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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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Fast for Charity

On behalf of my friend, Dan Pratt:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.”

We would like to invite any and all to join in a 40-day fast for the Lord to pour out His Spirit and His love (charity). It will begin February 8 and end March 20th (spring equinox). This can look however you want it to look. It may not have anything to do with abstaining from food if you don’t want it to. You could abstain from something else. Perhaps you could give something “away” to those who suffer (instead of giving something “up” to make yourself suffer). Or you might simply focus on adding light to your life. It may be appropriate to include prayer, meditation, “rejoicing” and whatever else might be deemed as “all the energy of one’s heart.”

For more information as to why this might be a good idea, please see the points and cited scriptures at fastforcharity.blogspot.com.

Personally, for me, “Scoot”, I had not planned on participating in this, even though Charity is very much a focus for me (see my last post – Charity Never Faileth )  In my personal life, I have engaged in other lengthy “fasts” recently.  However, I so admire this effort, and the focus is so important, that I can’t help but participate.  The power of such a joint fast could be astonishing.  I’ll have to get creative, but I can do that.  I can figure something out that will be a sacrifice but will not cause me to lose even more weight – LOL!  What price could really be too much to pay, if I can only receive a small portion of the Pure Love of Christ.

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Charity Never Faileth

If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:44-48)

carl blochIn this post, I hope to share my recent journey of discovery and understanding concerning the scriptural charity described above in Moroni 7:44-48.

As I’m sure many of you do, I often wake up in the middle of the night and can’t immediately go back to sleep. I’ve learned to just embrace those quiet hours and think…more often than not about my relationship with Christ. Such prayers, as I’m sure you know, can often yield great insights. One night recently, I was thinking also about my wife, Diana, and how much I love her. I thought about whether or not my love was unconditional, and I realized that it wasn’t unconditional at all – that it was actually very much conditional upon who she is. If this lady so sweetly lying next to me were a different person, I wouldn’t love her like I do, so my love is conditional upon her personality, her virtues, her looks, etc. So, I began to ponder…”If I don’t love her unconditionally, do I love anyone unconditionally? Do I have any idea how to love unconditionally?” I concluded that, with the possible exception of a parent/child love, the love people have for each other, no matter how pure and beautiful it may be, is not, in the end, truly unconditional. So, again I asked myself, “How can I learn to love as Christ does – unconditionally? How can I love someone simply because they exist? How can I develop a desire to serve and enrich the lives of others regardless of who they are or how they treat me? How can I gain charity?” Then, I began to ask myself, “Is Christ’s love really unconditional?” I looked up the words “conditional” and “unconditional” in the scripture search on LDS.org and discovered that those words do not exist in the scriptures. Period. Nowhere. Nada. So, where do we get the idea that Christ’s love is actually unconditional? I’m not declaring unequivocally that it’s not, but I don’t know where the idea comes from if it’s not scriptural. As a matter of fact, there are numerous scriptural references to the conditions associated with repentance and salvation – so these manifestations (forgiveness and salvation) of Christ’s love are indeed conditional. Come to think of it – aren’t all of the manifestations of Christ’s love predicated upon obedience to some law? (D&C 130:20-21) So, what is love without manifestations of that love, and if the manifestations are conditional, isn’t the love conditional?

My next thought stream concerned whether this unconditional love (which may or may not actually exist) is the same as the scriptural “charity” as described by Moroni above (as well as by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13). I reviewed the description of charity, and as I prayed about it, I prayed as I had many times in the past that I might be gifted with this greatest of all virtues.

As a brief aside – I have concluded that charity is indeed a gift that must be bestowed on us based on Moroni 7:48 – …which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ…that it is not something that we can actually develop in and of our fallen selves, no matter how hard we try. I have furthermore concluded that once it is offered, it is still our responsibility to actively receive it – by surrendering our pride, jealousies, and fears (D&C 67:10) and cleansing ourselves of all unworthy (unworthy as compared to the description of charity above) personality traits and thought patterns that might actually prevent us from manifesting charity through our actions. In other words, we must believe and exercise faith that these virtues that constitute charity are more desirable than those that we must reject before we can make place for charity to abide in us.

So, as I reviewed the definition of charity, and as I prayed that I might be gifted with charity, the following things occurred to me:

  • This description of charity is actually a very good definition of Christ’s character.
  • This same description is the very antithesis of babylon, or the natural man.  It refutes the lies that have been told us by satan since the garden drama took place.

This is probably not a particularly astounding discovery, although I’ve never heard it put quite that way, but where it leads me proves interesting and affirming – like wrapping a whole bunch of things with a nice, neat bow.

