Lusting for Spiritual Experiences

Thinking about the connection between repentance and gaining spiritual knowledge. If we want to gain knowledge we need to seek the requisite repentance for that knowledge. The reason is that the whatever portion of the natural man that is not under the influence of the Holy Ghost – that isn’t sanctified – will be leveraged against us if we are seeking revelation.

For example, if we carry a lust for power or esteem then we can receive false revelations that feeds the desire for esteem or power. We may easily mistake this as being from the Lord if that part of us isn’t sanctified. If we lust for sex, then we may receive false revelations that could satisfy those lusts. Consider that it is possible to lust for spiritual experience, or revelation, or for spiritual blessings. The natural man can desire things that may seem paradoxical – that we can even desire things like our calling and election made sure can be driven by a natural man lust for an experience for an impure reason.

Spiritual lust can be very hard to detect. I sometimes think that blessings are withheld in part because we want them for the wrong reason. Becoming born again, receiving revelation, seeking our calling and election made sure – all have to be sought with an eye single to the glory of God. If not, they are withheld in mercy.

If we continue to seek higher manifestations without purifying ourselves in repentance then we become vulnerable to the Adversary to give us the counterfeit experiences of these revelations. Yes, it is possible to have a counterfeit born again experience, revelation, and especially a counterfeit calling and election made sure experience. Because our lusts can be sophisticated, and the natural man can be sophisticated, the false revelations of knowledge can also be very sophisticated. So how do we protect ourselves against false revelations? We repent completely of the natural man. We must become born again and have all of the impurities burned out of us.

How do we know we have sufficiently repented? The Alma 5 questions are a good guide. Are you full of love? Do you have a disposition to do evil? Are you stripped of pride? Do you have any envy? Do you seek to consume any lusts? Money? Sex? Recognition? Are you willing to sacrifice anything for the Lord? Do you seek to be the least and servant of all? Do you have hope and faith to receive a greater portion?

If we are in a state of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost then we can receive the revelations that are at the level of our state of sanctification. It is only then that the Lord can distill greater and greater knowledge, mysteries, and revelations. We must repent with all of our hearts to be prepared to receive the word of the Lord in its fulness.

Is the Path Strait, or is it Straight?

Is the path strait, or is it straight?

It is both. But what does that mean?

It’s not uncommon for members of the covenant to point out that the use the form of the word “strait” is a winding channel between two bodies of water, or as a mountain pass. This is pointed out to suggest that the course could wind and not be in a straight line. But this would be a misuse of the definition of “strait”. When people reference strait in the sense of a channel between mountains or connecting bodies of water, they are referencing the noun form of the word.

The scriptures use the adjective form of the word. This form of the word simply means: narrow or close; not broad.

When the Lord refers to the strait and narrow path he is emphasizing how narrow the gate is, and how narrow the path remains. We should be careful not to infer that the path is winding, or meanders. The Adversary is working hard to dilute, confuse, counterfeit and teach the philosophies of men regarding the path. These philosophies carry the risk that would lead us off of the strait and narrow path and on to strange paths. We must be vigilant in our rejection of anything that does not comply to the pure doctrine of Christ.

Christ says of his own path:

For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round (D&C 3:2)

When the Lord refers to his paths as being straight. We are commanded to keep them this way. It is upon us to Prepare “the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (D&C 65: 1).

It is a commandment to keep his path straight. We keep it straight by walking on the straight path and by also keeping his doctrine pure.

Nephi uses the term strait and straight interchangeably. This should drive clarity about the path.

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: 41).

Overcoming the world is the process of keeping our paths straight. Nephi again teaches us through the record of his own experiences:

O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy (2 Nephi 4: 33).

Those that declare the pure gospel of Christ will all echo the same message as Alma who taught the way of the path with precision and purity. And he also reminds us that the path we walk in is the Lord’s path. They both must be straight. This is when we are righteous and in “the way”: It is when we make the Lord’s path our own.

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth (Alma 7: 9).

It is us that meander. It is us that wander. We may cross over the strait and narrow path a thousand times in our life – but that does not make the path crooked. We are to come into possession of the path and then learn how to keep the path – we must learn to endure on it.

Truth and Comfort

Telestial comfort is the enemy to truth. If we seek comfort in any form more than we seek truth, we will ultimately end up with neither. Seeking telestial self-comfort as a priority is the great temptation of mortality.

If I am not willing to give up all of my comforts for the pursuit of truth, I will not be capable of receiving the truth. The reason for this is because I will mistaken the receipt of telestial comfort as a form of truth – and will enter into a self-deceived state.

Mistaking telestial comfort for truth keeps us in a state of darkness. We may believe we have comfort, but we deep down know that it is unstable and temporary.

Truth, in its purity, is the great source of true comfort in this life. We have to pass through the ordeals of sacrifice to get there. This is done by sacrifice. One way to look at sacrifice is that we have to be willing to sacrifice all telestial comforts before we can receive of the Lord’s comforter – the Holy Ghost.

When we are filled with the truth of God we come into an eternally comforted state. This is why the New and Everlasting Covenant is the reception of a series of comforters. These comforters are bring us into higher states of rest and comfort. But we must willingly sacrifice all things in order to be capacitated to ascend into the holy comforters.

There are levels of telestial comfort that are helpful to identify. Introspection of this type, when led by the Holy Ghost, can provide insight into what needs to be sacrificed in order to fully receive the Comforters offered by Christ.

  1. Food, sex, stimulants
  2. Material wealth / possessions
  3. Reputation among others who we respect and desire approval
  4. Social status
  5. Political and social views
  6. The love of our loved-ones
  7. Our belief system (even when we think we are possessors of truth – this can be a sophisticated way of keeping us in a self-comforted state. This is very common amongst the church)
  8. Our belief that we are saved by virtue of having made an outward covenant. The form with out the power.

What is hard, almost impossible, is to identify the depth of self-deception to which we all are subject. Being a member of the church, believing that we are in a safe state of redemption by virtue of membership and activity, can produce the type of self-comfort that keeps someone from fully coming into truth. No matter where we are in our spiritual progression, we must constantly offer up what we think we know for the greater height the Lord wants to bring us to.

One question that is very helpful to ask and be strictly honest about is, what am I willing to sacrifice for the truth? What would I not let go of?

Your family? Your wealth? Your health? Your reputation?

Are you willing to have your understanding of truth reorganized? Are there any sacred cows that you are not willing to put on the alter?

These question can be so helpful to take to the Lord to show us our weakness so that we can come to him in a more direct coarse.

The comfort of the Lord expands us into a peace that is beyond any peace that can be found in this mortal state. But we all have to wrestle with the question: Am I willing to sacrifice my comforts in all of their forms today in order to receive of the fullness the Father has to offer?

In his mercy he usually does not require us to make this move all at once. But sometimes he does. We shouldn’t hedge. We should come to him with all of our hearts every day of our lives. If we sacrifice every telestial comfort with all of our hearts everyday, when the winds blow and this world descends into chaos we will not be shaken nor will we fear. We will already be of a different world.

Rending the Veil of Flesh

Our flesh is a veil, and to rend the veil in this life means, in a way, that we must rend the veil of our flesh. And we do this through the power of the spirit through the process of having a broken heart and contrite spirit. The Sacrament as an ordinance brings us through this process regularly. It’s through the rending of the flesh that we stay on the strait and narrow path.

Taking the sacrament is rending a veil. It represents the veil of the Savior’s body – and as his flesh was torn for us we can pass upwards through the veil back into the Lord’s presence.

We partake of the power of the Lord’s torn flesh insofar as we come prepared having torn our own flesh – meaning we come with a fully broken heart and in a state of our spirits contrite.

What is a broken heart? It is a hear completely divested of desires of a telestial things – and of a complete desire for higher things. It is a heart completely and perfectly softened. A heart willing to sacrifice anything for the Father. It is through this process of receiving a broken heart that we are prepared to pass through the veil.

A contrite spirit is a mind that is completely open to the things of God. It is a mind that is not encumbered with false traditions. It is a mind firm in every form of godliness.

We can rend the veil as we rend our own flesh. This is why we fast before we take the sacrament. Fasting and prayer brings us into this powerful state.

 

Are You on the Covenant Path?

What is the covenant path? It is a new term – and one that seems potentially useful. But what is it?

It seems that the covenant path is the same thing as the strait and narrow path. If you have a different understanding, I’d like to know your thoughts.

Assuming that it is the strait and narrow path, how do we know we are on the covenant path?

First, without question, understanding that the strait and narrow path is a succession of covenants is helpful, but we must be clear about what that means (and I’m not sure that we always are).

Covenants are agreements that produce a spiritual transformation. If there is no revelatory or transformational event, there is no covenant. For example, how does one enter the strait and narrow path? By being baptized by water AND becoming fully born again. You aren’t in the covenant until you experience the spiritual transformation of the mighty change of heart. It is only then you are on the strait and narrow path (and presumably the covenant path).

The strait and narrow path includes every covenant, ordinance, and oath needed for exaltation. The chronology of the path goes something like this:

Exercise faith, repent and receive a remission of sins and then get baptized and have a born again transformation and you are on the strait and narrow path.

Stay on the strait and narrow path through retaining your baptism of fire and born again condition. If you are not born again, you fall off the path. To regain the path, we must repent sufficiently to become born again, again.

This is why it is considered a “strait” and “narrow” path. It is a very narrow channel of being that we retain a born again condition. It requires constant attention and it is very easy to come out of this condition in a moment. This is why I think there is power in calling it “strait” and “narrow”. It is critical to always remember that the path has a strict requirement associated with it: we mush continue in our born again state and learn how to retain it.

While on the path we receive the covenant of the Aaronic Priesthood which is being prepared for the spiritual experiences of the Melchizedek priesthood. When we truly receive the Melchizedek priesthood we have preparatory spiritual manifestations preparatory to being receiving our Second Comforter; which received at the end of the path.

The temple endowment is the sequence of covenants and ordinances in physical form that teach us the manifestations required to be exalted. We have not been fully endowed until our calling and election has been made sure. The endowment is the physical representation of the process of making our calling and election made sure.

After we have made our calling and election made sure we then prove faithful to have our marriage sealed – which is the same thing as having your calling and election made sure for your marriage.

You then receive the fullness of the priesthood, sealing power, and power to seal your posterity to you in the capstone ordinance of the second anointing.

Partaking of the Tree of Life at the end of the strait and narrow path is to receive the sealing blessings of your calling and election made sure, have your marriage sealed, and have the priesthood sealed upon you.

So, this is the covenant path. Are you on it? In other words, are you in that strait and narrow channel of being in a born again condition? And if so, are you pressing forward to make your calling and election made sure? This, I believe, is what they mean by covenant path. It is strait and narrow. “And few be there that find it” (3 Nephi 27: 33).

 

 

Look Where You Want to Go

While in college my Dad took me and my two brothers on a cross-country motorcycle trip. We started in Portland Oregon, rode to Boston, Massachusetts, and then rode the entire way back. A trip like this has a lot of inherent risk, but what amplified the danger was that none of us had ever before ridden a motorcycle.

One of the first lessons I had to learn was to look where I wanted to go. This is actually much harder than it sounds. It’s not natural. For example, when you are riding by an obstacle, and you’re afraid you may hit it, and you stare at it because you don’t want to hit it, the likelihood you will smack into the thing you are staring at increases a lot more than you may think. Likewise, if you concentrate on where you want to go when driving by something potentially dangerous – chances are you will go to the place you are looking instead of hitting the obstacle.

