Living the Law of Consecration and Parting The Veil

One of the most powerful laws given to the children of God is the law of consecration.

It is designed to bring a covenant person and people into the full possession of the Kingdom of God and receive all that he has.

Living the Law of Consecration is the final covenant that brings us into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

What is this Law?

To consecrate is to make something sacred. And it is made sacred by God by committing that thing to him.

My life has been one of negotiating with God. I will take this, and you can have that. This is mine, and this is yours. If you make me rich, I will serve you.

If you give me this, I will do this for you…

And if I understood, or had been taught, the law of consecration when I made the covenant to keep it, my life would have taken a very different path. (In theory)

The law of consecration is living in a way that we cease building our own kingdoms, and we build the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

Everything in our possession – our home, our cars, our children, spouse, career, vacations, entertainment, bank account, physical body, our money, our time – everything we have, becomes the Lord’s. And we retain no portion for ourselves.

But we become stewards.

When something is committed to God it becomes God’s, and you become a steward of his kingdom. You do not become the one who owns a possession. You become one in possession. You live the law of atonement. You live at-one in all things. This is the law of consecration.

You both share that thing. It is God’s, and you participate in the ownership as a steward.

Everything we have becomes His. And we become stewards of His Kingdom on this earth. It is no longer our kingdom, it is His kingdom.

On one occasion, I was praying about the law of consecration and how to keep the law even though we don’t formally keep it as an economic system in the church.

The answer, again, was very clear. Treat all of your possessions as a stewardship.

Your job is a stewardship.

Your bank account is a stewardship.

Your car, your home, your clothes. They are all stewardships.

My wife is a stewardship. She is not mine, she is a gift that must be consecrated. I must give her to the Lord and treat her as a stewardship. This is the most sacred of all of my stewardships.

And of course your time. Is every minute of my day spent building the Father’s Kingdom, or my own?

Even though I have miles and miles to go to fulfill this law, the Lord has started to frame it for me.

So, how does one live the law of consecration now?

One suggested way is to first ask a couple of questions:

What do I possess that I cannot wholeheartedly give to the Lord as a consecrated offering?

If I own something, for example, that can’t be consecrated – should I retain that possession?

If I own a car that is nicer than what I need, or if I buy a home that exceeds a consecrated offering, will I be justified in that thing?

And we have to be honest. If we aren’t honest about it, and are repenting of collecting possessions that can’t be whole-heartedly consecrated, we cannot move forward in the sanctification process.

The governing law is this:

Do I have more than is sufficient for my needs?

That is it. It is the great question of consecration. How we answer that question will completely govern our relationship to God, and our experiences with him.

More than anything else, how we answer the question, Do I seek more than what is sufficient for my needs will completely determine the types of spiritual manifestations I have on this earth, and whether my calling and election will be made sure.

If you live the law of consecration you will be free from the mortal fear of not having sufficient for your needs.

If we fail to live this law after it is given to us, we will not be prepared to live a Celestial glory.

This, for me, is a doctrine that pricks me, and requires brutal self-honesty.

Failure to live this law is a primary reason why the fullness of the priesthood is not available to almost all men who are ordained to receive it.

Are we possessed by our possessions?

Let me give an example that convicts me:

If I buy a home that is hundreds of thousands of dollars more than what I can completely dedicate to the service of God, and am diverting the resources God has given me as a steward to my own excessive comfort and display of financial glory, I am also withholding those same resources from the poor or from other things the Lord wants me to steward.

If I am retaining earthly possessions, in any form, for my own excessive comfort and glory, I am not prepared to receive all that my Father has.

If I watch tv, or golf, or participate in entertainment that can’t be consecrated, then I am not keeping this law.

Of course the Lord does not withhold entertainment from us, but if it is not carefully consecrated, it will turn to our condemnation.

Are the vacations I am taking consecrated to the Lord? Are they excessive? Are they for my glory or his?

Is the food I eat consecrated to him or is it used to consume on my lust?

Expensive Clothing is a Sign of Breaking the Law of Consecration

Do the clothes I wear glorify God and are stewardships, or are they used to make me into an object or adulation or even worship?

Wearing expensive clothing is always a sign that people are breaking a covenant and are consumed in pride.

And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel” (Alma 4: 6).

Consider these longer passages. There is so much to learn from them.

First, we learn that if we are living collectively the  law of consecration the Lord gives abundantly.

And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth…

And with that abundance it is clear that we should clothe and serve others who do not have resources.

And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need...

And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church…”

And the Lord again lists the consequences of those that do not live this law. And again points out that those that wear expensive clothing are breaking the covenant.

“For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible” (Alma 1: 29-32).”

As a prophecy of the Latter-Day churches, Moroni prophesies that we will fall into this same pattern that destroyed the church in past generations.

And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Mormon 8: 36-37).

Clothing is a sign. It is the sign of God. We are clothed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood as a sign of the covenant we make with God.

When we are not formally wearing the the robes of the Holy Priesthood, do we then put on the robes of the priesthood of the God of this world?

What sign do we take upon ourselves by what we wear? Are we humble followers of Christ, or are we trying to signal that we are better than our brother or sister?

Are our homes and cars and all of our possessions any different?

Can we consecrate the excessive living if those resources are being diverted from the poor to building our own kingdom?

We are either building the Father’s Kingdom or we are building our own. 

If we are building our own kingdom, then we have our reward.

And so we continue the prayer process in exploring all of these questions for ourselves. Does the Lord want me to have the house I live in, or is it an abomination? Does he want me to drive the car I drive? Or is it a sign that I have rejected his Celestial law?

One good test is to ask:

If God removed this stewardship from me, would my heart freely give it?

And these are very hard questions. We have to be strictly honest. And we have to repent wholeheartedly in order to move forward to the final great step of the transformation of prayer – to being able to part a veil.

Consecrating Our Children

A few years ago, my son was three and he was suffering from night terrors. It was a hard time because of the sleep deprivation experienced being up with him much of the night trying to get him to calm down and go back to sleep.

I had more than one breaking point staying up with him. One night, when I had hit a breaking point an was loosing my temper and my mind out of complete fatigue I prayed to the Father for him and about him.

The answer came swiftly and clearly: “He was my son before he was yours.”

I felt the Father’s love for my little boy. And I learned he was a stewardship, not a possession.

This changed how I felt about my son and how I related to him. I am to give my boy all that I have just as the Father is giving me all that he has. I am to do all that I can to deliver him to the Father – prepare him, teach him, comfort him, and return him to the Father to be clothed in Priesthood.

And will do the same for my daughters.

Consecrating Sexual Intimacy

Preparatory to receiving the law of consecration, we receive the law of chastity. If understood properly, we understand that chastity is a pure form of consecration.

We come to understand by asking a few questions.

Are my sexual practices consecrated? Are they holy? Or are they a way that I consume on my lust? These principles apply even in marital intimacy. The covenant of marriage is not a free pass to be lustful. It is just the opposite. It is a covenant that you will sanctify and consecrate the holy act of sex with another consecrated being. It is a priesthood ordinance.

Is your intimacy sacred?

Is it consecrated?

Does it bring an increase measure of the Holy Ghost?

Does it bring you into a revelatory state?

Does it bring you into a stare of at-one-ment with your covenant spouse?

Consecrating Our Words

Are our words consecrated? Are they holy? Do we speak the word of the Lord in all things?

This is, perhaps, one of the final stages of complete consecration.

Isaiah experiences this as he is prepared to part the veil.

I know there are deep layers of meaning to this passage. But consider the relevance to consecration:

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (Isaiah 6: 5-7).

All Things Are Created First Spiritually, Than Physically

If consecration becomes the great desire of our hearts, if we live the law with all of our being, then the Lord will bless us to live it physically in a formal economic order.

The reason why the formal order is withheld from us is because we have collectively broken the covenant in our hearts.

We desire our own kingdom, with the vain hope of also receiving his.

In my experience, the view I hear the most is that when it is time to live the Law of Consecration, the president of the Church will direct us all to do so.

This will not happen. It will only happen if the people desire it. And we will know that the people desire it when we collectively fast and pray and plead for the the priesthood order to be restored to us.

Do we really desire it? Are we praying, or even pleading, for it? Is it the great desire of our hearts?

Do we really understand it?

It can be distilled to this fundamental Celestial principle:

If you consecrate all that you have to the Lord, he will consecrate all that he has to you.

Is there a greater blessing?

This is why it is the law of the Celestial Kingdom.

You cannot receive all that the Lord has unless you have literally consecrated all that you have to him first.

Parting the Veil

Joseph Smith taught:

“Those, then, who make the sacrifice (consecration) 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 us 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” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).

When we live the law of consecration it is a consecration of having our eye single to his glory. All things we possess become single to God.

When we consecrate everything, our whole bodies will be full of light and we will comprehend all things. There will be no more division within us. And as the Lord promises: “the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you” (D&C88: 67-68).

This law parts the veil. And is the final preparatory covenant we keep that brings us into the presence of the Lord.

We don’t part the veil because we try to carry too much through it. We want to bring our self-images, our identities, the kingdom we built for ourselves, our wealth and possessions, into the presence of the Lord.

And this keeps us from his presence.

After we have offered a sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit we transition into the law of consecration which draws us into his presence.

He cannot withhold himself from you in this law, even his physical presence and the revelation of all of his creation.

Because now you share in that creation.

 

 

The Nature of Deception

Deceptions cannot be solved on the same spiritual level they were created. This immediately binds a person to their deceptions and prohibits them, by their own power, to be relieved of them.

But what causes a deception?

It is when when we, in any degree, resist the spirit of truth. When we receive a prompting, or an invitation of the spirit, or know something to be true, and we harden our heart against it by rejecting it, we, in that moment, enter into a state of deception.

We persist in that deception as long as we continue to harden our heart against the truth.

And the deception becomes real to us. It becomes our perception of reality.

If we harden our hearts, and resist a truth in any degree, we must also do something to justify keeping ourselves in a hardened state. That thing is this:

We must tell ourselves a lie. And more fundamentally, we must live a lie in order to maintain our self-justified, resistant state.

We are in our pure spiritual state, spirits of truth. And so if we deny the spirit within us, and deny the truth, and deny the spirit of truth the Lord mercifully sheds forth on us, we learn to live in a state of deception. This is a state of being of a hardened heart.

We live a lie.

We live in a state of having the truth veiled from us.

And the lies we tell ourselves, and the lies we live, become the most important things to us. They become our gods, and we have an existential need to protect and defend them at all cost.

Because to let them go causes us to feel unjustified in the world. And there is no greater pain than to be unjustified. Self-justification is the only thing people seek in this world. It is the most fundamental need of every being on this earth.

And so we are wrapped and insulated and steeped in our deceptions. The lies accumulate over time, and so do our narratives – the stories we tell our self about our selves, and the stories we tell others, in order to prop up our justified world. These false-narratives become our reality.

We collect things of value and build identities out of them in order to give ourselves meaning. In order to establish value and purpose and relevance in the world.

The emblems and images we collect often include wealth,  attractiveness, intelligence, education, prestige, “spirituality”, and our success. It can be a need to be affirmed by those we are sexually attracted to. It can be our reputation for something unique – being better at something than other people, more talented, or more accomplished.

The images can be trophies, or evidences that we present to the world in order to perpetuate and sustain our identity.

Even things like being a certain type of moral person, a “spiritual giant”, a church leader, or seen as something noble – like a great father or mother – can be used as false identity.

And we accumulate these emblems of worth. And use these emblems to prove to others that we are worthy of emulation or even worship.

As these emblems of worth become our evidence to the world that we have value, the people that affirm these emblems become trophies to us. People become objects we use to establish and maintain our false-narratives.

As long as we use others as validation of our own self-image we do not love them. We use them. They are objects to us. We do not see them for who they are, because we do not see ourselves for who we are. And we certainly do not see God for who he is.

We use our children, our spouse, our friends, our work associates, the members of our ward – everyone becomes a reflection of our value. By the way we solicit responses from them. We extract from them proof that the lie we are living is a valid one.

And so we sew these lies and emblems into an identity. And we clothe ourselves in that identity.

And we then see the world and others through the lens of that identity. Everything becomes a mode of either affirming our identity or challenging it.

And because of this, those with the same deceptions tend to attract each other and relate through their shared deceptions. They create families, and social groups, and churches, and communities and nations around their shared false-narratives. (All churches that are not those that are new creatures in Christ, are churches that collude over the same self-deceptions.)

Our false identities come by covering darkness within. It starts with the fall. We are born into a state contrary to our spiritual nature. And we are veiled from our selves and the God that clothes us in light. And because we lose our clothing of light for a fallen and vulnerable body, we seek to do for ourselves what we no longer think God will do for us.

