On a United Airlines flight from Queretaro, Mexico to Houston, I sat quietly, as I often do, with my eyes closed, talking to God. Sometimes He talks back, sometimes he doesn’t. (Sometimes I fall asleep, this time I didn’t). I’ve been learning to tell when He will talk back, and when He’s not going to. I’m sure that has more to do with me than with Him. This night I asked Him:
“Lord, what more do you want me to do?”
He said, “You’re not even doing what I’ve already told you to do”.
I said, “What was that?”
It didn’t take but a couple of seconds for the answer to enter into my mind. You see, my daughter had completed a 40 day fast last summer/fall during which she only ate fruits and vegetables. She was seeking for specific blessings in her life, and she asked for them. My understanding is that she received most of what she asked for. I had thought about doing something like that ever since, but had all kinds of excuses – pretty good ones – the principle one being that I travel for my job, and it’s really hard to maintain such a restricted diet when you’re “on the road”. Nevertheless, this time I couldn’t deny the message, and the conversation as it ensued was just between me and myself. Picture the classic angel-devil duel on my shoulders:
“Well, I know this came from the Lord.
But what if it didn’t – does that mean I don’t have to do it?
But if it did, then I can’t, in sincerity, ask for direction anymore, because I’m not even doing what he’s already told me to do.
So, how do I know if it’s really direction from Him?
Duh! The only way I’ll ever know is to do it!
Then I guess I don’t really have any choice.”
So, off I went on this 30 day fast. I felt comfortable that 30 days was enough – that I didn’t need to go 40. While I later decided it was ok to include rice in my diet, I’ve been eating what I call “Super-vegan” for the last 30 days, meaning no meat, no dairy, no fish, no grains (except rice), no added sugar. This means no bread, eggs, butter, yogurt, potatoes, chocolate, etc. Don’t ask this to all be logical. It’s the diet I constructed, and in my mind the Lord approved, so this is what I’ve been doing. I don’t think He particularly cared what the diet was; the important thing was just that it was a sacrifice and that I committed to it and did it. The benefits?
- Obeying the Lord in doing something that, for me anyway, is pretty hard.
- Exercising faith that He would give me the strength and discipline to do this – even if I’m on the road every week – and that I won’t actually starve to death.
- Exercising faith that for some reason it is important for me to do this.
- Learning how to eat even less meat and other “less healthy” foods – taking to a new level the pattern of the last couple of years where I’ve dramatically reduced my meat and processed sugar intake. In short – proving to myself that I can do this and it’s ok. In doing so, I’m further breaking the bonds that our culture has on the foods I eat, and thus on me.
- I may lose 5 or 10 pounds. (Yeah!)
- I might start a worldwide revolution against tyranny
- Maybe I’ll learn some things that are worth sharing with others – like maybe something to do with receiving revelation and knowing the mind of God.
From my earliest days in the church, I’ve shared the challenge we all face trying to distinguish between promptings from the spirit (revelation) and our own thoughts. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I can’t tell the difference – is it Him, or is it me?” This implies, of course, that if it’s not the spirit, we don’t have to do it. But, as illustrated in the example above, how can we ever really know which it is if we don’t do it? Stop and think about it: if we are to be “one” with God (John 17:20-23), then our goal must be for our mind to be the same as His, at which point it ceases to matter whether it’s from the spirit or from us – they should be one and the same. In short, if it’s righteous, then do it. The only risk is that we might “over-please” God.
I think revelation itself has a very simple definition. It is “to know the mind of God”. For most of us, this comes in flashes, from time to time. Our goal, I think, should be for revelation to be constant. This is consistent with the aforementioned idea of being one with God. We become one with Him through obedience – through the exercise of faith. This faith starts out being based on belief, but eventually faith must be based upon knowledge – the knowledge of God, of His mind, of His very nature. (I would encourage the reader to study the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith – a small book that is rich with doctrine as to the exercise of faith and the nature of God). This progression of faith from that based on belief and desire to faith based on knowledge suggests a process that we all must complete if we are to enjoy eternal life and exaltation:
- After exercising faith unto repentance, we simply obey commandments. We submit to baptism, we attend church and pay tithing, we keep the word of wisdom and the law of chastity, we read the scriptures. Our faith is based on belief. At first it may be difficult, but eventually we learn to practice discipline. We begin to feel clean and honorable. This, then, allows the spirit to begin to teach us because we’re not spending so much time and energy trying to justify our failure to live up to our own standards.
- Armed with increased personal discipline and a heightened sense of integrity, we begin to crave the cleanness we feel and we really notice when it’s not there. The spirit is more easily offended. We are less easily offended (And Nothing Shall Offend Them – David A Bednar). Our life begins to be more delicious, and as we taste of the joy, we begin to look around for even more of that joy. We begin to exercise faith based upon our as-yet limited knowledge.
- As we search for more, our prayers become more personal, more sincere. We ask more questions – sometimes deep, probing questions. The heavens begin to open up to us – not necessarily in vision or anything dramatic, but we start to gain a real sense of God’s love and goodness – of His simple and pure desire to bless us. Our craving now is not just for the cleanness, but for that personal relationship that begins to develop as our prayers evolve: we develop a desire, even a need, to know God. The balance between faith based on belief and faith based on knowledge is really beginning to tip towards the knowledge.
- As this desire increases and is satisfied, we begin to trust. We trust His integrity and His love. As our vision expands, and we gain a more eternal perspective on our existence, we are prepared to truly consecrate all things to Him. Fears, jealousies, and pride fade (D&C 67:10). We take onto ourselves true charity. Our own integrity blossoms and becomes precious to us – even powerful, as God’s integrity is to Him. (Alma 42:22) We are truly beginning to know God, not just believe in Him. The Holy Ghost is free to be our constant companion. Our souls begin to be filled with the light of truth, and darkness is chased away – no more to have place in us. When the Lord speaks to us, we rejoice at the sound of His voice, which we have learned to recognize, and he begins to speak more and more often, because we listen more and more often, and because we obey more and more often.
- We finally begin to measure all our thoughts, our actions, and our desires against what we know of God and we do this out of love. As we do, our thoughts, actions and desires naturally become more like His. We become more like Him. Of course, by this time there is no other option, because our old standards and supports have become hollow and empty. (John 6:66-69) Ultimately, we know Him because we have become like Him.
Let the bowels be filled with charity towards all men, and the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from Heaven.
Imagine yourself standing in the presence of God, confident that you have done as He has asked, confident in His love and forgiveness, and knowing that you have glorified him through your obedience!
I believe this is a description of the process of sanctification – of becoming one with Him. All through this process, revelation comes to us progressively more often as we ask more, listen more, and obey more; as we come to know the mind of God. I closed my last post with the following scripture. I repeat it here because it is so appropriate and so powerful:
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until that perfect day. (D&C 50:24)
I testify that as we submit our will to His and manifest that submission through our obedience; as we learn to cherish His commandments and laws because we understand them and because we love and understand Him; as we begin to measure all of our thoughts, actions, and desires against the standard of His integrity, we naturally become more like Him. As we do this, revelation becomes more constant and more natural. Our thoughts become indistinguishable from His. (Helaman 10:4-5) We become one. We become perfected. (3 Nephi 12:48) I testify further to my knowledge that “that perfect day” awaits each of us.