Confronting the Dread of the Holy

As a follow up to yesterday’s Putting Our Houses in Order post so many thoughts and conversations are producing insight into this principle. The first thing to point out is that so much of our personal house is in the basement. In other words, most of what you feel, experience, believe, fear, resides deep in your subconscious. It is an auto-pilot. So much of what makes up who you are is a DNA inheritance, biological dispositions, experiences from your childhood, the accumulation of your sins and fallen nature, your thought patterns and all of the inputs that contribute to this fallen environment. Almost all of our conscious action through out the day is us being acted upon by the habits and dispositions of our fallen selves. Most of these are hidden from our awareness.

I wonder how much of this we take seriously. How much of your unbelief is driven by your deep connection to the almost unknown world of your sub-conscious.

Untangling yourself requires great meditation, brutal honesty, and total willingness to sacrifice whatever is in you that is untrue. We have to be willing to walk into the darkness of our self in order for the light of Christ to redeem us completely.

You have to become wholly truthful if you want to be holy and of the truth. There may be much pain, abuse, patterns of thought, addictions, and fundamental unbelief that weighs you down. Most people are possessed by fear to one degree or another. What would it be like to become completely divested of all fear? How fast would your world radically transform?

How do you know you are possessed by unbelief? Because Moroni teaches us that it is our unbelief that keeps us from piercing the veil in this life and receiving the revelations that the Brother of Jared received (Ether 4: 13-15). It is the veil of unbelief that keeps us in a state of wickedness. I believe that we are unaware of much of this unbelief.

Facing the darkness within is to confront our wickedness. The Lord requires us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This requires us to stare into the darkness of our own souls. We have to contend with the vast underlying current of our fears and sort out the falsehood we have acquired over a lifetime. We have to confront the dread of the holy. The dread of what we have to confront in order for the Lord to fashion us in to a holy and truthful being.

The Lord has power to lead you through this. The Holy Ghost can lead you into the truth of all things if you are willing to allow him into your being and sort things out. He can lead you deep into your consciousness. He can reveal hidden things. And he can heal and transform your flesh. He can transform your past. He can transform and heal your entire being. If we have the courage to face the truth about ourselves he can save us. But this takes great courage. And faith.

We have to face the darkness within. Our families depend on us doing so. The Lord is depending on us to do so. We have to repent deeper and more fundamentally than any previous generation in these Latter-Days.

 

Putting Our Houses in Order

I received a chastisement through impressions of the spirit that I have not put my house in order. In the spirit I also felt a clarification that the first house that you must put in order is the house of your body. Yes, this includes being healthy, but it is not the primary meaning of this commandment.

I take the commandment to put my house/flesh in order to be something like this: I carry with me DNA, generational sins, habits, weakness, and spirits that are inherited by from my family lines. I also contribute to those weaknesses and problems through my own sins. I also include in this the depression, anxiety, fears, propensities, unbelief, and compulsions. To put things in order means to bring all of my flesh to the Lord to have it sanctified out of me, so that the generational lines can become clean and purified. I must become clean from the blood and sins of my own personal generation.

This is also what I now believe to be the “baptism of blood”. A baptism of fire purifies your spirit in preparation to bring your flesh into a sanctified state. This is why there are three baptisms – The water, the spirit, and the blood. The water is a sign we make that we’ve received a remission, the spirit is the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (born again), and the blood is the sanctification of our flesh so that we may be resurrected into a Celestial glory because of the work we’ve done for our family lines. (As a side-note, I believe this is also the purpose of vicarious ordinances. We sanctify ourselves and then perform an ordinance for our ancestors so that they may be redeemed through our repentance.)

After we bring our own bodies into sanctification, we can then get our house in order in terms of our marriages and our immediate families. We go through a greater sanctification process. And then we can move outward to extended family and community.

But first, we must bring our flesh into a sanctified state. We must become clean from the blood and sins of this generation. There is so much power in this. And I have so far to go.

Priesthood by Hugh Nibley

THE PRIESTHOOD CEASES to be effective when exercised “in any degree of unrighteousness” (D&C 131:37), but it operates by the spirit, and the spirit is not deceived but is exquisitely sensitive to the slightest color of fraud, pretention, self-will, ambition, cruelty, etc. “When we undertake.., to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves; and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man” (D&C 121:37). But what about the righteous dominion of the priesthood? That can be easily recognized, for it operates “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the souls without hypocrisy, and without guile. ̄ . with “bowels full of charity towards all men…” (121:41ff). Even in the eternities the power of the priesthood flows “without compulsory means.., forever and ever” (121:46).

