this “enforcement” of the covenant is put into the hands of men, it will most certainly be corrupted.

The laws of a civil society must be enforced by civil authority. The laws of God must be enforced by God’s authority. The laws of any covenant must be enforced by those who enter into the covenant. At this point, I see such a covenant being between me and God, and thus enforceable only by me and God, and I am personally answerable to no man or council. However, I can see that this covenant, once presented, would be not only a two way covenant, but a three-way covenant, between me, God, and you, my brothers and sisters. Honestly, such a covenant as I imagine, if I am keeping it, will include loving my brothers and sisters, so enforcement of that third dimension of the covenant should not be necessary. If I’m keeping the covenant with God, between me and God, then the relationship between me and my brothers and sisters will be filled with charity. Transgressions will be quickly recognized, repented of, and corrected.

I can also see the possibility that God’s authority will be delegated to men, or that the community will believe that God’s authority needs to be delegated to men. This, frankly, worries me. It seems to detract from the purity of the covenant, and from the purity of the Zion society…a society ruled by charity and the higher form of forgiveness described above. I fear that, if an actual enforcement vehicle exists, we will tend to rely on it rather than relying on the charity in the individual relationship between us, the lord, and our brothers and sisters. In other words, if I have a disagreement with my brother, its resolution belong strictly between me and my brother, to be resolved in the spirit of charity, meekness, and forgiveness. If I simply resort to “binding and kidnapping and bringing him before the high priest”, I have done nothing revolutionary. (I am reminded of the story of Thomas Marsh and the cream). I have, instead, built my society on a foundation of sand – the same foundation of sand that today’s babylon was built on. Just as the post-visitation Nephites prospered for a few generations, so there will be an end to our covenant society, because it is not built upon celestial, eternally sustaining principles, being built instead on telestial principles that rely on the use of force and control for their sustenance.

Traps to Ensnare Us

When I mention the use of force or control, some methods of employing such are obvious. Binding and kidnapping pretty clearly involve force. Others are not so obvious. I mentioned the fact that, just because I have consecrated my possessions to the Zion community, I have placed myself in a potential control situation. This is subtle but powerful, yet it involves no physical force. Also, just as King Benjamin said that there are innumerable ways by which we might commit sin, there are innumerable ways whereby we may exercise force or control or other forms of unrighteous dominion. Not only must we learn to recognize and reject those tendencies in ourselves, but we must also be forgiving and understanding as others learn to recognize and reject them in themselves. Even in these circumstances, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and mercy must rule our behaviors and interactions.

Summary

Zion is described in scripture as a society where the inhabitants are of one heart and one mind, and in which there are no poor among them. If this society is to become a reality, we cannot expect to think and act upon the principles that we have been taught in babylon. Instead, such a society must be built upon revolutionary principles – principles that few of us have ever experienced, not even in our own marriage or in our own family. These principles include:

  1. We cannot resort to enforcing beliefs, no matter how true…period. Enforcement by any means at all cannot be an option. God does not use force and control, and neither can we. Persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned – these are the only methods that we can use to influence the behavior of others, and such influence can only be attempted when moved upon by the holy ghost and in the spirit of pure charity.
  2. Forgiveness without judgment is the celestial order of forgiveness. Judgment can have no place in Zion.
  3. To be of one heart and one mind, our hearts must be focused upon charity – simple charity – the pure love of Christ. The more complex and “staked-out” our tent is, the more difficult it will be for all who have the desire for Zion to be welcome underneath it.
  4. To be poor is not limited to temporal needs. To have no poor among us, we must be committed to looking after each other emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually as well as temporally. The bread and water of life are just as important as the bread and water of the table. The weight of each other’s burdens will typically not be measured in pounds or kilograms.
  5. We must be willing to seek for and welcome truth wherever it might be found. A canon of scripture cannot be used to limit the Lord’s work or our knowledge of Him. Even a canon that has been accepted by the Lord will still have imperfections, whether they be in the text or in the mind of the reader. Such a canon may serve as a foundation, but it cannot be idolized as the entire structure of the knowledge of God’s Kingdom. Such idolatry is rooted in fear. Fear is the enemy of knowledge, and it is typically a measure of a lack of trust and faith in our Savior.
  6. Perfect love casteth out fear. This perfect love is the pure love of Christ – charity. This is the ruling principle in Zion. Any time we find ourselves experiencing negative feelings toward another, we must search ourselves, fix ourselves, and pour out charity on our friend, and upon ourselves.

