Friday, December 23, 2016

Self Doubt

Journal Entry 2017:

After a battle with a wave of self-doubt this past week I had a distinct impression from the Lord at how un-impressed He was by my doubts.  The thought caught me off guard.  I had never put my self-doubts in context of how they are viewed by He to whom I was complaining about them.  That one thought changed the entire situation.  The self-doubt lost it's pull in favor of faith in Him.  

Now I see that our doubts are not impressive to the Lord, but our faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Praying to be seen of men

Jesus says this about prayer in Matthew 6:5-7

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

This seems like an unmistakably direct comment about public prayers.  Where it's possible to pray in a way that is seen and potentially admired, scorned, or ignored (as the case may be) by others.  Praying to be seen of men would no doubt include the content, location, length, frequency etc etc.  I hate praying in public..... I think it lends itself to "praying to be seen of men".  It's hard not to.  Saying things you think you are supposed to say to meet cultural expectations is a challenge we all face.  Jesus puts "praying to be seen of men" in terms of hypocrisy. 

On this note, is it possible to pray to be seen of yourself?  Meaning you pray in such a way so as to impress some internal image of what your religion has taught you God wants to hear? And thus maybe convince yourself that God is more likely to answer or give you what you ask? Maybe praying to be seen of yourself would imply praying to feed your self image (read "self-idol") of how good you are at prayer. By having poetic phrases, or by praying for some extended period of time to prove your longevity, or by saying all the "right" things and praying for everyone you can think of.  Trying to impress God or "cover all your bases" or something like that.  Some of these things could be done sincerely of course, but I think they can also be done to be seen of yourself.    

I think it's possible to "pray to be seen" even if you are alone.   I think an example of this "praying to be seen of yourself" is found in Luke 18:10-14

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Pharisee addressed "God" but was more praying with and to himself.  He appears to view himself nigh unto God.  He thanked "God" for how good a person he was, citing as evidence how he's not an extortioner, or unjust, or an adulterer or as the publican standing afar off (perhaps he should have been looking up, rather than sideways as his neighbor).  He cites how often he fasts and how much he tithes.  He both avoids the bad, and participates in the good, right?  Isn't this good?  All the religious stuff he's been taught and which he thinks is evidence of his righteousness.  How could this be bad?  He thanks God for it.  Isn't it good to thank God that you have avoided bad stuff?  And yet I have to ask myself is that a prayer before God?  Or a prayer to be seen of yourself?  

Jesus used this as an example of what not to do.

The alternative was the publican, who also was addressing "God" but seems to have had a different view of both himself and God.  He didn't feel like even looking up to heaven due to his shame.  He asks for mercy, and thinks himself a sinner.  Justification due to outward religious observances weren't even on the radar.  Perhaps the publican knew he wasn't truly living up to any of that stuff and felt broken hearted as a result.  Whatever it was that produced his humility of heart, Jesus says this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.

I think deep down we all know what God listens to.  Sincerity, humility, meekness, contrition, broken heartedness, faith.  Those may or may not require verbal words.  You can't fake God out.  He knows when your lips say one thing but your heart secretly harbors something very different.  I think you can "live" a prayer.  If actions speak louder than words than perhaps there is merit to that idea.  God's heard all the words before.  Any clever wording we may come up with likely does not impress him.  That's all been tried before.  

As I was praying tonight I had to pause and consider if I ever pray to be heard of myself.  My own self created "idol", my own self created God.  Full of what I thought a prayer should look or sound like, and perhaps subtly hoping to impress that idol.  To gain it's good graces.  As shame inducing as it is, I see my own reflection in the Pharisee example Jesus gave.  Which leads me to instinctively pray more like the publican.

I'm reminded of Enos who says "...I did still raise my voice high that it did reach the heavens".  I don't think he was necessarily yelling in order to raise his voice "high".   I think his heart saw clearly, and so his words and actions all matched and thus his voice easily rose to heaven to where his cry was directed.     

Monday, September 19, 2016

Stupor

I used to think a "stupor of thought" was a temporary mental confusion or "bad feeling".  I did some thinking today and found a much better understanding of the phrase.

The phrase as used by most LDS folks comes from D&C 9:9.  This section addresses Oliver Cowdery and his attempt to translate.  Prior to this verse below he was admonished for "taking no thought save it was to ask".  He took no thought, but his lips apparently asked to be able to translate.  Then the admonition was to study it out in his mind. Then vs 9:

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

Stupor: a condition of greatly dulled or completely suspended sense or sensibility specifically : a chiefly mental condition marked by absence of spontaneous movement, greatly diminished responsiveness to stimulation, and usually impaired consciousness

Stupor: a state of near-unconsciousness or insensibility

With that scripture, and the above definition from the dictionary D&C 9 takes on new meaning.  Oliver was to recognize that which was not right by the dulled, suspended senses of his mind.  The impaired consciousness.