Who can deny such a power to another? No man. Who can bestow it on another? No man. We like to think that the Church is divided into those who have it and those who don’t have it; but it is the purest folly to assume that we can tell who has it and who does not. God alone knows who is righteous and how righteous; yet “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven,” and those “cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principle of righteousness” (D&C 121:35). The result is, that if there is anyone who really holds the priesthood, no one is in a position to say who it is–only by the power to command the spirits and the elements is such a gift apparent. But as far as commanding or directing other people, there every man must decide for himself.

One valuable hint the Lord has given us, however, namely the assurance that of all those who “hold” the priesthood almost none really possess it. “That the rights of the priesthood.., may be conferred upon us, it is true,”making us formally priesthood-holders, “but when we undertake to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” the priesthood is void. And this is how it is in “almost all” cases in the Church: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as, they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called but few are chosen” (D&C 121:39-40).

What does one have to do to be chosen?

First, one may not set one’s heart upon the things of this world (121:35)–so much for the priesthood as something to show off; then, one may not aspire to the honors of men–so much for the priesthood as some- thing for prestige. One cannot exercise any power of the priesthood in any degree of unrighteousness–this in full recognition of the fact that “it is the nature of almost all men” to do that very thing as soon as they think they have power and authority.

This leaves a few humble, unpretentious, and unworldly people as the sole holders of a valid priesthood. It is the “few humble followers of Christ” who are the strength of the Church throughout much of the Book of Mormon history.

What irony. As far as the ’whole world is concerned, the priesthood is a thing of value which is cruel to withhold from anyone, because it enhances one’s status and dignity among his fellows, whether inside the Church or outside. And yet the one thing that renders that priesthood completely null and void is to treat it as something to aspire to among one’s fellows. Priesthood is strictly an arrangement between the individual priesthood holder and his brethren in the eternal worlds, as personal and private as anything can be.

We might as well recognize the fact that whatever we say and do in righteousness is going to be misinterpreted. The only way we can make things easier for ourselves in the world is to go the way of the world. It would be hard to deny that the peace and prosperity of the Church in the past years has been largely the fruit of willingness; to go the way the world goes.

Where all truth is encompassed in one great whole to raise one question is to raise many others, and any issue relevant to the gospel inevitably leads to a discussion of the whole thing.

Is not the priesthood everything? Not on this earth. On this earth it is nothing, and as soon as we try to use it for any kind of status, power, rule, or authority, it automatically cancels out.

To repeat, as we are prone to do for lack of wit, for those who hold the priesthood on this earth, it is, the Prophet Joseph said, “an onerous qarden,” not a prize. One cannot give orders to another by the priesthood. One cannot use it to acquire prestige, fame or wealth. Far from impressing one’s fellow men, it is held in derision by them. The moment one tries to make honor or glory or exercise dominion by the priesthood “amen to the priesthood of that man”–it automatically becomes null and void. What good is it then? Over whom does it exercise dominion? Over the spirits and over the elements–but not over one’s fellow-men, who cannot under any circumstances be deprived of their complete free agency.

Though some may find it hard to believe, I find no cause for boasting in my priesthood nothing is easier than conferring it upon one, but that is only the beginning; for it to be a real power requires a degree of concentration, dedication, and self- discipline which few ever attain to, and for the rest priesthood is not a blessing but a terrible risk. The priesthood is not a badge of office to be worn as; a feather in a cap.

Do we really believe the First Vision? Thousands of Latter-day Saints attest to it every Fast Sunday; but when the earliest, fullest, and best account of the First Vision, dictated by the Prophet at the age of 26 to Frederick G. Williams, was discovered and published in 1968 it caused not the slightest ripple of interest in the Church. It is enough, apparently; to know that God has spoken again from the heavens–never mind what he said.

The most useful lesson is the silence of heaven on this particular issue in the light of our own woeful ignorance. There is a connection between the two. Where the people do not seek for wisdom and knowledge, God will not give it to them, and so they remain in ignorance, and may not ask for help from above.