When we were riding through Kansas we decided to take an off-ramp to get some food. When slowing down on the highway to take the exit, there was some construction with a lip on the road that ran parallel to the direction I was riding. I was really nervous about crossing this lip in the road, and because of it I was staring at it intently when I crossed. Sure enough, I hit it wrong and crashed my motorcycle. I did exactly what I didn’t want to do because it was the thing that filled my mind. I am also pretty sure that if I had looked at where I wanted to go instead of the 3-inch lip I would have been fine and crossed it without a problem. A very small obstacle almost killed me because I had given it so much attention.

This principle works when skiing, biking, skateboarding,… pretty much whenever you are in forward motion. And what is life, if not the collective experience of forward motion?

This is a particularly powerful principle when it comes to overcoming sin, weakness, addiction, and destructive behavior. If we focus and fret and are concerned with the thing we want to avoid, chances are, we will fall right into it.

Like a rocket trying to leave the pull of the Earth’s gravity, escaping the natural man can seem similarly impossible. Herculean strength, world-class discipline, and even supreme will power will not ultimately overcome the tendencies of fallen flesh in the long-run.

When overcoming a sin, an addiction, a weakness there is an instinctual tendency to want to fight the thing we are trying to overcome. By fighting, we may believe that it is by the exertion of our own will that we can overcome our weaknesses – that we can pull away from the Earth’s gravity. Even after expending our best efforts, it is not uncommon to continually fall back into natural habits, fundamental weaknesses, spirit-crushing addictions, and, like Nephi,  to feel “encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4: 18).

It is also a mistaken, but common, belief to assume that Christ really helps, or forgives, or accepts after we conquer our own weaknesses. This may be a result of a commonly taught philosophy of man that reasons Christ helps us only after we expend our best efforts to help ourself. The working assumption being that Christ does not love us unconditionally in our fallen state, but only after we extract ourselves from our fallen tendencies do we earn the right to call upon Christ for his forgiveness and healing.

Precisely because we give our weaknesses attention, thought, and because of our fear of them, they tend to consume us. Lot and his wife fleeing Sodom is almost a perfect metaphor of this problem. As they both left we all know that Lot’s wife turned back to look at Sodom. She was reduced to salt (whatever that means). It is in looking at the thing we are avoiding that we are taken in and consumed by it.

Does overcoming the natural self have to be the war we make it out to be?

First, we know that it is Christ that delivers us and transforms us from our natural and fallen disposition. It is the power of Christ that heals us, and can remake us from the natural self to a child of Christ. It is only through the deliverance of the mighty change of heart, spiritual rebirth, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are we redeemed from our fallen and carnal state. What King Benjamin taught is worth constantly revisiting:

“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 childsubmissive, 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).

So, how do we engage Christ in a way so that we can learn to live in a state of  being born again, and maintain the disposition to no more desire evil?

Christ is where we want to go. Instead of squaring off with our weaknesses, obsessing over them, planning our lives around them, and fighting every day “to do a little better than the day before” what would happen if we just abandoned ourself to doing and focusing on the truth which is in Christ?

In other words, instead of fighting our weaknesses, we just ask questions like the following:

  1. What is the Holy Ghost prompting me to do this very moment?
  2. What does the Lord want me to do in the next hour?
  3. How can I seek to be completely full of light today?

Darkness cannot be overcome by force, or attention, or by squaring off and fighting it. It is overcome by casting all of our attention on light and truth. If we wrestle with weakness, weakness will always eventually win. If we are filled with light we win immediately.

This principle is taught very clearly in the scriptures. When the children of Israel were bitten by serpents an easy way was prepared for their deliverance.

And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17: 41).

What if our sins and weaknesses are our fiery flying serpents that he sends to us to discover the easiness of being healed by Christ if learn how to focus our attention?

Just like riding my motorcycle and being afraid of hitting an obstacle, it may require us fighting every instinct we have to not pay attention to what we are afraid of, but if we can act against the instinct we discover a certain easiness of giving ALL of our attention to Christ.

And when we fully commit to Christ, which includes being obedient to every prompting we receive in every moment, we find ourselves delivered. If we take action to fill our minds with truth, and will our awareness with light and gratitude, we find ourselves very naturally letting go of the natural man. It becomes a paper tiger.

What we give our attention to gives us strength. If our attention is on darkness our strength will be darkened. If we give our attention to light, and only light, our strength becomes light.

The counsel is simple and perfect:

Look unto me in every thoughtdoubt not, fear not! (D&C 6: 36)

 

 

 

Lehi’s Prophecy of Perdition: Who Would Partake of the Tree of Life and then Leave?

Have you ever asked the question about Lehi’s dream regarding those that partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and then become ashamed and then leave? Partaking of the Tree of Life is the assurance of eternal life – yet it doesn’t make sense that there would be a group that would have this assurance and then fall away. This essay explores this question and suggest that those that partake and then fall way are perdition – and it happens enough to include it in a powerful prophesy.

Nephi and Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life serves as a doctrinal framework for the entire Book of Mormon. It is the revelation of the plain and precious truths of the doctrine of Christ that restores us to a knowledge of how to obtain the presence of the Lord.

If we wrest this revelation by misappropriating the doctrine and assuming that we are experiencing the path in ways that we aren’t, or misinterpreting the doctrine to fit our own experience, we run the risk of once again losing the plain and precious truths of the gospel. There is great power in understanding both the vision and the doctrine of the revelation (found in 2 Nephi 31-32) because we can then know exactly where we are in our journey to Christ, and we can know what to do next.

If we fail to understand where we are personally in this doctrinal structure, then we will fail to make the progress needed to move forward. We will at a minimum be stagnant in our progression; but the greater risk is that we will fail to fulfill the spiritual requirements for real spiritual progress. We must get this right and not wrest the scriptures to our own destruction” (Alma 13: 20).

In order to clearly understand the Lehi and Nephi’s vision, and the doctrine of Christ, we must be really clear about the meaning of the Tree of Life – what it means and who partakes of its fruit. Thankfully, the scriptures are really clear about this point of doctrine.

What is the Tree of Life?

We first encounter the tree in the multiple accounts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We should note that they were forbidden to partake of the fruit after they partook of the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why would this be? Why would the plan of God be thwarted and they would live forever in their sins?

Alma’s Teaching

Of course these questions have depths and layers impossible to explore quickly in a single essay. But at a minimum we should understand that the consequence of eating from the Tree of Life would cause them to “live forever” (Moses 4:28). The Lord protects the tree by placing cherubim and a flaming sword so that those who do not qualify cannot partake and live forever in their sins.

This is the first indication that the Tree of Life is to partake of eternal life. As Alma teaches this doctrine he also makes clarifies the following:

“But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.

And now, ye see by this that our first parents 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…

and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord,…

And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.” (Alma 42: 6-23).

Alma makes it clear that the tree of Life is the presence of the Lord. In the 12th chapter of his record he teaches that those who prepare themselves for the Tree of Life enter into the rest of the Lord.

And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect…

But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;

Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.

And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.

And now, my brethren, behold I say unto you, that if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord; therefore your iniquity provoketh him that he sendeth down his wrath upon you as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation as well as the first, to the everlasting destruction of your souls; therefore, according to his word, unto the last death, as well as the first.

And now, my brethren, seeing we know these things, and they are true, let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments which he has given unto us; but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word” (Alma 12: 26-37).

Why is this sermon from Alma so significant? It is because he includes language and doctrine that we learn from Joseph Smith in his revelation on the Priesthood in D&C 84 that “the rest of the Lord” means something very specific. Joseph revealed about Moses exactly the same thing Alma was referencing – and that is to enter into the rest of the Lord is to enter into his rest. Those that are extended the invitation in this life (by receiving the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood) is to enter into his rest in the flesh. Denying this invitation brings the provocation of the Lord, which is both Alma and Joseph’s revelatory warning.

But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory” (D&C 84: 24).

Again, why is this important? Because if we understand the unifying revelation of Moses, Alma, and Joseph Smith, we learn that partaking of the Tree of Life is to enter into the rest of the Lord – which is to enter into his glory while in the flesh. This is the great doctrine of the higher priesthood and the fulness of the priesthood.

In his sermon to the Zoramites in chapter 32 and 33, Alma teaches that partaking of the seed will bring you to a place that the Tree of Life springs up within you, and you partake of the fruit of the tree which is “most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst” (Alma 32: 42). This is the state of those that have regained the presence of the Lord. It is the state of receiving a perfect knowledge of his goodness and reality.

Nephi’s Teaching

Nephi teaches that partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life is the greatest of the gifts of God.

Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God”  (1 Nephi 15: 36).

From the D&C we know that the greatest of God’s gifts is eternal life.

“And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14: 7; 6:13).

When he was given an interpretation of the Tree of Life he was taught that it was the love of God.

And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of lifewhich waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God” (1 Nephi 11: 25).

This is an extremely important scripture to both consider and also to resist the mistake of concluding that the love of God means feeling his love through the spirit in measure. It is equating eternal life to the love of God.

When Nephi describes something as the love of God, he is describing the gift of eternal life. It is easy to confuse this notion of tasting of the love of God through the spirit as partaking of the Tree of Life. It isn’t. The Tree of Life is eternal life, and partaking of the fullness of the fruit is to partake of the promises, blessings, and endowments of the promise of eternal life.

Why is it so important to carefully draw this out? Because it is easy to mistakenly believe that since we experience the love of God that we are partaking of the Tree of Life. It is a very different thing. We can begin to partake of the fruit through a process of consumption (as outlined in Alma 32), but we must not mistake the reception of the Holy Ghost or experiencing the love of God as partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life. We are at risk of wresting the scriptures if we do not grasp what Nephi is really teaching when he describes the fruit as the “love of God”. When Nephi refers to the love of God when partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life is referring to the blessings of the promise of eternal life. It is the calling and election made sure and the Second Comforter blessings.

When we enter the path we receive of the first comforter through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost – becoming born again. When we endure to the end we receive of the Second Comforter – which is the rest of the Lord and promise of eternal life. It is in this summary of the doctrine of Christ that Nephi teaches the calling and election made sure is the reward of the strait and narrow path:

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. (2 Nephi 31: 20).

The promise of obtaining the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life.

Nephi couldn’t be clearer: the strait and narrow path leads strait and narrow path leads to eternal life (2 Nephi 31: 18). And promise of obtaining the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life.

Why is it so important to emphasize this through the cataloguing of this doctrine with so many scriptural witnesses? It is because it is so common to refer to covenant members of the church as those who are partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. It is even common to describe members of the church as those who are standing at the Tree of Life and partaking.

Yes, we begin to taste of the fruit in degrees when we are born again and are on the strait and narrow path. But it is critical to make a distinction between this and partaking of eternal life at the tree. The Tree of Life represents the Second Comforter blessings of the gospel. To judge it differently is to wrest the scriptures in a potentially very dangerous way.

Perhaps the reason why we often don’t associate partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life with the calling and election made sure is because of something very peculiar that Lehi witnesses.

Who Partakes of the Tree of Life then Leaves?

If the Tree of Life is the promise of eternal life, why does Lehi witness those that partake of it and then are ashamed and leave?

“And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (1 Nephi 8: 24-25).

The question is simple: why would someone who partakes of the greatest of all the gifts of God, receives a fullness of his love, partakes of the most desirable of all things – even the promise of eternal life, and then gets ashamed? And then leaves?

Because it seems absurd that someone would have these blessings and then become ashamed, it is very common for readers to then assume the fruit of the Tree of Life is not eternal life. It just doesn’t add up that this group of people would exist. The assumption then becomes that the Tree of Life is something other than eternal life.