I have a great desire for Zion. I am reverential of the prospect of being able to harmoniously live in such a holy society. Only through Christ’s atonement will such a thing be possible. That I, that each of us, might be healed to the point where, when we enter Zion, it is still Zion for everyone else; this is the miracle…the miracle of Zion, brought about only by the pure love of Christ.

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A Covenant for Zion

NTBOMPicI am not a scriptural scholar. I read, but I don’t really “study” except with my heart. I live with my heart. I lead with my heart. I listen closely to my heart. It rarely leads me astray. Sometimes I think it has, because I sometimes get hurt or perceive loss or betrayal, but in the end, I always recognize that such things were only perceived in the short term, while in the long term my heart, and the Lord, had led me in truth.

I turned 64 last month. You’d think that after all those years I’d be rock-solid about knowing what I think and what I believe and standing firm. Nope – no such luck. That’s not to say there aren’t MANY things about which I do not waver – because there are – but I also still recognize that I’m really bad about agreeing with the most recent convincing voice. I want to please. I crave harmony. I want my responses to be “yeah, yeah” or “nay, nay”. Unfortunately, in a world of disagreeing voices, that’s not possible. So, guess what – I end up going with my heart. I make a choice, and then I try to stick to it.

I’ve observed the arguments on facebook and in the blogosphere over the covenant that Denver is advocating should be (will be?) offered to those who will receive it at the conference in September. There are many passionate, well-studied, convincing arguments surrounding this issue. I want to believe them all!

Oh, the turmoil!

My head hurts!

Actually, the choice for me turned out to be pretty easy in this case. Why is that? It’s because I went with my heart early on. I’m going to stick with it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t use logic, though. I do, actually. A few, more logical, thoughts:

  • The new scriptures are symbolic of the covenant. They contain the covenant, but not all of it. That covenant is going to be a little different for each of us, because we each have a little bit different relationship with Christ. Our knowledge and our progression is supplemented by personal revelation, to each according to his needs.
  • I’m not going to be making any covenant that I haven’t already made. My primary covenant, the one offered to me in 1997, was that I would “seek to know you”, meaning Christ. That hasn’t changed. The details have become more clear, and are becoming more clear, but they all fall under this very large umbrella. I’ve been committed to Zion for years, as have most of you. I am already on the Lord’s bus.
  • The thing that lends this upcoming covenant – if it is truly offered – further significance than our personal covenants is that we will be making it together. That covenant that I made in 1997 – that was by myself. This one will be different. This will bind many of us together. We are not only covenanting with the Lord, we are covenanting with each other. It’s like a marriage, only without benefits. This will hopefully lead to a concerted, coordinated work being performed. The work will be many faceted. Few, if any, of us know what that work will look like. We will be be engaging each other in faith. Been there. Done that. Didn’t really work out so well – well at least not yet. But I’m willing to try again. As a matter of fact, I’m anxious to try again. I learned a lot the first time. I hope this next time will benefit from the lessons that I learned.

There’s been a lot of fear expressed over this proposed gathering and covenant-making. Mostly – it’s some version of fear of “LDS 2.0” or the strong man, or of making the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. “Denver is starting another church”, or “there’s going to be an hierarchy and I’m going to be at the bottom” (just kidding – nobody really said that – except maybe me – ever so briefly). I get it – sort of. I say “sort of” because I’m not fearful. Not really at all. Here’s why:

  • I do think that any coordinated effort is going to require direction. If there are committees that’s ok. If there’s a functional hierarchy, that’s ok. It’s ok if I’m at the mythical bottom, which I most likely will be because I’m really not an organizer or a driver or a particularly charismatic person. I’m a lover. I’m a teacher. I’m kind, and gentle, and cooperative. I’m a good soldier. The Lord is going to need soldiers. Especially kind, loving, cooperative ones who aren’t afraid to lead when the occasion calls for it. There will be a place for me.
  • I’m free to walk away any time I want to. No man can take away my right to serve the Lord; or to love; or to heal. If “LDS 2.0” pops up, I can leave it, or call it out. Oh – I suppose it will appear in one form or another. All of us participants are so imperfect and we are so unprepared. There will be unimaginable trials. Those trials won’t be over food and shelter, etc. The Lord has told me, and I believe Him, that “There will be enough”. No, our trials will be of a different sort. There will be those who need to learn to be kind, loving, and cooperative because they’ve never had to be that kind, and loving, and cooperative. It will take many a long time to realize that they don’t need to…that they cannot…control others – that they must be patient, and kind, and long-suffering. These can do much damage in a short time, if their fellows aren’t even more patient, and kind, and long-suffering. No man, though, (or woman) has any authority over me that I don’t give him. One might say, “But I’ve given over all my material possessions to the cause, therefore I’m sort of held hostage. If I walk away, I walk away with nothing. My response? “…Consider the Lilies”. If I have truly served the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and soul, he’s not going to leave me comfortless. Furthermore, those “things”, that “stuff” that I “sacrificed” is of no real value. As hard as it may be to comprehend, you have sacrificed nothing by giving away your stuff. As a matter of fact, our attachment to our stuff is a great burden to bear.
  • The covenant-making is an ordinance. It is symbolic and meaningless until I act..or don’t act.  It is like the famous French Revolutionary painting (circa 1830 – there were multiple Eugène_Delacroix_-_Le_28_Juillet._La_Liberté_guidant_le_peuplerevolutions) “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix. The lady liberty herself never existed, but the principles she represents are timeless. It’s meaningless for me, though – only an ordinance – because I have never actually fought for liberty. This ordinance that has been proposed will mean nothing until we act – until I act and until you act. There will be those who will engage, and then do nothing. Many will be overcome by fear despite their best intentions. There will be those who are not there who will nevertheless dedicate their lives to it. The Lord knows His sheep, and His sheep will hear His voice. When we act together, then, we will have power, but not until then.
  • The scriptures themselves are an ordinance. They are symbols on paper, symbols that represent ideas. Those ideas in turn represent the nature of God in that they describe both His historic and His desired relationship with man. These ideas, when applied, become knowledge. That knowledge – knowledge of God Himself – leads to eternal life. Just like any other ordinance, the scriptures represent and point to the ultimate goal – knowledge of and oneness with God.
  • I think the biggest assets among those of us who covenant is going to be humility and charity. I can do humility and charity. I know I can. I still need to practice, but this, however it plays out, will be a great opportunity to practice humility and charity. It’s going to be ok. I just know it in the bones of my soul. My heart tells me so.
  • So, humility and charity…and forgiveness. That’s not the type of forgiveness that is born of judgment. Think about it – most of the time when you forgive someone, you are judging them. You are judging that they have committed some sort of transgression toward you. No, this forgiveness, the forgiveness that will be required of those in Zion, is forgiveness born out of compassion and perfect empathy. It is forgiveness born out of charity. The thought process is, “You are good and I am good. We, together, are doing the best we can. I know no offense was intended, because I trust that you would never deliberately do anything to hurt me or anyone else.” This type of forgiveness is the forgiveness that both comes from and leads to being of one heart and one mind. Choices and decisions are shared, no matter how they work out. There is never an “I told you so”. Ultimately, this is almost a “non-forgiveness” because forgiveness becomes totally unnecessary. This, actually, is perfect love, and perfect love casteth out fear.

