Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reborn

Tonight I experienced an awakening moment, where a lot of things came together in blinding realization.

In the Book of Mormon we read about those who experienced the baptism of fire.  They knew it not, because it happened so gradually upon them.  My ah-ha moment came in considering the nature of the covenant of baptism (or rebaptism), and wondering to what degree my soul has been baptized.

When we are baptized, we make a visual expression of our acceptance of Jesus, our commitment to him, and our desire to have our sins cleansed and remitted.

Following (re)baptisms in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11), immediately Jesus teaches the saints how to participate in the emblems of his body and blood.  With all of this there is to be no disagreement nor contention.  In the prayer we illustrate to God that we seek and commit to eat and drink these emblems to "always remember him".  Always is a big deal.  It sounds to me like a pretty serious commitment, especially if it's a COVENANT.  

As I drove home tonight a song came on the radio that is quite an immoral song.  While I try not to be too judgmental, this song glorifies rape and defilation of chastity.  I listened to the catchy tune, the swinging and volleying of pitch.  I remembered seeing a favorite comedian of mine sing this same song with his entertaining band.  Then I remembered an awards show where the band (not the comedian, but the original group) was included in raunchy demonstrations before the crowd, which I can only assume the participants were deluded, drugged, or possessed to do with their bodies what they were doing publicly.  As my mind started getting disgusted that I'm still listening to this song, almost as if he read my mind, my son turned the channel.  Thank you Jesus.

Why did this song turn me off?  Over the last year I hardly have ever been able to listen to it.  In fact, I can hardly listen to any pop music any longer, for many, many months.  Why?

My ah-ha was realizing I have been reborn.  I have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  I have been redeemed, and can no longer tolerate drooping in sin.  The degradation of women, the glorification of sex, drugs, and defiling of anything that is good is no longer tolerable, even for a few moments.

Not that I want or seek to judge those who do.  And not that I did anything of my own merit or righteousness.  But my spirit, my body, and everything pertaining to it has been changed, that it can't withstand these things before feeling like a dog turning to its vomit.  It is repulsive.  Intolerable.  Insufferable.

There is no more tolerance for my personal willful, or blind participation in sin.  I have committed to always remember Him, and choose out of the nonsense.  I can't just zone out and ignore it like I used to.

For this reason I have not been able to peacefully attend church while honoring my conscience.  I have been incapable of acting like I am ok with settling for the doctrine to be defiled.  It's not that I don't want to see my friends, or associate with those I love.  It's that I cannot do it in that venue.  It would be breaking the covenant and I can't do it anymore, despite missing those loved ones.  Only should the Lord direct could I begin again to do so.

Further, I have not been able to pretend that the small things don't matter.  They do.  Where much is given much is required.  Many are called but few are chosen.  How does one be chosen?

So what to do now?  I wait upon the Lord for further light and knowledge.  I hope that by abiding this commitment He will bestow upon me, my family, and those who are wondering what in the world I am doing, great blessings.

Like Inigo Montoya says in The Princess Bride, "I am waiting for you Vizzini!"  "I am waiting for you Jesus!"  Only Vizzini was dead by then, and Jesus is risen, so I can have much more confidence than Inigo had.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Praying Vocally

"So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt.  It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.  It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally."
When Joseph Smith read James' invitation to ask God for help when we lack wisdom, he felt open invitation to pray vocally.  (See Joseph Smith History 1:14-15.)  In my life I believe I have prayed hundreds of times vocally, however there is one unique thing the next verse illustrates.

"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God." 
There was something unique about this experience, and I suppose it was not necessarily that this was Joseph's first spoken prayer.  I struggle to imagine him not ever praying, and perhaps that is the truth, but it seems that this prayer was unique in that it contained vocal desires of his heart.

Praying vocally can be very superficial, in my experience.  We are taught from a young age the important parts of prayer, almost like we are taught in school the important parts of composing a letter.

We address the letter: "Dear Father,"

Then we fill in the body, which in Mormonism is like this: "Thank you for this day."  We then instruct to fill in more blanks, like "Thank you for this food..."