Going to the Book of Mormon we get more information about this phrase.  Here Moroni is rebuking Pahoran over what appears to be the government’s tragic neglect of Moroni's armies

Alma 60:6 And now behold, we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.

7 Can you think to sit upon your thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you? Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your brethren—


The tone of this verse gives a very "negligent" feel to the stupor.  This state of thoughtless stupor doesn't mean the people have no brain activity.  If you hooked them up to an EEG machine you may possibly see what scientists would call "normal" brain activity.  It seems to more refer to the quality or intelligence (or lack of) of the mind.  Or that they are neglecting something of supreme importance and are darkened.  Joseph Smith warned what "neglecting" individual duty would bring:  A darkening of the mind.

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish Church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall – that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves...”

- The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 237-238


I've concluded a stupor of thought is the opposite of enlightenment.  It's a state of mind which affects your soul.  Not just temporary, but one which can last years.  Related terms might be a "darkening" of the mind or "sleep" due to laboring under false ideas and false beliefs which cause a person to stagnate and carry on in a thoughtless neglectful stupor.  Miserable and bored, yet not quite aware of it. It's brought on by neglect of God.  In preference to idols, laziness, gluttony, and false and fallen ideas.

Alma 5:7

7 Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.


It's sometimes difficult to awaken someone out of such a stupor or slumber.  Moroni's rebuke was calculated to accomplish this.  Pahoran proved he was already awake.  Sometimes a rebuke, or showing someone a blaring contradiction can work.  Sometimes gently and persuasively going through a line of reasoning that creates a new picture can be effective.  But sometimes this can go against their understanding and presents such a contradiction in the mind that ironically it gets labeled a "stupor" and is dismissed.  As with physical sleep, often folks resent and do not want to be awakened from deep sleep.

This is the thoughtless stupor I think plagues us in 2016.  We sometimes read about plagues in the last days and presume that exclusively refers to insects, or physical disease epidemics.  However I think there are other very real plagues, which exist here and now, which simply go unnoticed.

I think Alma shows the way out.  It involves a change of heart, and an awakening. In verse 7 quoted above Alma says "he" changed their hearts.  Meaning God brought about this change.  They were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word. The "everlasting word" of course is Christ.  We must come to, as well as come to know Christ.  The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words light and truth. D&C 93:36.

The word of God illuminates the soul.  It doesn't just present new ideas, it illuminates the soul.  It's one way to determine if a message comes from God.  Those who pretend to speak for God, but which do not, will keep you in a thoughtless darkened stupor.

Consider the messages found at this Conference focused on the Doctrine of Christ.  Test, and see if it does not awaken, encourage, and illimuniate.  www.doctrineofchristconference.com

Monday, August 8, 2016

Discern and be wise

It was my day to share a lesson at a local group studying scripture.  This is what I shared. 

Questions
A good question has often lead to important revelation.  Questions are sometimes better than answers, because God answers questions.  With that here are just a few questions to help get the topic moving. 

What does it mean to discern? 
Who is trustworthy when it comes to discerning?  Can't I trust others who associate with me or think like me? Could you recognize the voice of the Spirit as easily as the voice of President Monson?
Can I rely on the LDS church’s logo/trademark on a piece of material to act as proxy discerner? 
Can I rely on a person’s church status, or church calling (or lack of) to discern a matter for me?  
Does someone’s church office relieve me from needing to discern? 
Can I rely on what the Church News Room says on a subject and assume discernment is no longer required
Are my feelings reliable when I attempt to discern?  
Does the building you are in make any difference as to whether the message you hear is true or not? 
How do I tell which are my own thoughts, and which might be the Holy Ghost communicating with me? 
Why should I care about discernment?  What’s the big deal? Won’t everything just be totally clear once I die? 
What do the scriptures say about discerning?  
Where do I even begin? 
How do I know if/when I discerned correctly? How do I know if I got it wrong? 
Is there a checklist or set of criteria I can use to discern to at least get me started? 
How personal and far reaching is my need to discern? 

Bedrock Foundation for Discerning. 

-Live the light that you already possess.  It’s critical to live the light God has already given to you. Seek into the light God has given you, even if it’s only a faint glow in the darkness.  Allow God to correct and shine clarification and expound the light or intelligence he has already given.  By acting consistent with what you already have, you obey the law which allows you to receive more.  If you are not sure if you are living all God has already given you, seek, ask, knock, and it will be opened. As with a child asking for more dinner, we all know they ought to finish what they already have, then we’re more than happy to give more.  If we want more, before we have implemented what God has already given, we risk deluding ourselves.   

