Love and Judgment

There are two gospel principles that seem to be in opposition to each other, and have caused much confusion. Confronting this doctrinal paradox will birth us into a state of understanding that will really help us become more like Christ and have the power of his love.

The issue is judgment. Countless times I have heard it preached that we should never judge. The scriptural record seems to support this when the Lord’s words recorded in Matthew are to “judge not, lest ye be judged.”

But we also have the doctrine of Moroni chapter 7 that not only teaches us how to judge, but that it is given to us to do so.

“For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night” (v. 15).

How do we reconcile these conflicting teachings?

Perhaps by making a simple distinction.

For clarity sake, let’s consider that what Mormon chapter 7 is inviting us to do is discern. Discernment is a type of judgment of recognizing light from darkness.

We are suppose to judge (discern) others. In other words, we are supposed to discern light and darkness.

So, what is unrighteous judgment? Because clearly there is great danger in judgment as well (and this is why “never judge anyone” doctrine is now such a popular thing to teach).

What is the type of judgment that we are too cease – the type that Moroni warns that to “not judge wrongfully; (because) that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged”?

I believe it is really simple. Perhaps unrighteous judgment is when we judge someone, and then withhold love because of our discernment.

When I judge someone (unrighteously) what I am really doing is withholding love.

That’s it.

Then I make a case against them. Because, since I am a spiritual being, with a divine nature, withholding love is sort of a big problem. It is to violate my nature. It is to resist the command that is imprinted on me from my beginning: I am to love and to impart to all of creation love.

When I stop doing this I must make a pretty big case. There must be at least the illusion of a reason.

And this is how a self-deception is formed. I have to absolve myself of the eternal responsibility of loving others and loving God.

How are we to judge? Most of us feel that it is completely against the spirit of the Lord to ever judge. The Lord even says “judge not, that ye man not be judged.”

The nature of what “judging” is quite simple. It is loving or not loving. Period. That’s it. That is all it is. Everything after that is a justification of extending or withholding love. But judgment, the type that we are all (hopefully) trying to rid ourselves of, and dislike when we receive from others, is really simple. It is a decision to love or not to love.

This is why all withholding of love is really just a lie. Because self-deceptions are lies. They are the lies we tell ourselves that give us justification in pitting ourselves against our eternal nature. They are the lies we tell ourselves to justify pitting ourselves against God.

God’s nature is to love us unconditionally. That could be the very definition of what makes God, God. Anyone who argues otherwise is in danger of being anti-Christ.

Why the harsh reality of challenging the eternal disposition and nature of God?

Because if you can make the eternal love of God a conditional matter, then you can accuse his Children both day and night. This is the fundamental work of the Adversary. He is the great Accuser. His judgments are an affront to God. He brings us into a state of self-deception by inviting us into judgment. By denying the love of God.

When Christ condescended and provided the great Atonement his love flowed to all of creation with the eternal invitation of redemption. Creation, in all of it’s various orders, has agency to receive the redemptive love of Christ, but that love is unconditional and eternal. Receiving that love is conditioned on the receiver, not the giver. This is why God’s love is both unconditional, but not unconditionally experienced. A critical distinction since deceivers will teach both that God’s love is not unconditional – or the variant and equally deceptive teaching that love is received by all no matter the willingness or compliance of the receiver of that love.

When we withhold love in any degree we devolve into a state of judgment. That is to say, our beings retract in hardness, darkness, and dissonance. We experience enmity. Withholding love is pitting ourselves against someone, and making them into an object worthy of lesser love. This is where the actual experience of “judgment” occurs.

In other words, judging others is a fruit of something deeper. It is a result. Something we can’t avoid. As soon as we withhold love, for whatever reason, we must enter into judgment about that person in order to justify the violation of the eternal order of love.

What is the eternal order of love? It is that it must be given without condition. It must be given to all and in its fullness.

When we withhold love from someone we are also making an eternal statement. We are declaring someone unworthy for the atonement of Christ.

Because all love flows from Christ in mercy and grace to all those that receive it. We, too, are called to be of the same order.

The way I see others is a reflection of my view of God. I can’t love him and not love his creation. I can’t worship the Redeemer without being passionate about what he redeems.

