Love and Judgment

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

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

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

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

How do we reconcile these conflicting teachings?

Perhaps by making a simple distinction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Female Restoration of All Things

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

The Outer Boundary of Faith

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

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

We learn to trade Telestial comfort for the actual Comforter.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

And he gives a good example as to why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how do we discern?

Joseph taught this principle with precision.

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

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

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

Joseph wrote:

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

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

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

Joseph continues:

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

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

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

Joseph shares this interesting account:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Spirit a Feeling?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alma 32 gives a pattern to come into that discernment.

The Requirement of Faith to Receive the Second Comforter

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

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

Consider this excerpt:

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

And this:

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

And then this:

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamental Weakness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and Reconciliation

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

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

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

After All We Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Nephi 10:24

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

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

 

Reconciliation

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

It is not.

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

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

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

 Reconciliation Through A Softened And Yielding Heart

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

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

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

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

Nephi explained this process when he recorded:

1 Nephi 2:16

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

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

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

Mosiah 3:19

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

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

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

Helaman 3:35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Prayer of the Brother of Jared

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

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

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

Ether 3:2

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

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

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

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

The same invitation is given to us.

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

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

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

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

Moroni 10:32

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

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

Moroni 10:33

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

 Conclusion

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Born Again Benchmark Questions

images

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

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

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

The Alma 5 Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Born Again Benchmark Questions and Baptism of Fire Test.

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

Alma asks:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alma boldly declares:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Baptized by Fire and They Knew It Not?

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

Converted Prisoners

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

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

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

Become born again (John 3:3)

Mighty change in your heart (Alma 5:14)

Cleansed from all unrighteousness (Alma 7:14)

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

Being Redeemed of God (Mosiah 27:25)

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

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

Become sanctified from all sin (Moses 6:59)

You know God (1 John 4:7)

Overcome the world (1 John 5:4)

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

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

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

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

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

Sufficiently humble (Alma 5:27)

Stripped of pride (Alma 5:28)

Stripped of envy (Alma 5:29)

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

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

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

Quickened in the inner man (Moses 6:65)

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

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

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

Become spiritually begotten (Mosiah 5:7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who Are These Lamanites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vision of David O. McKay

I love this account from President McKay. The connection of being born again to having overcome the world is powerful.

“I then fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though it was far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe and a white headdress. Instantly  my attention seemed centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime–it was divine!

The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.

But who were they? As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words: “These Are They Who Have Overcome The World–Who Have Truly Been Born Again!”

[Cherished Experiences from the Writings of David O. McKay, comp. Clare Middlemiss (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1955), pp. 59-60]

Being Present and Sanctified Today

This was made known to me by my good friend Therese Cooper.

Brigham Young:

Our work is a work of the present. The salvation we are seeking is for the present, and, sought correctly, it can be obtained, and be continually enjoyed….If we are saved, we are happy, we are filled with light, glory, intelligence, and we pursue a course to enjoy the blessings that The Lord has in store for us. If we continue to pursue that course, it produces just the thing we want, that is, to be saved at this present moment. And this will lay the foundation to be saved forever and ever, which will amount to an eternal salvation…..Some will inquire, “Do you suppose we shall finish the temple Brother Brigham?” I have had such questions put to me already. My answer is, I do not know and I do not care any more about it than I should if my body was dead and in the grave and my spirit in Paradise. I never have cared but for one thing, and that is, simply to know that I am now right before my Father in Heaven. If I am this moment, this day, doing the things God requires of my hands, and precisely where my Father in Heaven wanted me to be, I care no more about tomorrow than though it never would come.

– A Sermon by President B. Young, Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 6, 1853, at the General Conference.

Becoming Born Again: Event of Process?

This week I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the principle of becoming born again. The question that I’ve struggled with is whether the experience is an event or a process.

The first thing to recognize is that, as far as I am aware, the scriptures never refer to becoming born again, experiencing the mighty change of heart, the baptism of fire, or becoming a Son and Daughter of Christ as a process. The scriptural pattern is always an event.

What confuses the issue is the process of sanctification and conflating it too closely with the baptism of fire. Although they are both principles of the same transformative process it is important to understand their purposes separately.

The baptism of fire is the cleansing and transformative experience of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost when one fully repents, commits to whole-hearted obedience, and is willing to sacrifice all for the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

The fruits of having one’s baptism of fire is that the natural man is neutralized by becoming a Son or Daughter of God. One loses their disposition to do evil. They feel a pure love for all people and a desire to bless the lives of all they encounter. They thirst and hunger after righteousness. They cannot wait to study the scriptures and they immerse themselves in them.

The person that is born again loves to pray and worship the Savior. They desire that all partake of the love and forgiveness of Christ. It becomes the primary motivation and desire of their lives. They lose a taste and desire of the things of the world.

The process of sanctification is the process that we engage in after we are born again. Since the fruits of being born again will always fade, one must be in the constant discipline of sanctifying themselves. This process of sanctification leads them to deeper and more fundamental experiences in the Spirit. It is the process of receiving revelation and the continuous purification of heart.

As we are invited to endure to the end, it is my feeling that that is an invitation to endure to the end in a state of redemption. In a state of grace.

It does not mean “white knuckling it” as an active member of the church. It is to learn to endure as a Son or Daughter of God.

Being born again is being in a state of grace. It is living in a state of redemption. The power, love, light, revelation, and knowledge of Christ flows through your being. It is to experience a fundamental change in your disposition. It is to become like Christ.