Nothing pleases God more than to have his children “seek greater light and knowledge”–it was for that that Adam, Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and Joseph Smith were rewarded with the richest blessings. Nothing displeases him more than to have them “seek for power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:15). Through the years the Latter-day Saints have consistently sought not for the former but for the latter. It is only right and proper that we should stew in our own juice for a while.

“I sought for the blessings of the fathers. ̄ . desiring also to be one who possessed greater knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess greater knowledge . . .”(Abraham1:2).
Twice he repeats it–he wants knowledge. Up to the last, even after he had learned all the doctrines of salvation, Adam still “seeks for greater light and knowledge” and for such knowledge we should seek eternally But what do we hear? A former president of theBYU pompously announced at a convention of educators that we: at the BYU are not seeking for truth, because we have the truth! This is where we stand today. It is common at the BYU for students to protest against being taught anything they did not know before: “Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? . . . And because that I have spoken one word he need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be unto the end of man . . . (2 Nephi 29:8-9).

The fact is that the Latter-day Saints “will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32:7). They simply are .just not interested. How little we know about things. How little we want to know. The information is there, far more abundant than we have been willing to realize, if we will only reach out for it. To wait for a revelation on the subject is foolish until we have exhausted all the resources already placed at our disposal.

The strong prejudice has long been extended to the Indians by many Mormons in high position, yet the Mormons alone of all the people in the world believe the Indians to be the true blood of Israel, no less.

Such attitudes are strengthened by the snobbery of American suburbia; the Mormons like to think of themselves as WASPS–yet it was the rural, white, Christian, Protestant Americans upon whom the Lord with his own lips excoriated to the youthful prophet; they are all hypocrites, said he: “They were all wrong . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his sight… those professors were all corrupt: ’They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’ ” (Joseph Smith- History 1:19).

There are those in the Church who would identify Zion with “Executive Meadows, the Exclusive Condominium for the Right People.”

REPEAT of repeat: Over whom does it exercise power, then? Over the spirits and over the elements–never over one’s fellow men, whose free agency is absolute and inalienable.

Christ commanded the spirits, and they obeyed him; he commanded the elements and they obeyed him, but men he would not command, and rebuked the apostles at Capernaum for suggesting it. “how often would I have gathered you together.., and ye would not!”

What, then is the priesthood on this earth? It is what Brigham Young and the Twelve wrote in the Times and Seasons in 1839, they called the priesthood an “onerous duty,” a load to be borne. Very few men on earth, including those in the Church are re- ally qualified. In terms of prestige, status, power, influence, pleasure, privilege, “power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:37), the priesthood has absolutely nothing to offer. The world laughs at it, the Latter-day Saints abuse or ignore it, those who take it seriously do so in “fear and trembling.”

A Fire Observed

I love to camp, and more than that I love campfires.

There is joy in taking care to build a fire.  Organizing the wood just right, preparing a space for the burn. Then lighting a small source of flame, even a spark. The spark is fragile. It is vulnerable. A burst of wind or a careless movement can quickly extinguish the newly birthed flame.

The weak and vulnerable spark is carefully fed with small pieces of twigs and sticks. And the flame takes hold. It gets warmer. Then it gets hot. When it is hot enough, it can be fed with without limits. Fueling it in full glory with logs and trees – creation used to give comfort, warmth, and light.

And it burns and it is fed. And if the there is no more wood to add, if the fuel runs low, the fire burns down and runs its course.

As the fire burns down and consumes the last bit of dormant energy left in the smoldering logs,  a good stoking can provoke a flare, and a renewed flame.

Rearranging logs that have burned down, allowing oxygen to find new paths to the hottest areas, and adjusting the burnt wood into new arrangements can increase heat and produce warmth for those enjoying the fire. With a renewed flame comes a surge of hope. Even excitement.

But despite stoking our hope is short lived. The fire dims again. We may think that our fires can be stoked and managed and rearranged, and reorganized and the flame will burn on and on.

But unfortunately the new flames are quickly starved of fuel, and they quickly die down, too.  As the logs are almost gone, they continue to be stoked, and prodded, and rearranged. We can hunker close to the burnt wood, blow our air into the char, and hope for the embers to return to their warmth and glory.  But we have to face the reality that the options are diminishing. And so is our comfort, warmth, and most importantly, light.

The wood has run its course, and without a constant source feeding it new logs full of life and potential, the fire dims and the light fades. It even appears to die.