Now, there is one caution that I want to throw out. It is that…we have no idea what we’re in for! No one has done this before. Heck, few of us have even tried to live a Zion-like law within our own families, and fewer still outside of that. Can you imagine the adjustments that are going to be required? No, never mind – you almost certainly cannot. Neither can I. I’ve had a small taste, and it was stunning. There will be individual adjustments, family adjustments, community adjustments. Everyone is going to be learning things that nobody in the history of the world has learned before! Enoch? Melchizedek? The post-resurrection Nephites? Sure – they learned some of it, but not under these same circumstances! We are neck deep in babylon, folks – more so than at any time in history! Satan’s hold on this world has reached epic proportions, and we don’t even realize it. The transition is going to be astounding – like getting the bends from coming up too quickly after an ocean dive! These historical examples – they’re not the same. Just not the same. And they weren’t charged with – what was that – finding the remnant of Jacob, gathering them in, and assisting in building the New Jerusalem.

Our world is going to be turned upside down and inside out, and that’s not just a metaphor! Everything we thought we knew, with very few exceptions, is going to go right out the window. Heck, the world itself might even turn upside down – literally! Just consider – the City of Enoch is going to return! An entire city – 300 years of accumulated civilization – and that was just when they left – is suddenly going to appear, probably from another dimension or something! What’s that going to be like?!! As I said – this is not a metaphor – I believe it’s really going to happen. Pain and heartache, shock and awe, wonder and joy – these will be experienced on an epic scale.

Nope – none of us really have any idea what we’re in for. At this point, though, at least in my heart, I’m willing to try. I’m willing to go through another sifting – the sifting of that which has value from that which does not have value. I’m willing to risk failure, even humiliation in the eyes of many. Why? Because either the prophecies are real or they are not. If they are not real, I have lost nothing…I’m just another crazy idealist religious fanatic who was harmless, but who at least had the courage to work for something greater than himself. If the prophecies are real – well eventually the future will be today. Someday the Lord is truly going to call people to do the work. Someday, a select few are going to become the elect, but only if they stand up. Someday fear will have to be abandoned. Jealousies will have to be set aside – even forgotten. We will need to forget how to compete and covet. I’m willing to do this because I have hope. I have hope that the universe is ruled by love. I have hope that it is possible to live by the principles of goodness and righteousness. I’m willing to do this because, somewhere deep inside me, there’s this little voice saying, “This is it – this is the time. YOU can really help save the world”. To be clear, this is never about my personal salvation. It’s never about escaping the pain of a coming holocaust. That’s all fear-driven. No – it’s about being on the Lord’s bus, because He did so much to pave the way, and I can’t bear the thought of disappointing him. I guess that’s a little bit fear-driven, but that’s a fear – fear of disappointing Christ – that I can live with.

Those other fears – the fears that I mentioned earlier, the fears that may be causing people to balk at making this covenant – they can’t hurt me. Men can’t hurt me – not really. The greatest risk I take is disappointing Christ. I choose, though, to believe in miracles and the gifts of the spirit that will be manifest when they’re needed, and when I have exercised enough belief…when we have exercised enough belief – enough faith – enough courage. I choose to believe that the Lord is capable of taking dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of imperfect and unprepared people and bringing them together to carry out that marvelous work and wonder that has been prophesied since the days of the patriarchs.

Dang – I wanna be there to see that happen!

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Fast for Charity – What Have I Learned So Far?

charityWell, we’re more than half-way through this “Fast for Charity”. What have I learned so far? The things I’ve learned coincide heavily with my reading in “A Course in Miracles”. It turns out that there are many who have read this book – especially outside of LDS circles. No matter. Its significance is in what we do with it. I spoke with a person yesterday, a very fine mid-wife with, by my limited observations, a high degree of integrity and love in her life. She said she had read it and gone through some lessons, even that there was a group in Bonners Ferry who studied it together. I asked her if it changed her life. She had to stop and think, and eventually stopped short of saying it had changed her life, but she admitted that it had impacted or influenced her life for the better. We discussed how the principles and concepts in the book were very difficult to implement in our daily lives. She asked how it was impacting my life, and how I felt about it – would I implement its truths in my life (the implication being that, in her mind, not everything in it is true)? I said (heavily paraphrased and sprinkled with my thoughts in addition to my words), “Well, I don’t know. It’s so difficult, yet that IS my life – learning to know Christ and follow His path. It is my hope, my reason for being. So – yes, I’m certainly going to try, but it’s not going to be easy, and I can’t say yet how successful I will be”. Still, this process of implementing truth in our life, and choosing to make decisions based upon that truth, is that not the process of receiving the gift of charity; of learning to understand and pass on the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ; of setting aside our selfishness and trusting in Him; of getting all this crap in our lives out of the way so we can truly be charitable? So, back on point – what have I learned?