To develop the body of the prayer we are taught to ask for things.  Like "Please bless this chocolate cake to nourish and strengthen our bodies." ;)

Then, just like in a letter, we close with an ending.  Letters often end with "Sincerely," but in prayer we are taught to close "In the name of Jesus Christ," as though Jesus were conveying these words in agreement to the Father.

Joseph didn't have any of this structure requirements when he went to pray.  He simply felt the invitation strongly to pray in a place where he could have some privacy to not feel like a buffoon for anyone witnessing his first vocal, heartfelt prayer.

He previously planned where he would pray.  It was a safe and sacred space for him, which he surely anticipated would allow a safe space to vent his emotions in prayer.

He also knew what he wanted to ask.  It was something important to him, and he had pondered and mulled through it greatly.

Then he pulled his desires out of his heart and offered it up to God.
"I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart..." 
Unique to this prayer vs many of my own was the demonstration of vocal chords.  It took both the physical effort as well as the heart connection.  It also contained thoughtful pondering.

In verse 25 of Joseph's personal history he observes, "I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."

The fascinating part of this is that Joseph's prayer was physical in every way.  We have the location, and the vocal, recordable nature of it.  We know he knelt down too.  But yet the vision which unfolds is described as a "vision".  It is otherworldly.  Two Personages appear to him, light brighter than the sun (vs 16), and whose brightness and glory defy all description.  And they stood in the air, which mortals don't do.  Why were they standing in the air?  Why did Jesus look up to heaven when he prayed?  Perhaps because the Father prefers that we look up.

In the book, "The Slight Edge," Jeff Olson discusses some insights regarding effects of the simple act of looking down vs up.
"Take a comfortable, seated position and look down at the floor.  Then, without changing position, take the next five minutes to think about your life.  Anything and everything, whatever that means to you, just think about your life.  
Go ahead and do that now...
Now, clear your mind, walk around a minute, then come back and do the second half: Take the same comfortable, seated position, only this time tilt your head up so you're looking at the ceiling.  Spend the next five minutes thinking about your life.  Anything and everything, whatever that means to you, just think about your life.  
Go ahead and do that now... 
I don't know what results you had, but here's what most people find: when looking down, it's pretty hard not to start thinking about the past. When gazing upward, it's pretty hard not to start thinking about the future." (p.149)
Thinking of Joseph's prayer alongside this experiment, I find it wonderful to consider what it might look like to pray vocally with my heart, while looking up, eyes open as Jesus demonstrated.  If looking up lends to considering the future, it seems complimentary that Joseph received instruction about his future.  There was much more which he wasn't able to report from this experience, (vs.20) which would be fun to ask God about.  But one more thing that I note is that looking up requires faith.  We spend so much time looking down to watch our step, our surroundings and to pick up things that are set down, that it is rare to simply look up at the clouds, the roof, the trees, the universe.  To look up while walking requires faith and trust that the path is safe, that the body knows how to carry on forward without tripping over itself, and that one will not fall into a ditch by so doing.  I suggest the same attitude is applicable in prayer.



What would the skeleton look like of a soul who spends a lifetime looking up?  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One with Authority

Recently I was led to read this verse:

"And now, if I have no authority for these things, judge ye; for ye shall know that I have authority when ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day.  Amen." - Ether 5:6
This verse comes at the tail end of a very short interlude in Ether, where Moroni throws in some few instructions regarding the plates.  Being led to read this verse outside of any other verse, it was compelling.  He testifies to me, the reader, that I will stand before God at the last day with him, and I will see him, and I will recognize by sight that this man has authority.  Not feigned authority, nor solely supposed authority.  Not just a signature or legal document of such as we do for government and legal affairs.  But real authority, meaning there is something powerful he holds and has received from one worthy to give such authority, which gives him jurisdiction to speak these things and have the words mean something.  Just as the elements honor God's authority, this authority will likewise be honored by the elements which abide by the laws of Truth that govern the universe.

It reminded me of a testimony shared by Matthew Crockett on his blog, in the 4-5th full paragraph (with multiple sentences) from the bottom of the page.