Where can we find hope? Perhaps it is with the remaining embers and dimly glowing remnants of coal that a new fire can be lit and be fueled. That tomorrow holds a hope that the last vestiges of light can ignite a new flame, in a new fire, in a new day.

Thoughts on Christ and Transformation

Some thoughts from a conversation with Mark Kehoe this morning…

  1. We are beings of profound potential – both for evil and for good. Our divine potential for evil, suffering, and darkness is as deep as our potential for good.
  2. We really don’t understand our capacity for evil until it is revealed to us, and this should frighten and disturb us deeply. The depth of the natural man is not just a capacity for indulgence or selfishness, it is a capacity to inflict suffering upon others.
  3. We aren’t redeemed from our fallen potential until we become strictly honest beings. We must be divested of lies, darkness, and deception. Our capacity for deception is as infinite as our capacity to become a divine being in the likeness of our eternal parents.
  4. Encountering Christ is the process of having the light divided from the darkness within us. It is to have the truth in us increased, and to have the falsehood and lies within us transmuted into truth.
  5. Giving ourselves over to Christ can be, and usually must be, a very disruptive and painful experience. It is a death – a death of the falsehood within us. The death of the natural man is a death of the self as we know it. It is a real and painful death.
  6. But the redemption of the truth within us is glorious. And the mercy of Christ is that he will redeem anything truthful within us.
  7. The paradox of Christ is that his love kills us. It kills the natural man. It kills who we think we are. It doesn’t accept us in our self-oriented and deceived state – it requires complete transformation – granting hope that the transformation can be made.
  8. Receiving Christ requires us to go through a death and be resurrected (spiritually and physically). We die before we die as to the things of the world. And we are reborn in this life into a newness of life in the form of Christ.
  9. Submitting our light to Christ will create a magnification. Submitting our darkness will create a transformation.

Becoming as a Little Child

A child is able to vocalize every language when they are born. They are capable of making any sound. It isn’t until they are taught to speak one language that their capacity to naturally vocalize all other languages is lost.

It is our traditions that place strictures on our faith. The bounds and conditions of our belief are taught to us through language, and our social structure. Just as a child is open to all possibility of language, so must we, if we are to become as little children, become so that we are open to all belief. Our language and understanding must become a blank slate.

Becoming as a little child requires casting off traditions of unbelief, or, as I have learned in the past, false belief. It’s not so much what I don’t believe that holds me back from receiving greater light and truth, it’s my false belief structure – those things that I believe that are incorrect or false – that keep me from the higher truth.

Becoming as a little child is to return to the Lord and go through a process of rebirth. This rebirth is the process of allowing our false beliefs, unbelief, and our false traditions to die. It is to have them be stripped from us, sacrificed, and completely reshaped so that the Lord can teach us all things. We must become unencumbered by our false traditions.

This is a hard thing. How do we know what in our tradition is false and what is true? A good starting point is to ask the question, what are the fruits of my tradition? And be really, really honest with that question.

Does my experience match the experience of the scriptures? Do I experience daily revelation? Do I have dreams and visions? Am I experiencing healings? Am I experiencing mighty changes of the heart? Am I experiencing the gifts of the spirit? Am I desperate to hear more of the word of the Lord? Is the Lord opening up to me and teaching me things I never supposed? Am I praying with power? Do I have angels attend to me?

If we are not experiencing the great miracles of the scriptures it is most likely due to our unbelief. We learn this in Ether chapter 4.

Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.

Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel (Ether 4: 13-15).

It is our unbelief that causes the Lord to withhold marvelous things from us. It is our unbelief that keeps us in a state of wickedness.

Becoming as a child is the process of having that unbelief removed. We must repent of everything in our tradition that causes the Lord to withhold his blessings and manifestations. We must speak a new language. And we must be open. We must use the discernment and wisdom of age so that we are not taken with every wind of doctrine, but we must also be completely open and unresistant to everything the Lord has to teach us.

Seven years ago, Lisa and I were driving a moving truck from Arizona to Utah. I remember telling her that I felt that I knew pretty much everything there is to know about the gospel. I remember telling her that I felt that I probably knew just about all there was to know that was necessary, and that with the exception of some mysteries unrelated to salvation, it was just a matter of keeping the commandments from here on out.