-Sacrifice(See Lectures on Faith)  Do what God asks you to do, even if it brings the persecution the scriptures speak of.  If you know God has asked something, and you don’t do it, it makes sense that it will not be possible to discern that which originates from God vs that which will only entertain you or deceive you. Sacrifice makes the vessel able to discern.

-Seek the gift from God.   (D&C 46:8-23) (Ether 12:27) Prayer, fasting, and humility will bring it. Have faith, know that the grace of God is sufficient for the humble.  I’ve seen this, it is as the scriptures say.  His grace is sufficient. Humility is the only advantage anyone ever had.  

-Knowledge of the scriptures(John 5:39) Satan can quote scripture too, but notice how when Satan quoted scripture to Christ, Christ responded with other scriptures which identified the misguided and false premise the adversary was using when quoting scripture.  You won’t be able to compare someone’s teachings or doctrine or any new concept to what is found in scripture if you are not familiar with scripture.  Reading scripture is far better than listening to someone who has no idea what they are talking about.  It’s best to read scripture without all the cultural baggage and traditions we tend to overlay onto scripture.  Leave that stuff behind and just read the words of scripture as if they were the textbook.  I know that’s hard.  But God can help if we ask.  

-Recognize tradition vs truth.   Not all traditions are true. Living true to your traditions is not the same thing as living light from heaven.  It’s traditions of our fathersand disobedience which the Lord says the wicked one uses to take away light and truth.  D&C 93:39.  There are many incorrect LDS traditions and they often directly interfere with our ability (or even need) to discern.  

-Know what Joseph Smith said and taught.  The Lord said we were to have His (The Lord's) word through him (Joseph) (D&C 5:10).  And God said he vouched for Joseph's words.  This is part of appreciating the light God already gave. 

-Be weary of any who encourage you not to think, or to rely on some leader as if they were God.  The glory of God is intelligence, so we should be on the lookout for false philosophies and teachers that are unintelligent and encourage people to shut down their reasoning ability, shut off their thinking, and follow along with any philosophy that neglects the duties devolving upon us to gain light and truth. To seek, ask and knock.  The opposite of "seek, ask, and knock" takes different forms.  Such as "don't delve into deep things of God".  "Leave the mysteries alone".  Those are the opposite of what Joseph Smith and scriptures teach.  Don't be fooled.  Remember what Jesus taught.  Done in the right way, those things are good and God wants us to understand.  

Wait on the Lord and be patient:  Said Joseph, A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.

Give it time, experience and solemn, careful and ponderous thought.  I'm not sure there is anything that God will not ultimately make known to the humble and patient disciple of His Son.  Rushing or any sort of shortcut is no solid foundation from which to discern.  The deceived never ever think they are deceived, so be humble.    

Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world and also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you. – D&C 50:2-3

A false prophet's message will produce as its fruit vanity, corruption, evil, foolishness, arrogance, self-assuredness, error, distance from the Lord, poor understanding, popularity, wealth, success, ease, false hopes, ingratitude, pride, displays of popularity, worldliness, hard hearts and ten thousand other meaningless or deceptive fruits.

A true prophet's message will produce repentance. It will cause you to instinctively pray and kneel as you begin to become aware of your need for, and dependence on God and his word. The fruit which gives eternal life is repentance and a return to Christ. False messenger will feed your vanity, your self importance, your special and elect status, and assure you that you are right while everyone else around you is going to hell.
 -www.denversnuffer.blogspot.com

Discernment isn't THAT hard.  Well...granted you are willing to proceed in humility, look honestly at our history, and follow only the Lord's voice.

Scriptures to read and ponder: 
D&C 50:10-24
3rd Nephi 14:15
D&C 46:8-23
D&C 129
D&C 128:20

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Help, my child has left The Church!

Today in Sunday School the instructor led a discussion wayward children.  Wayward in this context referred to people's children who differ in religious affiliation, or who have left the belief system of the parents, which in LDS culture is talked about as "leaving the church" or "loosing a testimony".

There was widespread concern and mutual shared pain of many members of the Sunday School.  Many no doubt felt the loss and sadness or disappointment of children, or grandchildren, friends or other family who they said had "left  the church".  Or who have adopted different beliefs and behaviors which may or may not conform to orthodox Mormon thought. These people are often viewed as deviant, rebellious, and their actions may range from destructive, involving substance abuse for example, to simply differing views or understanding of the Gospel.  This can no doubt be sensitive and sometimes difficult. 

The teacher posed the question to the class as to why this happens? Why do children leave a religeon? Or distance themselves from the Church?  Why does this happen when we've tried out best to teach them?  The instructor used scriptural examples such as Alma and Lehi who despite good parenting and themselves being authors of scripture yet still had children who go off and do or believe something their parents wish or desire them not to.