And we spend our lives making a case to those around us that our false-identities are true. We seek validation and affirmation. If the jury of our peers and those we seek to be accepted by respond to us in a way that affirms our identity, we feel relief and self-satisfied. At least until the day is over.

So, we build our own identity. We create a self-image. We make gods of ourselves.

False Doctrinal Teaching and Self-Deception

Much false doctrine and false-teaching is attractive to us because it appeals to the false-identity that we’ve sought to build. It strengthens the deception. It justifies the narrative.

Smooth doctrines are ones that do not require us to cast off our self-deceptions and stand naked before God. They teach us that we are acceptable in our self-deceived state, and if we just keep trying to improve ourselves and just do “better” we will be acceptable before God.

But what is “better” in a state of self-deception? The problem, of course, is that your view of “better” will always be viewed through your own distorted sense of reality.

You have to be divested of your self-deception before you can even understand what it means to be “better”.

Another false-teaching is to believe that becoming born again is a long process over a lifetime of incremental improvement. This is attractive because it requires us not to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

This doctrine teaches that we can come to God without casting off our false-identities.

Those that teach this doctrine are often those that have found great success in the world. They have done well professionally and often financially. They are well respected and therefore have been affirmed most of their life as an object of adoration or emulation.

Because of this, they teach the doctrine that you can manage your creature in such a way that you can do most of the work yourself. And by exercising discipline and the proper image management, you can make yourself into something really great. And the gap between what you’ve created and where God is can be closed after you die through his “atonement”.

And of course, this is a lie. It is a false religion. You are not saved by the “management of your creature”. It is the doctrine of the anti-Christ (Alma 30:17).

Another type of doctrinal deception comes to many who are elect and highly favored of the Lord. If those that are prone to spiritual experience have not submitted their lustful desires for greater spiritual experience, many receive false revelations that take them on false and strange roads.

Living by false teachings and a deceived doctrine always feeds a self-deceived state and false self-image.  This is a primary way these doctrines can be detected (a subject to be explored later).

How Do We Come Out of this Condition?

To put off these clothes – to submit our identity back to God requires us to stand naked before him again. This causes us to fear and tremble.

Standing naked before God is a terrifying prospect for those that have (in their view) successfully established themselves in their identity. The image they have built to justify their world, and to be affirmed and respected, and to manufacture value, and relevance, and ultimately meaning – to make all of that vulnerable is a fearful and dreadful thing.

Letting go of a self-deceived state requires us to submit our narratives, and lies, and sense of reality back to the spirit of truth. It requires us to be vulnerable.

We have to begin by committing ourselves to be influenced by truth. And we have to be willing to sacrifice our self-deceptions, our views, our understanding – all the things we use to comfort ourselves from the pain and fear and terror of the fall.

We have to submit to something higher than ourselves and understanding.

And so, as we began, we come to understand that deceptions cannot be solved on the levels they were created.

We learn to exercise faith. We learn that that by yielding to the spirit of truth, it requires us to also become the spirit of truth.

This is the process of having a broken heart.

A broken heart, in one fundamental sense, is having the false narratives and self-deceptions broken. It is to be divested of the lies we have used to give meaning to the world and to ourselves.

By yielding to the process of having our hearts broken and focusing intensely on light and the spirit of truth, the Lord can lead us out of our deceptions.

He can send us his spirit, which “teaches the truth of all things” (Moroni 10: 5).

By not feeding our deceptions with attention. By not wrestling with them in their current state. By not applying our own thoughts to them, and yielding to a higher thought – a higher light – a higher truth. We can simply let go.

Coming out of our deceptions is like escaping the Chinese handcuffs we would play with as kids. The more force you exerted trying to relieve yourself, the more you kept your self stuck.

You have to relax and let go. And just focus wholeheartedly on responding to the spirit of truth that is constantly inviting you out of your deceptions.

And go to the Lord in prayer. And relax. And submit yourself to confront your reality. And to allow the Lord to teach you about the lies you’ve accepted. And allow him to displace those lies with his spirit of truth.

For Christ cannot be deceived. And he doesn’t respond to you according to your deceptions and false self-image. He is the spirit of truth and he loves you perfectly despite the image you create.

And because of this he invites you to come out of the image. He invites you to lay the deceptions down and be vulnerable to him. He loves you out of them.

Any image that we have in our countenance that is not his image is a false one.

All obedience, sacrifices, covenants, requirements, laws, conditions, trials, experience, has one purpose:  to redeem us out of our deceptions and to receive the mind, power, life, and image of Christ.

And we can be redeemed from our false identity and self-deceived state.

And this is what it means to be born again.

 

 

 

Giving Up Your Kingdom: How to Become Born Again By Receiving a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

I believe learning how to have a broken heart and contrite spirit is the single most powerful thing we can learn to do in this life.

This state of being unlocks the power of the atonement. It purifies us and cleanses us from all sin. It seals us agains the power of the adversary. It opens us to the fullness of the visions and revelations available in this life by rending the veil of unbelief. It is this state of being that brings us to have all of our callings and elections sealed upon us.

Should this not be the whole heart’s desire?

Every moment of your life is an opportunity to change. Every moment is an opportunity to choose to have a broken heart.

In the prayer process, we are subduing our spirits in the morning so that they become softened by the spirit. What this process is, to frame it another way, is to receive a broken heart and contrite spirit.

A broken heart is a completely softened heart.

It does not mean you have a heart ache, although those experiences often bring you into a softened state.

Softening your heart is the process of allowing the spirit to act on you so that you let go of the grip on your own will, and have the spirit remake your heart.

A completely softened heart is a broken heart. It is completely pliable. Completely soft. There is no resistance in it. It is wholly submitted to the Lord. It retains nothing for itself, and it does not seek to consume any lust. The softened heart holds on to no fear, jealousy or pride. It is a heart that is divested of any resistance to the spirit of the Lord.

What is also powerful about this principle is that it is usually the single source of all spiritual problems. If you are having a faith crisis, struggling with addiction, feelings of self-worth, if you feel the heavens are shut to you – all problems can be addressed and healed through this single principle.

As we go through this completely we become born of God. When this softening is complete, we experience the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.

This is how we become born again. This is how to receive the mighty change of heart. It is how to become a new creature in Christ.

If we submit to the process of having the holy spirit work upon us until our hearts are completely broken, and we submit to this process by our own free will and choice, the result is the born again experience.

We submit to the process, but the Holy Ghost does the work.

When Nephi is going through his own broken heart process he records the following account:

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” (1 Nephi 2:16).

This passage speaks a sermon. For me, it is one of the most important passages in all of scripture.

Notice that Nephi identifies the Lord as the one that softens his heart. It is the Spirit that does the work if we will submit to the process. This process is described here.

The Great Requirement: Sacrificing Your Earthly Kingdom

The account of Aaron teaching King Lamoni’s father captures this process:

“And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:16).

The actual desire the king has to give all that he possesses is a result of a completely broken heart. He is holding absolutely nothing back.

Here is his prayer:

“And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:

O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22: 17-18).

The King was willing to give up all that he possessed.

He was willing to give up all of his sins.

He was willing to give up his earthly kingdom.

And this is the requirement.

The end result of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is giving up a desire for all of your sins, possessions, reputation in the world, your preeminence, your self-image, your wealth. Everything. Nothing is held back.

Your heart is broken of all competing desires. And any sacrifice becomes worth becoming born again.

It is a sincere willingness to sacrifice your earthly kingdom that brings you into a state of being born again. This is the broken heart and contrite spirit.

Jospeh Smith taught this principle with precision in Lecture 6 in the Lectures on Faith.

These are long passages, but consider them carefully. No where else is this doctrine better distilled.

Taught Joseph:

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.

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 obtained 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.

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 us 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.

But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).

Of course what Joseph is also teaching is this is the path to have your calling and election made sure.

The broken heart and contrite spirit is the only way we have access to the atonement.

Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:27).

The broken heart and contrite spirit is the condition that we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).

The broken heart and contrite spirit is the condition that gives us power overcome the power of Satan.

“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (2 Nephi 4:32)

The broken heart and contrite spirit is the requirement to rend the veil and enter into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

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….

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: 7,15).

The Choice

Having a broken heart is a choice. It is something we can do every day. We can choose to submit to the process of having it softened every single day.

There is so much power by choosing to come to God by our own free will and choice without being compelled. Choosing to have our hearts broken without being compelled brings so much power.

Asking the Lord to soften our hearts until we can relinquish all claims to an earthly kingdom, will, and desires of our own hearts will birth us into the state of the mighty change of heart.

Becoming Born Again is Not a Lifetime Process.

The process portion of becoming born again is the process of having our hearts softened. It is not a process that takes a lifetime (although retaining a broken heart is).

If someone teaches that becoming born again is a process that is slow and imperceptible over a lifetime of faithful Christian living, what they are not inviting you to do is to repent now, with all of your heart, until your heart is completely broken,

The process of becoming born again takes exactly the length of time it takes to have our hearts completely broken. That’s it.

If it takes you a lifetime to have your heart completely broken it is wonderful that this condition is finally received. It is much better, however, to consider today as the day of repentance and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Today.

Now.

Choose today to come to Christ with all of your heart. And have him break your hardened condition through the reception and workings of his Holy Spirit. Do whatever he asks of you. Whatever he requires.

Hold nothing back.

And receive the cleansing and transformation of the Holy Ghost.

Reject the deception that this is a slow process for you. It happens as fast as you desire to repent of absolutely everything.

It happens as fast as you desire to give up your whole kingdom to know God.

Growing in the Principle of Revelation: How to Discern Between the Spirit and Your Own Thoughts

There are very few gospel principles that I think are formulaic. But when it comes to learning how to distinguish between the voice of the spirit, and our own voice and emotions there is something that you can practice to bring you to a place of confidence in always recognizing the spirit of the Lord.

This pattern has worked really well for me personally, I hope it may be helpful for someone who has faced the same challenge.

The formula goes like this.

  1.  First, it is always really helpful to always go through the prayer repentance process before asking the Lord for guidance or an answer to a question. This process is described here.
  2. When you receive an impression write it down immediately. This principle is described here. This is the point you may wonder if the impression is coming from you or not. But we are going to write down everything, no matter what.  Regardless if you are confident whether or not it is from you are the Lord, record the impression.
  3. Act on that impression. If it is to clean your room, do it. If it is to call someone, do it. If you are acting with real intent to do good, and to listen to the spirit (and only you can judge that), act on that prompting. 

By acting on the prompting regardless of whether it is actually from the Lord, and if we do it in good faith and with sincerity to follow the voice of the Lord, a principle from D&C 46 will become active.

Section 46 is teaching about the operations of the gifts of the spirit. Receiving revelation by the gift of the Holy Ghost is one of these gifts.  Here is the principle:

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts“(D&C 46:13).

Notice the verse says the gifts are for those who keep the commandments, and also for those that are seeking to do so.

In other words, through the grace of the Lord, if we are wholeheartedly seeking to keep his commandments (receive his promptings) even though we may be mixing them up with our own thoughts (and literally giving ourselves our own revelations), he will bless those efforts as well.

How does he bless us? Through giving us an increase of his spirit. This spirit is always light and truth. So, even when we are sincerely trying to do follow the spirit and may mistake our own voice for the voice of the Lord and do it anyways, we will receive an increase of light and truth.

This process is described here:

“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day”

The Lord will give you more light if you are acting with full sincerity of heart to follow each prompting that comes to you. Because of this you will increase in more light. Because  you have more light in you, the next time you have a prompting, you will have more light to discern it with.

This is the process of learning to taste light.

The more light we have, the more ability we have to taste it and we will be more likely able to distinguish our own emotions form the light of God.

Alma speaks of this process when he wrote:

… it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me…” (Alma 32:28).

… for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? (Alma 32: 28,34,35)

We can come to understand how to taste light. And the more we strive to obey promptings, the more the Lord will infuse us with light (even if we get it wrong). The more light we have we will better be able to discern future promptings.

And we will soon reach a point that we can easily discern light from darkness (or lack of light). We will very soon be able to discern between our own thoughts / emotions / desires and the light of the spirit.

This is a practice that can be done immediately.

The more we desire to receive impressions and messages from God, the faster he will capacitate us to receive them.

If we keep these impressions sacred by writing them and not sharing (unless prompted to do so), we will grow in the principle of revelation.

Joseph Smith described this principle when he taught the following:

“The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (27 June 1839, Commerce, Illinois Willard Richards Pocket Companion, Teachings and Sayings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 98).

Summary 

  1. Sanctify yourself and repent as much as you can so that you receive pure promptings.
  2. Write every impression you receive, regardless if you are confident if they come from the Lord or yourself.
  3. Act on the impression
  4. You will have an increase of receive light if you are honestly trying to follow the Lord
  5. With an increase of light you will be able to better discern future promptings.
  6. As you practice this you will learn what the light of the Lord tastes like and in time you will be able to perfectly discern between your own thoughts and emotions and the light of the Spirit.

