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.

 

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 8

The Prayer of Consecration

We pass from thinking of God as part of our life to the realization that we are part of his life.”
― Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home

 

In this stage of the prayer process we’ve just come to a point where the spirit flows to us without compulsory means because we have entered into a state of having a broken heart and contrite spirit.

We are full of desire, and all of our thoughts and feelings are aligned with the Holy Ghost.

At this point a person can start to review all of their blessings and consecrate them to the Lord. The principle of consecration is explored at length here.

Consecration is the process of making everything in your life sacred. It is taking all of the things in your awareness in which the Lord has blessed you and it is giving it to the Lord. Then you share in it as a steward.

Your money, cars, home, education, mind, food, children, spouse, career and especially your time can all be consecrated. And that which we aren’t able to wholeheartedly consecrate, the spirit often takes us through a process of having it removed or discarded.

Elder Maxwell taught:

In pondering and pursuing consecration, understandably we tremble inwardly at what may be required.  Yet the Lord has said consolingly, “My grace is sufficient for you” (D&C 17:8).  Do we really believe Him?  He has also promised to make weak things strong (see Ether 12:27).  Are we really willing to submit to that process?  Yet if we desire fulness, we cannot hold back part!” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 38)

As we are led in the spirit of how to consecrate all that we have we enter into a new experience of freedom – understanding that all belongs to the Father and we no longer are seeking to build our own kingdom on earth.

In this process of transitioning into a consecrated state we begin to see the only purpose of our life is to build our Father’s kingdom on earth. The establishment of Zion becomes our primary desire.

Nephi speaks to this state of consecration in prayer when he wrote:

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32: 9).

Our performance on this earth is for the welfare of our soul when we are in a state of active consecration.

Although a person has been born again at this point in the prayer process, our spirits and life desire takes on a new dimension entering into deeper and deeper states of consecration. The Holy Ghost begins to reveal to us how much is yet undone and we become more and more aware of our weakness. We become increasingly aware of the pull of this earthly kingdom on our hearts.

Elder Maxwell also taught:

We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions.  But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God.  Heart, soul, and mind were the encompassing words of Christ in describing the first commandment, which is constantly, not periodically, operative (see Matt. 22:37).  If kept, then our performances will, in turn, be fully consecrated for the lasting welfare of our souls (see 2 Ne. 32:9). . . .

A stumbling block appears when we serve God generously with time and checkbooks but still withhold portions of our inner selves, signifying that we are not yet fully His!” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 36)

And so our repentance continues. Consecrating and repenting, and having our hearts softened to new depths. And then having more revealed to us, and we repent even more. And this process continues until we become full of the Holy Ghost.

The process of consecration will stretch us to new depths and heights we were not yet aware of. We will get very specific instructions in this process. We will be tested if we will live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (D&C 88: 44).

We begin to understand that there is no “mine” and “His”. There is no negotiating. It is all his. And we are participants in his work and glory. And by being a fully submissive and consecrated child, His eternal life becomes our eternal life.

And so as we press on in our focused and diligent consecration, the veil gets thinner.

And as we consecrate we enter into the true order of prayer.

Men and Women in the Priesthood: Part 2 – The Priesthood of Eve

The sisters flocked to our meetings every week, and the Prophet Joseph met with us as long as he could… He said he that had given the sisters instructions that they could administer to the sick, and he wanted to make us, as the women were in Paul’s day, ‘a kingdom of Priestesses.’ We have the ceremony in our endowments as Joseph taught.” 

– Bethsheba W. Smith, Fourth General President of the Relief Society

 

(Disclaimer: Although I believe the principles expressed in this essay are rooted in scripture, scriptural pattern, and the teachings of modern prophets, the extrapolations are an expression of my personal testimony and understanding. If they are helpful and resonate with you I hope they will add to your testimony and perhaps understanding. If they do not, I take no offense in their dismissal. I freely admit some of the conclusions and perspectives are an expression of my own heart and mind as I’ve spent the last 10 years studying and meditating on this subject. Much of this is an expression of my testimony and personal views. In the end, the Holy Ghost is the teacher and witness of all truth. I hope that you will feel the same witness in the spirit as you explore these principles. It is also my hope that all who diligently seek with a pure heart may have the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon their soul.)

 

The Priesthood of Our Glorious Mother Eve

In our first essay we explored that priesthood is the power to come into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

It is received through the principle of condescension, and through the process of condescension, we are able to provide veil experiences for others.

The account of the Garden of Eden is so sacred that it is the backdrop of the temple endowment. It is the great archetype of fall and redemption. Its layers of meaning are inexhaustible.

And it is also completely veiled in allegory.

To take it strictly literally would deny it of its ability to teach and inform our human experience. But we must be informed by the spirit. I hope this essay will inspire your own questions and contextualize a possibility of better understanding the divine role of women in the order of the priesthood.

Adam was offered the fruit first. And he refused. He would not, perhaps could not, do for himself what Eve would do for him.

What was the fruit? What did it mean to partake? What premortal covenants and promises had Eve made that would give her the intuition needed to partake?

So much of this account is veiled from us, but it can be revealed through the power of the Holy Ghost if we are honest, pure, and diligent seekers.

What we do know is that Eve convinced Adam to partake.

And this partaking brought Adam through a veil into mortality.

In other words, Eve provided a veil experience for Adam. She brought him through from a terrestrial state to a telestial.

And she did this through her own condescension.

She acted in wisdom and intuition. Perhaps revelation. She acted in faith. And she brought Adam to a place where they could provide bodies for the children of God.

Eve and the Veil

As Eve took Adam through the veil by giving him the fruit, and she continues to bring children through the veil and into mortality. This is a priesthood ordinance.

Eve brings children through a physical veil, and Adam brings those children back through the veil into a redemption. These two veil experiences are an act of creation. They are an eternal round. They are also the veils of the two trees found in the garden of Eden.