The class responded with various answers, most of them centered on agency.  Agency is why children leave. "Because they have the freedom to do and choose as they believe" said many.  This is absolutely true in one sense, but in another it misses perhaps an elephant in the room.

The Lord on more than a few occasions speaks of hypocrisy.  No one likes it, no one wants to accept that it may apply to them, but Jesus often refers to hypocrisy both in olden times and in modern revelation through Joseph Smith. It's not just hypocrisy in general, it's religious hypocrisy that ought to get our attention.  I'll explain in a second how this applies to wayward children.

Matthew 23:28

28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:42

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

See also 3 Nephi 16:10 and 2 Nephi 31:13 to get the gist of what I"m referring to with hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy, some LDS flavors.  

The teacher's question as to why kids leaves the church was a good one.  However I think he was asking the wrong people.  Why the children leave the Church vs why the parents or LDS ward members assume they leave can be so different it's worth your time to consider.  Would the two agree if you put them in a room together as to why even one of them left the Church?  In my experience, the answer is almost never.  So what does this have to do with hypocrisy?

For the next section the word "child" is not referring to age, but just refers generically to a person's child.  Independent of age.

What I personally believe children most often reject, or leave, or loose a testimony of is not so much the idea of a loving and merciful God, or a God of justice even, or of God speaking to mankind and giving them instructions, scriptures, warnings.  What I believe children more often reject is the hypocrisy demonstrated by others.  They reject the difference between what they observes or experiences from those claiming to be religious, and what their heart tells them is true.  I believe they commonly reject the religious justification for exercising control or coercion upon them.  And when the coercion doesn't work, the parents or whomever was doing it often then views the failure as the child's failure and the child's use (read misuse) of agency. 

Scripture teach that when, under the guise of priesthood or religion we undertake to gratify our pride, vain ambition or exercise any degree of unrighteous dominion, the heavens withdraw themselves.  Even the heavens withdraw or "leave" this kind of behavior.  It's no wonder kids frown on it too .

So what about things like this?  This is just a list to provoke thought, there are a million different scenarios and this is only food for thought.

-Using church attendance, as leverage or as a weight over a child's head for their freedoms or social privileges?  Perhaps they are physically forced to attend church meetings.  Or threatened the loss of using a family car if any church attendance slips.  And that "God" is upset with them if they aren't adhering to every teaching of the church. 

- When we say we love them unconditionally, but hypocritically reveal our love was actually conditional on them believing and doing only what the parent or authority wanted.  Once the child changes their beliefs or investigates some different belief love also stops. And the threats begin.  Is this maybe why some children reject the beliefs of the parent?  Is this "loss of testimony" because the child has agency and is allowed to act wrong?  Or are they rejecting the hypocrisy they observe?   

-When we mis-portray God as someone who also uses religion as leverage to coerce or control some behavior or belief? 

-Make things like the Word of Wisdom compliance more important than an individual. What does this communicate?  Acting out is part of childhood, and is often to get attention.  But when we double down on health code violations as if they were akin to murder what type of light does this paint the Church in?  It's no wonder children want to leave the Church.  The Church institution and cultural views are (perceived) as more beloved than they are.

-Basing gifts or love on possession of a temple recommend?  Ever heard of a child's inheritance being denied due to lack of a temple recommend?  There are LDS videos portraying this and in some cases advocating it's a correct principle.

-Induce fear, shame and guilt when kids go contrary to cultural traditions but who have not violated God's actual commandments?   Could this mis-portray God as someone the child will likely want nothing to do with.

-Present "The church" as the same thing as "the Gospel".  And then use the church as a tool to beat them with?  Or use it as a measuring stick to evaluate the child's goodness? 

-Portray directly or indirectly to a child that "coming to church" is the same thing as "coming to Christ".  And that attendance, with proper shirt color matters above all else?

-Characterize someone who is studying materials outside of LDS.org as "on the road to apostasy"

-Characterize someone who is searching or deeper truth in the gospel as "looking beyond the mark" or "looking for a reason to leave the Church".

-Pay little heed to contradictions between what we profess to believe and what we actually say and do.

In my view THESE are what gets rejected.  And sometimes the baby goes with the bathwater.  Kids sense when the Gospel is no longer an invitation, but a demand, an obligation, and requirement or means of control.  It's usually unintentional, but it never produces anything good.   

So what happens in LDS culture is the authority figure (of any kind, parent, bishop, etc..) often does not conceive of themselves as having done anything wrong to cause the child to leave or reject aspects of the Church or Gospel?  They often pin ALL of it on the child for leaving or going astray. And then call it "well they have their agency" in Sunday school.  Ignoring the hypocrisy that may have been happening all along.