We should be very careful about making this judgment. If we read and study carefully, we can understand who Lehi is witnessing and learn exactly what is happening.

The first thing to recognize is that Lehi is seeing more than just his family in his vision. He is also seeing his posterity.

“And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved” ( 1 Nephi 8: 3).

Considering that that Lehi is seeing a vision of his posterity on the path and at the tree, we can then explore who in the Book of Mormon record Lehi may be witnessing. One group happens to be the Nephites that existed in a Zion society for 200 years after the coming of Christ. This is a portion of Lehi and Nephi’s seed about which we don’t have a lot of information (presumably it is contained in the greater portion of the Book of Mormon).

This group of Nephites that once lived in a Zion society were all partakers of the “heavenly gift“.

And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4th Nephi 1: 3). 

What is the heavenly gift? Ether chapter 12 and Hebrews chapter 6 gives insight into this curious and rare term.

Ether 12 is a phenomenal account of individuals that exercised faith in order to receive the greatest blessings, manifestations, and promises of the Lord – and most important of these is the assurance of eternal life. In reference to the heavenly gift, the record reveals the following:

For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.

But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen” (Ether 12: 8-9).

The context reveals that the heavenly gift in Ether is receiving the presence of the Lord. Hebrews also contextually affirms this meaning in the following verses:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6: 4-6).

Paul teaches that if someone partakes of the heavenly gift that it is impossible for them to repent. They fall into a state of perdition “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

This is a description of the spiritual state of perdition. It is also a warning to those that have been received the heavenly gift  that they can fall away and be permanently severed from presence of the Lord.

What is fascinating is that we have a warning from Paul of the possibility of exactly what happens to the Nephites of 4th Nephi. We have a people that are partaking of the heavenly gift, they are partaking fully of the tree of life, and they fall into apostasy and are cut off from the tree. We are all familiar with the tragic demise of the Nephites who enter into this collective perdition state.

Consider also that at the end of the 1000 year millennial reign of Zion upon the earth, that there will be a final confrontation with the Adversary because the righteousness of the hearts of the people will no longer bind him from their presence. This is another example of the possibility of a people partaking of the heavenly gift and then choosing to be cut off from the Tree of Life.

Perhaps those that qualify for perdition are far more numerous than thought. Those of 4th Nephi, and those at the end of the Millennium, and perhaps groups in the times of Melchizedek and Noah also produced this class of people.

In other words, the reason it is difficult to imagine that there would be a significant group of people that would receive the promises of eternal life and then fall away is because we are unfamiliar with a Zion structure. It isn’t in our awareness or experience of what it would be like to live in a society of saints that have the heavenly gift; and we haven’t experienced the spiritual temptations and nature of this type of situation.

Lehi’s dream is so instructive on a level that exceeds our experience in this generation of the church. Even though it is not in our experience to live in a Zion state, we all too often yield to the temptation to associate all of the experiences of the Tree of Life with our own spiritual experiences – assuming in an odd way that we, as a people, know what it is like to live in a covenant body that lives and experiences the fullness of the gospel. We wrest the scriptures to believe that if we are active members of the church than we must be partakers of the Tree of Life – even though our experiences have no resemblance to those societies in the scriptural accounts of those that received collectively the heavenly gift.

It therefore becomes confusing to us that there would be people who would partake of the Tree of Life and then fall away if the Tree was the assurance of exaltation. Because we don’t experience that redemptive experience broadly it is hard for us to understand how it could be possible that it would happen enough to even make mention.

But it does happen, and it happened to Lehi’s posterity. And this is why he witnessed it. And his dream served as a prophetic warning to his future generations that this would happen.  It also serves as a warning of how to avoid the temptation once they find themselves partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Life.

As we understand the truth of the components of the Tree of Life, we are able to receive the detailed insight as to our own spiritual situation, and how to more clearly come to Christ. We receive the invitation to come into his presence in the flesh. And we are warned of the great power of the temptation to yield to those in the Great and Spacious Building.

May we resist the temptation to wrest the scriptures and take the warning of Alma seriously that if we do so, we do it unto our destruction.  We need to stop casually referring to ourselves as a people that partakes of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This is reserved for a people that have actually entered into a Zion structure and have collectively received the heavenly gift.

And may we also be full of gratitude for the record of the Book of Mormon that both invites us into the presence of the Lord while we are in mortality, and also warns us of the complexity and power of temptations and darkness that will seek our overthrow.

 

 

 

How Does One Get On the Strait and Narrow Path?

Just a few chapters into the Book of Mormon we read the account of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. A couple of chapters later, we receive Nephi’s witness of the same vision with an added interpretation. This vision becomes the doctrinal theme of the entire work of scripture, with its imagery, allegory, and doctrine spread throughout. In chapters 31 and 32 of 2 Nephi we are given the doctrine of the vision. This is known as the doctrine of Christ.

The doctrine of Christ that is taught and testified of in the Book of Mormon is also the doctrine of the seed of faith found in Alma 32. Alma’s teaching on the seed is a restatement of Nephi and Lehi’s dream. When put together, the vision of the Tree of Life, the doctrine of Christ taught in 2 Nephi 30-33, and Alma’s teachings, particularly his sermon on the seed, of faith unlocks a rich and complex doctrinal framework. If we overlay the three accounts we find that they each offer a unique key to understanding this doctrinal framework that is at the heart of the purpose of the Book of Mormon. These essays use these three accounts of the doctrine of Christ to address critical gospel questions.

How Does One Get On the Strait and Narrow Path?

One of the first thing Lehi witnesses in his dream was “numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood” (1 Nephi 8: 21). I find it fascinating that he didn’t observe endless people trying to get to the tree, but to the path that leads to the tree. I think this is significant because it invites us to ask the question, what exactly is the narrow gate that leads to the path? What were people seeking?

We know that the physical ordinance of baptism is part of this gate, but we must understand all of the components of baptism to know if we are through the gate. As Christ first appeared to the Nephites he immediately taught them the doctrine of baptism. Here is what the Savior taught:

And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12: 1-2).

We must be born of both water and spirit (John 3: 4-5). This is perhaps why Christ refers to the gate as being narrow and that few people find it. Many people can find the channel of receiving a physical baptism. Few repent sufficiently to be baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost. This baptism comes as an endowment from the Savior himself.

Lehi saw that his dream was that of the strait and narrow path (1 Nephi 8: 20-23). This may seem like a simple connection, but it is so important to remember that the events that Nephi and Lehi witness in their dream should be mapped against the doctrine outlined in the last chapters of 2 Nephi. Why is this important? Because it helps us understand where we exactly are on our own path. It helps us understand the ordinances, covenants, and experiences that we should have depending on where we are on the path.

First, in order to enter on the path, which is also the holding to the rod, Nephi explains very clearly that it is through the narrow channel of water baptism and the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It seems to be a commonly held assumption that we can refer to all those who have entered into the waters of baptism, have been confirmed a member of the church, and have received the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost are automatically on the path. This is not the case, and Nephi makes it clear that it is more than just physical ordinances needed to enter the path. You need to have the actual spiritual endowment of a baptism of fire experience.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 31: 13)

And then he teaches:

Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. 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” (2 Nephi 31: 17-18).

Christ teaches this powerful doctrine and promise to the Nephites when they heard his voice in the darkness after experiencing devastating calamity.

“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)

Being baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost means you have a born again experience. It is something that happens to you. It is more than just a physical ordinance; if you haven’t had a born again experience, the mighty change of heart, and all of the accompanying fruits of that mighty change, they you have yet to enter into the channel of baptism. Consider the doctrine of born again and baptism being one single ordinance as taught in Alma:

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7: 14).

Being baptized (in the true and full sense of the ordinance) means you are born again. It requires a mighty change from the Lord himself. To be fully baptized we must be both physically immersed in water and receive the mighty change of heart. This is perhaps why we’ve been invited to not marvel at this miraculous invitation. It is so much more than just making a promise to keep the commandments. Baptism means sufficiently repenting and putting to death the natural man that we are formed in to a new creature in Christ. This is the event of baptism, and if you have not received the baptism of fire your baptism is not yet complete.

Joseph Smith clarified:

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.’ [John 3:5.]”

He also went on to teach:

“Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.”

“Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered. 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.”

The principle of righteousness is the key. We can receive the physical ordinances, but that is not sufficient. We must also be born again. It comes by the Spirit of God. The reception of the Holy Ghost is the baptism of fire.

As Alma preached repentance he framed becoming born again with repentance.

“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” (Alma 5: 49).

Mosiah taught so powerfully the following.

“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 Godchanged 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).

This is the requirement of baptism and this is the narrow gate through which we all must pass in order to enter into the strait and narrow path. It is not enough to be baptized by water. We must also go through a mighty change of heart in order to enter into the gate.

If we are baptized but not in a born again state, Alma records a powerful sermon in the 5th chapter of his record that emphasizes to the covenant members of the church that they must repent and regain the spiritual state of being born again.

“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?…

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?

Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life” (Alma 5: 14-28).

Just as Christ told the Nephites that HE would baptize them with fire by sending the Holy Ghost, King Benjamin’s people testified of this event:

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually…

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5: 5-7).

The injunction is to become born of God and repent today. It’s not a process that takes a lifetime, even though we need to retain it for a lifetime. It’s not through a slow and imperceptible process. In order to pass through the narrow gate on to the strait and narrow path we must become born again, baptized by fire, and receive the mighty change of heart. We must first become a new creature in Christ.

The great hope of the doctrine of Christ is that we can receive this mighty change as quickly as we are willing to give up all our sins and that which we possess to know God. We receive it as quickly as we desire to give our whole lives to God without reservation and conditions. Just as King Lamoni’s father experienced, we are endowed with a mighty change of heart when we choose Christ above all other things in our life.

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 22:15).

Alma chapters 32 through 34 is an account of Alma and Amulek teaching the doctrine of Christ to the Zoramites, who were a people that had once had the gospel, presumably made the covenants, but had fallen into pride and iniquity. Alma mentions to them baptism, but his and Amulek’s message to them wasn’t focused on the ordinance of baptism, presumably because they had already entered into the ordinances. They were reclaiming these people to the strait and narrow path.

Amulek declares to them the conditions and desperate need for repentance. He declares to them that this is the day of their repentance and that is the work of their life – their labors- is to repent with all of their heart. He said, “as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end” (Alma 34: 33).

And Amulek taught that if they repent, they would immediately partake of the plan of redemption, which is to become born again on the strait and narrow path.

“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34: 31).

The great hope and promise of the doctrine of Christ is that we can and must become born again to commence on the strait and narrow path. It is a blessing at which we should not marvel. It is the miracle of spiritual rebirth.

So, who is on the strait and narrow path? It is they that are born again. It is being in a state of a mighty change of heart. Being on the path is being in that place of mighty change. This is why it is strait. This is why it is narrow. It is a state of being that takes incredible diligence and daily attention. Perhaps this is why few find the gate and few retain it.

 

Resonating Obedience

Image result for sympathetic resonance

 

There is a fascinating physical phenomenon called sympathetic resonance. If you take two tuning forks of the same frequency and hit one of them, the other one will also begin to resonate.

This is a great metaphor for sanctification.  I know that one meaning of sanctification means to become pure of sin, but what if a better way of thinking about it is more like resonance?

All laws are light and all light has a frequency, or a resonance. Sanctification means that you, your body, your flesh, your will, your desires – your entire being – begins to resonate at the same frequency as the light of a law. You begin to resonate at the level of the light. So, to keep a law means to resonate at the same frequency of that law. Your whole being participates in sanctified obedience.