To create a child requires another veil experience. A man and woman coming together in sexual intimacy and exchange a token through a veil. It is a priesthood sign, and and an exchange of a token. Creation occurs through this veil experience and a name is given to that creation.

This is why sexual intimacy is put under sacred covenant to enact. It is the coming together of the male and female priesthood and making one.

The violation of covenants of chastity are so serious because it makes a mockery of the highest and holiest of priesthood ordinances.

For this reason, men and women must be sanctified into the laws of pure chastity in order to becomes Gods of creation. They must keep sacred all of the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood.

A man must receive the testimony of his wife that he is pure before her and the Lord. She will witness to his worthiness in keeping the laws of chastity, and if he receives this sanctified and pure state, she will trust him and desire to bond with him through eternity.

The Condescension of Eve

As women give birth they go through a great condescension.

It is my personal testimony that when Eve partook of the fruit she experienced incomprehensible pain. Her personal sacrifice was such that, when we meet her, we will it will be our instinct to worship and praise her. She had knowledge that this sacrifice was required of her. As Brigham Young taught, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (JD 13: 145).

It was like unto the condescension of Christ. And she led Adam into this condescension. It was not something he was going to for himself.

When Eve and her daughters give birth and veil experiences to their children they often approach their own death in this process. They suffer the pains of gestation and delivery as a child of God receives a body and passes through the veil of her own body. It is a sacrifice of flesh and blood.

Eve also submits to another type of condescension as she travails this mortal life.

She condescends with her husband as he chooses whether or not he is going to repent and follow God, or if he is going to exercise dominion and false-authority on this earth.

So Eve and her daughters have a condescension of long-suffering.

They long-suffer with their husbands and at the hands of men who have been put into positions of authority to see if they, the men, will repent.

In the first essay, we explore how many men are called to the priesthood and are ordained to receive this power; and we learn that few of them are chosen. Few men receive actual priesthood.

And we know why they are not chosen to receive an actual endowment of priesthood power. (Remember, those that are ordained are what we referred to as “called” (D&C 95: 5))

Behold, there are many called (ordained), but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men…

That they may be conferred (ordained) upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man…

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 (through their ordination), they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121: 34 – 40).

Because woman is called to come to this earth and enter into a covenant relationship with a man, she will experience, to some degree or another, unrighteous dominion.

It may be in a serious and abusive way, or it may just be through natural institutional marginalization. But most will suffer because of it.

(Women also abuse their power, but that will be a topic of another essay)

A Help Meet

This, I believe, is central to understanding what it means to be a “help meet”.

Bruce Satterfield interprets the term help meet as such:

The phrase “help meet for him” translates the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo. These words are a little difficult for me to translate. Ezer literally means, “help” and is similar in meaning to the English word ‘help.’ However, kenegdo, translated ‘meet for him’, is more difficult to translate. The root word, neged, literally means ‘opposite’, ‘in the presence of’, ‘over against’, ‘in front of’, ‘corresponding to’, or ‘aside’. Literally, kenegdo means, ‘opposite as to him’ or ‘corresponding as to him’.

The sense of the phrase ezer kenegdo is ‘an equal but opposite helper to him’” (“The Family Under Siege: The Role of Men and Women,” Ricks College Education Week Presentation, 7 June 2001).

As an “equal but opposite helper to him,” may I suggest the following:

The hardest thing a man will do in mortality will be to learn to humble himself before God, repent with fear and trembling, put off the natural man, become a new creature in Christ, and receive priesthood power.

To receive priesthood power a man must be completely divested of his natural instinct to usurp unrighteous dominion, have his heart set upon the things of this world, to have vain ambition, and to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men.

A man must also be completely divested of his sexual lust.

Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman (including his wife) to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42: 23).

A man must not stop repenting and working out his salvation until his calling and election is made sure. The confidence of this blessing is what gives both men and women power to bring their posterity through the veil. Until a man has this, he has no assurances in this life.

So taught Brigham Young:

For us to think that we have an inheritance on the earth is folly, unless God has declared, and sealed it upon us, by revelation, that we shall never fall, never doubt, never come short of glorifying him or of doing his will in all things. No person, unless he is in the possession of this blessing, has the least right to suppose that he has an inheritance on the earth”  (Brigham Young. JD 17: 118).

These things are very, very difficult for the natural man, and can only be achieved by complete submission to the atonement of Christ and the power of the Redeemer to transform and then seal.

I believe 100% that this is the purpose of a help meet. It is to help husbands go through the process of transformation and be endowed with priesthood power.

It is to suffer with them, as they seek to repent and follow God with full purpose of heart.

It is to be patient, long-suffering, kind, and a powerful influence to help a man go through his own necessary condescension.

A woman can receive very powerful and specific revelation on how to help a husband repent, keep his covenant, and transcend his natural man condition.

A woman is a help meet as she helps her husband bring forth fruit meet for his repentance.

In the same way a wife approaches death as she gives birth, so must a man go through a process of the death of the natural man in deep and complete repentance. Men need to repent much deeper than they often even assume.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean women aren’t repenting of their natural man condition also; but men have a unique fallen nature and proclivity to usurping unrighteous dominion that, with the blessing and help of women, can be submitted to Christ and redeemed.

So, Eve is a help meet to Adam. And she blesses him and sustains him in his calling to the Holy Priesthood. And she is a help meet in his repentance.

And she will stand as a witness against him if he fails to repent and hearken to God.

For this reason, Eve is veiled from Adam until he is brought into the presence of the Lord and endowed with priesthood power.

Eve and Her Veil

As discussed here , the veils of the temple are partitions of holiness. The glory of both the Lord and women, in their respective veils, are kept within a veil and hidden from men until they sufficiently prepare themselves to be brought into their presence.

The Lord chooses who will come through the veil and employs no servant there.

And so do women.

They choose for whom they will lift their veil and eternally covenant with.

The man does not part the woman’s veil. Her veil is her power as a help meet. And she is protected by a sacred covenant to only hearken to her husband as he fully repents and hearkens to God.