What if a person has trouble with Church finances?  Well that must mean you are faithless and can't pay tithing.  If you have trouble with Church history?  Well that must mean you lack faith in the living Prophets and Apostles or have read too deeply into some apostate website.  If you have trouble with organized religion in general?  Then you must be sinning in some regard.  If you are speaking out against religious things you disagree with?  That must mean you have some sin in your life you have not reconciled.  Or your just willfully rebelling against something that is SO obviously right.  These examples of false reasoning are understandably rejected by a lot of Millennials.

This isn't to say one should blame themselves for everything that ever happens and try to be responsible for other people's choices.  That isn't what I'm saying.  There may be some parents or grandparents that blame themselves for everything, mom's seem more prone to to this.  I don't believe that is the solution.  It just seems to leave people feeling bad and guilty, sometimes for years. Whether blaming self, or the person who "has left".... blame doesn't work.  There has to be something better that can move everyone into a better place.    

In truth, people have their agency.  But rather than pinning everything on the perceived wayward individual or berating yourself and living with guilt, consider these questions instead:

What religious hypocrisy have I displayed or been blind to throughout my life that may have pushed my child away from something I value? Ask any "wayward" child that question and they will likely be able to answer it fairly quickly.  Or consider this question: "How could I have mis-portrayed or inadvertently mis-lived the Gospel in such a way that caused my child to turn away from it, or reject it as unappealing?"

These questions take some emotional maturity but can produce answers that can change both parent and child.  They are repentance based, not guilt or blame based.  These types of internal introspective questions are what the Lord asks himself. (Jacob 5:47). He is our great example. Says the Lord: But what could I have done more in my vineyard?

The Lord didn't blame the vineyard for failed or bad fruit.  He looked at himself first! I believe that is Godly behavior.  The being who is more intelligent than us all asked what else HE could do.  And I think he meant it, it was not a smug rhetorical question.  It sounds incredibly humble.  We tend to chalk up others distance from the Church to some apostate belief, or website, or some misguided use of agency.  Especially when we see people on the news.   But what if we looked inward first?  Taking personal accountability doesn't push people away.  It almost without fail helps begin to heal what is broken. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chastening

Chastening isn't a popular topic.  But I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Proverbs 3:11
My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Hebrews 12:5-11 

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
It's not common for people in the LDS church to really share experiences involving God or the Spirit.  Often due to the sacred nature of them, but other times it's because they are not occurring very often.  It's interesting to ponder on which might be occurring.  And how easy one would be tempted to explain away the absense of spiritual experiences by calling them "too sacred" to talk about.  The lack of something can be easily clouded by just putting it into a genre of things not to talk about. 

What's even less common in the LDS church is to share or speak of our "chastening" experiences from God. There's little doubt why. Chastening is not something you put on facebook. Being chastened by the spirit would do such things as reveal our pride and errors, and cause sometimes abrupt changes in a persons life.  Not something you'll likely hear in fast and testimony meeting.  But you will see it in scripture.

A few noteworthy accounts of chastening are found in the Book of Mormon.  We know the brother of Jared got chastened for a number of hours prior to the account in Ether where the Lord appeared to him.  Chastening is one way to know God cares about you (Helamen 15:3).  Lehi is another example.  In Helamen it says that unless the Lord chastens his people, they won't remember him. (Helamen 12:3).  So the Lord does this similarly to how parents interact with growing children.  And we residents of earth very much tend to be wayward children.  So God chastens us so we don't forget him.  Because that seems to be a default setting.

An experience of my own comes to mind that I remember made me want to hide.  Without sharing too much, my (mis)understanding and need to change became obvious.  I needed to repent.  What I'm referring to was unrelated to morality, but curiously that is often the first and only thing members think of when words like repentance are used.  Despite the pain of the chastening I learned a lot. Reason I share it is I think others can benefit from the challenges and learning experiences of others. 

Not every single mistake or error needs to be repeated in full force by every person to learn the lesson.  The experience Joseph Smith had with the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon comes to mind. We can continually ask God for something which previously received a no answer, and if we persist we may in fact get permission to then proceed.  But it may turn out to be a painful learning experience.  Why repeat that?  Is it required to repeat that?  Or can we just start being more intelligent? 

There was a time shortly after a profound experience in my life where I was super gung-ho about sharing all my new found conclusions and new found realizations about the Church, the Gospel, the world we live in, the scriptures etc..... I was blurting out stuff left and right. Almost never got a positive response. But that didn't stop my enthusiasm, which of course felt very righteous to me at the time. Looking back I was probably coming across as a jerk who loved being right about how wrong others were.  Needless to say.... I felt one day a very clear chastening came.  In a very clear and direct manner.  I couldn't understand at the time why what I was doing, and how I was interacting with others was all that bad.  Among the communication were the words dogmatic, impatient, and uncharitable. I wanted to hide and not reveal my shame when that message came to me. But as Hebrews says, we are not to lose heart, or faint when we are corrected.