As I have suggested already in more than one place, I believe Charity is a gift to be bestowed on us (Moroni 7:48), and one which we must receive. In order to receive it, we must clear the way. We must overcome the natural man, who is an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19). We must rid ourselves of jealousies and fears (D&C 67:10). We must surrender any and all desires to control or compromise the agency of others (D&C 121: 41-42), no matter how stealthily we have learned to do just that. This gift – the pure love of Christ – is available to all, not only to receive, but then to, in turn, re-gift. Without the re-gifting, though, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1).

I have learned a little more than this over the past weeks, though. Some of it represents these same principles presented in different words:

  1. We, as fallen humans, consist of a spirit and an ego.
  2. The spirit seeks truth and recognizes only truth. It is one with God. There is no conflict in the spirit – no contention, no selfishness – only oneness with the mind of God and with each other.
  3. The ego is itself a lie, an illusion, created by us for the purpose of perpetuating separation (the fall) from God and from other humans. (I haven’t yet figured out the mechanics of how this ego was created by us. As a matter of fact, I have very few insights.) Its very existence depends upon this separation, for without it, only oneness would exist – oneness with God and with each other. The ego is our unique identity, and because it naturally battles against oneness, it is an enemy to God. The ego validates itself – its “raison d’etan”, if you will – through fear. The ego represents the natural man.
  4. Knowledge is of the spirit. Knowledge has only one purpose – to be shared. If we have knowledge but do not share it freely, it is lustful, and will condemn us.
  5. We are all teachers. We teach what we believe, and what believe is what we are. If we teach love – by our every action and word – then we are love. We are charity.

New concepts – most stunning to me, and most difficult to process: the opposing concepts of abundance and scarcity.

  1. Abundance is truth. It is love. It is perfection, trust, faith. It is believing in the “lilies of the field”.
  2. Scarcity is an illusion, a lie, created by the ego to justify its existence.
  3. If scarcity (of anything and everything) is real, then we must continually strive to make sure we have our own. In contrast,
  4. Charity is made possible when we accept God’s promise of abundance; when we gain the knowledge that all of our needs have been, are, and always will be met, therefore we have enough and to spare, temporally, emotionally, and spiritually, so that we can freely give to others? Note – this does not just apply to “stuff” – it applies to all aspects of our existence.

As I said, this is most difficult to conceptualize, but for some reason I perceive that it is true. Yes, this dichotomy of abundance vs. scarcity, and the fact that it is perhaps the basic tension in our existence; both a result and an effect of the fall; just makes sense to me, and if I am able to isolate the ego in myself, and learn to cast it aside in favor of the spirit of truth that is my true being, I believe I will be able to pass from this telestial existence to a terrestrial state, even as I continue to walk the earth.

Tying this all together, what have I learned? I have learned that charity is the complete, perfect, selfless alignment with the universe – with God and with the laws which He created, and which are, themselves, love – the pure love of Christ. As I said in an earlier blog post, charity is Christ. It cannot be received, or passed on, as long as we maintain the idea of our separation from God and from others. Charity cannot be given or taught as long as we keep striving, by our own strength and resources, to gather “our own” in order to meet our needs. Charity is indeed a gift – a gift that has been bestowed upon each of us. It is our spiritual nature – it is who we are underneath the facade of the ego – but the ego is smothering, and as long as we continue to allow the ego, the natural man, to smother our charity in lies and illusion (the illusions of separation and scarcity) we will never be able to pass it on; we will never be able to teach it. It will have stopped with us. I can only imagine the impact of such a condition on you, on me; on all of God’s children.