And so I have to personally face deep repentance regarding the unrighteous judgment I hold in my heart – the withholding of love.

The Female Restoration of All Things

Our mortal history begins with our “glorious Mother Eve”. Bursting on the scene, executing a covenant promise to bring forth the fall, bringing Adam through the veil and into this fallen world.
As the Earth fell from the presence of God and gained distance from her Creator, so did the status of women in a fallen and mortal sphere. She covenants premortally to provide a sacrifice for the work of the Father and the Mother. She chooses to come to this Earth, knowing that she will suffer at the hands of men who’s nature and disposition is to usurp unrighteous dominion and abusive power. Strangers in this sphere, her natural habitat is otherworldly – heavens and places of glory. Yet, she condescends to tarry with those who’s natural instinct is to dominate and control.
Because of this condescension Eve and her daughters have been subject to oppression. She comes to this state to provide veil experiences for the children of men, condescending unto death in childbirth, and suffering with husbands that oppress.
And now the Earth is preparing for its ascent. It will come back to the presence of the Lord and wickedness, oppression, violence, and unrighteous dominion will be swept from the Earth. As this grand chiasmus comes to a conclusion, Eve and her daughters will be restored back to their rightful place clothed in glory in the robes of the fullness of the Holy Priesthood. Eve will be revealed to the inhabitants of the Earth and they will instinctually worship her with all of their being.
The stature, nature, and eternal glory of women will soon be restored to the understanding of men. I believe it will be the final grand revelation of the second coming of Christ.

The Outer Boundary of Faith

I sometimes think that comfort is the enemy to faith. Telestial comfort. If you are living in faith you live, by your own free will and choice, on the outer boundary of your understanding.

Stepping into the unknown becomes a regular habit, seeking to expand the boundary of what you know into the unknown.

We learn to trade Telestial comfort for the actual Comforter.

I believe this is the straight and narrow path. Standing on the edge of darkness and continually stepping. Responding to the invitation of the Lord to move forward.

And with each step the light flows into the new space you occupy. No matter where you are on your path, the next step should always be one of faith.

If we retreat into comfortable territory, that doesn’t require expansion but idles our spirits in the comforts of the known, and try to pass that off as being faithful, we enter into a soft delusion. If that state isn’t moved through quickly, it settles like cement and we become fooled into thinking that we are faithful in a state of light that requires no more voluntary stretching.

And we receive what we truly want – the place we choose to settle is choosing our kingdom. We are always choosing a kingdom: the key is if we really want to be with the Father and the Son we cannot settle until we are in their presence and endowed with all that they possess. How many truly want this?

Detecting Deception: By Their Fruits Shall Ye Shall Know Them?

 

It was remarked about Joseph Smith by Apostle George A. Smith that,”there is no point upon which the Prophet Joseph dwelt more than discerning of Spirits.”

Why did Joseph focus and instruct so intently on the discerning of spirits and bringing to light all matter of false spirits and counterfeits? Because when one embarks on the straight and narrow path to receive further light and truth, the vast majority of that path is learning how to overcome all false spirits and adversarial influences.

Joseph taught repeatedly that if a person was to overcome a false spirit, they “needed intelligence which God alone could impart to detect false spirits, and to prove what spirits were of God.”

And he gives a good example as to why:

“The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their midst they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God; for they were great miracles that were performed by them: a supernatural agency was developed; and great power manifested.“

So this leads us to ask an important question: Is it really by their fruits that we test spirits and the teachings of people?

What if the Egyptians relied on the fruits of the magicians to detect them?

Consider this experience by Joseph Smith AFTER he had already been in the presence of both the Father and the Son.

Michael the angel had to intercede on Joseph’s behalf when Satan appeared as an angel of light. Presumably, Joseph didn’t detect him and needed the intervention of a more powerful angel to come and help him. Even after he’d experienced manifestations of glory he was not sufficiently prepared to detect all deception.

What if Joseph had waited to see the fruits of the Satanic angel of light before he detected him? How long would those fruits take to make manifest?