If I'm not mistaken, it appears to me that these figures from the Book of Mormon have stepped into increasing relevance.  The curse which was laid unto the 3rd and 4th generation from Joseph's time has begun to be cleared.  The readers who have slept and are willing to wake up are being awoken, and these men (and women, we must suppose) are stepping into the forefront, or perhaps they are simply being observed more frequently.  I can't say what is going on for sure, beyond to witness that I believe this is true.  They testify of the authority which they have been given, and we will likely see and hear more of them in the coming days, and at very least all readers will stand before God and Moroni at the last day, whenever that might be.  As one of my favorite college professors used to say, "Buckle your seatbelts!"  This should be fun! :) 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Revolting at that which is of God

I found this thought to be impressionable.  From The Words of Joseph Smith, (p..60) as recorded by William Clayton in his private book on 5 January, 1841:

"The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles.  Spirits are eternal.  At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it.  We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom.  The great principle of happiness consists in having a body.  The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.  He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine showing that he would prefer a swines body to having none.  All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.  The devil has no power over us only as we permit him; the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God the Devil takes power.
This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God and crowned with Celestial Glory."  
[Copied as in original.]

I greatly enjoyed the quote regarding our revolt.  When we revolt at anything, be it scripture, correct principles, or any other form of truth which comes from God, the devil gains power.  Does that mean he has complete control?  No.  But perhaps he gains or increases in power when we choose to decline the light of truth, essentially saying, "No thank you, that pushes my belief system too much so I'm going to decline anything you have to say."  Do I believe that?  I can see it evident in those around me.  When I observe that they prefer to observe their traditions and beliefs over what scripture plainly dictates, it gives me pause.  When I find myself accused of being out of the way because I prefer the words in scripture to our "beliefs", these thoughts from Joseph remind me that perhaps the tables are turned.  I hope to memorize this one.  It ties in (but also contradicts, if one is not careful to understand) with this thought:

“If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, set him down as an imposter... Try them by the principles contained in the acknowledged word of God; if they preach, or teach, or practice contrary to that, disfellowship them; cut them off from among you as useless and dangerous branches.” - April 1, 1844 Times and Seasons (Thank you, Michael Hamill, for a recent reference to this.)
I don't know if this was revelatory or opinion from Joseph on how to handle these types of disagreements.  The principle is there, however, on how dramatic the idea is of holding to the word of God.  It would be a branch or a thought inching toward apostasy, to teach things which are contrary and opposed to the word of God.  What if we did set down men that impose their traditions or false interpretations onto scripture?  Indeed, they would be in the act of imposting.  This is such a tricky concept, because I have seen people reject ideas that have been from God which perhaps are not well-known or easily found in scripture, and set down a true message because they don't know where the concept is found in scripture.  Likewise I have seen people set down the truth contained in scripture because it was not one of their favorite verses, or something that came down from a given church's headquarters as their doctrine, so they disregard it.  In either case it is imperative that we understand how to detect truth.  (I really enjoyed stumbling across this explanation on how to interpret the Spirit, which is how we often claim to recognize truth.)    

"This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God and crowned with Celestial Glory."

I find the part about the earth being "rolled back" to be quite fascinating too.  Joseph also makes a distinction between the words 'world' and 'earth'.  

"The world and earth are not synonymous terms.  The world is the human family.  This earth was organized or formed out of other planets which were broke up and remodelled [sic] and made into the one on which we live.  The elements are eternal.  That which has a begining [sic] will surely have an end.  Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you will have an ending place." (WOJS p. 60, 5 Jan 1841, extracts from William Clayton's Private Book)  

The imagery that comes to mind is that we are on a giant sliding board, where perhaps God is at the top, and we are at the bottom of the slide in our fallen state.  Another image that it reminds me of is those birthday noisemakers.  



When you blow air into them, they extend, but when the air is released, it rolls back.  I wonder if the thought has any merit.  

Reading The Words of Joseph Smith has expanded my understanding and contemplation to consider things I never considered before.  I hope it serves as a launch pad for greater revelation and understanding, as we are all intended to learn and know the fullness of God's dealings, power, and the Truth of His Love.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Goals

Offense: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -Wayne Gretzky

Defense: Be valiant. When you take them, take them in the front.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Join None of Them

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.  No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) – and which I should join. -Joseph Smith History 1:18
[Side comment - it was a spring morning when Joseph went to pray in the woods.  Perhaps a spring morning like this one?]