 

 

 

Repenting of Our Nature

The temptation is to believe that the righteous are those that need to repent the least.
That by their discipline and commitment to obedience they are less in need of the atonement of Christ. But I think the truth of this view is actually the opposite.
The righteous are those that have learned to repent the deepest, until everything in them has become subject to Christ. It is the depth of repentance that makes one righteous, not living in a way that one thinks they do not need it.
In order to repent deeply, we need a deeper understanding of what repentance is. For most of my life I understood repentance as cataloguing my sins – my behavioral misdeeds – and then asking forgiveness for having done them and trying to to just do better not to make those same mistakes. Repentance for me was the “5 R’s”; recognition, remorse, restitution, reformation, resolution. And of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And it is necessary. But that which is necessary is not always what is sufficient.
What changed in my spiritual experience that had more impact on me personally than anything else I have ever learned was one single thing.  I learned to be more concerned about repenting of my nature, more than my behavior.
Most behavior is an expression of our nature. If I am angry at a driver on the road, instead of repenting of yelling out my window, I have to ask the question, what is going on within me that produced enough darkness that I would yell at a stranger?
This is a much more fundamental question. What I do manifests who I am. It manifests my nature. Am I fearful? lustful? Indulgent? Angry? Jealous? Greedy? Spiteful? Lazy? What underlying darkness or false belief system is springing up and manifesting through outward sins? What about the ocean of darkness that needs to be redeemed within?
Repenting of our very nature is what brings us into possession of the most sacred heavenly gifts.
How would your life change if you woke every morning and submitted your whole heart to God? Repenting of your nature and asking to have the Lord excavate the darkness and natural man inside of you so that the love of God displaces all of the dark impulses of our nature. 
 
Would you experience radical change? 

Living in a State of At-One-Ment

How does one transform?

Or rather, how does one act so that they may become transformed by the gift of the Holy Ghost?

Because this is what the gift of the Holy Ghost is – it is transformation. And with that gift comes endowments of knowledge.

For a long time I believed that I had to reach a certain level of self-perfection before I was “worthy” of the Holy Ghost. That through my best efforts of incremental self-perfection I could shape myself into a Christ-like person.

I thought (and had been taught) that I could discipline my behavior to become more like Christ – that I could manufacture his attributes.

What was happening instead was I was shaping myself into a false image. No matter the intention, I was trying to shape myself into what I thought Christ was like, and therefore that image was a product of both light and darkness, distortion and some truth. But it wasn’t Christ. It was the image I had of him, and trying to form myself in that image took upon a burden that is an impossibility.

One cannot, by taking thought, add one cubit to his stature (3 Nephi 13:27)

Sure, we can choose to be kind, and forgiving, and speak words that do not offend the spirit. And these acts of yielding to the spirit will increase our light – this is the beginning of “exceeding repentance” (Alma 13: 10).

Acting in small ways will eventually bring us all to a place of covenant.

What is a Covenant?

It is a position of completeness. Of wholeness. Of totality.

It is to be in an agreement. It is to be in agreement.  Which is, all of the aspects of a person agrees with the spirit with which we are covenanting.

So, to be in a covenant with God, your whole being is in agreement with God. In other words, your mind, heart, desires, feelings, strength, flesh, thoughts and your might is in “agreement“. It is sanctified. It is in unity.

The New and Everlasting Covenant

The New and Everlasting Covenant is the covenant of complete transformation in Christ. We are refashioned in his image.

The power of the covenant is our new nature. Being transitioned from the natural man into a new creature in Christ.

To be a covenant person, or someone possessing a covenant, means that a person is in sanctified alignment, both body, mind, and spirit with Christ.

A group of people who are one with Christ and with each other are a covenant body.

The New and Everlasting Covenant is the covenant of becoming a Son or Daughter of Christ.

Keeping this covenant is to be in a state that your whole being is in agreement with Christ. You are sanctified. If you are not sanctified in Christ, you are not keeping this covenant.

You are sanctified by the baptism of fire. This is the same thing as receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. In other words, if you haven’t become born again, transformed in the spirit so that everything in you is sanctified to Christ, you have yet to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Or, if you have had this experience, and don’t feel so now, you are no longer in the Covenant. You no longer have the gift of the Holy Ghost. And must repent wholeheartedly until you once again become consumed in the covenant, and become born again.

The Birthing Process

As with all birth, there is a gestation process. Where the spirit acts on you and you go through a process of yielding and being sanctified. When that process of yielding (repentance) is full and complete, one is born of God in the event of a baptism of fire.

When one yields to the enticings of the Holy Ghost they draw close to God, and when they choose to completely yield so that nothing in them is resistant to Christ, they will be born again in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

They keep the covenant by retaining their sanctified state. Just as King Benjamin taught:

“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true” (Mosiah 4:11-12).

How do we know when we are keeping the New and Everlasting Covenant? Here are the fruits:

  • We lose a desire for sin
  • We hunger and thirst after righteousness
  • We receive a mighty change in our hearts
  • We become sufficiently humble and stripped of pride
  • We are stripped of envy
  • We are holy, without spot
  • Our minds and bodies become quickened in the Spirit
  • Willing to be obedient to all the commandments
  • Live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God

When we keep the New Covenant, we are in possession of a new nature.

There is a different way of describing the keeping of this covenant using different doctrinal language. It goes something like this.

When we are aligned in our spirit, flesh, mind, and heart we become at-one with Christ.

We begin to live in a state of at-one-ment. 

This is a state of grace. It is a state of alignment. We are at-one with the spirit of the Lord. It is in this state that we are keeping our covenant, and Christ endows us with an abundance of his spirit. He pours into us light and knowledge. We begin to receive the mystery of Christ – and his mysteries.

Partaking of the atonement means we are becoming one with Christ.

The atonement is not a tool we use when our best efforts fail us. It is not something we apply when our best efforts of self-perfection and improvement come short. It is a state of being. It is yielding completely to the spirit of Christ until we are fully born again.

The doctrine that the mighty change of heart is a long, slow process of self-improvement over a lifetime is a philosophy of man, and it is mingled with scripture.

The implication is that change is rarely quick or complete in a short period of time. That after our best expended efforts are complete, somehow the Lord accepts us and enables us to perfect our own behavior.

This is a very careful and subtle deception.

Our behavior is a product of the condition of our hearts. If we think we can become perfect in Christ by improving our behavior, we will only be improving our behavior according to our self-deceived state. We won’t ever see clearly what behavior is right. Until we become divested of the natural man, our carnal selves will always inform our view of what is right or even Christ-like.

The requirement is the inverse. We first choose to come to Christ with all of our heart, mind, and strength – withholding no sacrifice. We will be transformed as soon as we choose to yield everything within us. Yes, this is a process of repentance. It is a process of yielding our whole hearts. Then our behavior will be an expression of the condition of our hearts rooted in the nature of Jesus Christ.

But the mighty change of heart – coming into a state of at-one-ment – happens as quickly as we come to Christ with everything we have. It can happen in a day if our whole hearts can be yielded in a day.

It may be a week, a year, or 3 hours. It is a function of how long it takes us to come into complete submission to the spirit.

This is what is meant by working out your salvation with fear and trembling.

The doctrine that teaches that change is almost the imperceptible result of a lifetime of “keeping the commandments” fails to recognize that we are first commanded to repent with all of our hearts, minds, and strength so that we can receive the full and complete transformation of the Holy Ghost.

If we choose not to yield completely to the spirit and fully repent, hoping that a lifetime of outward commitment and practicing the forms of righteousness will be a path of exaltation we are deceived into not choosing this day to repent fully. It is a smooth doctrine that requires very little of us, it does not invite us to come into agreement with the New and Everlasting Covenant with all of our hearts in the shortest time possible.

Baptism of water alone does not put is possession of the New and Everlasting Covenant. It is only when we are baptized by fire do we enter into this covenant and into at-one-ment with Christ. We are in full possession of the atonement as a way of being then we are living manifestations of his covenant.

This is the beginning.

We should stop whatever we are doing and begin to repent “nigh unto death” until we reach this state of being (Mosiah 27:28). Do not be deceived that just “doing your best” to be a better person and improve your behavior is fulfilling the terms of the covenant.

It requires a completely broken heart and contrite spirit. This is the sacrifice that brings us into possession of the New and Everlasting Covenant.

The we are living in a state of at-one-ment.

And then we begin the personal journey of having the Holy Ghost teach us all things we must do to enter into the presence of Christ and receive our Second Comforter blessings.

 

 

 

 

 

Christ is the Greatest Reality

Christ is the greatest reality. He is more real than we are. He is more real than others and our fallen perception of everything outside of us. When encountered we learn that he is more real then anything else, and the more distanced an object or being is from Him, the less real it becomes.

If we want to discover ourselves, we must sacrifice all of our self-images and telestial preoccupations to know him, and this is the only way to know our true selves. It is the only way we can truthfully perceive our world and others.

As our knowledge and awareness of Christ moves from our theories, hopes, and imagination – and his reality and the truth of his being becomes revealed to us, the truth or falsehood of everything else also becomes clear. The revelation of Christ consumes how we see everything else. And so does our rejection of Christ.

If we reject him in any way we, in the same moment, reject a part of ourselves. We cannot be our true self until we are completely transformed into a new creature in Christ. That is the true self.

Any effort to establish an identity outside of Christ is a denial of him and veils us from our true identity. We deny ourselves and him, and become fastened in the image of a false God.

We are either choosing him to be the God of our world, or we are choosing ourself to be the God of our world.

If we imagine up to ourselves Christ, our image of him will always be filtered through the perceptions of our fallen nature.
He can only be known by the power of the Holy Ghost. As we seek deep repentance and to be reconciled to his spirit, only then can we know him.
If we seek to project what we think he should be like and relate to our imagination of him, we will be taken in by a false Christ, one made in our own image.
He is the God of truth, and unless the truth be in us, we cannot know him. He will remain veiled.
Repentance – deep fundamental repentance –  is the only path to know him. We cannot visualize him, nor can we make him a creation of our vain imaginations. He is more real than we are, and any image of him not born of the illumination of the Holy Ghost must be redeemed and changed.

Christ, Zion, and Self-Deception

Christ is the truth. And we are not. At least not yet. Until the lies that we carry as part of our identity are released, redeemed, or burned out. Until then Christ remains a mystery to us.

This mystery of Christ is mostly because we avoid him. We may create an engraven image of him, fashioned in our own imagination of what we want him to be like, and then implement that image as part of our false identity, but this, too, will be burned out of us.

Sitting with Christ and confronting him requires us to  confront the truth and lies within us. His love overpowers, but it also illuminates every deception, and he lets no deception pass. We can be weak and prone to folly, but if we hold to self-deception we remain separated from his presence.

His mercy overwhelms, but there is no mercy for deception. It either gets sanctified out of us now or later. Now is better.

And so he requires us to become the truth as well. The story we tell ourselves, and the engraven images we have built will all come tumbling down. It is much better to have these addressed by Christ in this life than the next. The opportunity is now.

What is a self-deception? Perhaps they are the lies we have believed, and often have become sources of self-comfort, that keep us from coming to Christ completely and fully.

They are falsehoods we have adopted to make ourselves the God of this world.

They are justifications that keep us comfortable in our current condition.

It you accept the doctrine that becoming like Christ is a process of steady self-improvement, you will retain your self-deceptions. A self-deceived state cannot be improved by becoming better at its own deceptions. It is redeemed through radical and fundamental transformation.

Many of our deceptions become absorbed into our minds and hearts by doing one simple and disastrous thing: when confronted with a truth, or a prompting to be true, we resist it. Resistance to the spirit of truth is the heartbeat of this fallen nature. We are all here to both experience self-deception and come out of it.

If we resist the truth, in any form, it will then become hidden from us, and we will accept a lie as truth. And our reality and perceptions will thus become distorted.

We tell ourselves lies, and they can become so engrained in us that we most likely don’t see them, they are largely unknown to us, unless we begin the process of committing to yielding to every prompting of the spirit of truth. This brings us out. This process of yielding pull will reveal to us, over time, all of the lies that we have adopted as part of our identity.

This is the process of redemption – coming out of self-deception.

Everyone, except the holy, have self-identities that are saturated in self-deception. (We also have to be careful of who we call “holy”. Often we believe those that are holy are the ones that share the same deceptions we carry.)

Families carry their own deceptions.

Neighborhoods, wards, communities carry their own self-deceptions.

Political parties, social movements, entire countries can be organized and connected by virtue of their collective self-deceptions.

And so do religions, including our own.

Any identity, including our own, that isn’t transparent in Christ, and has his likeness, is one that carries, as the fundamental heartbeat of its identity, self-deception.