In the presentation of the endowment one of the major themes is the interaction with Lucifer. When Adam was calling upon God it is Lucifer that shows up first. Later, it is Peter, James, and John that has to cast out Lucifer on Adam and Eve’s befalf, so that Adam and Eve could receive the keys of how to detect Lucifer and his ministers for themselves.

He who had been the “Light-Bearer” is uniquely capable of counterfeiting Christ himself.

In light of this, there are many that reject the signs and tokens of the priesthood as a matter of detection. Rather, they depend on this ostensible method of detection of testing the fruits.

The problem with this is that fruit takes time, sometimes a long time, to be made manifest. It has to gestate. If we wait for the fruit to ripen in order to test a teacher or a spirit, by the time their fruit is made manifest it can be far too late.

So, how do we then understand what the Lord was teaching us in 3 Nephi 14 when he teaches the following?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.”

What is fruit? In the scriptures it can represent a few different things, but what it most often represents is people.

Your fruits are your children. Spiritually speaking, your fruit are those people that follow your teachings; those you birth into a spiritual structure.

A false prophet/teacher will birth fruit, or followers, and by the followers of a teacher you may know the truthfulness of a teacher or prophet in the long run. What kind of people are they producing? What fruit are they producing? What is the nature of those children?

We may know a prophet/teacher by his fruits (when the fruit fully ripens), but we can’t discern a prophet/teacher by his fruits.

These verses by the Savior are speaking of people (children) as the type of fruit. Does the teacher produce Children of Christ, or Children of the Devil?

We know this because Christ invokes the language of the allegory of the Olive tree. The Lord says, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

This is the same pattern of work he describes in Jacob 5. If the tree in the vineyard brings forth evil fruit, the tree itself is burned up by the Lord. The fruit of the tree are the types of people being produced.

So, we don’t discern false teachings by fruit unless the fruit has had ample time to ripen. The same way the Lord has to give time in Jacob 5 to see the fruit being manifest, we should understand that it can take considerable time for fruit (people) to ripen.

So, how do we discern?

Joseph taught this principle with precision.

We test the spiritual manifestation by the spirit and we test the physical manifestations by signs and tokens of the priesthood.

Spiritual manifestations, it should be warned, can be so sophisticated that spiritual discernment is not just a matter of “feeling good about it.”

He taught that we must gain intelligence from God through the power and revelation of the spirit to detect all of the variety of ways false spirits can be made manifest.

Joseph wrote:

Who can drag into day-light and develope the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-Day Saints?

We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as, “no man knows the things of God but by the spirit of God,” so no man knows the spirit of the devil and his power and influence but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look, and gesture, and the zeal that is frequesntly manifested by him for the glory of God:—together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb which is so characteristic of his proceedings, and his mysterious windings.

A man must have the discerning of spirits, before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors: for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit, when they think they have the Spirit of God.“

Joseph continues:

“… all contend that their spirits are of God. Who shall solve the mystery? “Try the spirits,” says John, but who is to do it?..

Try the spirits;” but what by? are we to try them by the creeds of men? what preposterous folly, what sheer ignorance, what madness. Try the motions and actions of an eternal being, (for I contend that all spirits are such,) by a thing that was conceived in ignorance, and brought forth in folly,—a cobweb of yesterday. Angels would hide their faces, and devils would be ashamed and insulted and would say, “Paul we know, and Jesus we know, but who are ye?” Let each man or society make a creed and try evil spirits by it and the devil would shake his [p. 743] sides, it is all that he would ask, a[l]l that he would desire. Yet many of them do this and hence “many spirits are abroad in the world.” One great evil is that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence &c., and imagine that when there is any thing like power, revelation, or vision manifested that it must be of God: a manifestation of what?—is there any intelligence communicated? are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? have they seen and conversed with an angel; or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No!…

Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbour’s spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it; could any one tell the length, breadth, or height of a building without a rule? test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary system without a knowledge of astronomy? certainly not: and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind who can describe an angel of light, if Satan should appear as one in glory? Who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory? or what is the manner of his manifestation?”