What I learned was that I needed to take seriously the statement by the Lord in D&C 121 about how no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.  The only tools we are to use are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness patience, pure knowledge, meekness etc... I've since found I have the greatest success by lovingly and warmly sharing things with people through a line of reasoning, when they are interested.  Rather than dogmatically stating conclusions, or ambushing people with new information they may not have previously had and which they are in no position to suddenly ingest.  My own mind is not always ready for every conclusion or idea, so I had to conclude in my own heart how foolish it is to expect others to respond to something that I myself needed time, and reasoning, and scriptures, and patience, and long-suffering to understand.

Not every topic or idea, especially in the Gospel can be explained or understood in a few minutes.  Much less a soundbite. 

Anyway, such was this particular event in my life. Stating conclusions or ideas people are unprepared for, that have no foundation in something they do understand, and doing so at the wrong time, is in fact uncharitable.  People may reject something they may have otherwise listened to.  It shows little patience, and can come across as dogmatic, which usually ends peoples interest. Those types of tools don't work. God's tools do work. Meekness, gentleness, long-suffering, patience, love unfeigned, pure knowledge, gentleness patience.

I still err, and continue to learn, but am grateful to be corrected.  Also grateful to learn from others who have gone before me, or who know live who have wisdom to impart.  The Book of Mormon says in Mormon 9:31 that we should be grateful that the weaknesses of these ancients people in scripture were manifest unto us so that we "may learn to be more wise than we have been".  Seems they care enough about us to help us not repeat their errors.

The Book of Mormon has great wisdom in it.  But too often the Book of Mormon is not used for it's wisdom, it's used as a measuring stick with which to puff up our pride, which leads to feelings of superiority over other people of other religions.  Being in possession of, or owning the copy-write of the Book of Mormon is not the same thing as receiving it's message.  The book does very little unless the message does something to the inner person.  There are some stern chastening words found in 2 Nephi chapter 28.  I appreciate them.  Only a friend would tell people the cold hard truth.  With some radical candor.  I believe we should accept the chastening hand of God however it shows up.

Joseph Smith remarked (from liberty jail no less)

A frank and open rebuke provokes a good man to emulation, and in the hour of trouble he will be your best friend, but on the other hand it will draw out all the corruption of a corrupt heart, and lying and the poison of asps shall be under their tongues, and they do cause the pure in heart to be cast into prison because they want them out of their way.

How do we respond to chastening?  What does our response indicate about us? 

I'm afraid many of the chastening cycles of the Book of Mormon are going to repeat, perhaps sooner than we'd all like.  But I hope to do all in my power to learn from them, and thank them for their message, and be wise that it might "yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness".

Monday, May 23, 2016

Koolaid, Wind, and Fire



(This is a hand out given to the Primary Children of my Ward in Utah by the Stake Primary Presidency.  I assumed it was a pretty big no no to use Kool-Aid in religious settings but perhaps not all are familiar with the history)


Brigham Young, October 6, 1855, JD 3:45.  Says this:

Some may say, “Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.” I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, “If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,” this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

I don't agree with a good portion of things Brigham Young taught or did. But I do agree with that statement above. I've found however in our day almost no one agree with his statement anymore. In fact I can't go hardly 1 week at church without hearing the exact opposite. I've lost count of how many consecutive weeks I've heard the opposite at some point during the 3 hour period.  It's as if that's the primary teaching now days.  As it was again yesterday during church. There came a moment when I either needed to excuse myself from the room, or else I was going to say some thing which would have likely landed me in the bishop's office. Not wanting to disrupt those who were content with the copious amounts of koolaid being offered, I opted to join the growing group of transients in the hallway comprised of young dads.  

My faith in God is the reason I attend church. I think in order to develop certain characteristics and understandings you need to be around a diverse group of people. It's good for the soul to interact with and come to love and appreciate those who come to a faith based organization to worship who are different, and those who may believe and view life in very different ways. I believe this.  Where my faith in God leads me once I am already at church however has only dawned on me in hindsight.  It's to those ward members who do not fit in. Which to my surprise is a larger group than I expected. The ward members who's views are shut down, the ward members who don't look the part, won't ever be called to leadership positions, or the ward members who are so bored they would rather stand in the hallway and play with baby toys than attend some of the classes.  It's to those I'm drawn, those who's souls may be hungry, but who may lack the words or courage to express it openly for fear of consequences.  These are the people I find more comfort in being around.  I think this too is related to my faith in God.  