There is a sense that being obedient means that we learn to discipline ourselves to act at a different level that may be natural to us. To do something, or to act in a certain way, is only one component of obedience. The key to being obedient is to have our whole beings resonate at the level of the light of whatever law we are keeping.

Keeping a law means to resonate at the same level of that law. This is also a definition of sanctification.

When we are sanctified our whole body resonates at the same frequency of the law. Our mind, desires, flesh, will – it all is of the same frequency.

To be reconciled to Christ is to have our will and the light of our being share in his. It resonates at his level. It is to be in a sympathetic resonance with Christ.

So, how do we elevate to these higher levels of sanctified resonance? This is a process of not only acting in faith when moved upon by the light of Christ, but we can do so through the process of prayer.

Prayer, in its fundamental form, is the process of first yielding to the spirit sufficient that it elevates our frequency into a higher light of law. We become sanctified in deep, yielding prayer. We can ask the Lord to bring us into a law, and as we yield our minds, will, flesh, and desires to the workings of the spirit, we can be brought to a higher frequency through the grace of Christ. It is the spirit that does this work. We, by taking thought, cannot raise our own frequency. It is always a gift or endowment. But what we can do is put ourselves in a place to have the Holy Ghost bring us into higher levels of Godly resonance.

The scriptures describe this resonance as being “quickened”. As we explore scripture such as D&C 88 and 93 we can learn much about the quickening process. For example, a revelation from Joseph Smith revealed the following:

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him” (D&C 88: 49).

When we want to ascend to in higher levels of sanctification we go through a process of becoming quickened. To move into higher states of being quickened we will almost always be prompted to make a sacrifice, and at a minimum that sacrifice usually takes the form of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is in this broken and contrite condition that we relax our will in such a way that the Lord is able to elevate us.

We will receive promptings to do things that may not make sense to us. Often these promptings will be different sacrifices – that if we yield to in faith – endows us with a sanctifying measure of the Holy Ghost.

Keeping the commandments does not have to be a never-ending war with the flesh. We simply must learn the process of having our will  be elevated into the resonance of the laws we need to keep. When we resonate at the level of a law, we don’t have to suffer and practice supreme discipline in order to “keep” the law. We become quickened by the law itself. It becomes part of our nature. It becomes natural to us to be in a state of obedience.

Retaining a sanctified state requires discipline in those things that keep us resonating at a higher level.  Consider 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.

First, notice that it is the Comforter that fills with hope and perfect love. In other words, it is the Holy Ghost that brings us to a resonance of hope and love. Those are states of resonance in Christ. We experience them with our entire being.

And in order to maintain it, we have to be diligent in prayer. Prayer is the place that we maintain or reclaim the sanctified state. We subject our spirits to the light of Christ and ascend into higher states of sanctification.

This is the process described in Helaman.

“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” (Helaman 3: 35).

For example, someone who struggles with sexual addiction may spend their whole life fighting the physical urge or psychological need for sexual experience. They may have been led to believe that they need to “keep a law” by forcing themselves to act and think a different way before they can repent and be accepted by Christ.

Instead of pursuing the exhausting and despairing path of self-perfection, what if a person learned to resonate at the same level of light that is sexual purity? If their body and mind and heart resonated at the level of law that brings sexual purity, then they wouldn’t need to hang their salvation on their ability to ultimately discipline their behavior against their fundamental nature. Their nature would change, and it would produce the type of outward obedience and attention to law that is desired.

This is why the Lord’s burden is easy. We don’t have to learn supreme discipline to force ourselves into a state of obedience – we have to learn the disciplines that subject our fallen natures to the power of the Holy Ghost so that our natures are increasingly like Christ’s nature. These disciplines include primarily fasting and prayer. Also, music, the sacrament, and the willingness to do exactly what the spirit prompts brings us into this resonance. All of these disciplines quicken us.

When we move into that sanctified structure we are free in Christ – free from a nature that is in opposition God and his laws. We freely and easily keep his laws. Obedience become the impulse of our very nature

Keeping the law of Christ is to have our being resonate in the light, frequency and power of Christ. It is what it means to become a Son or Daughter of Christ. We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts so “that (we) may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7: 48).

Being pure is to resonate in the law in perfect sync. We can become perfect in Christ just as quickly as we will yield our entire beings to Christ so we can live the law he does – his light and law become the life within us. We can become sanctified in the light of Christ if we learn the principles that bring us to that place. And it happens as quickly as we are transformed into resonating obedience.

 

Fear and Ascension

 

Ascension is the process of us walking through our fears. When the children of Israel stood at the base of Mt. Sinai they rejected the call to ascend into the presence of the Lord because they feared. They wanted someone to go on their behalf.

If the children of Israel had charted a course into their fear they would have found themselves in the presence of the Lord.

Fear should be a sign to us as to the direction we should go. When a fear presents itself, we can know that turning and facing that fear, walking into it, and bringing it into subjection to the power of Christ through the expression of our agency, we ascend the mount. We receive great peace and rest. We put fear under our feet.

We experience fear because there are parts of us that are not true. We’ve accepted lies, unbelief, false belief, and deception. The degree of false belief that possesses us will determine the degree of fear we experience.

I’ve learned that my anger is a product of my fear. And is a sign that I should turn and be honest about that anger and what fear it is revealing. When I discover the fear I am now charged with facing it and subduing it to Christ – putting it under my feet.

Is lust not a product of fear? Jealousy? Anger? Resentment? Judgement? The need to have another ascend the mount for us so that we don’t have to face the truth of our fallen nature?

The Lord has invited us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I think this means that when we desire to repent and come to Christ with all that we have, we must face what makes us fear and tremble. We have to bring Christ into that space and cease hiding from him.

The first fruit of the fall is fear. It caused Adam and Eve to hide themselves, and it causes us to hide in fear as well.  Because we hide ourselves when we feel fear it naturally creates enmity. It creates enmity between family, friends, and all in the family of God.

Few things bring more joy than staring into the abyss of our fears, taking a step forward, and finding that light follows. Subduing fear and darkness with the power of Christ is the great work of redemption on this earth.

“And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am”

 

What is Doctrine?

What is doctrine?

It’s a hard question to answer because the word tends to get employed in a couple of different ways. For it to be meaningful, we should be really clear about what we mean when we say something is doctrinal.

In my experience, doctrine is used in two contexts that look roughly like the following:

1. Doctrine – All eternal truth. Everything that is true is also doctrinal and if something is doctrinal, it is true.

I think this is the most commonly held assumption when referring to something as being doctrinal. As we will explore, using this term is probably what the term doctrine should mean, but if we hold to this we step into all types of problems; especially since what has been considered doctrinal over the the past 200 years of the restoration has shifted, evolved, and in some cases, radically changed.

The second definition is a working definition that probably captures the reality of what we consider doctrinal.

2. Doctrine – What is considered an acceptable teaching in the church at a certain point in time.

Although our doctrine should capture all that is eternally true, what we consider as doctrinal is an infinitesimal portion of the truth. And since what we have considered as true has shifted significantly at times (ie: blacks and the priesthood, plural marriage as a requirement for exaltation, Adam-God doctrine, etc.) the second definition seems the only one that is useful. Doctrine is the body of teachings that is generally acceptable to the church. This is the only working definition that helps us understand how and why the Lord both gives us greater truth, but also takes truth away from the members of the church. It is a changing body of acceptable teachings.

To better understand why we should be clear about using the second definition as the only one that is useful, I’d like to suggest a reason for changes and shifts in what has been considered doctrine.

The Alma 12 Principle

One of my favorite teachings uniquely found in the Book of Mormon is outlined powerfully in the Alma chapter 12.

“And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”

Many can know the mysteries of God, and they are only authorized to teach according to how diligent people are to the light given to them.

“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12: 9-11).

This is such a powerful and simple principle. If you soften your heart and give diligence and heed to light and truth you will grow in the reception of mysteries. If you harden your heart you will have light and truth removed from you until you don’t know anything concerning the mysteries. Alma is careful to define the chains as being in a state of knowing nothing of the mysteries of God.

How does this relate to the question of what is doctrine? It has relevance when we understand that covenant bodies of people act as individuals. The same promises and warnings apply to collective groups of covenant bound people as they do to individuals themselves.

In other words, as the covenant body collectively softens their hearts they collectively increase in the reception of the mysteries of God, and as they collectively harden their hearts they collectively lose mysteries and knowledge.

So, the covenant body of the church is a group of people that is capable of both increasing and decreasing in light and truth. For this reason, only 18 months into the restoration the Lord pronounced a collective condemnation on the church “until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84: 57).

Considering that we will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision in just a few short months, perhaps it will be an opportunity to ponder whether we are 200 years more enlightened than those early years of Joseph Smith, or if our collective understanding has suffered from the aggregate hardening against what was revealed through Joseph.

The answer to this question may be informed by an interview question put to President Hinkley by the San Francisco Chronicle when he was President of the Church.

Question: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?

Answer: [Gordon B. Hinckley] Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.

Because our understanding of mysteries – light, truth, and knowledge – is a function of mysteries either being added to us or taken away; it makes sense that our understanding of what is “doctrinal” also shifts.

For this reason, the definition of doctrine being the currently acceptable and authorized body of teaching in the church most closely reflects the reality of what is taught and considered truth in the church.

What this also suggests is that our doctrine will reflect greater or lesser light and truth depending on how obedient, faithful, and diligent we as a collective covenant body has been to what has been revealed.

Because our body of doctrine shifts according to the obedience of the covenant membership, it is important to consider that what is doctrinal does not include all that is true. What is considered “doctrinal” will of necessity be a very small subset of eternal truth.

Our doctrine has changed over the past 200 years. This is to be expected. And if we are honest with ourselves we can ask some hard questions: How true have we been to the revelations we’ve already received? Are we receiving more? Are we a more enlightened people two centuries since the Father and the Son manifested to Joseph and light burst upon the earth once again?

If we don’t understand that our doctrinal comprehension is going to reflect our collective (un)faithfulness then we will be tempted to go to great lengths to demonstrate that our doctrine has been consistent, and even has progressed in the past 200 years. We will find ourselves in the almost impossibly difficult situation of trying to reconcile prophets who taught at higher levels of light and truth, revealing great and marvelous things, to a people unprepared to receive mysteries in the capacity required to understand them. When facing this doctrinal dilemma, we have marginalized prophets of extraordinary knowledge as simply speaking from their own limited understanding, or even “speculating”.

Because of this doctrinal dilemma, without acknowledging the consequences taught in Alma 12, we may formulate legalistic escape clauses from great knowledge taught in an earlier era by arbitrarily requiring doctrine to be something that must be repeated by many authorities of the church in order to be valid. As if the repetition or a truth or a lie makes it valid by the number of people who repeat it.

A teaching repeated often does not a truth make. (But it does make something in the church a generally accepted teaching.)

Of course the Holy Ghost solves this problem for all of those who repent sufficiently of their hardened hearts, and jealousies and fears sufficient to receive an abundance of the mysteries of God. But it needs to happen collectively if we are to be redeemed from the self-satisfied state of believing we are favored of God when he has signaled his disfavor through four generations of virtual revelatory silence.

Christ also gave us a warning and sign to know if we, in the latter-days, would be condemned. As Moroni recorded:

“8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.

11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people” (3 Nephi 26: 8-11).

Have we received the greater portion? If we haven’t, Christ has taught us it is because we are in a state of condemnation. Christ said he would try our faith. We have yet to receive the fruit of having exercised faith sufficient to remove us from our condemnation.