Joseph shares this interesting account:

“There have also been ministering angels in the church which were of satan appearing as an angel of light:—A sister in the State of New York had a vision who said it was told her that if she would go to a certain place in the woods an angel would appear to her,—she went at the appointed time and saw a glorious personage descending arrayed in white, with sandy coloured hair; he commenced and told her to fear God and said that her husband was called to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred miles from home or he would not return; whereas God had called him to go to the ends of the earth; and he has since been more than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true things were spoken by this personage and many things that were false.— How it may be asked was this known to be a bad angel? by the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.“
So Joseph gives an important key that a true angel would not contradict a former revelation.

There are some in our association of friends that profess revelations that contradict or invite them to break eternal covenants. This is a sure sign of deception.

A repeated pattern in our community of friends goes like this; a person will have a false experience, confuse it or believe it to be their calling and election made sure. Then they are “commanded” to break a covenant (usually chastity) and believe they are authorized to do so by virtue of their false Second Comforter experience. They also convince others to believe them because of their professes spiritual stature.

The truth of the matter is that the Lord usually tests them to see if they will detect false revelations and keep the terms of their covenants to prepare them for the higher revelation. This was the case of King David.

Few are as favored by the Lord as David. Even yet, the Lord withheld from him the blessings of the Fulness of the Priesthood most likely because he knew of David’s weakness.

The Lord in mercy does not give higher blessings if he knows there is a high degree of risk that we will become perdition. David is not in perdition for that very reason.

A sign that there is a deceiver in the our community is that they engage sexually outside of the covenant and then declare their status with God gives them the right to do so.

The sign of this type of deceiver is that he contradicts a former revelation, and then bears the fruit of his deceived state: his followers will also inevitably break eternal laws of chastity.

But what about Abraham? Wasn’t he commanded to break a former revelation of not to kill?

It wasn’t a murder. It was a commandment to offer up the first fruits of the field. He was to tithe his firstborn. He was fulfilling the law of sacrifice in the commandment to offer up his firstborn. It did not contradict a former commandment, but tested Abraham with a higher covenant structure. He learned to sacrifice in the manner of God the Father.

So, we can know false teachers by their fruits. But we discern them by the knowledge and revelations of the priesthood.

Those that mistakenly believe they have had a Second Comforter experience by virtue of a dream or vision must overcome the deceptions associates with those experiences.

It is true that a person can see or experience Christ in a vision, and if it is a true vision, they can anticipate a certain type of temptation: that a false spirit or a false teacher will then teach them that they have had the Second Comforter.

They will be taught that they are sealed up to eternal life. And this is a great deception.

Moses experiences this pattern. He was brought into the presence of the Lord. He received his Second Comforter. He had not yet received the fullness of the priesthood and had to be tested accordingly. Satan then immediately manifested to him to teach him and Moses had to detect him by revelation and contrast to the experience he had with the Father. He was successful in rejecting the counterfeit and was thus prepared to receive the sealing power.

One of the reasons why it is such a powerful deception to believe that you’ve received your Second Comforter blessings if you experience Christ in a vision or a dream is that they cease preparing themselves to discern greater manifestations of deception because they already believe they are sealed up to eternal life. And because of this they fall into inevitable traps.

It is often the case they seek to consume on their lusts things such as sex, power, and notoriety due to their false experience.

These deceivers are everywhere. They occupy corners and platforms throughout the church.

They seek to bring others into the same deceptive structures of which they belong.

Someone who is under the influence of a false spirit can not help but to manifest that spirit by teaching the deceptions they have accepted.

As one enters into a deceived state they cannot help but to also be taught by the Adversary how to deceive others. When Eve was beguiled and partook of the fruit, Satan also taught her to then give it to Adam.

Likewise, we can detect the types of deceptions one is under by the exact way they seek to deceive others. The Adversary can’t help but to leave his fingerprints.

If we are faithful to the injunction to repent and work out our salvation with fear and trembling we can joyfully rely on the promise of D&C 50:

And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive–and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him-

Is the Spirit a Feeling?

How do we feel the spirit? Is it a feeling?

Consider this possible view. Joseph taught this about the nature of the Holy Ghost:

“This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence.”

Receiving the Holy Ghost is being infused with light and truth. This will produce fruits of the spirit, such as meekness, and humility, and love.