I had no idea how many of the ward members felt or what they thought about Church, the Gospel, and their 3 hour block. One unmistakable and undeniable indication was a few weeks ago when there was massive windstorm. 60-70mph winds Sunday morning lead to Church being canceled. This announcement of no Church caused what seemed universal happiness and joy around the neighborhood. Fellow Ward members I hadn't seen smile in a long time were cheerful. Despite the damages to homes, missing shingles, and downed trees, there was a feeling of lightheartedness and joy.  

The ward leadership organized a ward cleanup to pick up around the neighborhood. There is typically not any measurable enthusiasm surrounding manual labor projects. But not this Sunday. Church having been canceled, there was a buzz. There was a new motivation towards service and helping clean up the neighborhood that was uncharacteristic.  It caught my attention.  There was a feeling of relief.  I had to ask my self why is that?  What is it about our worship services that causes relief when they are canceled?  Relief to pretty much everyone.  Has church become mentally oppressive?

Now I've heard and am very familiar with the idea that you only get out of church what you bring to the meeting.  Which in some senses is absolutely true.  Sometimes what I get out of church is limited to the scriptures I brought with me.  My point is not to find fault with anyone, but to just speak openly about some alarming trends.     

There is a rapidly growing number of people who are bored. And having been taught that any lack of the spirit during those 3 hours is their own fault, many people continue to drone on, play on their phone, or skip the meetings altogether to help pass the time.  There are a few core topics which we would only accept like we do because of having heard them so many times our minds presume the concept must be true. It darkens our minds to the point where participation stops, engagement stops, thinking stops, and the Gospel becomes a lifeless bore.  We presume if we needed to know something, we would be taught it from the pulpit, and mistakenly conclude that our duties with the Gospel end there.  The side effect being that since we don't hear about certain things from the pulpit, we can safely set them aside and minimize their importance.  




There is so much I want to say to my fellow ward members.  So much joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I want to talk about.  But I'm often shut down, and silenced, sometimes with conviction. Interestingly, it's not by the people at church who I'm drawn to.  They respond very differently. 

There are so many people I think who are spiritually hungry.  They aren't satisfied with hearing the same correlated material, and watered down gunk year after year.  They are tired of endless opinion sharing in Sunday School, and have noticed that 6 months can go by in Elder's Quorum without reading from the scriptures more than an isolated verse which happened to be embedded in the lesson manual text. They sense that the Gospel has something to offer them, which the current trends simply will not, and at this point cannot deliver to them.  

I think there are people to reach out to.  Who want to be reached out to.  They just need someone willing to.  "We can touch the world when we meet them all at their need". - Earth, Wind, and Fire.

To them I say, read the below book.  Or listen to it for free on youtube.  See what is actually available to you through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you haven’t yet read Preserving the Restoration, I highly suggest you do.  Find what the restoration was intended to accomplish in your life.  Don't leave any good you have, but instead add to it.  Re-awaken something in side you which will light a fire.  I've done this, seen this, and know this independent of any other person.  Don't settle for that which does not edify.  Find what will. Reignite the fire that is too often suffocated in what we call LDS worship services.










Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Light and Truth forsake that evil one

D&C 93:37: Light and truth forsake that evil one. 

This is one of those profound statements all crammed into 7 words. Light and truth, in other words the Glory of God, or Intelligence, forsakes that evil one.

How does glory, or light, or truth forsake that evil one? How does it do that?  In what way is the evil one forsaken?  Why does it forsake the evil one?

Satan's primary tool is the lie. When there is enough truth, there is no longer any reason to believe or teach a lie. Therefore, he has lost power.  Consider this definition of forsake: To leave someone who needs or counts on you.  The adversary is dependent on lies, and dependent on you believing the lies for him to have influence or control.  Truth and light truly does forsake the evil one because you are freed from the grasp of his lies.

Gaining light and truth is also part of the proper definition of repentance.  If I think I'm repenting and white knuckle some behavior, but gain no intelligence in so doing, have I repented?  By repenting in the way the Lord asks we leave or depart from "that evil one" along with the previous mutual dependency.  Light and truth is what we should be after.

It sets you free.  Repentance forsakes that evil one.  Repentance is not 5 steps.  It's gaining knowledge and intelligence which informs our behavior which forsakes that evil one.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Gathered

Been studying scripture a lot lately. Never cesaes to amaze me what is in there that I've glossed over my entire life.

One thing I've been studying is what it means "to be gathered". Can people be gathered around an idea and still correctly be termed "gathered"? They can obviously be gathered physically at some location or another. Or they could be gathered based on a number of other criteria that doesn't have to do with physical location (but which may eventually include it).  Almost makes me wonder if people are almost always first gathered around an idea, before coming together physically.