How do we know a person who is free of deception? First, that person will not be a participant in your own narrative. They won’t need it. They will see you for who you are. They will love you freely and won’t be taken in by falsehood. You may love this person for it. And also, it may be offensive. They, by their very nature, will invite you to discard your self-deceptions and be free with them. Christ is the great example of someone completely free of self-deception. And he has his associates.

CS Lewis refers to this when he wrote:

How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing…it is irresistible. If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?

How do we know if our church is free from self-deception? A church free of self-deception is what we call Zion.

It will have no poor among them. None. No matter where they are in the world (Moses 7:18).

There will be no class systems. None. They won’t be promoted based on social and professional status (4 Nephi 1:17).

They will not adorn themselves with fashion and stylish clothing ( 1 Nephi 13:8).

They are not proud because of their wealth (4 Nephi 1:43).

They will not adorn their buildings while the poor are hungry (Mormon 8:37).

They will not have passion for business and all manner of commerce (4 Nephi 1:26).

They will not administer that which is sacred to the unworthy (4 Nephi 1: 27).

They will elevate themselves above those that they believe are unworthy because they think they are better (Alma 38:14).

But how can we have a church free of self-deception if we are not ourselves free from our own self-deceived identities?

The church is not the problem.

We are the problem.

I am the problem.

Until I confront Christ completely and without reservation I will persist in my self-deceived state.

And if I become divested of that state, I can then, with my spouse, sanctify my marriage so it is also becomes free of self-deception.

Then I can work on my family. We can become a family of Christ.

And then it flows to my ward and community.

I believe this is how Melchizedek redeemed Salem.

The prophet is not going to stand up one day and say, “Ok, it’s time to be Zion.”  We won’t suddenly get a green light and then step into a Zion state. We either desire it now, or we desire our own wicked self-images and telestial comforts.

That invitation was given almost 200 years ago. It is still available.

A false prophet will teach you that you already are Zion.

A true prophet will always declare to you and invite you out of your self-deception.

Joseph Smith prophesied in his day about the future self-deceived Latter-Day Saints:

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C 1:16).

We are either Zion or we are not. If we don’t choose it our of our own free will and choice, sanctifying ourselves by confronting Christ, it will be sifted out of us.

But we can come to him straightforwardly and without reservation. We can ask with unshaken faith to have him reveal both our true self to us and our deceived self. He will lead us through it. He will be both gentle and abrupt. And he will do it in the perfect way for you.

Christ is the only way we can be freed from our deceptions. Yielding to His spirit of truth, and through his revelation can all things be made known to us.

And we can experience the supernal blessing of becoming the truth ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 7

“When asked how to remain humble, President Kimball offered this formula:
First, you evaluate yourself. What am I? I am the circle. I am the hole in the doughnut. I would be nothing without the Lord. My breath, my brains, my hearing, my sight, my locomotion, my everything depends upon the Lord. That is the first step and then we pray, and pray often, and we will not get up from our knees until we have communicated. The line may be down; we may have let it fall to pieces, but I will not get up from my knees until I have established communication—if it is twenty minutes, if it is all night like Enos. . . . If it takes all day long, you stay on your knees until your unhumbleness has dissipated, until you feel the humble spirit and realize, “I could die this minute if it were not for the Lord’s good grace. I am dependent upon him—totally dependent upon him.” [TSWK pp. 233–34]”

On one occasion, Elder Marion D. Hanks is reported to have asked President David O. McKay, “How would you suggest I maintain my spirituality?” President McKay, who was known for his deep spirituality, said he did five simple things at the beginning of every day:

I arise early.
I wash my body.
I put on my new linen.
I subdue my spirit before the Father.
I wait for the inspiration of the Father.

(Y. Kikuchi, How do you open your heart to heaven? (BYU Devotional given 18 January 2011).

 

Living The Law Of Obedience and Sacrifice

In the prayer process, we’ve set aside time by our own free will and choice and have sacrificed sleep and time by coming to him early.

We have committed to record our impressions and the things we will be taught.

We’ve cast out Satan and his influence from our presence.

We’ve actively invited heavenly ministers to teach, comfort, and guide us by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And now we begin our repentance.

Repentance is bringing our divided, duplicitous, broken, addicted, fractured, resistant selves back into oneness.

If ye are not one ye are not mine – applies to us first as individuals.

It applies to the self. We are divided against ourselves in our will.

Desiring both good and evil, our wills and the Lord’s will, our way and His, consuming on our lusts and desiring virtue – what ever division of the natural man that perpetuates in us will be a house divided. We are double minded. Our flesh and spirit in competition for our attention and dominance. We are, by our very fallen nature, duplicitous creatures.

It is written that when Adam and Eve were cast from the Garden they “were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will” (Alma 42:7).

Our own will is both a gift and a fruit of the fall. Being subject to our own fallen will is what keeps us from the presence of the Father. To have a will separate from the Father’s is to be in a state of being acted upon – subject to to follow a will that seeks to hide itself from the Father and consume mortal comforts.

His gift to us is our will. Our gift to him is to then take that will and give it back to him.

So, we are divided. and if we are not one inside – heart, spirit, mind, and flesh – we are not the Lord’s. We must be kept from partaking of the Tree of Life until we can be brought back to a state of unity within.

We must come back to a state of at-one-ment.

When we are at-one with our selves, we are at-one with Him. And when we become at-one with him, we become at-one within ourselves.

We, as individuals, are literally the body of Christ. And if we are not one within ourselves, we are not his.

So, we must bring our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our flesh into a unity of the body of Christ. And we will be like him.

My favorite philosopher Sore Kierkegaard wrote a book entitled, “Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.”

This is both the title and thesis of his book. And it is distills in one sentence what needs to happen so that we are pure. What needs to happen so that we ourselves become one?

We need to will only one thing: and that is the love of God. Our flesh, our minds, our hearts, every particle of our beings need to be brought into a unity to the will of God. We need to subject everything in us to the spirit of Christ so that everything in us wills one thing.

And then we desire exactly what he desires. We become one in Christ. We experience at-one-ment.

Sacrifice of a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

Just as Christ’s great and last sacrifice redeemed all fallen things back into a oneness with God, so does our sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit bring us into a state of oneness within and with our Father.

The next step of the prayer process is to obey the laws of sacrifice and obedience.

This is the process of bringing our subjecting our hearts, minds, will and flesh back to the unifying will of God. This is the process of sacrificing the natural man by yielding to the will of God.

It is repentance.

And we do it by learning how to receive a broken heart and contrite spirit so we have the spirit of obedience. So that obeying God becomes the first and primary desire of our whole soul.

And if your experience is anything like mine, this is a very intense, difficult, ongoing process.

Sometimes this step in prayer takes many weeks for me. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes. It depends on the hardness of my heart. It depends on how much of me needs to be softened by the spirit of Christ.

The broken heart is not a heart break in the sense we usually use that term (although it can certainly be motivated by one). A broken heart is when the hardness of our hearts is broken.

A broken heart is a perfectly softened heart.

A broken heart is one that has been subjected to the Lord and softened by his spirit until all of the hardness, resistance, and opposition to the spirit of God has been released. It is a heart perfectly willing and loving to submit to the light of God.

It is a heart that is perfectly receptive and desires to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The broken hear is a heart consumed in the love of God.

And here is the key of this stage of prayer.

We cannot break our own hearts. We cannot, by taking thought or exerting our will, bring our hearts into a state of perfect softness.

The only thing we can do is submit it to the softening process – which is allowing the spirit to soften it. We cannot soften it, only the spirit can. But we can offer on the alter and allow the spirit to do its work.

And this can be very painful.

He will require us to loosen our grip. To let go of our anger, our lust, our jealousies. He will invite us to receive of the spirit of forgiveness and to let go of the claims we have against each other.

We will sit and breathe and offer our hearts to the spirit and he will reveal to us all of the things that must be let go of. We will release our will and own desires so that the spirit can soften and infuse within us the light and will of the Lord.

And as we endure and submit to this process, in time, our hearts will be softened by the spirit to the point that we no longer grip our own will, but give total and complete space for the love and light of God to flow through us unimpeded.

When our hearts are perfectly softened we will come to a place of belief. Nephi experienced this when he was confronted with the choice of whether to believe his prophet father, Lehi.

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” (1 Nephi 2: 16).

This, perhaps, is one of the most instructive verses in all of scripture.

It teaches us that the spirit is the softening agent. It does the work. It has power to break our hearts.

By our own will we submit to the process. We come in prayer and offer our whole souls as an offering to him. But the spirit does the actual work. We must endure it. We must continue to submit and wrestle, and offer up, and let go, and proceed to the presence of Christ in our submission until we are infused and filled with the will of God.

“And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (Omni 1:26).

And this is repentance.

Subjecting our whole selves to the spirit, so that the spirit can remake our whole souls into the image of Christ.

And we do it in prayer, by yielding – yielding – yielding. It is the only unique thing that we can fundamentally do – is yielding. Our obedience is yielding. It is all giving place for the spirit to work with in us and produce the fruits of the spirit.

Consider very carefully this popular doctrinal scripture.

 “For the natural man (the one that holds on to its own willis an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam (when we received our own will), and will be, forever and ever, UNLESS HE YIELDS TO THE ENTICINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, and putteth off the natural man and…”

notice now that everything that follows yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit is a result of that yielding. These are all of the fruits that the spirit produces. We do not create this condition by our own power.

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” (Mosiah 3:19).

Be become those things as a result of yielding. We yield first, and the spirit does the work.

We cannot make ourselves meek. We cannot make ourselves like a child. We cannot make ourselves humble. We cannot make ourselves patient, full of love, or even deeply spiritually submissive.

All we can do is yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and then the spirit will transform us to a condition that is Christ-like.

This is repentance.

What Does This Look Like In Prayer?

When I was a new missionary in Japan I really hated my mission. Even though I was so excited to serve a mission, and prepared well for it, when I actually got to my first area I was shocked to find myself lonely, sad, miserable, and aching to go home.

I was so divided against myself, I wanted to be there. I just didn’t want what I wanted to want.

It was so bad, I would fantasize about getting hit by a car, and being injured enough to be sent home honorably. It was a taste of hell.

But I am eternally grateful for this experience. The Lord prompted me to wake early every morning and come to him in prayer and learn to relax my will. I would not pray words, or even make pleadings. I just asked that the spirit would fill my heart so that I would really want what the Lord wanted. I wanted his desires. And I really wanted to want to be there in that cold, lonely Japanese apartment.

And it worked. It was incredible. And it was a struggle. But I would kneel quietly, sometimes for an hour or two, and allow the spirit to work on me. To soften my heart until mine and the Lord’s will were the same.

And when that moment hit – where my heart became perfectly softened and I was infused with the will and desires of God, and I was divested of my own will – I was filled with joy!

I would leap from my knees, and run for the door. And my companion and I would work hard, joyfully, because I was no longer a divided being. I was not wrestling with my own will. I no longer felt the division and duplicity, and ache, and fear of my own will verses the Lord’s. It was complete and total freedom.

And it usually lasted until lunchtime.

And I would have to start the process all over again. Submitting and allowing my spirit to be softened by his. Over time this condition of heart would last longer and longer, until loving my mission and all of the work and difficulty became infused in my nature.

How grateful I am for that experience. I bear witness that the spirit can soften our hearts until we want what he wants. We can submit ourselves to this process, sacrificing in obedience all things that he prompts us to. And allow the spirit to change us and refashion our hearts.

And this is repentance.

And it is this stage of prayer that we cannot continue on until it is complete. We must endure living the law of sacrifice and obedience until we are sanctified from all darkness.

And this is repentance.

This may take 6 months. It may take 5 minutes. It depends on how much needs to be softened and offered up. It depends on how much forgiveness of others we have been withholding. But it all has to go. It all has to be submitted and yielded.

And this is repentance.

As we are committed to writing our promptings, in this stage we will write down every impression that comes to us. This is yielding. We may receive an impression to forgive someone. Write it down. Work on that thing until your heart is completely softened towards that person. If the Lord tells you to do something regarding them, do it. If he prompts you to call them. Write it down. Then do it. Then come back to him.

You may receive promptings to do things like cut out tv. Or clean the garage. Or buy your wife flowers. Or go to work early. Or come home from work early. Or to stop eating fast food. Or to fast on a Thursday. I don’t know what it will look like for you. But record every prompting you receive and act on it faithfully. And bring it back to the Lord and continue until every aspect of your heart is softened perfectly.

And this is repentance.

And don’t stop until you are filled and consumed in the love of God. Until your flesh desires nothing but Christ and all of his gifts.

And you will be perfect in Christ.

Don’t stop until you are filled with the love of God for all in your awareness.

Don’t stop until you become the body of Christ.

Don’t stop until all of the darkness is divided out of you and you are free from its oppression.

Don’t stop until all fear is extracted from you and you are consumed in light.