But the spirit itself is the reception of light. So why do we associate feelings with the spirit?

Is it possible that our physical bodies can have a variety of physiological responses to light? That we may physically respond to the infusion in different ways and then call that “feeling the spirit”?

This is true, and not a bad thing, we just need to be really clear about what is happening, because there is the opportunity for confusion.

If I watch an inspiring movie, or fall in love with someone, or cheer my favorite team when they win a game, sometimes the same physiological responses may happen that we also feel when we receive the spirit.

So, to be sure that what we are feeling is actually the spirit and not a biological reaction to something we want, we must learn to taste light. We must learn to taste intelligence. And make this distinction.

Alma 32 gives a pattern to come into that discernment.

The Requirement of Faith to Receive the Second Comforter

In the past few years and very recently there have been many voices teaching how to receive the Second Comforter. Because of the different views and teachers on this subject, I’ve immersed myself in Joseph Smith and his teachings on the subject.

Last night I read the 6th lecture in the Lectures of Faith which is an entire sermon on the Second Comforter. Joseph is so careful to teach that the type of faith required for the blessings of the Second Comforter requires one primary thing: The sacrifice of all things.

Consider this excerpt:

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.

And this:

It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtain faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.

And then this:

Those, then, who make the sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith: therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do, and without this guarantee faith could not exist. All the saints of whom we have account, in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in His sight through the sacrifice which they offered unto Him; and through the knowledge thus obtained their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure as seeing Him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.

The teaching that receiving the Second Comforter is easier than we think, or is something that we receive if we simply see Christ in a dream or a vision is a smooth doctrine. It diverts us from seeking the levels of sanctification that come through the sacrifice of all things.

It bypasses a level of faith needed to receive both power in the priesthood and the faith to bring others into this structure.

Those that desire priesthood power and being taught by Christ himself will seek to repent of all things and bring forth a sacrifice to the Lord that gives them the faith to transcend this mortal sphere. It is the invitation to all to receive these glorious blessings, but they are not easy and very very few enter into this highest covenant because it exacts from you absolutely everything in your awareness.

This is why it is so powerful. And this is why an earth cannot contain such individuals that make this sacrifice and obtain this faith.

Fundamental Weakness

What if there is one primary weakness that we all have, and all of our other individual weaknesses are derivative of the primary?

In other words, if you struggle with eating, or anger, or anxiety, or fear, or pornography, or jealousy, or whatever your natural man-factory-settings may be, those really aren’t your problem.

Your primary problem is that you are separated from the love of God. This is the central weakness that we all experience. It is really our only problem.

Because we are separated from the love of God, and most often do not experience the “rest” of the love of God, all of our other “weaknesses” that are common to the natural man kick in and are used to either self-comfort, or relate to the world through a loveless paradigm.

For example, if you struggle with anger, it is often because you are projecting on others what you erringly feel God must feel for you. People with anger often feel deeply inadequate and judged by God, therefore they project that same inadequacy and judgment on to others.

If you struggle with pornography, it is a way to self-comfort through the strong emotional and physical pleasure of intimacy. Feeling the love of God removes this need to self-comfort.

If you have jealousy – it is often a reflection of anger that other may have what you think is rightfully yours (and that God is denying you). You’ve made a God of yourself. You worship the vision you have of your own false sense of righteousness. Feeling God’s deep and abiding love relieves you of jealousy understanding that God loves you much more than the false idols you desire.

All of these weaknesses can be eradicated in a moment. They don’t have to be subdued or “worked on”. They all go away in an instant when we experience being full of the love of God.

So when Moroni in Ether 12:26 says: “I give unto men weakness,” he really means just that. It is a primary weakness, and THE primary weakness.

All of our weaknesses become strengths when we yield to the spirit without reservation, and feel the redemptive love of God.

It is much deeper and fundamental to our existence than anything else.

We are perfected when we feel and possess a fullness of the perfect love of Christ.

A false religion has been formed that teaches we must excel and perfect ourselves before we can be redeemed; that weakness must be conquered before we can be redeemed.