Allow me.

If charity describes Christ’s character – His very essence, if you will – then if we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, would this not be the same thing as receiving charity? Is His name not a label that represents His character, His personality, His essence? Therefore, to take upon ourselves the name of Christ = to receive charity = to reject the natural man = to leave babylon. Furthermore, would this seeking after and receiving of charity not be necessary if we are to know Christ and experience eternal life? (John 17:3)  Does this not give new meaning to John 14:23                                                                                    :annunciation-to-shepherds-949488-gallery

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him…

…as well as to all the versesin John 14, 15, and 17 referencing God abiding in us and being one with us (or us with Him)?  If we are able to receive and nurture the attributes that define Christ, could that not be how he abides in us (his attributes are part of us) and how we become one with Him (we share the attributes that define us). This seems pretty all-encompassing, as if it is the very definition of redemption, even salvation.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that without this charity we are nothing. In other words, no actions, thoughts, or knowledge can make up for the lack of this attribute. Moroni says the same thing in verse 44, then, in verse 47 he says, “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni thus softens his message just a little, but the point is the same…without charity…without Christ…we are nothing. We are terminal. The purpose of our existence, therefore, is to become what Paul and Moroni describe as “charity”.  

Paul, also in 1 Corinthians 13, offers a very similar description of charity as Moroni did – than he says:

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – emphasis added)

Moroni describes charity as “the pure love of Christ”. The pure love of Christ must, then, equal the description of charity offered by both Paul and Moroni. It is perfect. It reflects perfection (…”Be ye therefore perfect”…) Not only that, but it…”endureth forever”. Charity describes what the perfect, eternal…saved…being must be like. Christ is charity.  According to Joseph Smith, Christ is the prototype of the saved man (Lectures on Faith 7:9), therefore charity describes the saved man.  We are pretty much commanded to receive charity – the pure love of Christ – unto ourselves and become perfect.  Such conclusions completely contradict the pernicious lie which has been perpetuated (I hope unwittingly) for millenia by the cultural churches and religions that further satan’s agenda, teaching that we cannot be perfect or that only Christ is perfect.  This is a perfect lie, actually, one worthy of the great deceiver, in that it convinces that we cannot receive all that Christ offers us.  It keeps the true disciple down, buried under the weight of unbelief.  It is indeed a contradiction of epic proportion, but what a glorious contradiction it is!

In summary – my journey of discovery has resulted in the following understanding:

  • Charity, as described by both Paul and Moroni, is the personality – even the very essence – of Christ. It is forever, it is perfection, it is all things, and without it, we are, even He himself is, nothing.  If He were not these things, He would not be the Christ.
  • Christ’s love is pure (unpolluted by the conditions of the fall?), but not necessarily unconditional.
  • Charity may be bestowed upon us, but we must, in turn, receive it , and this is done by casting off the stakes of babylon, of the natural man in order to make a place for it in our hearts; that our actions might in turn reflect this charity – the essence of Him whom we worship.
  • To “know” Christ, and thus to receive eternal life, we must take Him unto ourselves – this is synonymous with receiving and nurturing charity. It is in this way that He and the Father abide in us, and it is in this way that we become one with Him. Charity is required if we are to be saved.

I offer this perspective simply for your consideration. Perhaps it will lead you to a similar, or even a different, understanding. As for me, I will continue to seek to fully receive these virtues that constitute charity, the pure love of Christ, the essence of Christ, the very name of Christ – and I will seek to receive them by rejecting the jealousies, fears, and pride that Satan has imbued in the natural man, who is an enemy to God. (Mosiah 3:19)

PS…

The treatises on charity by Paul and Moroni, the Sermon on the Mount, and D&C 121:34-46, in my opinion, constitute Christ’s instructions on how we are to live the gospel; how we are to believe in Him, know Him, become one with Him, and gain eternal life. Pretty much everything we need to know, everything we need to do once we have been baptized, is contained in those scriptures.  They represent the blueprint for how we are to treat each other, and it is by this blueprint that the desires of our heart are assessed – those very desires of our heart by which all men will ultimately be judged. (D&C 137:9 – “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts”) This is how we manifest our belief in Him; this is how we love Him and each other. We take them lightly and justify deviations to our damnation. People far too often get caught up in the do’s and dont’s of their religion; put up their stakes; resort to tradition and the philosophies of men in redefining that straight and narrow path that leads back to His presence and our redemption from the fall.  Scriptures become allegorical, or are superseded by the interpretations of conspiring men.  This “fog of religion” (terminology from Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge) tends to dilute, even displace, these pure, essential instructions with man-made commandments and false doctrines that have no power to save. They are a poor substitute for the doctrine of perfection and salvation given in these golden scriptures. To the extent that people – or churches – allow this displacement or dilution to take place, either personally or institutionally, they are in grave error, and have fallen into the same trap as the Pharisees of Christ’s day, loving the construct of the law more than they do Christ, who is the giver of the law.  In Christ’s own words:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (Matthew 23:25)