Brigham Young taught:

I say to my sisters in the kingdom, who are sealed to men, and who say, “We do not want this man in eternity if he is going to conduct himself there as he does here”—there is not the least danger in the world of your ever seeing him in eternity or of his seeing you there if he proves himself unworthy here… But if you are not at fault, be not troubled about being joined to him there, for no man will have the privilege of gathering his wives and children around him there unless he proves himself worthy of them” (Brigham Young, JD 17: 118-119).

The great blessing of a man who has repented and is endowed with power and priesthood is that he receives the revelation of the divine feminine. He is shown who his wife is unveiled, he comes to know his mother and her glory, and his Mother in Heaven is revealed to him.

This is the pattern of Nephi’s dream. He witnesses both the condescension of Mother Mary, Christ, and the witness of the Tree of Life, which in large part represents our Mother in Heaven.

For this reason, I believe, the knowledge of both our Mother in Heaven, and the divine feminine remains veiled as a mystery to the covenant body of priesthood on this earth. We know of her presence, but know next to nothing about her.

She remains veiled until the covenant body of the priesthood collectively repent, are redeemed, and receive a fulness.

The Principle of Hearkening

As Adam hearkened to Eve to come through our first veil, Eve covenants to hearken to Adam to come back through the veil into the presence of the Lord.

It is a perfect priesthood chiasmus.

This chiasmus of priesthood is articulated in the following scripture:

But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.

For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal – First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—” (D&C 29: 30 – 32).

Adam hearkens to Eve in her role as creator. Eve hearkens to Adam as his role as a servant.

A husband that desires to repent and humble himself into the depths of meekness will earn the love and respect of an eternal wife. By honoring his desire to covenant with God and sacrifice all things for Christ, she can trust her heart in a covenant with him.

By hearkening to her husband, she desires to be blessed by him – to be served by him – and she accepts and honors the sacrifice he performs to be worthy of that love and covenant.

Eve’s desire to hearken is a type of anointing.

The Queen makes the King. The Queen anoints the King. It is by her choosing to honor him that he lays claim to the blessings of eternal life.

If she unveils herself to him, and honors him and his condescension, a woman makes the man. It is through her witness and consent that he is received as a patriarchal servant.

This is, of course, as long as she lays claim on eternal life herself. She must be one that has authority in the presence of God. She must have a claim to eternal life by virtue of her sacrifice and obedience.

In the same way that through Adam’s hearkening to Eve, it made her a creator on the Earth, if he is worthy of her (and she herself is a worthy daughter of God), it is through her hearkening to him that empowers and capacitates him to be a Savior on Mt. Zion.

A King is not higher than a Queen, and a Queen is not higher than a King. It is through the mutual yielding to each other in their respective roles that they together are exalted.

The Law of the Lord

The Law of the Lord is the principle of yielding to the individual who seeks to sacrifice everything in their life in order to be a servant to you.

A Lord is a condescended servant – someone who has sacrificed their life for the salvation of others.

Christ yields to his Father because his Father gave all he had for Christ.

Adam yields all he has to Christ because Christ gave all and sacrificed all he has for Adam and Eve.

Eve blesses Adam and becomes one with him as he sacrifices all that he has for Eve and their family. It is through this law of submission that all are exalted.

If a man does not have a righteous woman that will witness for him that he performed the sacrifices necessary to be worthy of her sustaining, he will not be able to ascend into the Patriarchal order.

Why doesn’t a man covenant to hearken to a woman?

Adam did hearken to Eve.

I believe there is a premortal type for all of this in the symbolism of the partaking of the fruit in the garden. I believe this account is archetypical of pre-mortality, and reveals the nature of the relationship of man to woman before we came to this earth.

Adam does not explicitly covenant to hearken to Eve because it is not the way that he anoints her as a Queen.

He does, however, relate to her in the spirit of hearkening – a continuance of his honor and love for her from the world from which we all came. From when he first hearkened to her.

The spirit of hearkening to her is imbedded in the law of God and in the oath and covenant of the priesthood. This Law of God is to “be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” (D&C 121: 41 – 42).

This is in the spirit in which Adam continues to hearken to Eve.

Eve hearkens to Adam for his benefit and hers. Just as it was Adam’s benefit to hearken to Eve. It benefited them both.

Eve hearkening to Adam completes the chiasmus. It allows the last (Adam in his condescension), to become the first.

He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all” (D&C 50: 26).

Why are Men Ordained?

Men are ordained, or authorized, to perform ordinances. This is how a man will provide veil experiences for women and their children – by receiving actual power to give an ordinance.

It is important, though, not to immediately assume we understand what this means – to provide an ordinance.

An ordinance has two components: a ritualistic/physical and a revelatory/spiritual.

This is the why the great D&C section on the priesthood instructs:

“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84: 20 – 21).

In other words, unless the power of godliness is made manifest an ordinance is not complete. One must have both the physical manifestation and the spiritual. The ritual and the revelatory.

Consider this interesting principle as taught in the book of Mormon. The Nephite disciples are some of the most faithful and righteous priesthood bearers in recorded scripture. Even so, the Lord instructs them in the following way to perform an ordinance:

And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.

Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 2: 2-3).

Even though they were ordained and authorized to give an ordinance, they had to also receive the power to give a revelatory/spiritual experience. When the Disciples gave the gift of the Holy Ghost, the people were receiving their baptism of fire at the time of the ordinance.  This is what it means to give someone an ordinance.

A righteous priesthood holder that has power is able to do this. They are able to give both the physical and spiritual experience in the same ordinance.

(It should be noted, as I am sure the reader may be asking, doesn’t the spiritual manifestation also depend on the receiver? And of course the answer is, yes. But this is also why it is critical not to administer the ordinances to those that are not prepared for the spiritual manifestation. We are warned and commanded not to administer sacred ordinances to those that are unworthy of them – which means they are unprepared for the spiritual manifestation of the ordinance. It is incumbent on the priesthood holder to discern and judge this before they administer an ordinance. (Moroni 6:1;  3 Nephi 18: 29; 4 Nephi 1: 27))

And this is what a man is called to do – to receive this power through his exercising of mighty repentance and faith.