This false religion teaches that we must be good enough before we are “worthy”. That worthiness is a function of our own behavior, not a state of being. This false religion will put us in a state that keeps us from experiencing the love of God in its full manifested stat

Sin keeps us from the presence of God because it is a wall that we force up in order to actually block the love of God. If we can lay down our arms, and allow the love of God to flow into us all of our weaknesses can be healed.

So, let us no longer contend against the spirit and repent today. In other words, we should all plead that we can be filled with the love of God in order to put all darkness under our feet.

Grace and Reconciliation

 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The doctrine of grace has changed my life. In the past year I have come to see it differently and the spirit has begun to teach this doctrine anew. It has changed my relationship to the Savior and has blessed me to see my life and weaknesses differently.

I would like to write out how I understand this new understanding mostly for my own benefit. I thought I would share it.  If you would like to correct me or add to it I would be most grateful.

After All We Can Do

A scripture on grace that almost any Latter-day Saint can quote on cue is 2 Nephi 25:23

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

This scripture is universally interpreted as after we put forward our best works, efforts, and strength; then we become qualified to receive the grace of the Lord. Grace is earned, so to speak, after we extend our best efforts.

We are a works-loving people. Work, and duty, and effort, and strain, and lists, and planners, and meetings. We put our shoulder to the wheel and push along. We all have work, so no one should shirk.

We are Deseret. We are the busy worker-bees of the kingdom. We have learned and reinforced through our cultural tradition that we cannot receive the grace of Christ until we are exhausted and worn out, having done all that we can do.

This Mormon ethic produces both blessings and cursings. The Lord does want an industrious and hardworking people. His people are obedient, sacrificing, and organized. But this strength can also become a weakness if we look beyond the mark. And, we should ever be mindful, that the mark is Christ.

Viewing our works and effort as the gate through which we access grace is a grave error. Our interpretation of the scripture has been viewed through a people who have perhaps, with the best of intentions, looked beyond the mark. With our obsession with our own works and the management of our own creature it is possible that we have looked beyond Christ, and believe in error that we only qualify for grace after all of the obedience and works we can muster. Here is the problem with this view.

We can never, ever, ever, produce enough works and effort that will give us confidence to receive the presence and grace of Christ. It cannot be done.

If we think that we can work ourselves into the Lord’s grace we will always be chasing the illusion of our own righteousness.

When we come to an understanding that even our righteousness is a gift bestowed upon us, that comes not by our own works but by his grace, our relationship to Christ will become radically redefined.

Then what does this scripture mean? It seems to be straightforward: “it is by grace we are saved, after all that we can do.”

What is the “doing” the scripture is referencing? Is it works and obedience and keeping the terms of the law? Is it fulfilling our duty and magnifying our calling? Or is it pointing to something altogether different?

The “all we can do” is referencing the admonition to be “reconciled to God.”

This connection is made more clearly in another 2 Nephi verse:

2 Nephi 10:24

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.”

There is no mistaking the connection Nephi is making earlier in his record. He is inviting us to be reconciled to God, and after we are reconciled we receive of his saving grace.

 

Reconciliation

What does it mean to be reconciled to Christ? Is this just another term for effort, obedience, duty, and works?

It is not.

It is an entirely different way in which we approach our Savior and Father, one from which if we are successful, great works, obedience, powerful effort, and the true magnification of our callings flow. We will get to that in a moment.

The way that I understand reconciliation is to bring one’s self into alignment. It is to become at-one with. It is to share ones heart and spirit. It is to become sanctified.

In the accounting world, when an account is reconciled to a bank statement it means that there is no difference between the two. They match and are mirror images of each other. To be reconciled is to receive the same likeness. In the spiritual sense, it is to share the same will, desire, intent, and feeling. It is to have the same heart.

 Reconciliation Through A Softened And Yielding Heart

As a new missionary in Japan, I really hated my mission. I was homesick, cold, constantly tired, and couldn’t speak the language. It was a personal hell from which relief seemed an eternity away. I wanted to love my mission, but the truth of the matter was, I didn’t. I even prayed that I could get hit by a car so that I could return early “with honor”.

I learned a powerful lesson during these early months. In the morning I would get up early and kneel in prayer, but wouldn’t say anything except, “Heavenly Father, please help me to want to be here. Please help me to want what you want.”