This should inform us that what we should be very careful as to what we believe about ourselves and our understanding of doctrine. We are never collectively static. We are either increasing or decreasing. And so it seems that when considering how we propose what is, or isn’t, “doctrinal” we should be humble enough to understand that our doctrine may or may not comply to the truth of what the Lord has yet to reveal, or may have already revealed.

For this reason, I am always intently focused on what we consider “doctrine”. But more importantly, I am far more interested in what is true.

Deep Doctrine and Deep Discipleship

Some Church members know just enough about the doctrines to converse superficially on them, but their scant knowledge about the deep doctrines is inadequate for deep discipleship (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). Thus uninformed about the deep doctrines, they make no deep change in their lives. They lack the faith to “give place” (Alma 32:27) consistently for real discipleship. Such members move out a few hundred yards from the entrance to the straight and narrow path and repose on the first little rise, thinking, “Well, this is all there is to it”; and they end up living far below their possibilities. While not as distant as those King Benjamin described “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13) — these people are not drawing closer either.”
– Neal A. Maxwell (Men and Women of Christ. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991, pp. 2-3)

 

What I believe makes the restored gospel, and its vehicle, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, unique is its ability to bring an individual into the fullness of Christ while on the earth.  The ordinances and doctrines are purposeful only insofar as they are pursued and received in their spiritual forms. Baptism is only useful if we are baptized by fire, and endowment is only useful if we receive the blessings in their real and revelatory form along with their ritualistic form.

And the doctrines provided, particularly by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are powerful, but the restored gospel does not benefit us unless we know, study, and obtain those doctrines for ourselves. There is no collective redemption by virtue of being a member of the church – even a really “active” member. One can be totally immersed in the Church and never participate in the gospel offered to them. Of this situation the Lord, asks, “what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift” (D&C 88:33).

The restored gospel is the greatest gift given to us. But are we receiving it? If we receive only a portion then we are like any other church that grants a portion, even a great portion, but doesn’t bring a fullness. Sometimes we in the Church are critical of other religions believing that we have a fullness and they don’t. But if we aren’t participating and pursuing the fullness of the gospel, are we any different than any other creed that rejects a fullness? The church does not give you a fullness by virtue of membership. Membership in the gospel is an invitation to pursue the path of fullness which is only available through the ordinances of the restored gospel in their revelatory form.

Unfortunately, it has been my consistent experience that many within the covenant body resist a deeper understanding of basic doctrines; especially the deep doctrines required for deep discipleship. They are passed off as unnecessary, always proclaiming the basics as the only necessary focus.  But there are no deep doctrines, only deep understanding of basics. And the deeper you understand the more power they have. If we insist on keeping things simple and basic, they will never have the saving power for which they are intended.

Deep, exalting, and eternal knowledge is the defining distinction of the restored gospel. It is not information. Information saves no one. Possessing information regarding doctrine, no matter the fluency in that information, has no salvific effect. It is the knowledge that is infused by the revelation and power of the Holy Ghost that gives us power over every form of darkness. It is the knowledge that is given to us that gives us actual power.

It is easy to receive information. One can read and become verbally fluent in all the written depths of the gospel – but that person can also at the same time be bereft of spiritual knowledge. It requires great faith, repentance, sacrifice, and endurance to be a possessor of redemptive knowledge.

One may claim that the priesthood is the defining difference of the restored gospel. This is true only if we understand what priesthood really is. Priesthood is the order of individuals that have received an endowment of revelatory knowledge sufficient to actually give ordinances with the authority of heaven and to overcome darkness around us. Very few actually possess real priesthood. Most practice the vain form. The real thing requires the sacrifice of all things to produce the faith to receive the knowledge necessary to have real priesthood power.

Some have also confused the need to gain knowledge as a charge to receive secular knowledge – as if professional degrees or worldly study gives you an advantage in the next world. This is a philosophy of man introduced by those that are far more interested in secular knowledge than they are spiritual knowledge. The latter requires such a great cost that they prefer the knowledge of the world that brings them the great telestial gifts – but their reward is limited to this earth.

But this doesnt mean that part of our stewardship on this earth is not to pursue great learning and discipline and knowledge of the things of the earth to be of service to each other. But we should never confuse this as knowledge that has power to save or exalt – this is not knowledge that we will give us an advantage in the eternities.

Why are so many resistant to receive knowledge beyond the information they receive from the basic teachings of the church? Because it suggests they have to work out their salvation in a way that makes them feel deeply comfortable. One of the false appeals of Mormonism is that you are saved when you receive the ordinances along as you remain an active member of the church throughout your life. This is a great latter-day fallacy. It is not membership, but knowledge one receives through the gospel that exalts – specifically the knowledge that God approves of you and has accepted your sacrifice. This is the greatest knowledge we must receive. And it can only be received through revelation.

Nephi lamented:

And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32: 7).

Joseph Smith taught in the Lectures on Faith:

“Having treated the ideas of the character, perfections, and attributes of God in the preceding lectures, we next proceed to treat the knowledge which persons must have that the course of life which they pursue is according to the will of God, so they may be enabled to exercise faith in him unto life and salvation.

2. This knowledge supplies an important place in revealed religion; for it was by reason of it that the ancients were enabled to endure “as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb 11 :27). It is essential for any person to have an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to the will of God to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life. It was this that enabled the ancient Saints to endure all their afflictions and persecutions and to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing (not believing merely) that they had a more enduring substance (Heb 10:34).”

May we seek full discipleship by pursuing the fullness of the gospel which endows us with a fullness of knowledge.

Discerning Priesthood and Priestcraft

As someone ordained into the priesthood I have pondered much about the meaning of priesthood and my own propensity towards priestcraft. The temptation to exercise priestcraft is strong, particularly when it becomes clear how priestcraft can mimic and counterfeit priesthood.

Alma chapter 1 introduces the concept of priestcraft as it was introduced to the covenant body of the church.  It also draws clarity into the intention of priestcraft when Alma identifies the following:

“…there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.”

Preaching the gospel by holding yourself up as a light for anything other than the glory of Christ is a form of priestcraft. Someone practicing priestcraft may not receive their payment in money, but they may seek a different type of currency.

The scripture is careful to point out that priestcraft may be practiced for the sake of honor. Seeking the honors of men is a type of currency, just like money. It includes praise, adulation, celebration, and recognition.

What currency do I seek when teaching the Gospel?

All who hold the priesthood should be careful to ask the question, do I seek to be celebrated? Honored? Praised? Recognized for my contributions to the Lord’s work? As a priesthood holder, am I tempted to draw attention to myself or to seek celebration in my honor? We learn from Joseph Smith that it is the disposition of almost all men, that when they get a little authority (as they suppose) that they will exercise unrighteous dominion by calling attention to themselves and seeking the honors of men, gratifying their pride and their vain ambition – and if they do so in any degree the heavens withdraw themselves, and amen to their power and authority (D&C 121).

This is why many are called but few are chosen. One of those that were chosen was John, the disciple whom Christ loved. I believe he was chosen because he exemplified the spirit of condescension as a servant of God. He said of the Savior:

“He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30)

This is the type that we should hearken to in the priesthood – those who seek to decrease so that the Lord may increase. This is the type of priesthood we should seek to become. I have to always ask myself, do I seek to decrease so that the Lord can increase? The answer is often personally convicting.

True priesthood is to be of the order of those that seek not their own glory or recognition, but lower themselves on the path of sacrifice for others. They seek transparency between their fellow men and God. They seek not to commemorate their works, but to seek the welfare of Zion.

Priesthood will seek the honor of God and great risk of their popularity and acceptance before man (Alma 5: 58).

Priestcraft will seek the honor of men. (D&C 121: 35)

Priesthood will celebrate the works of God. (Moses 1)

Priestcraft will celebrate the works of their own hands. (2 Nephi 12: 8)

Priesthood  “seek(s) not for power, but to pull it down. Not for honor of the world, but for the glory of God” (Alma 60: 36).

Priestcraft will seek pride and will celebrate its own vain ambition. (D&C 121: 37)

Priesthood will teach the consequences of sin and risk being beloved by the people. (2 Nephi 9:48)

Priestcraft will tell the people they should rejoice and not fear and tremble. (Alma 1: 4)

Priesthood will preach Christ and repentance. (Mosiah 18: 20)

“Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29).

Being guilty of priestcraft is an ever present risk. It is the disposition of almost all who are called to the priesthood to practice priestcraft. This is mostly true with myself. I know the temptation within myself is ever present. We must be careful to discern when these things rise up in our own hearts and amidst the covenant people.

Vigilance. Discernment. Repentance. This the order of the day.

Faith and Chaos

Faith is standing on the edge between order and chaos — and then pushing into the chaos. When we act in faith in the face of chaos, we increase the boundary of order. And because it becomes ordered, knowledge is produced.

Knowledge is always the fruit of true faith. It is not comfort in not knowing. It is the power of increasing in knowledge; and it’s the knowledge of chaos that has been ordered.

It’s easy to confuse willfully remaining naive as an act of faith. We may call it faith to say that we are comfortable where we are and our current state of knowledge is sufficient. We may think that the surety of our beliefs no longer require investigation and that this is having faith.  But it is no such thing. Faith occurs on the outer-boundary of our comfort, and it brings us to stare into dark places. It brings us to into the presence of our fears.

Faith is redemptive. It subdues darkness. It subjects our fears. It brings Christ into being.

Faith takes us to a place where we bring into being creation on earth. It is the mode through which the earth is transformed.

Acting in faith is always an act of dying. Over and over. It requires us to allow some perception, some view, some paradigm to die. It requires the self of a moment ago to be let go and to step into new being. It requires a death of our current bearings with the hope that place we are going will be more solid. We die as to the thing that once gave us comfort. And comfort is always the enemy of faith.

Dying is a fearful thing. But we can make acts of faith the dominant impulse of our nature. By acting in faith everyday we will die as to the things of the flesh, and live in the spirit – in other words, we will order chaos.

 

Confronting the Dread of the Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Putting Our Houses in Order

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

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

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

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

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

Priesthood by Hugh Nibley

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

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

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

What does one have to do to be chosen?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fire Observed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Christ and Transformation

Some thoughts from a conversation with Mark Kehoe this morning…

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

Becoming as a Little Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reclaiming the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah prophesied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Proxy

The gift of prophecy is a sacred and powerful lifeline to God’s children on earth. Thus prophets, in all of their forms, are of paramount importance. Revealing God’s word, giving a voice of warning, and foretelling the future are great blessings to people on earth.

In the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, Apostles receive keys that give them the invitation and authorization to give commandments to the covenant body on earth. These apostolic keys are necessary for providing ordinances and officiating in the Lord’s work.

We also sustain Apostles who have priesthood keys that they may have the gifts of prophesy, seership, and revelation. These gifts are available to apostles who are authorized to deliver God’s commandments to covenant Israel. Like all callings in the church, the gifts associated with those callings are available as those called fulfill the measure of their calling and qualify to receive those gifts. We should give our whole hearts, minds, and sustaining might to those called to carry that heavy burden so that them may have all of the gifts and abilities available to lead the covenant people.

Hearing the voice of a prophet is one of my fundamental desires. I desire to receive revelation and desire that the covenant people may grow in light and truth through the leadership of God’s appointed stewards and key-holders.

When Moses received the fullness of his endowment (Moses chapter 1) he desired all of the children of Israel to also receive for themselves the great endowment of being in the Lord’s presence while in the flesh (D&C 84). When the children of Israel rejected that invitation they entered into a condemnation. The Higher Priesthood was removed from them, which was the power that brought them into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh (D&C 84: 23-24; D&C 107: 19).