Scriptures prophecy that angels and the Lord will do some important gathering in the latter days.  A gathering more specifically to a place called Zion.  It would take too long to reference them all.  If your not familiar with those scriptures then I seriously recommend remedying that.  As I thought about this, I was reading in 1 Nephi 14:13. 13 And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God.

Seems the mother of abominations (earlier referred to by Nephi as the Church of the Devil) is also doing her own gathering. All over the earth, among all the nations of the gentiles. It says "All" nations of the gentiles. So that would include us. To fight against the Lamb of God. Seems she doesn't settle for just fighting against the "saints" or certain religions, but she fights directly against the Lamb of God.  Which likely includes those who bring a message from Christ.

The church of the devil is also doing some gathering. There is a dual gathering going on.  What type of gathering would the church of the devil be doing as opposed to the Angels and or The Lord?  What would the differences be?

Worth your time to consider.

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Opinion, The New Truth

D&C 93 24-25 says: And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.

Everywhere I go lately someone or some company really really wants to know my opinion.  The doctor's office will not stop calling me wanting to know my opinion of the doctor my kids see, the office, the staff, the facility etc etc..   The grocery store receipt offers me rewards and chances to win things if I will only fill out their survey.  The restaurant where we eat dinner also is offering rewards and gifts cards if I will only take a few minutes to respond to their survey.  Some random phone caller keeps calling wondering if I will take a few minutes and answer a few questions about my experience with different consumer products, political views, or whatever.  Churches are no stranger to the opinion polls either.  Religion, unexpectedly to me, is a heavy hitter for wanting to know public opinion.  Including the LDS church.  It heavily affects their decisions and policies.  Which struck me as interesting.  Public opinion usually mattered very little to those who found religions, or those upon whom the religion is based.

My place of work also is a heavy hitter for opinion poll results.  Opinion opinion opinion.  Big decisions get made on such results.  

I left the car dealership after a car repair a few days ago and was contacted three different times to make sure I was going to respond with the highest possible score when my survey arrived via e-mail.  Facebook can't leave me alone for 1 day without wanting me to survey something, I also can't seem to call any business without being asked if I will remain on the phone after the call to answer "a few short questions", websites do this as well.    



You'd think opinion was the same thing as truth nowadays.  Many of them go to extreme lengths to ensure I answer the questions how they want me to.  Some survey questions are worded in such a way that I think completely negates any of my answers.  They are leading questions.  And before I even go to answer them I'm contacted to make sure I mark "extremely satisfied" on every question.

I'm not saying feedback is bad, or useless.  It can be extremely useful.  There are businesses who will pay good money for the results of these opinion surveys.  And some places make good change based on new awareness of how people think and feel about something.  The more you know what people want, the better you can sell it to them.  Good business I suppose.   

What I think can get lost in this mass of opinion is the actual truth.  Knowledge of truth.  Sometimes public opinion is dead wrong.  Surveys and opinion polls are the tools of man, for man to profit thereby.  If your multi million member religion gets results of mass opinion polls regarding various religious topics, and makes policies and decisions based on those, that to me is not the same thing as getting revelation from God.  It's a clever and and (not so) subtle substitute that can make it seem like you're "in the know" and "understand the issues of your day".  Public opinion surveys never were, isn't, and never will be revelation.  But if you felt so inclined you could use mass opinion as a mask and a tool to substitute for things like actual revelation.  For every truth there is a counterfeit, for every to there is a fro.  

The truth is something different entirely from mass opinion.  You may argue that mass opinion poll results show or revel the "truth" of what the population thinks.  But what the population thinks at any given time (especially in our world) is still not how scripture defines truth.  And it's certainly not something historically you would want to put a lot of stock into.  Public opinion sways too and fro.  It's fickle.  It may affect an election, but it does not necessarily reflect, nor determine, nor reveal truth.  Scriptures say the "destroyer rideth upon the waters"  D&C 61:19.  And what are the waters?  Revelation answers that for us.  Rev 17:15.  And he said to me, The waters which you saw, where the whore sits, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.  So there is a strong connection between "waters" in the scripture and people, and their opinions.  That connection is up to you to see though.  

Personally and on a personal level I think there is something higher to seek after and trust in than public opinion.  It hails from a place that far predates our modern life.  It influences us whether we are blind to it or not.  And it will be there long after we are passed from this life.  It comes via revelation from God.  It makes public opinion polling look like the arm of the flesh tool that it is.   A knowledge (not opinion) of things as they are, were, and are to come is how scriptures define truth.  We should expect counterfeits, distractions and substitutes.  They are everywhere.  I can hardly see the truth for lies some days.