I have said many times, in different writings and postings across social media and the “blogosphere”, that no matter how intimidating things might seem, I cannot give up. Discovering these things about charity, about all that I must change about myself, is indeed intimidating, but I have to keep walking down this path. I have to keep reaching out for that which Christ made possible through His atonement, and I have to keep relying upon His tender mercies to lift and strengthen me as I struggle. If I were to quit…well, I would be empty. My point is that, in presenting these principles and concepts, I do not claim in any way that I have mastered them and/or risen to some plateau of spirituality. No, all I am doing is standing at the bottom of the mesa and wondering how in the world I’m ever going to get to the top, while realizing that I won’t be able to live with myself if I stop trying. I sure hope Christ is pleased with my efforts, because if He is not, then it is probably all in vain.

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A Little Diddy ’bout Jack and Diane

life-jacket-4“Hey, Jack! Hey Diane! Great to see you two! You know, it sure is neat to reflect on how, only a few years ago, you guys first put on the life jacket and jumped into the bay! Now, you’re swimming around just like you were born here! It’s so good to have you with us!”

“Thanks, Phil. Yeah, it’s been quite the journey so far. There’s so much joy here – all the kids laughing and splashing, and the parents and families just blissfully swimming around the bay, and of course”, Jack said, looking lovingly at Diane, “we couldn’t be happier. I’ve definitely found my soul mate.” Diane added, “Also, I’m so thankful for the lifeguards who watch over us – making sure everyone obeys the rules, and follows the lesson plans – developing their strength for the big swim that we’re all sure to undertake some day. Oh, and the sunsets! Every single day, to be able to watch the sunset – how beautiful it is; its majesty and glory. There’s something about it that gives life. It almost seems like, without the sun, we would all die, even with the life jackets. Yeah, I’m just plain grateful for all that I have, and for all that I am.”life-jackets-3

As happy as they were, as Jack swam around, enjoying the life of the bay, he couldn’t help but wonder about a few things, like, “What’s lies below? With this life jacket on, I can’t explore the depths of the bay. All I can do is swim on the surface. And any time anyone tries to swim without the life jacket, the lifeguards force the issue, threatening to kick the offender out of the bay. Plus – that sun…it just draws me. I want to get closer, to know it, to truly experience it. Something tells me that this is not only possible, it is desirable, even required. Yet, with this life jacket on, I really can’t swim fast enough or long enough to get out of the bay, much less actually follow the sun like I know in my heart I’m supposed to.” He shared these questions with Diane at first, but they remained questions – nothing to be seriously pursued. After all, the water was just fine, and he was happier than he had ever been.  It didn’t seem like a good idea to rock anyone else’s world at this time.

Jack was also curious about Daniel – the older guy who kind of kept to himself most of the time. He obeyed all the rules and was careful not to stand out among the other swimmers, but there was just something about him. He seemed plain enough, but he somehow gave off an aura of wisdom; but also of having been wounded or broken, as if his spirit had at one time soared, before crashing to the earth. He seemed to have scars that were not visible, but Jack somehow perceived them nonetheless. He couldn’t help feeling like Daniel “knew things”.

“You know, Phil”, Jack said one day, “I wonder what Daniel’s story is. He’s really interesting, but he sure keeps to himself. He kind of reminds me of that fish, Gill, in “Finding Nemo”. You know – the old, wise, beaten, and scarred fish who had lived outside the aquarium for so many years, who knew about a bigger world, but was hesitant to share what he knew.”nemo007

“Well, Jack, I think I’d stay away from him. He’s expressed a few ideas that are, how do you say it, ‘outside the bay’; dangerous ideas if you ask me. I think he’s been places none of us wants to go. I even heard that he was banished from the bay many years ago, but he somehow came back. Not sure how that all works, and, I’ll tell you, I don’t want to know!”