The children of Israel rejected the invitation to personally come into the presence of the Lord and therefore rejected the priesthood. They no longer desired a prophet that would lead them into a fullness of the Gospel, they desired a proxy that would go on their behalf.

When a people reject the invitation to come into the presence of God while in mortality they reject the prophet and seek a proxy. They love the man they call prophet because he, in their view, fulfills the need to have someone speak to God on their behalf.

Are we as the covenant people of the Lord embracing the invitation to come into presence of the Lord while in mortality with all of our hearts? Are we desiring to be endowed with priesthood power? Are we seeking to receive our actual temple endowment?

Or is this lost knowledge? Is the invitation being made to the covenant people? Are they aware of this primary purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood?

Do we really desire a prophet?

Or do we desire a proxy?

Do we want someone to go on our behalf, talk with God, and give us a direction through an intermediary?

This has been the dominant desire of Israel for most of its existence. Has anything changed in the Latter-Days?

It seems that many of us in the Church rejoice in the presence of a prophet. Do we rejoice because we are prepared to be led into the presence of the Lord and are being guided to do so, or do we rejoice that the pressure is off?

Do we rejoice in the prophet because it means that God affirms us in our unbelief and we no longer have to perform the sacrifice or develop the faith to receive of actual power in the Priesthood?

One cannot receive the power of the priesthood unless one is walking the path into the presence of the Lord outlined in the temple. The veil of the temple represents the presence of the Lord on earth, and receiving power in obtained only on the path that leads to his presence.

If you rejoice in the presence of a prophet and sing with the House of Israel in cheers for the Prophet and “sustain” him, what is the cause of your rejoicing?

Are you excited because of what the Prophet is teaching? Or are you excited that there is a proxy releasing you from the heavy lifting of piercing the veil in this lifetime?

If you answer the former, how familiar are you with the words of President Nelson?

You can count on at least 4-6 general addresses a year from him. Do you know what he says? Or is his presence as a proxy alone cause to rejoice?

Do you believe that all you need to know is being delivered to you? Are you rejoicing that if the Prophet hasn’t directed you to do something specific on your path of faith that you are still on a path of exaltation?

Do you believe that staying in the “good ship Zion” (which you should do) ensures your exaltation? That if you live in the shadow of the prophet somehow you will be saved?

In reality, do you thank God for a Proxy in these Latter-Days?

For all of those that rejoice and are excited about President Nelson, how many are actually doing what he has counseled?

He has told us to stop seeking power in our professions and to seek power in the priesthood.

He has told us to stop seeking wealth and to seek priesthood power.

He has told us to seek repentance every day.

We have warnings and invitations, and yet the excitement reflects not the content of his message but his presence as a proxy.

How often is it discussed in our Sunday meetings the bold assertion from President Nelson:

“In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity” ( The Price of Priesthood Power, Russel M. Nelson).

The italics in that quote from President Nelson were inserted by him, not me.

Many dismiss this invitation, the scriptural invitations , temple doctrine, and teachings from prophets such as Joseph Smith to come into Christ’s presence while in the flesh as metaphorical and symbolic. I’m afraid that those who do so will find that their own admission into God’s Celestial Kingdom will remain symbolic and metaphorical. In other words, they will experience the glory of God from afar but will not receive the reality of the promises.

Just as Moses could not dissuade the covenant body from making him a proxy, neither can President Nelson compel us to seek the face of Christ. It is our collective decision to either accept the invitation into the higher priesthood delivered by President Nelson and the collective body of prophets, or to make an idol of our chief apostle.

Taking his priesthood on in name, but denying the invitation is an act of blasphemy. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain because we take his Holy Order in vain. He is patient with his covenant people, but eventually their vanity and blasphemies force him to in mercy and grace strip them of their covenant protection and allow the enemies of God to stir them into repentance.

Moses as the great prophet archetype shows us that a prophet of God is always inviting us into the presence of the Lord, or is giving us preparatory commandments to do so. If the Higher Priesthood is present on the earth, then this is the invitation.

Will we seek to truly follow the Prophets (all those that have delivered this invitation) or will we maintain the condemnation placed upon us in 1832 because we have sought a proxy to enter into his presence on our behalf?

Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. How long will the Lord allow us to chose whether we will follow a prophet or a proxy?

Staying with the Covenant People

Last night I met the mother of a friend that I haven’t seen for some time. She shared with me that my friend and her husband had left the church because of their belief that they were having experiences that went beyond what the church was teaching. She also wondered if I had left the church because she knew we shared many of the same views of the gospel. I shared with her that I have never been more committed to the Lord’s church. The more I go down my path to Christ I find myself more and more centered in His, the Lord’s, restored church.

I don’t know all the reasons why my friend left the church since we haven’t spoken in well over a year. I don’t want make wrong assumptions, but I do want to speak to the general reason that many, many of my friends and acquaintances that have left the church because of their journey to Christ.

It’s hard to have close friends that are of great faith and passion for truth remove themselves from the church that put them on this path. They remove themselves from the church that restored the teachings and great scriptures that informed their seeking higher truths. They abandon the very structure that invited, taught, and inspired their journey to the presence of Christ. They abandon the priesthood keys through which the doctrines of the fulness of the Gospel have flowed.

And because of imperfection and dissonance between the great doctrines of the fulness of the gospel and its members, and even its leaders, they throw out babies with the bath water. And as this mother sorrowfully acknowledged to me last night, there is a lot of bathwater in the church.

But so what? This is almost always the case with the Lord’s covenant people.

And it is important to understand that the Church is the Lord’s covenant people. And as we understand how the Lord relates to his covenant people we will know the purpose and path of his church.

When in the history of the Lord’s covenant people has there not been friction, condemnation, struggle, disobedience, lack of faith, false beliefs, ease, and disinterest in receiving a fullness? The answer is, almost always. The groups of saints that do not descend into unbelief go on to create Zion societies, as in the time of Enoch or 3rd Nephi, took a great and long journey to get there. Or they experienced great destruction in order to be prepared for the higher and glorious state of Zion.

Just because you’ve been awakened to the great promises of the gospel does it mean you turn and rend the covenant body that hasn’t had the same experience?! Why would you be so quick to judge and leave a people that the Lord, himself, refuses to leave?

If a covenant people hasn’t ascended to a Zion state does it mean they are no longer a covenant people? Is it the case that unless a covenant people are in a Zion state that their future is hopeless and they are cut off?

Of course not! The work of the Lord is to patiently work and toil and labor with His people across many generations to prepare them to receive a fullness. He will do anything possible to bring forth good fruit. THIS IS HIS WORK! Those that leave his covenant people and abandon them because they don’t walk the same path are foolish. If they knew the Lord of the vineyard and his servants they would know that they abandon the very vineyard in which that they are called to work!

In Jacob 5 we read an exhaustive allegory of the Lord’s dealing with his covenant people. He goes through great effort, work, and long-suffering and patience to prepare his covenant people to receive of his fullness. This work spans many generations. He works and digs, and plants, and restructures, and pleads, and preaches, and does all sorts of work until there is absolutely no more hope that he can’t recover any more of his children from his covenant structure until he allows his vineyard to finally be burned.

If the Lord refuses to abandon his vineyard and labors and sorrows over it until the very end, how do those who profess to follow Christ abandon it so quickly when it doesn’t live up to their standards or expectations?

True followers of Christ do not leave the covenant body. They stay with it, they pray for it, they are patient and long-suffering with it. A true disciple of Christ is willing to suffer the judgements and mocking and scorn, and misunderstanding of those in the covenant body that persecute them for striving to partake of the Tree of Life.

Part of the path of Christ is enduring those in the Church that will persecute us for doing so. It is just part of the path. We should understand it and be humble and meek about it.

We should understand that the Lord allows there to be those of both belief and unbelief in his Church. It is part of the pattern.

Consider Jacob 5: 65

And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

The Lord also allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the very end. It is the pattern of the Lord’s work to allow his people to struggle in their unbelief and in not living up to the full covenant so that he can produce as much good fruit as possible.

If we follow Christ we also make his work our own work. We make his path our own. And his path is to do all that he can to redeem his people. His path is one of long-suffering with those that are unbelieving in his church.

Central to the path of Christ is enduring with and loving those that persecute, judge, or mock us within the Church for seeking higher things – for seeking a fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. Those of unbelief who may judge us or even persecute us within the church may do so because they honestly believe they are doing the right thing. We must love and extend grace to those who do so. It is the way we invite them to Christ. If we are truly after the holy order of the Son of God, we will do his works, which is suffer and endure abuse and judgment from within the covenant people in order to invite all into his mercy and grace. We must suffer and endure as our Savior so that his work may be accomplished.

We should never elevate ourselves above our brothers and sisters because we think we are more favored of the Lord. This is the path and temptation of Lucifer. This is his doctrine. We are not above anyone. In fact, if we are truly of the order of Christ, we understand that we are the least and servant of all.

The path of the true servant of Christ is to do all that one can, no matter the difficulty and discomfort, to toil with those that are called by virtue of being part of his covenant people, to bring them into a redeemed society.

Zion is hard. It requires us repenting and becoming fully sanctified from the things of this world. If we are coming to Christ he will take us along a path of revealing within us everything that is not Zion. He will show unto us our weakness. If we are on the path to eternal life we must endure every test and have every pride stripped out of us. Particularly the pride that asserts that since we have had spiritual experiences we can then stand in judgement against the Lord’s vineyard.

We must repent of the deception that following Christ leads us to leave his covenant people. This is not good fruit. It is not the path of the faithful servants to whom the Lord says:

And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5: 75).

There are many false spirits and false Christs that are seeking to destroy the Lord’s elect. As we walk the covenant path we will find the deceptions of the Adversary increase in sophistication and in power. If we are not stripped of pride, and if we do not seek to be meek and lowly of heart, and willing to suffer all things in the name of Christ – if we seek to vaunt or elevate ourselves in the least degree, we will be rent and deceived by powerful and deceptive spirits.

We must repent of the impulse to pridefully judge or even abandon the covenant people by elevating ourselves above them. And we must discern and reject the luring deceptions of the Adversary that teaches us that our path is above the Church and beyond the covenant people. If we understand the path to which we are called, we understand that is never the case.

The path of meekness and lowliness is the only path of safety. Willingness to long-suffer with the Lord’s covenant people is the fruit and disposition of a true-follower of Christ.

May we faithfully walk and endure that path.

 

 

 

The Keepers of a Covenant

We are to be keepers of covenants. In other words, not only are we to fulfill the terms of a covenant, we are to protect them and retain their holy form – in their pure and unadulterated condition. In this sense we, as keepers of a covenant, keep and protect them in their purity.

When a covenant is made impure by changing the terms and making the signs of the covenant (ordinances) out of order, then we become subject to judgments, because God cannot be mocked.