Why is Joseph looking to join a church at this tender young age?  Do we ever really stop to think or ask what Joseph is seeking?  Of late I have really pondered this experience Joseph had.  He didn't belong to any church, and perhaps thought it was important to be a part of one.  Maybe it was because it was believed that one needed to belong to a "true church" to achieve salvation?  Or maybe it was just to fit in and have a community to walk the straight path with?

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." JSH 1:19
Joseph was informed the surprising news that they were not just partly or a few wrong, but alllllllllll these churches and professors were corrupt.  What does that mean?  The Personage explains in great detail.


Their creeds, which according to the Webster's 1828 dictionary, means
CREED, noun [This word seems to have been introduced by the use of the Latin credo, I believe, at the beginning of the Apostles creed or brief system of Christian faith. See creed ]1. A brief summary of the articles of Christian faith; a symbol; as the Apostolic creed2. That which is believed; any system of principles which are believed or professed; as a political creed"
were an abomination in his sight.  What is an abomination in 1828? 

ABOMINA'TIONnoun1. Extreme hatred; detestation.
2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 15:8.
3. Hence, defilement, pollution, in a physical sense, or evil doctrines and practices, which are moral defilements, idols and idolatry, are called abominations. The Jews were an abomination to the Egyptians; and the sacred animals of the Egyptians were an abomination to the Jews. The Roman army is called the abomination of desolation. Matthew 24:15. In short, whatever is an object of extreme hatred, is called an abomination

Their beliefs and things they professed were of extreme detestation to the Lord. They are detested.  What if we break down the word detest (although it was not used in the verse itself)?  
DETESTverb transitive [Latin , to affirm or bear witness. The primary sense of testor is to set, throw or thrust. To detest is to thrust away.] To abhor; to abominate; to hate extremely; as, to detest crimes or meanness.

I really appreciate the idea of detest meaning that something is thrust away.  To break down the word de-test, we could also understand that it is un-tested, or not-testable, therefore cannot be aligned with truth.  If God is all truth, something which is de-tested cannot align with Him, and cannot be tolerated in His presence, correct?  

What things to we each detest? Can you conjure up that same feeling, and understand how Elohim feels about the beliefs and professations of Christianity at the time?  Are those beliefs much different than they are today?  Or has Christianity come a far way away in the past 194 years from the time of the first vision?

He continues that "their professors were all corrupt, that "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me..."  How does one draw near to another with their lips, but have hearts far away from someone?  

This notion is the heart of hypocrisy.  Just a little over a month ago I had a friend sit in my home, and profess something loudly with her lips which she physically contradicted with her actions just hours later.  As one who values honesty and truth, I don't understand the need for professations of things just for appearance sake, which in this case, it apparently was.  If our heart is not sincere, why loudly profess to be loyal and true to someone or something?  I believe the Lord considers this de-testable, not only because it is unnecessary, but also reveals that the trust or confidence does not lie solely with Him.  He is able to detect both the deception and the disloyalty from Him, misplaced onto another human.  In essence, trusting in the arm of the flesh, as though one human ought to trust another.  Both myself and this woman are guilty of trusting in the flesh, and in this case, one saying more than "yay, yay, nay, nay" (Matthew 5:33-34), and another believing it as believable.    

"They teach for doctrines the commandments of men."  What are the commandments of men?  Perhaps "thou shalt wear thy Sunday best each week and fold thy arms when thou walkest down the church hall during the third hour"?  This is the doctrine some teach their children, eh?  ;) Guilty!

"Having a form of godliness."  We suppose that we possess a form of godliness in our churches, for the gods would walk down the church hall in their finest linens, with arms folded for reverence.  The gods would profess to believe this house of worship to be God's only true house of worship.  The gods would need to make public professations of their testimony of living men being followed, and never capable of leading one astray.  Do the gods not find this important and part of being godly?    

Perhaps the most damning line of this verse, however, is that "they deny the power thereof".