Well, Jack was a pretty good guy – stable, cooperative, and supportive, but he did have this curious streak in him. Not only that, he somehow knew there was supposed to be more. He just felt drawn to know.  Jack felt increasingly, deep inside himself, that he would eventually have to explore outside the bay, or at least underneath within the bay. Of course, he mostly shared everything with Diane, but these thoughts were so outside the norm that he withheld them for a while, even from her. He wasn’t sure how she would react, or even whether or not they were valid thoughts or feelings. After all, they had everything they wanted right here in the bay…well, almost everything. Yeah – he needed to sit on this for a while before he burdened Diane with such things.

One day, while casually swimming around, Jack just happened to find himself crossing
Daniel’s path. “Hey, Daniel”, Jack said. “How are you doing today? You know, I’ve often wanted to speak with you – get to know you a little better. You just seem like a guy who’s perhaps gone a little deeper into things, no pun intended, and I’d love to pick your brain.” Daniel looked warily at Jack. He had been approached by others before, and every time he began to talk about his experiences and beliefs, he ended up in council with the lifeguards, being told to keep his beliefs about what exists beyond the surface of the bay to himself. After all, “we don’t want to be encouraging people to do things that might prove dangerous or disharmonious”. So, Daniel was nervous about Jack’s approach, but there was something sincere and honest about him. He had likewise observed Jack from a distance, and something told him he could be trusted. He responded, “Well, thanks Jack. That’s very kind. There’s not really a lot to be told – I’ve just made some wrong turns here and there; got hurt, but learned a lot in the process. Most lessons come with a little pain, you know.”

“Yeah, Daniel, I guess so. I made my own share of mistakes before I found the bay. I’ve just been curious about a few things. As I’ve swam around the bay, I’ve wondered, ‘What’s underneath us? My intuition suggests that there’s a lot down there, but with this life jacket on, I can’t go down and see. You ever tried that – removing your life jacket and diving below to see what’s down there?”

“Jack, be careful there. I’d hate to tell you something that would potentially upset the harmony of the bay, or in your life, or cause others to question things. As I said, all knowledge – I mean real knowledge – comes at a price. It has often been said, especially here, be careful what you ask for.”
“Yep, I’ve sure experienced that, and often it’s very true. Thanks for the caution, but…boy, I sure feel drawn to know more. Plus, as I swim around, I just keep thinking that there is so much more to this bay, to this life, heck, maybe even beyond the bay, than what we can see from the surface.”

“Jack, you’re right. There is a lot down there, and out there. Most people can be perfectly happy swimming in the bay, floating with their life jackets, but you don’t seem to be that kind of person. I guess I wasn’t either.  Still, it doesn’t do any good for me to tell you what I’ve learned or what I’ve experienced. You’ve had your own experiences out there, and you must continue on your own journey. Besides, look at me – I’m right back here in the bay, trying to stay out of trouble, to ‘not rock the boat’ so to speak. No, you need to figure these things out for yourself. What I will tell you is…keep asking. Keep thinking and pondering. Don’t be afraid to expand your paradigms a bit. Ask God for truth and understanding. Expect an answer, and don’t be afraid of truth. That may not sound like a magic formula, but, trust me, it’s a lot and it works, but it takes courage. Once you start seeing and opening up, you will be amazed at what the truth really is. Watch out, though. If you ever take off your life jacket, not only will you face opposition from the lifeguards and everyone else in the bay, but you will also discover that swimming is much more difficult and thus much more dangerous.”

Well, Jack was intrigued by the things Daniel had said. He spent months pondering, wondering what lay below in the depths, and what new things might await anyone who sought to approach the sun. He asked often for understanding. The answer, more often than not, was “Trust me. Relax. Seek and ye shall find.”