Joseph Smith reference this in his teaching of the following doctrine:

Repent of all your sins, and be baptized in water for the remission of them, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinance of the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power, that ye may receive the Holy Spirit of God; and this is according to the Holy Scriptures, and the Book of Mormon; and the only way that man can enter into the celestial kingdom” (Joseph Smith, Teachings and Sayings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).

An instructive account of Joseph healing sick and dying Latter-Saints is found in the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt:
“[Following this,] Brother Joseph, while in the Spirit, rebuked the Elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the power to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p.254).

Again, his ordination is a call to condescend in order to receive actual power.

And just as women perform redemptive ordinances by bringing the children of God through a veil, so are men to be able to perform redemptive ordinances by manifesting the power of God in the flesh for the redemption of his children. They are both providing veil experiences.

Men are also ordained because they are uniquely charged to become “clean from the blood and sins of this generation”. Women are already clean from this obligation in general. Until women have their own families are they brought back into an obligation to come clean from their own personal generation.

Men must come clean through the declaration of repentance and performing the necessary ordinances in power. Until they come clean through their declaration of repentance and ability to give both a revelatory and physical ordinance, they are not yet prepared to be sealed into an exaltation.

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Man does not receive priesthood power through ordination – his only authorized to officiate in ordinances. He receives priesthood power through the endowment of the temple. Through this endowment he receives power to give a full ordinance.

It is in the temple that he, in stages, is dressed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.

It is in the temple that all of the covenants, signs, tokens, and names are bestowed upon him to receive priesthood.

It is in the temple that he receives a sacred oath. This is the oath of the High Priesthood.

And all of the process of the endowment is the receiving of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.

And women receive the same.

They are clothed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.

They receive every covenant, sign, token, and name of the priesthood.

They receive the exact same oath.

And so men and women, independent of each other, receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood along with every blessing and power associated with the priesthood.

There is no difference.

Many mistakenly believe that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is found in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. It is only referencing the oath and covenant, some of its blessings, and how it is obtained. Read carefully, we understand that the scripture is describing the temple endowment.

When a man and a woman go through the temple for the first time they are always single. Always. They are not yet married in the new and everlasting covenant until they go through the endowment.

The endowment is the process of being prepared to enter into the presence of the Lord.

This is the calling and election made sure. Being brought to the veil of the temple, having been found worthy, and being admitted into the presence of the Lord represents in ordinance the receiving the promise of eternal life, the Holy Spirit of Promise, the calling and election made sure, and the Second Comforter blessings.

And all of these blessings are intended to be received in this life, while in the flesh.

The veil of the temple does not represent death. It represents the calling and election made sure.

All of these blessings are received first as individuals before we are married (in the covenant).

For this reason, it should be understood that women are clothed and receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood for themselves, independent of their husbands. In other words, they are not holding onto the coattails of their husbands, and exercising priesthood through his ordination.

Brigham Young taught:

Now, brethren, the man that honors his Priesthood, the woman that honors her Priesthood, will receive an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of God”  (JD 17:119).

President Nelson admonished the Sisters:

More regular time in the temple will allow the Lord to teach you how to draw upon His priesthood power with which you have been endowed in His temple” (“Sisters Participation in the Gathering of Israel,” November, 2018 General Conference).
Elder Ballard also taught this principle:
those who have entered the waters of baptism and subsequently received their endowment in the house of the Lord are eligible for rich and wonderful blessings. The endowment is literally a gift of power … [and] our Father in Heaven is generous with His power.” He reminds us that men and women “are both endowed with the same power” in the temple, “which by definition is priesthood power” (“Priesthood Power Through Keeping Covenants,” Ensign, June 2017).
Joseph Smith recorded in the Manuscript History of the Church:
I met {the members of the “female Relief Society” and after presiding at the admission of many new members gave a lecture on the Priesthood shewing how the sisters would come in possession of the privileges, blessings, and gifts of the Priesthood, and that the signs should follow them, such as healing the sick, casting out devils unto these blessings by a virtuous life and conversation and diligence in keeping all of the commandments.
Bethseba W. Smith gave the following account:
Joseph also addressed the Relief Society and “spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands.”
The endowment of the temple is a priesthood endowment. And sisters participate in every way possible.
What is Priesthood Power?
Priesthood power is when God confirms your words, and the intelligences that make up creation respond to your words because God has authorized them as his own.
The fullness of priesthood power is to receive the power to bind on earth and in heaven – to seal on earth and on heaven. This is what Joseph Smith often referred to as the “Fullness of the Priesthood” (Helaman chapter 10).
The fullness of priesthood comes as we receive a full and complete endowment of the Holy Ghost. This is a fulness of the Holy Ghost. (D&C 109: 15)
A man or a women does not have all priesthood power or none, it comes in stages as one is endowed with the authority of the Holy Ghost.
Christ was the great exemplar of this principle. As taught in the record of John:

“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;

And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;

And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.

And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.

And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;

And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him” (D&C 93: 12 – 17).

Joseph Smith taught:
The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods” (Joseph Smith, Teachings and Sayings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).
Also consider the implication of this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants:
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him” (D&C 20: 60).
As men and women are endowed with the Holy Ghost, they are endowed with priesthood power.
Consider that the regular uses of priesthood blessings (healing the sick, blessing the infirm, casting out devils, interpreting tongues,  discerning spirits) are all gifts of the spirit.
A mother that prays for or blesses a sick child has as much authority as a man that gives a “priesthood blessing.” Both acts are completely dependent on the authority and power of the Holy Ghost.
When a man or woman speaks by the power of the Holy Ghost those words are authorized by God and are binding. They have power. The Holy Ghost is the authority by which we receive and administer in priesthood power, for both men and women.