DENYverb transitive
1. To contradict; to gainsay; to declare a statement or position not to be true. We deny what another says, or we deny a proposition. We deny the truth of an assertion, or the assertion itself. The sense of this verb is often expressed by no or nay.
2. To refuse to grant; as, we asked for bread, and the man denied us.
3. Not to afford; to withhold.
Who find not Providence all good and wise,
Alike in what it gives, and what denies?
4. To disown; to refuse or neglect to acknowledge; not to confess.
5. To reject; to disown; not to receive or embrace.
He hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 1 Timothy 5:1.
DENYing ungodliness and worldly lusts. Titus 2:1.
6. Not to afford or yield.
To deny ones self, is to decline the gratification of appetites or desires; to refrain from; to abstain. The temperate man denies himself the free use of spirituous liquors. I denied myself the pleasure of your company.
God cannot deny himself. He cannot act in contradiction to his character and promises. He cannot be unfaithful. 2 Timothy 2:12.

These churches, which Joseph was instructed NOT to join, deny the power of God.  As though the power is there, somewhere, but these churches, for some reason, deny it.  Why do they deny God's power?  What was it that these Elohim were warning against?  Is it possible that we can find these same things in our day, or even in our church, be it LDS, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, Muslim, or what have you?  Do we individually deny such power?

"He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time." (vs.20)  The warning needed to be so clear that it was repeated again.  What again was wrong with these churches?  Already, as a reader, I have forgotten!  Oh... they draw near to him with their lips.  In short, they are hypocrites.  

All through the four gospels in the Bible we witness how the hypocrites treated Jesus.  He stood with patience towards them, and endless love and charity.  But when Joseph had the chance to join with whatever was left of Christianity, he was told to join none of them.  Would the Lord have us do the same?  I don't understand, because there are some that feel to me to hold so much good.  Am I out of the way?  

It is a peculiar thing, that when given the chance, Joseph and those who believed what he revealed, created a church which offers this same opportunity, to draw near to Elohim with our lips, while our hearts serve other gods, despite our best (or worst) efforts.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Entitlement Doctrine

This morning my day began with a thought from The Words of Joseph Smith.

"...the President made some observations respecting the pecuniary affairs of the church, and requested the brethren to step forward and assist in liquidating the debts on the town plot, so that the poor might have inheritances." (Emphasis mine, WOJS p. 36.)
It was thought-provoking to me that the Saints were being encouraged to think of the poor among them by liquidating debts on plots.

A footnote in the next entry in the same book led me to a verse in Deuteronomy 15, which I came across on accident while seeking Deut. 30. Accidents are often miracles.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11:
"If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide into him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him naught; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin into thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."
After reading these verses and highlights this morning, I was shocked and left without speech at Elder Renlund basing his talk this morning on the soul he met in Africa, for their sense of "entitlement".  The dots connected in my brain were Africa + entitlement = ingratitude for American contributions.  Perhaps I am misjudging; perhaps the soul he spoke of was the one wealthy human in that country. Maybe some government bureaucrat. I HOPE with all my heart that I misunderstand, and there is more to the story. Maybe it is I that is falsely jumping to conclusions.  

If he speaks of a human of little means, however, who felt entitled to some scraps of food or clean water, whoa. Yes, if that's the case, wo, wo, whoa. Pray it be not so.

I really enjoyed the talks on forgiveness and humility by the men who are so prominent I don't remember their names. They hit the spots on my heart.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Birth Day Risen Resurrection Holy Day

A few days ago some friends shared this with me.  I don't understand half of what's being shared, but it appears that this Easter Sabbath is an extra noteworthy one.  Last year we celebrated Passover and honored Easter in an uber low key way.  This year we're celebrating it (Easter) in full, in light of it being a momentous occasion.  I felt this article taught me a lot.

http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/2016/unique_easter.html

Also, the last two days we attended various worship services that we had been invited to.  One was a Maundy Thursday service, and the next was a Tenebrae service.  Both included performers singing this song.  I love it so much I think it's worth sharing.  Man of Sorrows, by Shane and Shane.


Perhaps you've heard this song before, but I'm pretty new to Christian Contemporary music, so this one is completely new to me.  Being raised LDS we avoided songs which praise the cross as an idol.  So that part made/makes me a little uncomfortable and in most cases I usually just replace the word cross with His name, but regardless of our thoughts on that part, it's a really, really beautiful song of praise, wholly appropriate for this fabulous weekend.  Listen to it twice and I can guess you'll have trouble getting it out of your heart and mind for awhile.

Happy Resurrection Birth Day Sabbath!