How foolish I was. Prideful, foolish, and embarrassingly naive. I am grateful that the Lord has kindly shown me how that I know absolutely nothing. Little did I know that he was preparing us to receive great changes in our life. He was about to teach us that we had barely begun the process of coming unto him, and most of what I thought I knew about the gospel was actually serving as a roadblock to receive more.

I can honestly say that the more I learn the gospel, the less dogmatic I am and the more I truly realize that I know so very, very little.

I can bear witness that the Lord wants us to receive great knowledge on this earth. It is the express purpose of his priesthood to receive knowledge. It is only through spiritual knowledge that darkness will be overcome. It is the only way we will receive salvation.

We must consider ourselves fools before God or he cannot open up to us. We must become as our little children – full of faith and possibility. And only by becoming as a child everyday, continually being open to being taught and retaught, and corrected, and expanded do we ever start to approach the great potential we have in this mortality.

Reclaiming the Cross

The Latter-Day Saints should hold a unique and sacred understanding of the power of the cross. Our minds should not be far from it. Ever. We embrace the suffering Christ often. When we partake of the symbols of the sacrament we consume the torn flesh and spilled blood of His great sacrifice.

So why is it that we eschew the cross not only as a symbol of our faith, but as a constant reminder of the sacrifice of Christ?

The early saints used the cross until the 20th century. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the cross was completely eliminated from our churches, mostly in opposition to what we saw as a symbol embraced by the “apostate” christian churches.

Bruce McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith hardened the saints against the cross by proclaiming them symbols of “degenerate Christian Churches” (Mormon Doctrine, 160) and a “tool of execution”.

Unfortunately, in our exuberance to distance ourselves from other Christian creeds that persecuted us in our history, we also rejected some doctrines and symbols they emphasized in their worship (for example born again doctrine). Ironically, this rejection prompted our own hardening towards some truths that are powerful principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Justifying our rejection of the cross as a symbol of our faith, the most optimistic amongst us innovated a positive view of our rejection of the cross symbolism. President Hinckley expressed the following:

“I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ. …

“… The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship” (President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Liahona and Ensign, April 2005, 3).

And this has become the standard view of the Latter-Day Saint: We don’t use a symbol of the dying Christ , we prefer the lives of the members of the church to be the symbol in its stead.

But is it possible to both be an example of the living Christ, but also remember his great sacrifice and condescension? When the Spirit interviewed Nephi in his great vision the very question that initiated the revelation of Christ was, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11:16)

Comprehending His condescension is a path to the revelation of Christ. And his symbols and tokens invite us to “remember Him always”; particularly the Sacrament.

Remembering the condescension of Christ in both ordinance and imagery brings us to rejoice in the living and resurrected Christ! But in order for us to be of the order of Christ, we too, must carry our cross. We, too, must die as to things of this world. We must crucify the natural man within.

The cross should be a constant reminder to go through our own condescension.

The emblems of Christ’s death are the heart and substance of the weekly sacrament. We don’t refer to the righteous acts of Latter-day Saints to replace taking the emblems. We take them because they remind us of the great and eternal sacrifice of our Savior.

If we use the symbols of death in the Sacrament, why not be reminded of his death through the use of a cross?

Latter-Day Saints that receive the priesthood endowment in the temple should reflect deeply on two of the tokens received in the Melchizedek priesthood. They both have reference to the cross. The witness in his body are the marks of sacrifice of the cross. They were both prophesied and they carry eternal significance.

Isaiah prophesied:

And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the Lord hath spoken it” (Isaiah 22: 23-25).

Surely the Father, too, possesses the marks in the sure place. As an eternal witness of accomplishing an infinite atonement, Christ did nothing that he did not see his Father do.

And so our Priesthood and our witness is rooted in the cross. It is the great sign of condescension and sacrifice. As Christ himself reminds us in the record of 3 Nephi:

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (3 Nephi 27: 14).

Not only should we be reminded of the cross through symbolism, we should also be reminded that it is through the symbols and doctrine of the cross that we are sealed to Eternal Life.  It is through the cross that we receive the highest and holiest blessings of eternity.

The cross was not a random mode of murder. It was a yielding to a death that sealed in resurrected flesh the tokens of condescension and eternal sacrifice. This, too, can be our understanding when we reflect on the meaning of the cross. And, hopefully, someday reclaim it as a symbol of our faith.