It is my view that when woman is unveiled from us and we behold her eternal and glorious stature we will see her as a perfect and eternal half to a priesthood whole.

And man will be eternally accountable to her, and she will be eternally accountable to him.

And as our eyes are opened and we see things “as they really are” we will truly understand how man is not without the woman, and woman is not without the man.

 

 

 

Men and Women in the Priesthood: Part 1 – The Priesthood of Adam

The fundamental principle of priesthood is condescension.

And those that receive power in the priesthood through condescension then have power to bring others through veils.

One way of describing priesthood is to provide veil experiences for others. It is by condescension that the veil is parted for us as individuals, and it is by condescension that we also have power to lead and bring others through veils.

It is through these principles we can understand the priesthoods of both Adam and Eve.

Two Great Condescensions

When the Angel is guiding Nephi through his great revelatory vision he asks the question: “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Nephi 11: 16).

And Nephi is shown two figures to this question. He is shown the condescension of the Mother of God and of the Son of God.

The condescension of Mary as the one that would come from a heavenly sphere to give birth to the Son of God.

And Christ, the one that would give spiritual birth to all of God’s Children.

Their condescensions of Mary  would require her blood in child birth, and the condescension of Christ would require his blood in atonement.

These are the two archetypes of condescension. The Mother, and the Savior.

 

The Priesthood of Adam

Christ as the Archetype

“He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth” (D&C 88:6).

Christ is an archetype in all things, but I’d like to focus on the condescension of Christ as his priesthood archetype.

As the scripture above reveals, Christ descended below all things.  No one has or is capable of condescending lower that Christ. This makes Him the great archetype.

In the mystery of the atonement, none descended lower than Christ – suffering a fullness of darkness and for the full depth of the fall of man.

Christ’s willingness to suffer, to take upon himself the full effects of a broken law, produced a pain that is incomprehensible to our mortal, fallen minds. It is this sacrifice for others, when comprehended, cause us to kneel and bow because of his willingness to take on sins of others. The revelation of his suffering will bring us to worship him for eternity.

Christ is the great High Priest. For those of the Sons of God that desire to follow in the path of Christ are called to be in a priest-hood. They are those that have covenanted to follow after the type of Christ – they, too, desire to condescend.

What this means is priesthood, in whatever degree, is an association (or quorum, or ‘hood’) of men that also desire to condescend in order to serve others. To take upon themselves pain, and suffering, and discomfort, and sacrifice their own lives in order to bring others to Christ.

Men condescend through repentance. Mighty repentance. The kind of repentance that is working out your salvation through fear and trembling” (Mormon 9: 27).

This is the kind of repentance Enos submits to in order to be prepared to covenant on behalf of his people. (Enos 1).

In fact, all of the prophets are archetypes of repentance and condescension in order to bring the power of salvation to their families, people, and nations. All of them.

Condescension is the path of priesthood power. It is the willingness, in the Spirit of the Redeemer, to suffer on behalf of a people so that you have power to bring that people to the veil to enter back in to the presence of the Lord.

By their willingness to take upon themselves the personal sacrifices necessary of not following after their own wills, but instead desiring to do the will of the Father in all things, and suffer all things for their families and people because of this path, they are given power to bring salvation to others. (Helaman 10).

Just as Christ exemplified the path through his atoning sacrifice, a man who has the priesthood will also show people how to come to Christ by demonstrating how he also received the priesthood. He becomes a pattern for his people. He shows them that through mighty repentance, humbling himself before God, and consecrating his life to bring salvation to others is the way you part a veil and receive the endowment of the priesthood. This is the doctrine taught in Alma 13.

“And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption…”

The manner they received their ordination became an instructive pattern for others to also be received into the same redemption.

What was this pattern? How were they ordained?

It was “on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith…

and would not harden their hearts…

and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness…” (Alma 13: 1-13).

Notice that their ordination to the priesthood was predicated on the process and type of repentance, faith, and works of righteousness. It was not a right given to them because of their age or by virtue of being a member of the Church. It was an endowment because of the sanctification they received in preparation for the order they would enter into.

The High Priests were examples of the path into the presence of the Lord, thereby showing others how to enter into the presence of the Lord..

What is a High Priest?

A man becomes a High Priest by coming into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh. Just as Christ came into the presence of his father and rent the veil of the temple through his sacrifice and obedience, so do those that hold His priesthood. They become High Priests when they enter into the rest of the Lord. And because they have rent the veil themselves, they then have power to bring others to that place so they can come through the veils themselves. This is what it means to be a Servant. (Jacob 5: 70-75; D&C 1: 6; D&C 84: 36).

Genesis 14 JST 

And thus, having been approved of God, he (Melchizedek) was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,…

It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world” (Genesis 14 JST: 1-32).

This is the order of the priesthood. We may be “ordained”, it is true (and this will be explored later), but the power of the priesthood is an endowment from God’s own voice. It is the endowment one receives after being brought through the veil while in the flesh.

And for a person to receive the power of the priesthood of being a High Priest, they must be ordained from on high, and receive the oaths of the Priesthood from God’s own mouth.

Now consider more of Alma 13 in context of Genesis 14.

“And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest— (Alma 13: 13).

It is treading the path of condescension that one becomes a High Priest after the order of the Son of God.

And it is through treading this path that they bring others into this structure.

Called Through Ordination

When a man is ordained to the priesthood he does not yet possess priesthood power (actual priesthood); he is called to receive it. Ordination gives him the right to officiate in the rites of the priesthood. But it does not guarantee him power to perform ordinances that are recognized by both heaven and earth. It gives him the authority to give ordinances recognized by earth.

D&C Section 95 teaches this principle very clearly. Consider the following:

“But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen…

The first thing we learn that ordination is a calling. It is a call to receive priesthood.

When I was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood when I was 19 years old, I was called to be in an order, but was not yet chosen.