God is love. But only those that love God will be redeemed in that love. And for those that take his name and words in vain, he will divide with a sword. Those that are not willing to be hated by all for his namesake is not worthy of him. To those that love the world and are ashamed of his name He comes not in peace, but he comes with a sword (Matthew 10:34).
When we force God into our own image by devaluing his word to fit our own works of darkness we break the covenant. We are no longer keepers and protectors of a holy order. We usurp that order to justify our wickedness and fleshy desires. Do we preach false doctrines because we love the honor and the vain things of the world? (Alma 1:16)
For this very reason, Nephi identified the occupants of the Great and Spacious building as the House of Israel (1 Nephi 11:35).
Silence speaks a sermon. Who will keep the covenant? Who will be a protector and righteous keeper of the covenants? Do we only want our keepers of the covenants to preach to us smooth things? Do we desire they preach to us deceits? (Isaiah 30:10)
Who is the tail? And who will be cut off because they hearken to the tail? (2 Nephi 19: 14-16).
Or will the children of Zion discern those that are hypocrites and liars? (D&C 63: 38-39)

Seeking Mystery

Mysteries are not unknowable things. They are things that are infinitely knowable. In other words, mysteries are things that have limitless boundaries of understanding and depth. Eternal things – truth, ordinance, covenants, principles, archetypes, and individuals have eternal depth and meaning. The bounds of the knowledge regarding eternal mysteries extend through the eternities.
God is a mystery because he is infinitely knowable. There are no bounds to your ability to learn unlimited things about him and her.
So are things like baptism and sacrament; they have limitless layers and depths to their meanings.
Understanding things like the archetypical account of Adam and Eve have unlimited depths learning and understanding – because it is the account of the fall, which is a fundamental pillar of eternal redemption.
Seeking mystery is not seeking things that are forbidden or that are unknowable; it is the pursuit of being redeemed by virtue of the endowment of spiritual knowledge. Knowledge is the saving principle of eternity. Knowledge is the power by which darkness is put under your feet, which is another definition of exaltation.
The process of exaltation is the process of receiving mysteries. It is coming into the revelation of God and knowing for ourselves. We come to know ourselves precisely to the degree that God is revealed to us.
The Adversarial doctrine of rejecting mysteries is powerful to the natural man because it does two fundamental things: it comforts the natural man by doctrinally justifying their desire to persist in their natural state – this is why so many, even those that profess to be of the church of God, teach and abide this doctrine – it relieves them from the invitation to put off the natural man.
The fruit of a person who is putting off the natural man is that they will always receive mystery.
A dominant sign that someone is born again is that they become greater possessors of knowledge.  They have a deeper understanding of the things of God. And they understand that the Holy Ghost performs two fundamental purposes: He reveals mysteries to you and he sanctifies you in order for you to be able to receive mystery.
The doctrine to rejecting mystery is the exact power of Satan to bind us by the chains of hell (Alma 12:9). Those that dissuade us from receiving the mysteries of God are preaching an Adversarial doctrine.
In wisdom, however, those that have mysteries will caution those that desire greater light and truth to receive it through the only channel it an be received, and by the laws that govern that channel. The Holy Ghost is the only channel through which we can receive mystery. And we can only receive mystery through the Holy Ghost to the degree we are cleansed by the sanctifying blood of Christ, we humble ourselves before God and keep his commandments with all of our hearts.
Those that reject mystery will rely on the vain forms of ordinances void of the power of godliness, and will practice the type of priestcraft that has the form of Godliness but denies the power thereof.
The priesthood is the power by which we come into possession of mystery

Becoming Light

Law is light. It is not a metaphor. It is a metaphysical reality. So laws are real. They are physical. And so if we live a law we possess the light of that law. If we want to keep a law, we must come into possession of the light.
Because we are beings of light we are, to one degree or another, a living manifestation of law. We are the law to the degree that we possess light. This is why Christ IS the law. He possess all light and therefore all laws are subject to him – because he is the law itself.
What happens when we break a law? We act against it if it is in us, or if it is being offered we resist it.  If we deny or resist light we become divested of it. This is why the revelation explains, “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience” (D&C 93:39).
So, how do we keep a commandment? How do we keep a law? We become possessors of light.
I have to ask myself, what laws do I struggle keeping? Where is my obedience lacking? And when the questions are asked it is natural for me to try to keep commandments by discipline without receiving the light. For example, if I overeat or am gluttonous (which I often am), and I try to keep the commandment to deny myself, I can exert a lot of energy to discipline my flesh to “keep a commandment.” But is it possible to keep something in form, but not in spirit? Absolutely.
We can possess the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. This is, perhaps, a definition of hypocrisy. Acting out a form without possessing the light.
How do I change? How do I keep a law that exists at a higher level of light that I know possess? First, it is important to realize that you cannot by taking thought increase your own light by your own power.
It must come from God. By his grace, he gives you light above the level that you now possess it. It must be gifted. It must be infused.
If we struggle with disobedience, or habits, or addictions, or weakness. We must learn how to come to a Christ that we can receive and possess the light of the law that we need to keep.
Instead of trying to fight overeating by my own discipline, I ask the Lord to give me the light associated with that law so it is part of my nature. And if it is part of your nature it will come to you naturally. You don’t have to fight. It becomes who you are.
 
So, how do we become possessors of greater light?  How do we become possessors of the law?
 
For starters, we make a choice that we will yield to light in all of its forms. We choose obedience in the sense that we will yield to every prompting and invitation to light.
 
We can also pray with all the energy of heart to be filled with love. Which is light. We can go to God and ask him to fill us with his light. And then we make the sacrifice of rejecting every form of darkness offered to us.
 
If we make the choice every day to single-mindedly yield to light at whatever sacrifice, the Lord will expedite the transformation of our natures at a supernatural pace.
 
And we, too, can become possessors of a fullness of law. We can become possessors of the fullness of the light of Christ.

Working Out Your Salvation

“Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)

This verse, lately, has become a favorite. It’s invitation is distilling upon me every day. Two things strike me about this that are so powerful.

1. We are to begin our search of the Lord by coming to him with all of our hearts. This is the first step. We have to make a decision to go all in. ALL OF OUR HEARTS.

If we don’t decide to go all in our life becomes a long belated process of slowly choosing if we will serve God or Mammon. We are luke warm. But, if we decide to go all in with all of our hearts we receive the next invitation:

2. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

The meaning of this is becoming clearer to me. I am starting to understand that becoming born again is nothing to be trifled with. And it requires a wrestle. An encounter with the divine and your own nothingness. It requires you to face the stark reality of his greatness and your unworthiness. And to call upon him for the great work of redemption to be wrought in your heart and spirit. This is not slow. This is not a casual, imperceptible experience. This is facing the reality of your fallen nature and Christ’s power to save you. This is about having the revelation of what fruits of repentance must be brought forth in order to receive the witness of your redemption.

How I Navigated My Faith Crisis – Part 2: The ABC’s of Finding Truth

This may be hard for some, but I start with a premise. And the premise is there is a God, and He wants you to have knowledge. He wants to give you answers. He wants you to be completely clear on everything.

I think you need to start here. If you don’t know if there is a God, or at least hope there is a God, that is fine too. As long as you give space for the possibility. If you’ve come to the conclusion that there is no God then that requires a completely different conversation.

But let’s start in the place that we hope there is a God and that God wants you to have knowledge.

My wife is a therapist and taught me this principle. And it is extraordinarily helpful.

The Lord wants you to know the truth of all things. So, if you have a question about the practice of plural marriage, or the doctrine’s taught by Brigham Young, or whether Joseph was a charismatic product of his superstitious backwoods community, or about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Every single question you have has an answer. Every one. There are no exceptions.

But how do we get there? Are you angry that members of the church don’t share your concern for the truth of these things? Are you angry that the church is more concerned about soft-lit-marketing of happy families than exploring head strong into the hardest questions? Are you concerned that the church authorities don’t seem to have answers themselves?

My response is, who cares? Seriously. It doesn’t matter about who thinks what, and how the church has responded. We will address that later. The question is, do your questions have actual answers? Can you really know the truth? Clear the table. Get rid of your bitterness. Let go of the anger. You have to live above this. And be open and allow the Lord to guide your learning.

Because the answer is, yes. Absolutely. Independent of other people, the body of the church, or even leadership, you can have answers.

The challenge is this. The questions you have most likely have a lot of a lot of prerequisite building blocks necessary to get to the point where your answer is available.

In other words, if you want to know the truth about plural marriage, there may be five, or ten, or one hundred things you need to first learn about before you can get to that answer.

And if the heavens are closed to you, it is most likely because you are asking the wrong question (or the right question at the wrong time).

The ABC’s of Learning the Gospel

In order to learn “C”, you first need to be taught “A” and “B”. This is the ABC’s of learning the gospel.

Maybe your question is a “K” level question. Which means you first need to learn A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J first, before you are prepared to learn about “K”.

You have to learn the preparatory things in order to get your answers. But what is wonderful about this process is that each step opens up a new level of understanding and knowledge that is deeply rewarding. Often the process of getting an answer to a question provides so much knowledge you never anticipated you could know. You will feel blessed beyond measure.

But this process takes humility. Because often we are upset and confused and sometimes feel betrayed, and then we become deeply distrusting of everything, and our cognitive dissonance paints our whole religious view of the world.

But if we choose to be humble and patient (the truth always requires this) and learn to ask the right questions – the first questions – the Lord will teach us as fast as we are capacitated to receive. He doesn’t play games or enjoy our floundering and anguishing. He wants us to be full of understanding and free from lies and falsehood.

Let me give an example. First, meditate on what is the most important, most pressing question that hangs over you. Let’s say it is plural marriage.

In this case my suggestion is you go to the Lord and first clear the table. Put yourself into a position of being completely open to how the Lord is going to teach you. And remove your hurdles and conditions from God. Come with an open canvas.

And ask this question: What is the first thing I need to learn to get my answer? What is my first step?

If you are sincere, and if you are willing to pay the price for knowledge, the Lord will give you a step. He will lead or inspire or prompt you.  He will provide a unique path.

You may feel to start reading a random book. (On one occasion, I was led to read Tony Robbins, of whom I am not a fan, but it was remarkable how this helped me on a question I was working on.)

You may be led to study things that seem completely irrelevant. Or, you may not feel that you have received a prompting at all, but someone suggests you read an article. Or someone challenges you to pray more, or to read scripture, or a Dr. Seuss book, or study ancient motifs of the creation archetype in different religions. I don’t know what it will be because your path will be unique to you and to how God is going to teach you.

Your path may also at times have nothing to do with study. It will include a repentance process (be careful not to assume a traditional view of repentance here – keep reading). You may feel a need to be more kind to your spouse, or more honest at work, or to give up a favorite indulgence. I guarantee that your path will require these types of promptings as well. It won’t be all about studying. It will be about all of the things you need to do to get knowledge. It may require you to stop blaming someone or taking offense.

It may require you to honestly love the people in your ward that you think are victims of the problems with which you struggle. Or to really forgive and love with your whole heart a church leader that is prideful or even dangerously ignorant.

It will require you to face your own self-honesty. You may have to confront in painful ways the duplicity in your own heart.

It may require you giving up your politics. Are you ready for that? Is that part of the cost you are willing to pay?

Whatever the prompting, whatever the impression, whatever the sacrifice, you must act on it. You must exercise faith in the entire process.

It may sound weird, but the Lord may require you to reconcile with a parent or someone you had a falling out with before you can learn about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon.

You may have to give up sugar, learn to fast, and study eastern philosophy and read the entire Journal of Discourses as part of your path.

You may need to go on anti-depressants, start exercising, stop looking at pornography, and read the Book of Mormon every day for a year before you get your next step.

But it will come. You have to trust the process and understand that the Lord will fill you with truth, but your whole heart and mind has to be prepared to receive it. He will prepare you in a unique way.

Have you read so much church history that in your mind you think there is no possible way that someone can convince you otherwise? This is a massive stumbling block. This will require the humility to have what you think you know completely vulnerable to being reworked, or even knocked down. You have to be completely open to this possibility.

Start where you are, and just start asking the question. What do I need to learn first? What do I need to do first? Write down any prompting. Follow the inclinations that come to you.