If we are to make the inside of our cup clean, we must reject the natural man (babylon) with his house of pride, jealousies, and fears built so deceptively on the foundation of sand. We must take these key scriptures as our unwavering guide. We must seek to receive, nurture, and cherish this supernal gift of charity; truly take upon ourselves His name; know Him; and become one with Him. Only charity, bestowed by Christ and received by each of us individually, can save us. This last paragraph (4 sentences) I declare unto you in the name of Jesus Christ.

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Testimony of Christ – Oct 25, 2016

Sometimes, when I pray, I am aware of Him – of His essence, His nature. It’s an awareness of a being, a presence, an intelligence that is simply good. He is forgiving, and merciful, and patient, and kind, and understanding. He is just good – goodness personified, one might say. It’s really kind of hard to describe, but at different times I get more of a concrete sense of His being. It’s not a glorious light or anything, just an awareness of who He is, of His nature – a nature that embodies all the goodness that I am capable of comprehending. I’ve never “seen” Him, but in this way, I guess I “know” Him. Sometimes, but not always, it feels as if I can almost break though the veil and touch Him – come face to face. That hasn’t happened yet.

At other times He has come to me. Again, I don’t “see” Him, but I know He’s there. I can’t say how I know it, or how I know it’s Him, but I do. I remember the first time I was completely shocked. It kind of gently caused me to take a deep involuntary breath – like “taking my breath away”, but not that intense. I just suddenly knew He was there, and that I could ask anything of Him that I wanted. Without hardly thinking, I asked Him to save our children. I was very gratified later to realize that, when finding myself in His “presence”, my first, almost instinctive request, was for the welfare of our children. That was quite reassuring. Another time, He made me to know that “I am”. Just as He is, so I am. It’s like, whatever I am I already am. I’m not going to change – I’m already what I’m supposed to be. I just don’t know it yet. It’s my knowledge and understanding of who I am that evolves and changes. Of course, this suggests my existence outside the context of time, which remains pretty much incomprehensible to me. It was also clear that this “me” that “I am” is pleasing unto Him and loved by Him. Again, nothing flashy or glorious – just…nice.

Why do I tell you this? Well, there’s this belief that we have to “see” Him in order to receive the Second Comforter. That may be true – it probably is – but I’ve never “seen” him…still, somehow I “know” Him. I don’t understand how it works. I would expect to be overwhelmed by His glory, even by His goodness. Instead, I just feel His gentility and kindness. I’m always comfortable. I’m relieved every time He comes to me again like in the second account. I’m like, “Oh – I’m so glad you will still come to me like this. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”. Then we have conversation. My thoughts – His answers. It’s never anything overwhelming or exhausting, but it’s very reassuring. It give me peace.

I don’t know why these experiences are not like other accounts we’ve all read. He has cautioned me on a couple of occasions not to compare my experiences with those of others. Satan as an angel of light, you might say? I really don’t think so. It’s just too mellow, too good, too comfortable. He doesn’t flatter me, except to remind me that I am good (I am – I really am a good person) and that He loves me. He has told me to do things that seem to be exceptional, but they’re never, ever anything that exalts me in any way. I’ve made the mistake of feeling like I was going to do something really special, but as it turned out, it was really all quite humbling and instructional – and all I had to do was step along and try to be consistent with what I know of His goodness – the very goodness that I want to take onto, into, myself, the very goodness that I want to become. So – its was a gently humbling experience, and one that has changed me and continues to change me.

Christ, this Christ that I know, is good. He’s just this great big beautiful bundle of kindness and humility and power and perfection bursting with the desire to know us and love us and lift us – to save us. He is patient. He is kind. He is understanding and compassionate. His power comes from His ability to love us more than He loves Himself.

So, I can’t say that I’ve seen Him. Perhaps that is a joy that awaits me some time in the future. Yet, I know Him. He knows me. It is this quiet joy, this gentle assurance that keeps me, in spite of all my weakness and imperfection, on that straight and narrow path. He lives and He loves. How could we ask more than that for ourselves?

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