I was praying really, really hard in the celestial room – probably harder than I ever had in my life – begging for a manifestation or clear answer to my question. My prayer, in part, said, “You have told me I am to teach. If I am to teach, I must understand.” I recalled in my prayer the story of the woman whose petition was initially rejected by the King, until he got so tired of hearing her that he said,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. (D&C 101:82-84)
There were many things I learned that day, but I share this one. At one point, I laid before the Lord 5 virtual stones – asking him to touch these stones with His finger. The stones I laid before him represented Discernment, Compassion, Obedience, Charity and Virtue. In asking Him to touch them with His finger, I was asking him to help me develop these gifts in my life. What do these stones mean? Why did these particular 5 stones come to my mind? It’s not like I thought really hard about why these things were important. After all – they just came to me. I hope you’ll humor me while we examine these more closely:
2 Nephi 28:14 says:
They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
I am a humble follower of Christ, or at least I’m trying very hard to be, yet this scripture tells us that even though we are numbered among His humble followers, we will err. We are living in a telestial world. I have written before of the challenges associated with this existence. If I am to seek truth, and share it with others; if I am to help lead the way, I must have the gift of discernment in order to distinguish between truth and lies. The Lord warns us again in D&C 45:28-29:
And when the times of the Gentiles (that’s US, folks) is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel;
But they (US again) receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
I so do not want to be among those who “perceive not the light”…because of the precepts of men. The gift of discernment comes from the Holy Ghost – the testifier of truth. As the last days march forth, the humble followers of Christ will be navigating a mine field of half-truths and outright lies. The Lord further warns us in D&C 112:23-26:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
Again, if I am to remain true to my personal covenant with the Lord that I will “seek to know thee”, I must learn to rely on the spirit to guide me – I cannot trust in the arm of flesh. I must have the spiritual gift of discernment.
For me, compassion results from the knowledge that, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”. Thus, compassion, in my mind, is closely related to empathy. Compassion is one of those virtues that shine through in all that you do. People can feel compassion, they can see compassion……people can sense compassion. Compassion breeds trust. When one speaks or acts with compassion, people listen; they take notice, and teaching can take place. Compassion also breeds passion. When one truly cares about those whom one serves, the service becomes more meaningful and is delivered with more energy. Love grows. Lifting up the hand that hangs down requires compassion. I want to lift up the hand that hangs down. That is how I can glorify the Lord.
My heart testifies to me more and more each day that if I want to know my savior, I must be obedient. The spirit has testified of that truth constantly throughout my life, but I haven’t always been willing to listen….I haven’t always understood. Now I understand through the testimony of the spirit, but also logically. The logic goes thus:
1) If I desire to become sanctified to the will of my Lord, His will must become my will.
2) In order for this to happen, either I must change my will to match His, or He must change His will to match mine, or we must meet in the middle somewhere.
3) His will is perfect. If He were to change His will, he would cease to be God (Mormon 9:9, Mormon 10:19, Alma 31:17 and many others).
4) My will is decidedly imperfect. The only reasonable option, if I wish to become one with Him, is for me to change my will to match His.
5) Matching my will to His is called……obedience.
Still, all the logic in the world cannot substitute for that testimony of the spirit. There is no turning back for me. I can no longer accept anything other than a constant striving for that more perfect obedience that will lead me to become one with Him.
Charity is commonly defined as the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47). Another definition is found in Colossians 3:14: “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” In my mind this reflects the perfect obedience, the oneness that I seek; and suggests that to be one with Christ in His perfection is to have charity. There is a myriad of definitions of charity in the scriptures, none better than Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. I have a personal definition that charity is to have such a perfect trust in the Lord that one loses the fear and jealousy that cause enmity between you and your brothers and sisters on this earth. Thus, to be free of enmity is to have charity. But even that doesn’t sound like it’s enough – it’s too much like charity by subtraction. A slug can have no enmity – it’s not smart enough to have enmity, but does it have charity? No, it is clear that we must take it further. We must be anxiously engaged in a good cause (D&C 58:27). We must be seeking ways to serve, to share that pure love of Christ that is growing within us. Like a testimony, charity is worthless unless it is shared. In a world that encourages us to watch out for #1 first, charity is a difficult gift to develop. Yet the scriptures also make it very clear that without charity, we are “become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Charity is clearly not an attribute of the natural man, and I clearly need the Lord’s help – even the touch of His finger – if I hope to develop this exalting gift.
Virtue is commonly thought of as maintaining one’s sexual purity, but in my mind it is much more than that. As a matter of fact, I would equate virtue with integrity. Exercising virtue is to conduct oneself in complete alignment with one’s knowledge of truth. Virtue is most certainly a product of obedience as described above, as to align one’s actions with the perfect will of God would necessarily result in a virtuous existence. Of course, the more knowledge and understanding one acquires, the more effort is required in order to maintain one’s virtue. That is, the higher the bar is set, the more difficult it will be to maintain the standard. Or…is that really true? My experience so far has actually been that the more I understand the gospel, and the more my faith converts to perfect knowledge (Alma 32:34), the stronger my desire becomes to live virtuously. In other words, the closer I get to the Savior, the easier it is to keep his commandments. This phenomenon brings to mind the Lord’s invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
So, my prayer was long and very intense, at least for me. It yielded many insights and revelations that I have not shared here. These 5 stones, however, laid out before the Lord in complete faith (per the example of the brother of Jared), knowing that He will not deny my righteous petition, may hold the key to my personal exaltation. Others have come to mind since then….knowledge is one…but it wasn’t given me during this prayer – it wasn’t one of my 5 stones. You, no doubt, have stones that are more important to you. I pray that as you seek the keys to your personal journey you will receive from the Holy Ghost such inspiration as you require.