If I was quiet long enough and waited in prayer, I found that the spirit would soften my heart and I would start to feel what the Lord desired. My desires were changed. I discovered that my problem was a hard heart. I was resisting the spirit of the Lord, which was his will.

Through prayer the sprit came to me and softened my heart and I started to be filled with his will. It wasn’t manufactured. It wasn’t forced. It wasn’t something I had to talk myself into. It was divine change. I began to love my mission and the work we had to do each day. I wanted to be obedient and fulfill all of the commandments.

Nephi explained this process when he recorded:

1 Nephi 2:16

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”

What initiated Nephi’s powerful spiritual growth? It wasn’t his resume of good works. It wasn’t the Lord blessing him after all he could do. It was his submissiveness to the Lord, willingness to be softened and changed, and his desire to be sanctified. The Lord did the work of softening his heart so that he could be believing! Even belief was not a work that could be generated on his own. It was a blessing he received as he sought to be reconciled.

This process of yielding the spirit and receiving grace and the transforming power of Christ is replete throughout scripture.

Mosiah 3:19

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

There is no way to escape the natural man unless we first yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. After we yield to the spirit THEN we become a saint. After we yield to the spirit THEN we receive the characteristics of childlikeness, meekness, humility. Patience, full of love, and submissiveness. These are all byproducts of yielding. These are all gifts given to us when we reconcile ourselves to his will.

Consider another similar scripture that teaches more about the reconciliation process:

Helaman 3:35

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”

We cannot sanctify ourselves. That is a gift from our Father through his Holy Spirit. We can, however, approach him and seek to be soften, seek to be changed. We can submit our weaknesses, sins, false traditions, and our whole hearts. We do this through the process of fasting and praying. We can approach him and respond to the promptings of his spirit. We can make ourselves completely available to his spirit. We can offer a willingness to sacrifice in our hearts and lives all that is necessary to be reconciled and sanctified.

We can plead that our hearts are softened and that we can become full of belief. He does all of the work. He has all of the power. We just have to come to him and be willing to sacrifice all things to receive of this transforming power. We have to respond to the enticings of his spirit and allow it to transform us. We have to cease hardening our hearts against the spirit and allow him to soften and remake us.

What this means is that we must come to him in our weakness. We must come to him in our sin. We must come to him in our fallen nature. We must not be fooled that we must achieve a certain level of good works and obedience and prove our own righteousness before we can approach the throne of grace. We must come now. As we are. With all of our problems and our pathetic fallen natures. This is humility. This requires true faith.

Our “work” is to repent and become as a little child. Repentance and offering a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is the work we must accomplish in order to receive further light and truth. From that point, that mark, Christ, is able to make us “of Him,” and one with Him. From that point we can “grow in grace and in the knowledge of truth.” (D&C 50: 40-44.)

Sometimes we are content to hide behind our own unrighteousness. It is a convenient shield to not come to him wholeheartedly. We may deceive ourselves into thinking that since our obedience isn’t as it could be, and that since we haven’t yet done “all that we can do,” that we are excused from whole-hearted abandonment to the will of Christ. That we resist asking for and receiving those things we want most because we have convinced ourselves, in a very sophisticated type of pride, that we have yet to qualify.

We will never qualify by our own works. It is not great faith that produces the types of works that will bring us into the presence of Christ. It is a greater type of faith that is required: It is the type of faith that brings us into his presence while we are ever aware of our weakness and sins. The type of faith that we need is the faith in him, not us. That we can come unto him in our weakness and sins, and have the faith to be healed and transformed by him.

Mustering the faith in our self to enter into his presence is a fool’s errand. It cannot be done. In some ways it can be used as a purposeful excuse not to proceed in faith. I find myself doing this all the time.

 

The Prayer of the Brother of Jared

The account of the Brother of Jared at the veil teaches us this principle.

For the space of three hours the Lord chastised him for not calling upon his name. Surely, the Brother of Jared had been praying. What does the record then mean that he had ceased calling upon his name?

Gratefully, we are given the account of a prayer the Brother of Jared offers after this chastisement. He prays:

Ether 3:2

“O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.”