Unfortunately, as the verse points out, few that are ordained to the priesthood are chosen.

And because they are not chosen they continue to walk in darkness.

“They who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noon-day….(D&C 95: 5-6).

Most Ordained Priesthood Holders Are Not Chosen

First, it is important to remember that those that are ordained are the ones that are called.

Joseph Smith gives us a great revelation from Liberty Jail:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

Because their (those that are ordained) hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true (through ordination); but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

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 (because of ordination), they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

Hence many are called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121: 34 – 40).

This is sobering.

We learn a number of things in these passages, but two to make special note of is that men suppose they have authority when they are ordained.

But authority (the Lord doesn’t make a distinction between authority and power in the scriptures) only comes through receiving the power of heaven. Authority only comes from the principle of righteousness.

Because of this,  most of those that are ordained to the Priesthood walk in darkness because they are not yet chosen.

How Does an Ordained Priesthood Holder Become Chosen?

The revelation in D&C 95 continues:

Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95: 8).

Those that are chosen are those that are endowed with actual power through the ordinances of the temple.

But this is not just a ritualistic / physical endowment. It is the revelatory endowment.

As discussed above, a High Priest is someone that comes into the rest of the Lord while in mortality.

This is the purpose of the temple. To teach us how to come into the presence in mortality. It is to teach us how to come into the rest of the Lord. It is to pierce the veil while in the flesh.

And this is what it means to be chosen. It is those that are being prepared and endowed with the spirit and revelatory experiences that are preparing them for, and bringing them through the veil.

To be chosen is to receive the actual spiritual experiences the physical ordinances are imitating.

D&C 121 continues to teach about those that are actually chosen by describing the following:

They are full of charity for all men.

Virtue garnishes their thoughts unceasingly

Their confidence waxes strong in the presence of God

The Holy Ghost becomes their constant companion, and the power the spirit flows to them with out compulsory means.

And the doctrine of the priesthood distills upon their soul.

In other words, they are learning the doctrines and power of the priesthood by revelation. They are being endowed (D&C 121: 45-46).

This is the path of the chosen.

And it culminates by entering into the presence of the Lord.

This path and doctrine is taught explicitly in D&C 84.

Moses and the Veil

Moses first conversed with the Lord through the burning bush. He wasn’t in his presence, but he was being prepared.

A short time later, he was brought up into the presence of the Lord atop an unnamed mountain. This is the record of Moses chapter 1. He received blessings and revelation in this Second Comforter experience.

After being left to himself and tested by Satan he was brought again into the presence of the Lord and received an endowment of priesthood.

The record goes like this:

And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God” (Moses 1: 25).

This is what Jospeh Smith called the fulness of the priesthood.

Moses learned through his own succession of endowments that the priesthood is the power that brings you into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

As Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt he then sought to bring them to the top of a mountain to receive the same priesthood – to be brought into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

This is the primary purpose of the priesthood – to bring you into the presence of the Father and Christ while in mortality. 

In the revelation of D&C 84 Joseph Smith reveals much about priesthood in context of the Moses account.

“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God…”

This is the fundamental definition of priesthood. It is the key to the knowledge of God.

“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—

To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 107: 18 – 19).

And so Moses sought to endow the Children of Israel and prepare them to be brought into the presence of the Lord.

The account of Moses continues –

And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live…”

Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

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: 19 – 24).

This is a great key!

We now learn that the rest of the Lord means being in the fulness of his glory while in the flesh. 

This unlocks the Book of Mormon for us, especially Alma 13.

And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest

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

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

Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

The doctrine of Alma 13 is tied to D&C 84. It can’t be understood with out the context and doctrine of Moses.

The Provocation

When the Children of Israel refused to come into the presence of the Lord the priesthood was removed from them. This, the higher priesthood, is the knowledge, ordinances, and keys to come into the presence of the Lord in mortality. Because of this rejection, the priesthood was removed from them along with the invitation to behold the glory of the Lord in this life.

This is referred to as “the provocation.”

Alma references it when he wrote:

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” (Alma 12: 36).

And Jacob also reference the same principle:

“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness” (Jacob 1: 7).

And so this theme is throughout the Book of Mormon. The two primary invitations of the Book of Mormon is to be born again and enter into the rest of the Lord, which is to behold him in the flesh.

We learn that when we reject not coming into the presence of the Lord we are rejecting the priesthood.

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

It is commonly interpreted that the reference to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is the oath and covenant itself. But this isn’t the case. It is only referencing some of the blessings and the pattern that one receives the oath and covenant.

The oath and covenants of the priesthood are the oath and covenants of the temple.

It is the endowment.

And the oath of the Melchizedek priesthood (there is no Aaronic oath) is an oath that God gives both men and women.

Both men and women enter into the oath and covenant and receive it individually.

They are both dressed in the robes of the Holy Priesthood.

They are both ordained and anointed to the same glory and promise.

They are both invited into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.

Moses is a Pattern of Priesthood.

He first sanctifies himself to receive the Lord first for himself, he passes through the trials necessary to receive the oath of the priesthood from the Father that he will have power to command the elements. He was then prepared to bring others into the Lord’s presence.

And Christ is the great archetype of this priesthood process. He, too, received not a fullness at first, but received priesthood grace for grace and grace to grace. (D&C 93: 12 – 13)

The Savior went through the great condescension of the atonement so that he could bring all of God’s children through the veil.

Condescension and Power

Receiving priesthood is going through the process of condescension. Becoming sanctified so that we receive the revelations of the priesthood sufficient to bring us through the veil.

And by condescending, we receive power. By condescending we go through the same process as Moses. It is the same process of all the holy prophets in scripture.

This is the great principle of the priesthood. Whoever is the greatest will consider themselves the least. They are those that are willing to condescend the lowest. They are those that are willing to suffer anything on behalf of those they love and are called to bless.

Adam and his sons are called to go through a great condescension. They are called to receive priesthood.

They are called to enter into mighty repentance.