Yes, this is possible.

And this is repentance.

 

 

Help Thou Mine False Belief

My unbelief is an iceberg. The portion that is visible to me, I can take to the Lord and have him soften it, illuminate it, and transform it to belief.

But the revelation of my unbelief that is not known to my conscious mind is vast and far more expansive than I am even aware. Only through the Lord revealing this to me have I come to understand that deep within my heart and mind an enormous amount of unbelief frames my views and understanding.

And this is what is so difficult. I am not even aware of so much of my unbelief. It is both hidden from, but drives my consciousness.

And then there was the other groundbreaking insight given by the spirit regarding my unbelief.

It’s not that I am unbelieving, it is that I carry false beliefs. And the false beliefs create a distortion of my spiritual awareness that keeps me from believing. 

So many of these false beliefs are kept from my awareness. Through out my life I have collected an iceberg’s size of false beliefs about myself, about others, about my life on this earth, about my abilities, about my false pride, about my religion, about God.

And this paints everything. My beliefs are the lens through which I see everything. It is how I process the world. And no matter how much false beliefs I carry, seeing through those false believes creates a false reality for me.

Over time we have accepted so many lies about ourselves, about others, about the gospel, and about God that we have absorbed them into our subconscious that is at its core, the self. These lies become who we are – the false self, and we literally live a lie.

To the degree we have absorbed and believed lies they have literally in-formed our self. Our self has taken the form of the lies we have accepted. And this is the core of our false beliefs.

Most of this life is perceived falsely for all of us. In fact, until we are fully redeemed and brought into a fullness of embrace of Christ will we see everything perfectly as it is. We see ourselves, God, and all truth as it is.

The Holy Ghost will teach us things as they really are preparatory for this Heavenly Gift.

So, so much of this life is discovering (having revealed to us) our false beliefs and having them changed. When these false beliefs are changed, we are prepared to come back into the presence of the Lord.

In its most fundamental sense repentance is mostly submitting our false beliefs back to the Lord so that we can see the truth and accept it, and have it become part of our being.

But if most of these false beliefs are not in my awareness how can I deal with them? How do I pull this iceberg out of the ocean and shine light on it?

The Lord will reveal them to us, if we ask. Perhaps this is what is meant by exercising mighty faith and mighty repentance.

It was mighty repentance that brought so many into the presence (rest) of the Lord.

10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest (Alma 13).

Humbling ourselves is a process of having our false beliefs revealed to us, and then allowing them to be transformed by the spirit.

This also illuminates the experience of the Brother of Jared. Moroni teaches so powerfully:

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: 14-15).

Understanding that unbelief is really false belief, we learn that false beliefs are what keep us in a state of wickedness.

False beliefs are the reason why our hearts are hardened.

False beliefs blind our minds.

And if we can become divested of these false beliefs the Father can manifest himself to us and make all things known to us.

I know that for me personally, I must learn to exercise exceedingly great faith to have these false beliefs both revealed to me and redeemed.

 

 

Are You On The Straight And Narrow Path?

What is the strait and narrow path and how do I know that I am on it?
What is interesting about the book of Nephi is that Nephi records aspects of the dream that both he and his father saw, and then he articulates the doctrine of that dream in the final three chapters of his scriptural record. Nephi and Lehi’s vision is both described as they saw it, and recorded in doctrinal form.
First, there are numberless concourses of people moving towards, and trying to obtain the path (1 Nephi 8: 21). Many people trying to get through the narrow gate. What is this gate and why is it so hard to obtain?
Because it is the baptism of water – which easy to obtain. And also it is the baptism of fire, which is difficult to obtain.
Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove. And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them. (2 Nephi 31: 8-9)
And…
 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name ( 2 Nephi 9:42)
Notice that only Christ can keep the gate, and only it is he that can let you in. You cannot simply be baptized, or receive a physical ordinance by someone and be through the gate. Christ cannot be deceived. It is only him that baptizes you with fire and the Holy Ghost.  This is made clear in the following verse:
 
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).
Joseph Smith reminds us that “The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness”
In other words, you cannot fake a baptism. And receiving a physical ordinance is not sufficient to be baptized.
It is Christ that provides the baptism of fire. And this baptism of fire is the event of becoming born again.
Just as John described that we must be born of water and the spirit – that we must become born again to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We know that the baptism of fire is the born again experience.
It is to become a new creature in Christ.
It is the experience of the mighty change of heart.
This is why we are instructed to marvel not that all people need to experience this miraculous spiritual transformation.
“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27: 25-26).
Why belabor this point?
Because we need to confront a hard doctrine. And the hard doctrine is that until you are fully born again you have not yet entered through the gate onto the strait and narrow path.
This is critical to digest. If, as some teach, the born again experience is a long process over a lifetime, then you don’t enter the gate until the end of that long drawn out process.
In other words, until you are fully born again, you haven’t even yet commenced on the path. You are still in that group of people who are trying to obtain the path.
So, what is the path?
The path is that state of being born again. It is the position of being a new creature in Christ. It is the state of having the mighty change of heart.
In other words, if you are not in a born again state, you are not on the strait and narrow path.
This is exactly why it is both strait and narrow. It is actually very difficult to stay on, and it requires precision of spirit to tread.
The requirement to stay on is to go into deep repentance everyday. It requires being born again over and over.
Because of this, the Alma 5 questions become a critical yard stick to know if we are still on the strait and narrow path (if we obtained it at some point in our past).
Alma asks:
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of
God? 
Have ye received his image in your countenances? 
Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you?
Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? 
Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the songof redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? 
Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
Are ye stripped of pride?
Then Alma declares to them:
And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.”
These are the questions to rehearse to determine if you are on the strait and narrow path.
Entering in to, and then staying on the strait and narrow path should be a primary focus everyday of our life.
It is not being an active Latter-day Saint. It is not being a nice person. It is not by virtue of having a physical ordinance.
 
Unless you are retaining the new nature wrought within your heart and have the nature of Christ you are not on the strait and narrow path.
If we’ve felt the transformation in the past but cannot feel so now, we are not on the path. We need to become born again, again.
 
This scriptural message should cause all of us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We need to come to God regularly and retain the witness that we are in the way. And to do this, we must follow the counsel of King Benjamin:
 
And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true (Mosiah 4: 11-12).
Hard doctrines and marvelous promises.

If You Die a “Good Latter-Day Saint” is Your Calling and Election Made Sure?

I don’t believe there has ever been a quote by a Latter-Day Saint leader that I’ve spent more time pondering than the following from Elder McConkie.

Here it is.

We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don’t. There’s only been one perfect person, and that’s the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path — thus charting a course leading to eternal life — and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship. I’m not saying that you don’t have to keep the commandments. I’m saying you don’t have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved. The way it operates is this: you get on the path that’s named the “straight and narrow.” You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path. There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life — though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do — you’re still going to be saved. You don’t have to do what Jacob said, “Go beyond the mark.” You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing. What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church — keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes — because this is the time and the day appointed, this the probationary estate — you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure. Now, that isn’t the definition of that term, but the end result will be the same.(“The Probationary Test of Mortality,” Address given at Univ. of Utah, Jan. 1982, p. II; See JD 1:6)

This quote has challenged me on so many levels. On a fundamental level, all I’ve ever really wanted to know if it is true or not. The implication of this quote for the Latter-Day Saints has drastic effects – it’s suggestion will frame what members of the Church will seek and how they will approach the gospel in the most fundamental ways.

In other words, it is extremely important to understand what Elder McConkie is saying, and if whether or not he is right.

Our probationary state is the time allotted to each of us to come to God and to receive his covenant. It is a time we covenanted to with our Father personally to seek him out in a state of probation that would give us the optimal opportunity to ascend into a sphere closer to him and to be prepared to be in his presence – whatever degree we can be conditioned to endure and enjoy.

This period of time is what we call “the day of our repentance”. It is both a period of time that includes both having a body and not having a body. But the day of our repentance does not cease after the death of our body. What a body does for us is accelerate the advancement of our spirits by subjecting it to fallen matter.

The subdual of a fallen physical body will prepare our spirits faster than any other experience to be a possessor of all of the laws, keys, and knowledge to enter into an exaltation.

The spirit outside of a body, after death, can still progress and repent and perform sacrifices preparatory to receiving an exaltation.

The challenge is, in order for one to receive an exaltation, a person needs to be called of the Lord (an ordination of priesthood or by the calling of his name as a creator), they become the elect of God (they receive the covenant and sanctifying power of the covenant), and then they are sealed into that covenant after fulfilling their probation – making their calling and election sure.

When one is called and elect they become the possessors of the New and Everlasting Covenant (NEC). What this means, in the most fundamental way is that they experience the total transformation of the Holy Ghost. They become born again. They are a new creature in Christ. They receive the mighty change of heart. They are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

At this point they are on the strait and narrow path. This path is the state of being of possessing the nature and transformation of the New and Everlasting Covenant.

If you lose your born again condition, or state of being, you are no longer on the strait and narrow path. This is why it is both strait and narrow. It takes full time attention, commitment, and desire to retain this condition. It requires clinging to the word of God – living by every word that proceeds from his mouth.

Many find this condition and then are separated from it. All of us will experience being transformed into the NEC and then reverting to our old ways. This is a natural part of the process. After we obtain the path, what we have to then do is learn how to stay on it.

This process of becoming born again, reverting to our old natures, and then learning how to get back into a condition of being born again is the process of learning how to “endure to the end.”

Enduring to the end is learning how to endure in a state of being born again. It is enduring as a new creature in Christ.

Paying tithing, going to church, fulfilling a calling, serving others, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and being able to answer all of the questions truthfully to receive a temple recommend can be a fruit of being actually born again.

But you can also achieve all of those things and not be born again. You can do all of those works, which have the form of righteousness, but actually deny the power thereof.

In other words, you can do a lot of things that you think are going to exalt you, but unless you are transformed and have received the actual signs, gifts, and power of the New and Everlasting Covenant, you have yet to make that covenant.

Unless you are born again, have received the mighty change of heart, and have been baptized by fire, you are not in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

You may have made the covenant in the sense that you are baptized by water. But this has no effect or power unless you’ve received the baptism by the spirit. Just as Joseph Smith taught, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The Savior says, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the complete and full transformation into a new creature in Christ.

We then must learn to endure in that state. Retain it. Continuing on the strait and narrow path preparatory to entering into the presence of the Lord.

This is what King Benjamin meant when he taught:

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true” (Mosiah 4: 11-12).

If we don’t achieve this state of being in this life we lose an opportunity to subdue the flesh to the New and Everlasting Covenant. Can repentance happen in the next life? We know it can. And we know it can be complete. Much of that is a mystery and we have been given a few insights from Latter-Day prophets that it is  possible, but that it takes much, much longer to do in the spirit in a probationary state than what can be done in the physical body. This is a principe to be explored at a different time.

So, given this context, is Elder McConkie right?

It seems to me that when he says, “if you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path,”  and he means that you’e been fully born again, and you are persisting in that condition when you die, then he is completely correct. You will continue in that way in the next life.

But will you get off the path in the next life? Here is the next question we have to reconcile.

How does Elder McConkie’s teaching reconcile to this teaching of Joseph Smith?

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 obtained 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…

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 us 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.

But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).

In other words, after one is born again by entering into the New and Everlasting Covenant, they must be sufficiently tested to see if they will sacrifice all things in order to receive the faith required to the receive the promise of eternal life. This is the calling and election made sure.

The terms of making one’s calling and election made sure apply the same in this life and in the next.

If we don’t make the sufficient sacrifices here they must be made on the other side in a continuance of the probationary state.

If Elder McConkie believes that we will continue to make the sacrifices on the other side of the veil if they are not completed here then he may be right. I do not, however, believe this is a forgone conclusion. If the probationary state continues in the next life to lay hold on exaltation then there must be a continuance of the possibility of shrinking from those sacrifices.

The veil is not lifted at death. It will continue until we or God elects to end our probationary state. Elder Maxwell eluded to this when he taught:

“The veil of forgetfulness of the first estate apparently will not be suddenly, automatically, and totally removed at the time of our temporal death. This veil, a condition of our entire second estate, is associated with and is part of our time of mortal trial, testing, proving, and overcoming by faith— and thus will continue in some key respects into the spirit world” (The Promise of Discipleship, ch. 9, pp. 105).

Perfect in Christ

A second point that must be addressed in order to process this teaching of Elder McConkie.

The Adversary has proposed a doctrine to the minds of those that desire to follow God that perfection is a state of being achieved by the efforts, discipline, and behavior of an individual.

The Adversary has been very successful in imbeding this teaching in the minds of the Latter-Day Saints.

It is the temptation to frame the entire gospel plan in context of this false teaching – that somehow we reach perfection when we act perfectly.