How did the Brother of Jared exercise faith to part the veil? He did so by coming to the Lord with full awareness of all of his sin, weakness, and in spite of his fallen nature. He came wholeheartedly, not with fear, having full faith that the Lord could heal, forgive, and transform him sufficiently to enter into his presence. He came to the Lord with the faith to be blessed according to his desires despite the knowledge of his possession of a fallen nature.

I believe that the Brother of Jared was being chastised for “not calling upon the name of the Lord, which is different from not praying. One can pray, and even pray with great intensity, and still not call upon the name of the Lord.

Calling upon the name of the Lord is engaging the Lord despite our weakness and fallen nature. It is coming unto him fully aware of our unworthiness. This requires great faith.

The same invitation is given to us.

Later, Moroni reveals:  “And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Ether 4:7.)

We must call upon the Lord knowing that because of the fall of our natures that we, too, do evil continually. We must call upon him even though we are unworthy before him.

As a great friend shared with me: “My unworthiness becomes my worthiness to receive a fullness of his grace.”

As we reconcile ourselves to the spirit and become softened, transformed, and a new creature in Christ our obedience takes upon a new nature. Our obedience, works, effort, and fulfillment of the law are wholly motivated by the love of Christ. We cease doing them to prove ourselves to the Lord, rather, we do them because we love him with all of our hearts. We begin to work and serve and obey with a renewed intensity that is a manifestation of his love and grace.

Moroni 10:32

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

Our perfection in not in ourselves. It is in Christ. If we deny ourselves those things that resist the spirit and presence of Christ, and then become reconciled to him by loving him with all that we have and are, then his grace becomes the sufficient power in our lives. His grace will perfect us, not our works.  When we receive of his grace, we can no longer deny his power.

Moroni 10:33

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”

 Conclusion

It is my opinion that the works we do in the fulfillment of the conditional statement that we are saved by grace after all that we can do are works that are inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. They are the works that flow from individuals that have fully reconciled themselves to the will of the Spirit, or are doing the things that the spirit inspires them to in the process of becoming sanctified and reconciled. The all we can do condition is fulfilled when we engage the Lord with all of our hearts, becoming reconciled to him in prayer, and becoming full of the will of the Lord through the process of yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. When we are fully reconciled and willing to do all things that he would ask of us, then his grace becomes an enabling power in our life, giving us the strength and power to overcome all darkness and to be endowed with salvational knowledge (D&C 50:35).

I love our Savior and am overwhelmed by his grace and mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Energy of a Broken Heart

Some thoughts this morning. Praying with all the energy of heart (Moroni 7:48) is the same thing as receiving and having a broken heart and contrite spirit. I think it is the same condition. The same state of being.

If my heart is broken it means my heart is completely and wholly open to God and my will no longer separates me from God.

This is the condition of praying with all the energy of heart. When we pray that way, all the energy, desire, love, and commitment of our hearts are given to the Father. We do not divert any energy of our heart to our own will, project, or self. Our heart is broken of any pride. It is completely at-one with the heart of God.

The broken heart and contrite spirit, as outlined before, is the key to overcoming this world and receiving the blessings of exaltation. The blessings include:

  1. Overcoming temptation and shutting the gates of hell against us (2 Nephi 4:32)
  2. Being baptized by fire and receiving the fullness of the Holy Ghost (3 Nephi 9:20)
  3. The fullness of the atonement (2 Nephi 2:7)
  4. Rend the veil and receive a fullness of priesthood and revelation from the Father (Ether 4:15)

The blessings of Moroni 7:45 are of the same order. When we learn to pray with all the energy of hearts, or rather, pray with a broken heart and contrite spirit, we receive the following blessings:

  1. Become full of love
  2. Become the Sons and Daughters of God
  3. Shall have the same likeness of Christ
  4. Will be purified as Christ is purified

Is there a greater thing that we can seek than to have our hearts completely broken before the Lord? Is there anything greater that we could learn to do than pray with all the energy of heart?

This is the fruit of true faith and real repentance. It connects us with the powers of heaven. It infuses us with the unspeakable Gift of the Holy Ghost.