They are called to be the least and servant of all.

This is the pattern and nature of a true holder of the priesthood.

John may have captured this principle the best when he said:

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

Why Are Men Ordained?

The answer to this question is imbedded in a verse in D&C Section 50 (also another great priesthood section.)

He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all” (D&C 50: 26).

Men are ordained in the priesthood because they are called to be the least and servant of all.

This is the fundamental principle of the male priesthood.

They are to condescend and be the least. They are servants.

Even the principle of presiding means that they have stewardship to protect and to watch over. It is not an elevated status. It is the opposite – it is the status of a servant.

The ordination itself does not give priesthood. It is only an invitation. It is a calling. Men receive their calling through ordination,  but they receive actual priesthood through the process of the endowment.

And the work of men is to sacrifice and condescend in order to bring their wife, children, and those in their stewardship back into the presence of the Lord.

They provide a veil experience for women.

And women provide veil experiences for men.

Together, their respective priesthoods are perfectly equal in power and authority.

And to understand more fully the eternal balance of men and women, and that one cannot be saved without the other, we must now explore the priesthood of Eve, and her daughters.

 

 

 

 

 

Women and the Veil

And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad” (Ether 12: 19)

 

Some years ago I had what would be a first of many discussions with sisters in the church about the meaning of veils, particularly how they are used in the temple.

The sister felt that it demeaned her. That it was a sign of servitude. She felt that she was a second-class citizen in the Kingdom.

It was an unfortunate perspective, but I understand why some women would feel this way. Many in the world have used veils as a means to demean women. The Adversary will work to counterfeit, or invert, that which the Lord has set apart as sacred. He will make light look like darkness, and darkness look like light.

And so it is with veils. The Adversary has been successful in convincing many of God’s children that a veil is a sign of marginalization.

Fortunately, the truth of the matter is exactly the opposite.

Veils are partitions that denote holiness. They separate the sacred from the unprepared.

The veil of the Lord partitions the Lord in a state of glory from those that are yet unprepared to be in the same state of glory. The entire purpose of the temple is to teach and give a sequence of covenants to prepared a person to be brought through the veil. It is a process of sanctification.

In the same way that the Lord is veiled in the temple, so is (was) woman. This practice should signal the men to ask the questions:

Which side of this veil is unprepared to be united to the other side?

Why is she partitioned from me?

What must happen to have the veil lifted?

 

Within The Veil

Two accounts in the Book of Mormon provide insight into the question, which side of this veil is unprepared to be united with the other side?

The first is in Ether 12.

“And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad” (Ether 12: 19)

The second account comes from the Brother of Jared.

“And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.

Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him” (Ether 3:19-20).

In both accounts Moroni identifies that which is “within the veil” as that which is holy. Those in Ether 12 could not be kept from within the veil because of their faith. And the Brother of Jared could not be kept from the Savior’s presence, which was “within the veil”.

So, when women veil their faces, are they not clearly “within the veil”?

This denotes the woman as that which is being partitioned and held within the veil because of a state of holiness, or a state of a sacred nature that must be discovered.

We come to the temple to learn who she is, and have her nature and stature unveiled to men (and women).

Just as the Lord is veiled in the temple, and we come to learn the process of sanctification to part that veil and have him revealed to us, so it is with women. We come to learn how to be prepared to be brought into her divine presence, and how to receive the revelation of the divine feminine.

 

The Revelation of the Tree of Life

Why are women partitioned from men in the temple?

When Nephi was shown his Father’s dream and being given the interpretation, he was given the following knowledge.

The Spirit showed Nephi a tree which was “precious above all”.  And the Spirit asked Nephi, “What desirest thou?”

And Nephi responded that he wanted to know the interpretation of this tree. Then he was shown a sequence. The first thing of this sequence that was revealed to him was the Mother of the Lord.

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (1 Nephi 11: 13 – 18).

The interpretation of the meaning of the Tree of Life, or, the unveiling of the Tree to those that seek it with all their hearts, will receive the unveiling of the Mother along with the Savior of mankind. For this reason, I believe, Nephi uses the very broad description of the tree as “the love of God”.

The mother is a primary aspect of “the love of God”. She is revealed to us in the same revelation as the Savior is revealed to us in the great unveiling of the tree.

The veil of the temple partitions us from the Tree of Life. As it is parted, we receive the knowledge and revelation of both our Mother and our Redeemer.

We come to the temple to receive the revelation of the Divine Feminine. She is the great mystery. And she is unveiled and revealed to us in our own revelatory endowment, just as Nephi received his own revelatory endowment as recorded in his record.

Just as the Spirit and the Angel reveal to Nephi both the dream and the interpretation of his endowment, so do we receive by revelation, perhaps in stages, the revelation of the divine feminine as we ascend and are sanctified to behold within the veil.

As we are endowed with revelatory knowledge of the Father and the Son, the mother is not witheld from us. Her unveiling is a central part of the temple revelation.

And as all sisters are to consider themselves respectively as Eve, they are veiled from the men until men are sanctified and brought through the veil of the temple, and the great manifestation of the divine feminine is revealed to them.

Only when they become sanctified sufficiently and are prepared to receive more light and truth by coming into the presence of the Lord, is the veil of the woman also revealed and they are then prepared to be in her presence and have the full revelation of her divine nature.

The veil of the temple restores all things into at-one-ment. We become at-one with our Father.

At-one with our Redeemer.

And men and women become at-one with each other with the full revelation of one another’s divinity.

As men receive the revelation of the divine feminine they will be judged as stewards of Her divinity.

Temples and Questions

In the temple we receive the keys of the priesthood “that whereby [w]e may ask and receive” answers to our questions (D&C 124: 95).

The questions we ask are inspired by the ritual and symbolism we participate in the temple.

Symbolism, ritual, allegory, ordinances – all of these things are given to us to inspire us to ask questions that produce revelation. And when we ask the right questions, with the right heart, the Lord is desirous to teach and increase our understanding.