The truth of the matter is a radical departure from this gospel paradigm. It seems that Elder McConkie begins this quote with an attempt to dispel this false teaching. He warns us that we will never achieve perfection in this way and that what we have to focus on is getting on the straight and narrow path. In which I believe he is absolutely correct.

The concern, however, is understanding how exactly do we obtain this path?

The truth is that we become perfect when we are filled with the Holy Ghost and are transformed by the New and Everlasting Covenant, already outlined in this essay. This is obtaining the path. Lehi saw  saw “numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which (He) stood” (1 Nephi 8:21).
Those that obtained the path are they who entered in by the gate, which is the baptism of water AND of fire and the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:13).

 

As the Book of Mormon teaches, we are never perfect in ourselves, we are “perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32). This state of perfection in Christ is achieved when we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

This is an extraordinarily difficult doctrine and distinction for the Latter-Day Saints to digest and believe. It is so difficult to divorce ourselves from the doctrine that we must learn to behave perfectly in order to qualify for exaltation.

The Adversary has been remarkably and devastatingly successful in spreading his doctrine of self-perfection.

Elder McConkie is careful to draw this distinction at first, but I feel that he falls into a variant of the teaching in the conclusion of his argument. It is true that a born again Latter-Day Saint will seek wholeheartedly to be obedient, but this obedience is an outcome or a fruit of being born again.

Elder McConkie is correct that those that die while on the path will continue in their probation, but it is not axiomatic that they will fulfill all of the sacrificial requirements of exaltation.

But we have to be clear what it means to be on the path. McConkie teaches, “What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church — keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path.”

This is true only if we understand what it means to be on the path – if we are in a born again state. Being in the mainstream of the church may or may not be a fruit of someone who is born again. You can be in the mainstream of the church and not be born again. So this is not a sufficient, or even a helpful measure.

You can live upright and be a decent person and still not be born again. It, too, is not a helpful measure.

You can ostensibly keep the commandments and not be born again. (This is an irony, but is a belief held by a majority of the Latter-Day Saints. If you were really keeping the commandments you would be born again.)

It is commonly said that so-and-so is righteous, or a “worthy” member because they are able to keep the basic commandments and requirements of a temple recommend. You can be a temple recommend holder / “worthy” priesthood holder / “worthy” member of the church and not be born again. It is not an external measure of righteousness – it is only a fruit of righteousness, and it can be counterfeited. This is what the Lord was pointing to when he said:

Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (3 Nephi 14: 22-23).

Can you pay your tithing and not be born again? Yes.

Can you serve in the organization of the church and not be born again? Of course.

Can you profess a love of the Lord and live the form or a “righteous” Latter-Day Saint and not be born again? Absolutely.

And then he equates all of this to being on the strait and narrow path.

And this is a very dangerous point not to clarify.

The reason is many, if not most, active members of the church can be deluded into thinking they qualify on all of those accounts. That if they keep up their activity in the church they are on the strait and narrow. And this is an enormous deception.

They are confused into thinking they are worthy candidates of exaltation because they replicate the forms of righteousness, without fulfilling the law and receiving the power.

Much of this deception is derivative of the false belief that if someone has received the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost that they have been born again and actually possess the Holy Ghost.

And so these that believe because they’ve had the physical ordinance they have satisfied the command to be baptized by spirit. This is not the case, and if they don’t fully repent they will encounter a day of dread to learn that their works have been in vain, having not sought to actually know the Lord.

Why Is This A Problem? 

If a Latter-Day Saint is taught that mainstream activity in the Church, together with possessing a “worthy” recommend, is sufficient to make their calling and election made sure the moment they die, they will cease seeking the further light and truth needed to converse with the Lord through the veil.

If their current path and focus is sufficient for an exaltation, why stretch themselves into territory that is not required of them? As Elder McConkie (perhaps erringly) warned, they avoid being zealous, or truer than true. They pace themselves with the mainstream members of the church. Which is the worse thing they can do given the warning by the prophet Joseph Smith that many are called, but few are chosen.

When the question was put to the Prophet, he ominously remarked:

How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 317–19 and History of the Church, 6:183–85).

The general working assumption of the saints is that the gospel program, as lived by the general body of active Latter-Day Saints is sufficient to exalt someone at the time of death.

I believe this teaching and assumption has darkened the minds of the Saints causing them to rest in a deluded state of belief that they have entered into a saved condition.

But to be clear – if a Latter-Day Saint has become born again, is seeking to retain the nature of a new creature in Christ, is hungering and thirsting after righteousness, is doing everything they can to hear the word of the Lord and is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God – and seeks to sacrifice all things to know God and enter into his presence, and dies before their calling and election is made sure by revelation, then I believe they will have the opportunity in the next life to continue to fulfill the requirements of exaltation and be tested in all things to receive this, the greatest gift from God.

In this sense, Elder McConkie’s teaching is absolutely true. I am just not confident that this is what he meant. And if he did, the way it has been broadly interpreted is not aligned with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the scriptures he revealed to the Saints.

So, the final analysis is that this quote come close to the mark, but does not meet it. It conflates attendance and activity with being on the strait and narrow path. And it also fails to declare the conditions of exaltation so clearly taught by Joseph Smith.

Is it possible that I am parsing Elder McConkie’s words unfairly, or even making him an offender for a word? Yes, it is possible.

But I feel that if you are going to hold yourself up as an authority and require others to accept your word, you must speak with precision and the spirit so that your words will not lead others into deceptive roads and into a state of damnation. Which is exactly what I think this quote has done to more than one generation of Saints.

 

 

 

 

What Does it Mean to Endure? And to What End?

Yesterday in Elder’s Quorum we had a discussion on enduring to the end.

It is common for discussions on this topic to focus on what seems to be a doctrine of “white-knuckling it to the end;” how to maintain being a “faithful Latter-Day Saint” until you die. It seems that this is the universally accepted teaching regarding this commandment.

The traditionally taught version of this injunction does not bring a lot of hope. In fact, I imagine some see this principle as only for those that have the type of herculean endurance to discipline themselves to the end of their life.

Or they believe the inverse – which produces a type of vain hope. It goes something like this – as long as I am an active member of the Church, and keep the basic commandments, and keep trying to self-improve, I am an acceptable candidate for exaltation when I die.

But what if this commandment means something radically different than commonly thought? It could be a game changer.

To understand what it means to endure to the end we have to understand what the meaning of the gate that puts us on the straight and narrow path.

Nephi both sees this in a dream, and then teaches the doctrine of this gate in the concluding chapters of his record.

Nephi writes:

For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

The gate to enter the strait and narrow path is the experience of becoming born again.

The gate is being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost

The gate is becoming a new creature in Christ.

The gate is receiving a mighty change of heart.

The experience of spiritual rebirth  is what puts us on the path.

The retention of the status of being reborn, a new creature in Christ, and having a mighty change of heart is the status that keeps you on the path.

The strait and narrow path is retaining the born again condition of being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.

This is why it is strait and narrow. It takes diligence unto prayer and continual deep repentance, and calling upon God to maintain the path – or to retain this condition of being born again.

Consider how Mormon teaches the same principle.

Moroni 8:26:

And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.

Notice that what needs to endure on the path is the perfect love one receives when they are in a born again state. And we are to endure in this perfect love “until the end shall come” when you dwell with God.

Enduring to the end means enduring in a state of being born again.

It means enduring in  a state of perfect love.

There is a sharp contrast between this doctrine to the traditional teaching.

You can be an active Latter-Day Saint, with all the tokens of active membership, attendance, and recommends, and still not be a person filled with perfect love.

You can live the forms of a Latter-Day Saint, and not have received or retained a mighty change of heart.

You can be an active Latter-Day Saint and “worthily” hold a recommend and still not be on the strait and narrow path.

And what is the end to which we are to endure?

Nephi crystalizes the doctrine of Christ when he wrote:

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

We are to endure to the moment the Father says to us : Ye shall have eternal life.

In other words, we continue on the path of daily sanctification in a state of perfect love, until the words of eternal life are spoken to us – which is the calling and election made sure.

“The end” is not death. It is the promise of exaltation.

We learn to endure in a state of being born again until we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

Enduring to end is a powerful principle that suggests to us that it is possible to retain the nature we receive when we are filled with the transformative power of the Holy Ghost.

The Father, by his grace, will teach us how to and make it possible to endure in such a state.

As Joseph Smith taught:

“The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure”

When Joseph says “then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God” he is describing the principle of enduring to the end.

What a remarkable principle! We can endure in this state of joy. We can be taught to retain and endure in the state of being born again and being filled with the Holy Ghost.

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 6

Invite the Influence of Heavenly Ministration

After dismissing adversarial influences in preparation for prayer it is also important to actively invite and acknowledge your willingness to receive the ministration of those that are sent from the Father’s presence to bless you.

A method through which the Lord often delivers comfort, instruction, messages, and influence is through the ministration of divine agents. Often from our own family lines, many are sent to bless us and influence us from the other side of the veil.

Their ability to interact with us is tied to our awareness, sensitivity, and willingness to receive from the Lord. As we begin our prayers we can ask for the full influence of those that are sent from our Father in Heaven to bless us – and we can express an openness and the invitation to receive the ministers of these gifts.

Joseph F. Smith taught the following:

When messengers are sent to minister to the inhabitants of this earth, they are not strangers, but from the ranks of our kindred, friends, and fellow-beings and fellow-servants… [Our] fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh.[i]

The angels that are sent to us speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and we are to feast upon their words.

Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.[ii]

Discovering, recording and being taught the words of Christ – the things that we shall do – is fundamental to the prayer of transformation. It will be treated in greater depth later in this series of essays.

 

[i] Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970, pp. 435–36.

[ii] 2 Nephi 32:3

Prayer of Transformation – Part 5

Dismiss the Presence of Adversarial Influence

If your experience with this principle is anything like mine, you may be shocked to realize how much the Adversary is bearing down upon us, almost constantly, and bombarding us with his influence.

Completely veiled from my mind and understanding was the profound influence adversarial spirits were having on me. Before each prayer I’ve learned to actively dismiss influences and spirits that are not sent from the Savior. This has had a profound change on my prayers.

As messengers and ministers are sent to bless us from our Father in Heaven, so are adversarial messengers, teachers, tormenters, tempters, and influencers from the Adversary. These influences constantly try to speak to us, influence our thoughts, take control over us, and tempt us to violate the light of Christ within us. Their aim is to confuse, control, and separate us from the influence of the Savior by every possible deception.

Samuel the Lamanite describes this state of being influenced by dark influences when he wrote:

Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days.[i]

Some of these influences have dwelt with us for so much of our life that we cannot distinguish between the voice of the influence and our own voice. The deception born of long association with these spirits can bring us to believe deeply imbedded lies about ourselves.

In order to untie these lies and deceptions we must first learn how to completely dismiss these influences. We must become free from these before we can receive a fullness of communication and transformation from the Lord.

Heber C. Kimball described these influences in this way:

“It is written, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Some people do not believe that there are any devils. There are thousands of evil spirits that are just as ugly as evil can make them. The wicked die, and their spirits remain not far from where their tabernacles are. When I was in England, twenty-eight years ago next June, I saw more devils than there are persons here to-day; they came upon me with an intention to destroy me; they are the spirits of wicked men who, while in the flesh, were opposed to God and his purposes. I saw them with what we call the spiritual eyes, but what is in reality the natural eye. The atmosphere of many parts of these mountains is doubtless the abode of the spirits of Gadianton robbers, whose spirits are as wicked as hell, and who would kill Jesus Christ and every Apostle and righteous person that ever lived if they had the power. It is by the influence of such wicked spirits that men and women are all the time tempted to tell little lies, to steal a little, to take advantage of their neighbor a little, and they tell us there is no harm in it. It is by the influence and power of evil spirits that the minds of men are prejudiced against each other, until they are led to do  each other an injury, and sometimes to kill each other.[ii]

When Adam and Eve were introduced into the fallen world they faithfully performed sacrifices in anticipation of being visited by true messengers. As they performed sacrifices in obedience they were under the influence of the adversary who sought to teach them a false religion, to accumulate the best gifts of the Telestial kingdom, and, most of all, he taught them to fear.

When Adam and Eve finally received the true messengers the first thing they did was dismiss the Adversary and his influence. This is a pattern that must be followed when seeking to receive heavenly gifts.

Joseph Smith taught, “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.[iii]

It is critical to ask the Lord to dismiss and relieve you of adversarial influence so the communication is pure and unrestrained. I have found that if I ask and plead for the Lord to displace all darkness with light and to have all influences removed from my presence often I feel a noticeable peace and change of environment. I will not proceed until I recognize the peace that comes from this influence being removed.