As Jack swam, day after day, wondering if there was more to be known and experienced, an emptiness began to manifest inside him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something – that there was more, a lot more, that he was supposed to learn, more that he was supposed to do. His own sense of truth told him that he had to do whatever it took to find it. Eventually, Diane noticed his increasing distress. Jack opened up, and they discussed the situation, and she decided to ask for herself. She got the same answers – “Trust Me. Relax. Seek and ye shall find”. Together they began to prepare themselves for the day when they would remove their life jackets, and take the next step in their search for truth.

life-jackets-1One day they casually wandered to the outskirts of the bay and, while Jack kept watch, Diane slipped out of her life jacket and dove below the surface. At first, it was difficult just to get used to the sense of freedom, but as she dove deeper, and explored below, she was amazed at the beauty of the fish, the coral, the sun’s rays shining through the beautiful turquoise waters of their bay. As she resurfaced, Jack could see the astonishment in her face, and could hardly wait to take his turn. While Diane watched from the surface, Jack dove. He dove as deep as he could without drowning. He, too, was stunned by the beauty of what he saw. After he surfaced, he and Diane resolved to repeat this experience often.

At first, no one noticed their activity, but eventually people began to wonder why Jack and ocean-reef-coral-fishDiane spent so much time in the outer regions of the bay, and why they would seem to be alone – one without the other – so often. One day, Phil actually saw Jack slip out of his life jacket and dive below the surface. Immediately, he reported what he saw to the lifeguards. Jack and Diane were lovingly reprimanded: “Don’t you understand how dangerous it is for you to swim without the life jackets? Don’t you understand what a dangerous example you are setting for your fellow swimmers? Don’t you have faith in the life jackets, and in us, and in the rules that govern our bay? Look how happy you’ve been under our care!” Jack and Diane tried to explain what they had seen and experienced, but nobody listened. The couple was quite taken aback at the intensity of the reaction to their attempts to explore. They didn’t feel like they were doing anything wrong. They were just hoping to learn more about the bay that they lived in, where they had learned to be so happy. They initially had no desire to leave; only to experience all that the bay had to offer. They would not be deterred, though. They had seen too much, and they desired even more. Continued pondering and questioning simply increased their resolve. It wasn’t long, though, before they realized that one day they would have to leave the safety of the bay, and set out to follow the sun. They knew that whatever beauty lay beneath the surface of their bay would only continue to amaze and fulfill as they continued to explore, even beyond the confines of the bay itself. They loved the society of the bay, but they were being led to something greater. The sun beckoned, and they could no longer ignore its call.

Finally, one day, they knew it was time. They began to make their way quietly, deliberately, hopefully toward the outlet of the bay. They didn’t know what lay beyond, but they knew that they had to seek after that sun that provided their entire world with light. open-oceanAs they approached the outlet, they slipped out of their life jackets. The few who observed them called out, “No – Jack and Diane! Don’t do it! We love you! Don’t you know you could be lost forever?” By this time, though, Jack and Diane had the courage of angels. They somehow knew they would be protected by the power of the sun. They waved joyfully, saying, “We love you too. Tons! But we have to go.” Swimming was hard at first, but as they continued on, their strength increased. The waves, once so intimidating, seemed to calm. There was always danger – they no longer had the benefit of the shelter of the bay and the buoyancy of the life jackets – but neither were they limited as they had once been. They were free to seek after all the beauty and glory of the ocean. ocean-sunThere was always turbulence, but they were strong, and they were lifted. Often, especially when they were tired, they would feel like they might have lost their way, wondering if they had made the right choice, but prayer and courage always brought them back. They knew the sun was out there, and they felt it beckoning. They constantly experienced its light as they swam toward it. They dreamed that they would some day reach it and experience its full glory. As they swam, as they searched, they would occasionally dive. The beauty of every dive was stunning, each time expanding their understanding and knowledge. In the meantime, they became stronger and stronger. No wave was too big, no current too strong for them to navigate. They began to feel at one with the ocean; with the sky, with the fishes, and with the sun, the moon, and the stars.

The story of Jack and Diane is yet to be finished. They continue to seek after the light generated by the sun. They hope to someday be able to share with others what they’ve learned. After all, what good is knowledge if it isn’t used to increase joy in oneself and in others? Every day they acquire greater strength, greater courage, greater knowledge, and greater love. They loved themselves, each other, and their world enough to risk all in the search for truth. The safety of the bay may be lost to them, but true faith, faith in the son, will still preserve them, as it will all who will truly seek Him.

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A Tie-Dye Tale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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