Whatever it is, take the promptings and things that God puts in your way. You do not know how much time or how many steps need to be completed before he can answer your questions, but you need to be committed to the path, no matter what it looks like. And no matter what it produces.

What if the Lord needs to completely rework your understanding of the restored Gospel? What if there is there are things in your tradition that are completely false, and the Lord needs to to teach you the truth about it without putting you into a complete existential tailspin? You don’t know what you don’t know. So trust in the process and be prepared for your reality to be reorganized.

Learning about something like plural marriage may be a process that takes you two weeks. It may seriously take you five years. But he will teach you if you are committed to learning every preparatory principle and teaching.

And this doesn’t assume plural marriage is a true principle. It doesn’t assume it is false, either. It assumes that you don’t know anything about anything. And that for us to learn the truth of the matter, a lot of gaps need to be filled in by a source that we can trust. And that is God. And He is going to change you along the way. He cares as much about you as he does the collective body of members of the church.

You are not only going to learn something in this process, you are going to be transformed.

If you are a true seeker of him, and are willing to follow truth at any sacrifice, he will open up to you. And he will enlighten and transform you.

 

 

How I Navigated My Faith Crisis: Part 1 – Clearing the Table

I’ve always been a very active member of the church and have always been very passionate about studying the gospel. While in high school I enjoyed going on missionary “splits” often and was involved in sharing the gospel with many of my friends.

My mission, even though was hard for me, was a highlight of my life and an extraordinary experience. After coming home I went to BYU and had an even better experience teaching in the MTC for two years.

BYU, for me, was more about religious exploration than anything else. For this reason I majored in Philosophy so that I could work for and take as many classes as possible from Terry Warner. His work on self-deception changed my life and framed my spiritual journey more than anything.

After BYU I continued my intense gospel study while in business school and living in Arizona while single in my 20’s. During this time I taught gospel doctrine class for 5 years or so, served on the Stake High Council, and continued to push and expand my gospel understanding. During this time and while I was at BYU I had a series of sacred spiritual experiences that motivated me to seek deeper and ask harder questions about the spiritual possibilities available in this life.

What I experienced during this period was very difficult for me. The gospel that I was being taught at church, and the gospel I was experiencing personally, seemed to grow apart. I found myself less and less interested in church (even though I was always active) and increasingly interested in the things I was learning in scripture and privately.

It should be noted that at this time I wasn’t following anyone else, or reading other books, or persuaded by gospel authors. It was exclusively what I was reading in the scriptures.

In my early 30’s I finally married and around the same time became deeply alarmed about church history that I had always been told was fabrications of anti-Mormons.

So, as with many people, I read a lot of church history, and developed deep anger and cynicism. I felt the fundamental narratives had been untruthful, and I was also discouraged that there were so few people that could address these questions. The church seemed to be an organization driven by collusion group think, unable to address serious questions with everyone reading from the same script.

I had too many spiritual experiences to leave the church, but I also lost all respect and was deeply distrusting of church historians and leadership. I felt the church lacked the institutional humility and transparency that it required of its members, and therefore were losing much of their membership, including me.

The Turn Around

I knew that I couldn’t carry my anger forever, and I also couldn’t be a wet dog shaking my cynicism and bitterness over everyone in Sunday school classes and in groups of family and friends. I had two siblings leave the church during this time and in many ways didn’t blame them. In some ways, I thought they were more honest than me by separating from a church where the cultural practices were far more negative than positive. This put me in a place that I need to either go one way or the other.

At this time I decided to pray about what exactly to do and to act on it. And these prayers gave me two impressions.

The first was to study Joseph Smith. Thoroughly. To know him inside and out. To become completely absorbed in the founding prophet of this dispensation and what exactly he thought.

The second was to clear the table. Take everything I thought I knew – all of my assumptions, knowledge, history – all of my gospel understanding, and clear it off the table. I shelved all of it, to the degree that is possible. And I decided to start studying the gospel for the first time, as if I didn’t know anything.

So this led me to the scriptures and Joseph Smith. I started asking questions like, what is faith? What exactly is repentance? What is a prophet? What is priesthood? And on and on…

And this process was exhilarating. What I learned was that I knew absolutely nothing about the gospel. Nothing. I always arrogantly thought that I knew the gospel inside and out, and that there wasn’t much else to learn. But what I did learn was that I had no idea about anything. It was as if I was discovering a new religion.

And the reason was I was reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. And the Doctrine and Covenants. Really reading it. Not assuming that I already knew what it was talking about, but looking at every word as if I had never come across it.

For example, when I read the first passage of the book I asked new questions. Here is the well known passage:

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.”

These are the questions that this verse produced:

  1. What was the learning of Nephi’s Father?
  2. What does it mean to be highly favored of the Lord?

And most importantly,

3. What are mysteries of God?

And so the Book of Mormon radically changed my spiritual growth. I felt that I was learning a different religion.

As my study continued I found the spirit guiding me to ask questions like,

What does it mean to be born again?

What is a baptism of fire?

What is the Holy Ghost?

What is a prophet?

What is the atonement?

What is an ordinance?

What is priesthood?

What is a temple?

And so on…

And then the Lord introduced me to Andrew Ehat. For those of you who have not heard that name he is a foremost scholar on Joseph Smith in the church, and is the editor of Words of Joseph Smith, the most comprehensive collection of the sermons of Joseph in a singe collection.

Not only did Andrew have a second-to-none understanding of Church history and the doctrine, he also had the spirit and faith of someone that was a servant of the Lord. He was someone I could trust. And I spent hundreds of hours with him getting to know his mind and the mind and heart of Joseph Smith. He was able to help me discover new heights of understanding while being faithful to both the historical record, the correct doctrine, and the Lord’s prophets and apostles.

Because of a renewed discovery of scripture, Andrew and uncovering Joseph, I also discovered the theology and power of the temple for the first time.

The Great Principle of Revelation

Even though I learned, and had re-formulated for me, a completely new understanding of the gospel and the church, there was one primary principle that changed everything. I believe this is the single most important thing a person can do if they want answers and want to navigate their faith crisis.

It is found in this verse:

“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them” (2 Nephi 9: 42).

If a person wants revelation it is governed on the principle of a broken heart. What a broken heart means in this sense is that a person is willing to let go of any position, pay any price, be open to completely receiving and obeying the truth before the Lord will reveal it to you.

And you have to decide this upfront. It’s the first move.

If you put conditions on the Lord that he has to meet your expectations before you will believe or accept truth, he will withhold from you. If you set up hurdles for him to cross before you will accept him, or you hang conditions on your faith, you will be stuck until you let them go.

If you hold on to a doctrinal view, or a political view, or a social view, as a requirement for God to meet before you will follow him, you will get no where.

For example, if you expect God to affirm your intellectual requirements, or your views on social justice, or your political perspectives – or if God has to be prove to you that he is in the image you have made of him – he will not open up to you.

If he must agree to your views on gay marriage, or feminism, or plural marriage, or infallibility of prophets, or that Brigham Young was a scoundrel, or Bruce McConkie is the final word on truth –  in whatever way you have dug in, whatever it is, you will not connect with him in a way that he can endow you with knowledge.

Everything must be on the table.

You cannot put any conditions on God.

This may be the hardest, but most important thing to do. But it is the primary requirement.

What are the conditions that God has to meet before you will accept him? Or will you accept him without qualification, at any sacrifice, and follow the truth no matter the implication?

If you can get to this place then there is hope. There is a path. And he can start to teach you.

If you will submit in prayer, and allow the spirit to soften your heart so that you can let go of your anger, conditions, and expectations, he can prepare your heart to receive answers.

And he can answer every single question you have. Every one. Not only that, he desires to give you the knowledge that you desire, but it cannot come with bounds and conditions.

You must prepare your heart to receive the word of God. And if you come to him holding nothing back he will open up to you. He doesn’t disappoint.

And it will be glorious.

(This is the first of a series of essays on how to navigate a faith crisis. In my faith crisis I learned a new way of understanding and synthesizing history, doctrine, and culture. This series will explore many of these areas and principles.)

The Compass and the Square

An ancient symbol that is found in various traditions and throughout history is the symbol of the compass. It is often used anciently to represent the female goddess. The purpose of a compass is to create a circle, which entails something with out beginning and without end. It is often the symbol of the heavens, the intangible, spiritual, and ethereal.

The compass is significant in ancient tradition because it also symbolized that which is eternal, and more particularly, something not of this world. These different meanings can be interpreted in terms of its opposite – what it is not; and that is earthly.

The corresponding, but opposite symbol often used with the compass is that of the square. The square has a variety of historical meanings; most of them relating to action. The square often denotes a state of being moral, true to principles, and exact in performing duties and commitments. As a tool, the square is used to make things straight, to build, and to measure. It has in its origins symbolism that denotes that which is finite, earthly, measurable, external, terrestrial, and temporal. It is also symbolic of masculinity and earthliness.

The square and the compass are often conjoined because the square is one-quarter part of the circle. As shown in this diagram:

circle square

This is also a symbol of the four corners of the earth inside a sphere (made by a compass). It is also anciently symbolic of the four fundamental essences: water, air, earth, and fire. The pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander originally put this forward as a philosophical explanation of the primary elements of earth; or the terrestrial sphere.

The fifth essence, ether, is symbolized as the sphere; and represents the heavens and that which fills the upper regions of space. This heavenly, cosmic essence also denotes purity and that which is non-material.

Combining the four essential essences of fire, wind, earth, and water, with the fifth essence – ether or the heavens, we derive the Latin term, quintus essentia. This is where we get the word quintessence, which means “the essence of a thing in its purest and most concentrated form.” It also has a connotation of wholeness.

This quintessence is symbolized in the conjoining of the compass and the square.  There are two fundamental components that can be identified in this symbolism. There is the feminine component of the compass, and the masculine component of the square.

The compass, traditionally symbolized the female goddess; she who rules the heavens and the non-physical sphere. She is infinite, eternal, spiritual, and intangible.

The square, traditionally symbolized masculinity, earthly, finite, material, and the tangible.

Together these two symbols combine to make quintessence; perfection and wholeness. It strikes a perfect balance of masculinity and femininity.

Consider the balance of the dialectic:

Square          Compass

Male                Female

Finite               Infinite

Ephemeral       Eternal

Material          Immaterial

Earthly            Heavenly

Apparent         Transparent

Bound             Boundless

Measurable     Immeasurable

These traditional symbols symbolize spiritually the roles and nature of men and women.

Understanding how these combine and balance is to also understand the Priesthood and its purpose.

In the Genesis account of the Creation Moses writes, “ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

Man and woman, united, constitute God’s image.

Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:7).

Calling them Adam, or Adamah (Hebrew), “means from the ground,” tying them to this earthly sphere. Adam, capturing the priesthood role of his perfect counterpart as “the Mother of all living”, named his wife Eve.

This is especially important to note, for the names will reveal a balance in the priesthood, that when combined, is in the image of God.

Temples are the place in which heaven and earth meet. It is where women and men also meet. It is the place that we come in to at-one-ment. Male and female, earth and heaven, and Elohim and their children.

As the woman represents the spiritual and ethereal, it leads me to believe that she is not a natural resident in a fallen world. Her creative powers and priestess-hood is fully expressed in an un-fallen world.

We learn in the scriptures that to enter into the highest realms of the Celestial Kingdom one must enter into the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage. This marriage is an ordinance of this highest sort because it is combining man and woman, flesh and spirit, and Earth and Heaven. It is the sanctifying ordinance of Godhood. It is to become Elohim.