George Q. Cannon shared this remarkable insight:

“If our eyes were open to see the spirit world around us, we should feel differently on this subject than we do; we would not be so unguarded and careless, and so indifferent whether we had the spirit and power of God with us or not; but we would be continually watchful and prayerful to our heavenly Father for His Holy Spirit and His holy angels to be around about us to strengthen us to overcome every evil influence… if we could see with our spiritual senses as we now see with our natural senses, we should be greatly shocked at the sight of the influences that prompt us to disobey the counsels of God or the Spirit of the Lord in our hearts. . . . He who is imbued with the Spirit of God is sensibly aware when the evil power approaches; but he does not welcome it to his bosom; he resists it with all the might and strength God has given unto him, and he obtains power over it, and it no more troubles him; if it does, its influence is more weakened than previously.[iv]

Nephi lamented that he felt “encompassed about, because of the sins and temptations that so easily beset me.[v]” This personal spiritual struggle Nephi experienced confirms what is taught in the 76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants when Joseph Smith revealed:

And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ— Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.

We do not need to be constantly encompassed about. We, as Elder Cannon taught, can greatly reduce their influence if not completely dismiss them. We can pray that the power of heaven, light, love, and peace may displace the evil influence that encompasses us about. Brigham Young described our ability to dismiss these influences when he taught:

The spirits of the ancient Gadiantons are around us. You may see battle-field after battle-field, scattered over this American continent, where the wicked have slain the wicked. Their spirits are watching us continually for an opportunity to influence us to do evil, or to make us decline in the performance of our duties. And I will defy any man on earth to be more gentlemanly and bland in his manners than the master spirit of all evil. We call him the devil; a gentleman so smooth and so oily, that he can almost deceive the very elect. We have been baptized by men having the authority of the holy Priesthood of the Son of God, and consequently we have power over him which the rest of the world do not possess, and all who possess the power of the Priesthood have the power and right to rebuke those evil powers, and they obey not, it is because we do not live so as to have the power with God, which it is our privilege to have. If we do not live for this privilege and right we are under condemnation.[vi]

Dismissing the influence of the Adversary, and waiting until the peace and light that only comes from heavenly influence is crucial before moving forward in this sacred process of prayer.

 

[i] Helaman 13:37

[ii] Journal of Discourses, 11:84-85

[iii] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 205.

[iv] George Q. Cannon, in Journal of Discourses, 11:29–30.

[v] 2 Nephi 4:18

[vi] Journal of Discourses, 12:128

Prayer of Transformation – Part 4

Write Your Impressions

One of the single most important things a person can do to dramatically improve their prayers and receive heavenly communication is to write down their thoughts, impressions, and instructions while praying. Kneeling with a pen and paper in hand not only acknowledges to the Lord the sacred and serious manner in which you desire answers and enlightenment, it allows you to capture the entire communication at its freshest moment. It will maximize what the Lord has to give you, and you will come to feel the thoughts and impressions flow as you write.

I have discovered that every single time I have recorded my prayers that when I review the notes that I wrote later I do not remember receiving much of the communication. It is shocking to me personally how little I retain from my prayers. There is so much lost when we fail to write down what the Lord has to offer us.

As we go back and review a record of the impressions we have received it becomes a personal book of scripture that can be studied and reviewed for further revelation.

President Nelson taught this principle in a recent General Conference:

“Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’”

Elder Richard G. Scott taught this principle when he concluded an account in which he learned this principle. He shared the following insight:

I received further impressions, and the process of writing down the impressions, pondering, and praying for confirmation was repeated. Again I was prompted to ask, “Is there more I should know?” And there was. When that last, most sacred experience was concluded, I had received some of the most precious, specific, personal direction one could hope to obtain in this life. Had I not responded to the first impressions and recorded them, I would not have received the last, most precious guidance.

What I have described is not an isolated experience. It embodies several true principles regarding communication from the Lord to His children here on earth. I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you.[i]

The promptings that are recorded should be kept very sacred. I have made it a personal rule to not share my prayer notes with anyone unless specifically prompted to do so. To the degree we keep the communication private, the Lord is able to reveal more of the most sacred impressions he has for those that can be trusted with his thoughts.

Brigham Young taught, “Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons….[ii]

Writing your impressions will bring great power to your prayers. It signals God that you are serious about his divine communication. As he trusts you with his revelatory teaching, he will increase your experiences and you will learn the process of being taught from the Heavens.

 

[i] Elder Scott tells shares an example of how he learned this principle of recording his prayers in an account too lengthy to include in this essay. It can be read in his talk, “To Acquire Spiritual Knowledge” October, 2009 General Conference.

[ii]  Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:288 (15 March 1857).

Prayer of Transformation – Part 3

Submit Our Time

The Prophet Joseph told me to every morning dedicate myself to God” (L. John Nuttall, Diary, August 1881).

The first step of inviting the spirit of transformation is to offer a sacrifice born of our own free will and choice. To give ourselves to the Lord without being compelled. To step towards him in the daylight.

This free-will offering can happen every morning by choosing to wake earlier than our day demands, and come to God by first submitting our time to him (and our sleep).

As much as possible, if we yield our time and commitment to the prayer it will be a first step in submitting to his process and will.

The submission of time is a setting or priorities and seeking Him first. If He is going to reveal himself according to his “own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will[i],” then we must yield our time, our ways and our will to him.

Actively choosing to give him our time will immediately invite grace. It will invite the spirit to us because we have taken initiative to humble ourselves and begin to consecrate our time. It is the first step of drawing near unto him, and so it will draw him unto us.

When we choose to submit our time – and especially our mornings – to our Father in seasons of our life that are not motivated by difficulty and trial; when we consecrate time beyond the needs of our current concerns, the spirit comes to us because we seek to draw close to him by virtue of the word and not circumstance.

This prayer of initiation and consecration is very powerful. It invites the Lord not because of necessity, but because we are even willing to offer up our comfort and ease to his will. This initiates grace.

Even if we find our self in a time of trial and great need, perhaps in a state of being compelled to be humble, we can still submit our time beyond the need to draw close to him for the need at hand.

For example, if we consecrate our time in prayer on behalf of others while we are in a time of vexing trial and need we activate the same principle of drawing close to the Lord because of the goodness of the word and not because we are being compelled.

No matter what we circumstances in which we find ourselves, the Lord provides us an opportunity to be humbled by the word.

And so, the prayer of transformation often begins with a decision: is knowing the Lord and being made in his image worth waking up 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour or two early in the morning?

When we initiate our own sacrifice of comfort and take a step towards him without being compelled, he takes 10 steps. I believe the heavens rejoice in these simple acts of coming to Christ.

And the submission of our time and comfort will prepare our hearts and invite the Lord to our presence to experience the powerful sequence of the prayer of transformation.

 

The Prayer of Transformation – Part 1

“They who think the path difficult, have not tried it. . . . All who yield . . . obedience to God’s law undergo a real transformation, by the Holy Ghost, which enables them more and more, to receive and understand spiritual messages. Unless that transformation is accomplished, a person is opaque to spiritual truth, and the ‘things of God’ are beyond his understanding. Great is the effect of such spiritual communication. . . . It transforms life.”

John A. Widstoe

 Prayer, in its most intimate form, is an endowment. It is given as a gift. And as with all great gifts from our Father in Heaven, learning to receive it is a transformative process.

Receiving the gift of prayer is premised not so much on earning the right to the gift, it is not granted upon the accumulation of good works; we receive it by learning how to be open and learning how to receive. We learn how to receive through the process of submitting our whole souls to the spirit and ministry of reconciliation. Much of this process is learning how to remove those things in us that keep us from receiving his highest blessings. We must learn how to become partakers of our Father’s heavenly gifts.

The gift of prayer is the gift of transformation. It is more than opening a line of communication, it is a process of becoming something different; it is the process of becoming something new. This type of transformational prayer comes through a process of reconciliation, yielding, and submitting.

The Father and the Son communicate with their whole being; with their mind, their heart, and the fullness of who and what they are. As we learn to pray we go through a transition of becoming something different, because we, too, have to learn to pray with our heart, our mind, and the fullness of what and who we are. We have to learn ow to pray with the wholeness of our being. Our Father in Heaven and Savior are full of truth in their hearts, their minds, and in every part of their very being. They literally are the truth. Therefore, we must apply our entire mind, heart, our entire being in a process of reconciliation to them and their “beingness” in order to fully bind to them – to become one with them. This makes the prayer of transformation a sacred prayer of intercession.

In prayer, our spirits literally become informed; in other words, in-the-form-of, or likeness, of God. We can’t come to know him and be taught by him without becoming like him. Receiving his truth not only transforms our understanding, but it also transforms our very being. It is an endeavor of the whole soul. As we do so we receive the truth as a matter of who we are and what we are. The way we feel, the way we think, the way we sense, the way we understand. We begin to see things as they are.

The need for this type of fundamental and transformative prayer comes from the condition in which we are found on this earth. We all chose to partake of a fallen nature so that we could, by our own free will and choice, learn how to partake of the divine nature. Because of our fallen natures we are filled with division. Our will and his will. Our spirit and our body. Our understanding and His understanding. Earthly cravings and Heavenly desires. Both the light and the darkness within us.

All division must be reconciled into wholeness. The darkness within us must be displaced by divine light. Our earthly cravings must be purified into the whole-hearted desire for Heavenly things.  It doesn’t work to simply profess that you desire the will of the Lord; we must become such that the impulse of our soul is to desire his will.

As Richard Foster, the great Christian theologian, wrote, “Prayer involves transformed passions. In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.”

In prayer we can become one with the Lord. We must come to embody the atonement because that which was once divided in us has become one. We must come to live in a state of at-one-ment.

Prayer is the process of submitting every aspect of who and what we are. We become like them in the process of prayer, and through the process of becoming like them we come to know them.

In the 7th chapter of Moroni verse 48 we are invited to pray with all the energy of heart. The process of learning how to do pray this way has a transformative effect on us. When we pray with all the energy of heart it provides us a conduit to become filled with the love of God, and that love flows to us without compulsory means. Through this prayer and reception of love we begin to understand our Savior and see him as he is. We can only do this because through this process we have become like him. Thus, this process of learning how to pray as he does, with our whole being, removing barriers to his love, we can become transformed as sons and daughters of God and receive his likeness.

The great questions then become, how do I learn to pray with all the energy of heart? How do I pray so that the spirit can transform me?  How do I submit in prayer to receive a mighty change? How, exactly, does my will actually change so that I fundamentally desire the will of the Lord?

These essays suggests both a principle and a pattern of prayer of how to pray with our whole beings, removing our resistance to his love, and becoming transformed through the process of prayer. The principle is that of the softened heart. It has to be deeply understood because the softened heart is the fundamental key to the entire prayer pattern. Understanding the softened heart principle and then implementing it in the prayer pattern, I believe, is a sure path to enter into mighty prayer.

Each component of the pattern was learned in a separate and sacred experience in the past twenty years of my life. It is one perspective of how we can approach our Father in Heaven, learn how to yield to his transformative grace, and become made in his image.

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 2

Spiritual Set-Points

Prayer is a process of transformation because it is learning how to come out of darkness into light. This can be a frightening and difficult thing. This is because we have come to love darkness. It is comfortable. It is what we know and it is through the darkness that we have come to try to understand ourselves. For the most part, most people have relative success at finding a level of stability or comfort in this fallen world. It is our normal.

Of course in this world we live in a blend of light and darkness. As we yield to God and his goodness that is vested within us we become more aware of the light that is here. We desire more of it. And as we experience and yield to the fallen nature of this world and its constant pull we likewise also increase in darkness. And as we have more darkness in us we desire even more. We can easily come to love it.

The natural thing to do for all of us is to find a set point.  A place where we have just enough light to feel the pull upwards and that we are trying to become a “good person,” and have settled upon an acceptable amount of darkness that keeps us comfortable and our bearings in a fallen world.

Let me suggest an example (when in reality almost everyone on this Earth is an example). Here is mine. I love God and want to draw closer to him. I feel love for most everyone I encounter – or at least a desire to be kind to everyone. I have committed myself to a certain level of obedience to God’s commandments. I am not waking up every morning and going to the temple, but I congratulate myself on being a pretty good keeper of commandments.

I also like to watch TV. Actually, I love it. Coming home at night after a long day or working and fulfilling all of the commitments I have TV is a great outlet. I am discriminating of content in the extreme, but allow a constant stream of mid-level evil into my home that usually is on the boundary of acceptability. More than once a week I have the thought, I should probably shut this off – but usually I don’t. It is a comforting darkness. When I think about getting rid of it my heart rate goes up. I think to myself, “If I gave up TV, then I am giving up the last comfortable thing I give myself every day. What does God really expect of me??? Isn’t this life to be enjoyed? Is the point of the Gospel to have every fun and enjoyable thing to be stripped of me? This is so extreme. God does not want us to be extremists, he wants us to pace ourselves and not run faster than we have strength. He wants us to just do better each day and for now, I can fulfill that great commandment and not have to give up TV. Didn’t I already do a little better today by not eating that candy at work?”