So much, though, is dependent on our asking the right questions, with the right heart.

The more we are faithful to the ritual and symbolism – asking the right questions to increase in light and truth, the more we can learn the great mysteries of eternity.

And we ourselves can be brought to both understand the veil of the woman, and be brought within the veil.

 

 

(For more on this topic, I recommend the works of Margaret Barker, to whom I am indebted to opening the hearts and minds of many to the symbolism of the Divine Feminine in the temple.)

Living the Law of Consecration and Parting The Veil

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

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

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

What is this Law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we become stewards.

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

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

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

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

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

Your job is a stewardship.

Your bank account is a stewardship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The governing law is this:

Do I have more than is sufficient for my needs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we possessed by our possessions?

Let me give an example that convicts me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expensive Clothing is a Sign of Breaking the Law of Consecration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One good test is to ask:

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

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

Consecrating Our Children

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

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

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

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

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

And will do the same for my daughters.

Consecrating Sexual Intimacy

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

We come to understand by asking a few questions.

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

Is your intimacy sacred?

Is it consecrated?

Does it bring an increase measure of the Holy Ghost?

Does it bring you into a revelatory state?

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

Consecrating Our Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Things Are Created First Spiritually, Than Physically

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we really understand it?

It can be distilled to this fundamental Celestial principle:

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

Is there a greater blessing?

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

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

Parting the Veil

Joseph Smith taught:

“Those, then, who make the sacrifice (consecration) will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.

All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him: and through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure us seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).

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

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

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

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

And this keeps us from his presence.

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

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

Because now you share in that creation.

 

 

The Nature of Deception

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

But what causes a deception?

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

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

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

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

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

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

We live a lie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

False Doctrinal Teaching and Self-Deception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Do We Come Out of this Condition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the process of having a broken heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is what it means to be born again.

 

 

 

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

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

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

Should this not be the whole heart’s desire?

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

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

A broken heart is a completely softened heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2:16).

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

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

The Great Requirement: Sacrificing Your Earthly Kingdom

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

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

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

Here is his prayer:

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

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

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

He was willing to give up all of his sins.

He was willing to give up his earthly kingdom.

And this is the requirement.

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

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

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

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

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

Taught Joseph:

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

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

Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.

All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him: and through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure us seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are….

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel (Ether 4: 7,15).

The Choice

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

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

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

Becoming Born Again is Not a Lifetime Process.

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

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

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

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

Today.

Now.

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

Hold nothing back.

And receive the cleansing and transformation of the Holy Ghost.

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

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

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

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

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

The formula goes like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This process is described here:

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

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

This is the process of learning to taste light.

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

Alma speaks of this process when he wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

This is a practice that can be done immediately.

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

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

Joseph Smith described this principle when he taught the following:

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

Summary 

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

 

 

 

Repenting of Our Nature

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

Living in a State of At-One-Ment

How does one transform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Covenant?

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

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

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

The New and Everlasting Covenant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birthing Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a very careful and subtle deception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the beginning.

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Christ is the Greatest Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ, Zion, and Self-Deception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Families carry their own deceptions.

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

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

And so do religions, including our own.

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

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

CS Lewis refers to this when he wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The church is not the problem.

We are the problem.

I am the problem.

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

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

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

And then it flows to my ward and community.

I believe this is how Melchizedek redeemed Salem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 7

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

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

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

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

 

Living The Law Of Obedience and Sacrifice

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

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

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

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

And now we begin our repentance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice of a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit

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

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

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

It is repentance.

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

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

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

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

A broken heart is a perfectly softened heart.

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

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

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

And here is the key of this stage of prayer.

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

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

And this can be very painful.

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

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

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

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

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2: 16).

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

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

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

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

And this is repentance.

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

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

Consider very carefully this popular doctrinal scripture.

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

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

becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

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

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

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

This is repentance.

What Does This Look Like In Prayer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it usually lasted until lunchtime.

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

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

And this is repentance.

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

And this is repentance.

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

And this is repentance.

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

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

And this is repentance.

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

And you will be perfect in Christ.

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

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

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

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

Yes, this is possible.

And this is repentance.

 

 

Help Thou Mine False Belief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel” (Ether 4: 14-15).

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

False beliefs are the reason why our hearts are hardened.

False beliefs blind our minds.

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

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

 

 

Are You On The Straight And Narrow Path?

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

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

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

Here it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what King Benjamin meant when he taught:

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

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

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

So, given this context, is Elder McConkie right?

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

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

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

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

Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.

All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him: and through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure us seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is a very dangerous point not to clarify.

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

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

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

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

Why Is This A Problem? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nephi writes:

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

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

The gate is being baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost

The gate is becoming a new creature in Christ.

The gate is receiving a mighty change of heart.

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

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

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

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

Consider how Mormon teaches the same principle.

Moroni 8:26:

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

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

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

It means enduring in  a state of perfect love.

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

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

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

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

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

Nephi crystalizes the doctrine of Christ when he wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Joseph Smith taught:

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

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

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

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 6

Invite the Influence of Heavenly Ministration

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

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

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

Joseph F. Smith taught the following:

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

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

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

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

 

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

[ii] 2 Nephi 32:3

Prayer of Transformation – Part 5

Dismiss the Presence of Adversarial Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heber C. Kimball described these influences in this way:

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

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

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

Joseph Smith taught, “nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.[iii]

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

George Q. Cannon shared this remarkable insight:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[i] Helaman 13:37

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

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

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

[v] 2 Nephi 4:18

[vi] Journal of Discourses, 12:128

Prayer of Transformation – Part 4

Write Your Impressions

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

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

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

President Nelson taught this principle in a recent General Conference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Prayer of Transformation – Part 3

Submit Our Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Prayer of Transformation – Part 1

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

John A. Widstoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Prayer of Transformation – Part 2

Spiritual Set-Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

 

 

 

[i] Words of Joseph Smith, 238.