And so the deception plays out. And usually, without a heroic leap of discipline, I give into the routine of light and darkness of my day. The result of this is I become comfortable in an acceptable environment of spiritual twilight.

What would happen if you walked into the Celestial room of the temple and on one wall there was a big screen TV playing a show with people having casual sex and putting on display the all of the enticing things of the world? We know what our gut-response would be. It would be so strikingly awful that it would make us sick. And yet, often this is allowed into the home. What this tells me, personally, is that my home is not a temple. It is a battlefront where both armies are invited and the outcome of the spiritual war has yet to be determined.

What plays out in our homes is a reflection of our own hearts. Our own inner-spiritual world. If there is disharmony within me there will be disharmony in the home.

And so we all have a spiritual set-point. We all have a place of comfort that we feel good about the improvements we are making and, and still rely on a comfortable level of darkness in this world to offset the peace and comfort that we think we need because God will not do everything for us, so we have to do it for ourselves.

Joseph Smith called spiritual set-points “stakes.” It is the point that we will come to God and still retain a comfort in darkness. Joseph Smith describes it as such:

“The great thing for us to know is to comprehend what God did institute before the foundation of the world.—Who knows it? It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes & set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.[i]

He expands our understanding of these stakes by pointing to our traditions, which we will address later.

“To all those who are disposed to say to set up stakes for the almighty—will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions”

And finally,

“The mystery power and glory of the priesthood is so great and glorious that the angels desired to understand it and cannot: why, because of the tradition of them and their fathers in setting up stakes and not coming up to the mark in their probationary state.”

This process, this, looking from the bottom up and sacrificing our love for our Telestial bearings can appear to be a dreadful thing. It is the spiritual pull of our Telestial existence that we have learned to find comfort in the darkness.

The Prayer of Transformation is the process of disrupting our spiritual set-points.

 

 

 

[i] Words of Joseph Smith, 238.

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.

The Born Again Benchmark Questions

images

An ongoing question regarding the Baptism of Fire and being born again is that of process versus event. I prefer not to frame the doctrine in this manner. It is not so much a question of process versus event, but rather in what ways is it an event and in what ways is it a process?

First, in this blog post (we’ll address the process aspect in a separate blog), let’s address the aspect of the spiritual rebirth from the perspective that it is an event. That it is something that happens to you. You can put a date on it the same way that I know the date of my baptism of water, I can tell you the day that I experienced the complete cleansing of the Holy Ghost.

Now, because we rarely talk about the Baptism of Fire, mistaking it for the physical ordination of confirmation, we also aren’t very aware when we have great spiritual manifestations that we would associate it with a Baptism of Fire. Much like the Lamanites in Helaman 5 who were baptized by fire and knew it not. They, like us, were not familiar with the doctrine to fully understand what, doctrinally, was happening to us.

The Alma 5 Questions

As this central doctrine of the New and Everlasting Covenant distills upon our minds and hearts, and we try to come to a greater understanding of our spiritual possibilities, we can read Alma to learn what to expect when we are born again.

The questions Alma asks the saints in Zarahemla provides great insight into understanding both what we should both experience and what fruit we should experience as we receive a Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost, and how we should live the gospel on an ongoing basis.

The first principle Alma teaches is that a mighty change of heart is a function of your faith. And that faith is unto repentance.

And according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart. Behold I say unto you that this is all true. And behold, he preached the word unto your fathers, and a mighty change was also wrought in their hearts, and they humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God. (Alma 12:12-13)

In other words, if you have yet to experience the mighty change of heart, it is not because the change is a long, imperceptible process, as sanctification can be. It is because you have yet to receive the faith to repent sufficiently. If you feel like this is you, please do not despair. You probably have never been taught or invited to have this type of faith.

Also, as an individual, one must be prepared and ready. You must be seeking and desirous to have a broken heart and contrite spirit. One must be invited in the spirit to awake and arise. Perhaps you are now feeling this invitation for the first time.

The Born Again Benchmark Questions and Baptism of Fire Test.

Alma asks a series of questions that gives a benchmark to know if we have been born of the spirit. These are poignant. And serious. And I believe they must be taken on their face as a very real yardstick to determine if we have participated in the promises of the covenants in the way the Lord intends.

Alma asks:

  1. Have ye spiritually been born of God? (vs.14)

 

  1. Have ye received his image in your countenances? (vs. 14)

 

  1. Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (vs.14)

 

  1. Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?(vs. 19)

 

  1. Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?(vs.19)

 

  1. If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (vs. 26)

 

  1. Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God?(vs. 27)

 

  1. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? (vs. 27)

 

  1. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? (vs. 28)

 

  1. Is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? (vs. 29)

 

Are these questions you ask someone who believes conversion is a life long process? Are these they types of questions you ask a people who believe that becoming born again is a lifetime process of almost imperceptible change?

Alma then asks a question that reveals whether we understand if we’ve been born again because there is a faith and confidence of redemption associated with the experience. This faith and confidence is a fruit. This is why Alma asks the following question:

I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth? (vs. 16)

Alma then asks questions that reveal that today is the day to receive the mighty change of heart. If we persist in a condition of not being fully born again we may find ourselves in the category that Alma now identifies:

Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?

 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God? (Alma 5:17-18)

What are these commandments set at defiance? In context of his sermon, are they not to come to the Lord and be born again?

And if we aren’t in a state of being born again, or in a state of redemption, won’t it be us who find ourselves lying to the Lord with the false self-satisfaction that we have yet to experience the mighty change of heart and yet believe we are righteous?

Alma boldly declares:

There can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain. (vs. 21)

Is this a condition that one receives by just “doing his best everyday?” This is an altogether different doctrine. It is a declaration that one must be purified and cleansed from all sin today. And then we must learn to endure in that state of being.

For those that believe they can persist in not full and complete repentance, having not received a mighty change of heart, and being born again he has hard things to say and a clear warning to those of the church who profess believe and yet put off the day of their full and complete repentance:

O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice! (vs. 37)

These powerful words should bring all of us who have yet to repent and be born a gain to tremble with fear and trepidation. The warning is clear. And the warning is to those of the church.

Finally, Alma declares the words he was commanded speak and the invitation is, once again, unmistakable.

And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again. (vs. 49)

And it is by their fruit that we will know who has repented and been born again, and those that have not.

And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it. (vs. 52)

And so, is this not one of the most powerful chapters of all scripture to teach us not only the importance of being born again today, the type of fruit produced when one partakes of this spiritual condition, and the consequences of persisting in the false belief that we are still righteous even if we have yet to experience the mighty change of heart and have yet to bring forth fruit meet for repentance?

This entire chapter suggests something quite radical. Read straightforwardly and honestly, it can produce deep anxiety and fear that one has not yet experienced these things, and yet is regularly affirmed as an active and righteous member of the restored Church. Perhaps, we need to look at the principles of faith, and repentance in a fresh and different way. The Book of Mormon will help us do this. If you feel like despairing because Alma preaches hard things, take hope. The true principle of repentance will provide a clear path to experience this miraculous and mighty change of heart. We will discuss this in many subsequent posts.

It is my testimony that this doctrine is at the core of the New and Everlasting Covenant. And that the blessing, opportunity, and miracle of being born again is available to everyone today. We just have to learn how to repent.

 

 

 

 

Baptized by Fire and They Knew It Not?

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. (Moroni 9:20)

Converted Prisoners

The promises and fruits of becoming born again through the baptism of fire and reception of the Holy Ghost are great and powerful. The baptism by fire is a transformation of the whole being. It is to become purified and cleansed without spot. It is to become a Son or Daughter of God.

When we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ and are transformed in his nature and in his holiness. Our dispositions are fundamentally changed.

The experience of being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost is unmistakable. Here is a list of descriptions throughout scripture of this transformation and its fruit.

Become born again (John 3:3)

Mighty change in your heart (Alma 5:14)

Cleansed from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14)

Changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness (Mosiah 27:25)

Being Redeemed of God (Mosiah 27:25)

Become the Sons and Daughters of God (Mosiah 27:25)

You are blessed to enjoy the words of eternal life in this world (Moses 6:59)

Become sanctified from all sin (Moses 6:59)

You know God (1 John 4:7)

Overcome the world (1 John 5:4)

Receive the Lord’s image in your countenance (Alma 5:14)

Be filled with the Holy Ghost (Alma 36:24)

Have the wicked spirit rooted from our breast (Alma 22:15)

Receive great joy (Alma 22:15; Mosiah 4:3)

Garments are washed white, purified until they are cleansed from all sin (Alma 5:21)

Sufficiently humble (Alma 5:27)

Stripped of pride (Alma 5:28)

Stripped of envy (Alma 5:29)

Bring forth works meet for repentance (Alma 5:54)

Sing the song of redeeming love (Alma 5:9)

Illuminated by the light of the everlasting word (Alma 5:7)

Quickened in the inner man (Moses 6:65)

Receive a remission of sin (3 Nephi 12:1)

You have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2)

Willing to be obedient to everything the Lord commands (Mosiah 5:5)

Become spiritually begotten (Mosiah 5:7)

Will not have a mind to injure one another (Mosiah 4:13)

Filled with the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:48)

Filled with hope and perfect love (Moroni 8:26)

You cannot deny the power of God (Moroni 10:32)

You become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:33)

The promises of transformation in the spirit are so great it brought King Lamoni’s father to be willing to give up all that he possessed, even all of his kingdom to receive this transformation.

How then, is it possible, that a group of Lamanites were baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost and knew it not?  Considering the description and power of the blessing of receiving the mighty change how could someone receive this great blessing and not even know it?

Perhaps there is a different reading of this scripture that could be considered.

Instead of reading it as they did not realize they had experienced a baptism of fire, a careful reading suggests another way of understanding this scripture.

What if they were very aware of being changed in the spirit and transformed – that they knew something powerful and life changing had happened to their being, but what they didn’t know was what to call it.

The Lamanites experienced the miraculous conversion of the spirit. What they didn’t understand, perhaps, is that this thing was the doctrine of Christ. It was the power of the Holy Ghost.

For example, about eight years ago, I went through a few months of experiencing burning, debilitating pain in the back of my right leg. It was so painful, that some days I would have to lay on the ground for a few hours so it would settle down. In fact, it was during this time that I met my wife. When she saw me for the first time she thought I walked with a limp.

Even though I felt this pain in my leg it wasn’t until I went to a doctor that I learned what to call it. It wasn’t until I met someone with knowledge about this condition that I could be taught what it was, what caused it, and ultimately how to fix it.

And so, I believe, it was with the Lamanites. They experienced powerful and life-changing transformation. It probably was later that they had to be taught the doctrine of what they experienced, and why exactly it happened. They had to be taught the doctrine to understand what they had already experienced.

 

Who Are These Lamanites?

So, this leads us to ask a critical question. Who are the Lamanites to which this scripture is referring?

In 3rd Nephi chapter 9 it is a record of the Savior’s words. The author of the chapter is Nephi, the son of Nephi. It was his father and uncle, Lehi that was present when 300 Lamanites in prison were baptized in a powerful and miraculous way. This account is found in Helaman chapter 5.

And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.” (Helaman 5:45).

It was this group of 300 Lamanites that were commanded not to doubt what had happened to them.  (Helaman 5:49)

It is clear to me that the reference to the Lamanites that were baptized by fire in 3 Nephi 9 would be the miracle that Nephi’s father and uncle had participated in by their faith. These Lamanites went on to convert the more part of the Lamanite nation. This would be an event that could be mentioned by Nephi and would be an unmistakable reference to one of the greatest miracles of their immediate generation.

This was such a great occurrence it was also mentioned in Ether chapter 12.

Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” (Ether 12:14)

This scripture also refers to that conversion experience specifically as a baptism of fire.

Is it possible that 3 Nephi is referencing another account of Lamanites being baptized by fire and not knowing something had happened to them? I suppose it is possible. But it is completely improbable. There is no other example in scripture to which this could possibly be referring. If it’s not the Lamanites in Helaman 5 then we should, at a minimum, withhold interpreting the verse given that we have no idea to who what kind of experience it is referring.

 

Conclusion

Personally, I am 100% comfortable connecting 3 Nephi 9:20 with the conversion of the Lamanites in Helaman 5. Because of this connection, there is no reason to teach that one could experience a baptism and also not be aware that something had happened. This possibility is not represented in the scriptures. They do not give us that option.

In fact, as demonstrated above, all accounts of the baptism of fire in the scriptures are powerful, miraculous, and unmistakable in the experience. They are for each Latter Day Saint. We should all receive the admonition to “Marvel not, that all mankind must be born again.”

I love the scriptures and the invitation to believe and receive of the miracle of redemption and transformation.