Posts Tagged ‘Holy Ghost’
I apologize for the misleading title. This is not about Denver Snuffer. This is about my progress in reading and digesting what Denver Snuffer has written. If you’ll recall, about a month ago I ordered, received and wrote about Denver’s latest publications. I just finished reading volume one of Remembering the Covenant and want to share a few things I learned from that volume.
Remembering the Covenant is a reprint of Denver’s blog. Volume one covered approximately the first five months, from 1 February 2010 to 7 June 2010. It is about 435 printed pages. I took my time reading it because I had several other reading projects going on at the same time. I read each entry twice, highlighting with a different colored marker on each pass, pondering as I read.
This is still a solo project. Carol is not interested in what I am reading, although I do share a few quotes with her on occasion. She usually likes to point out that if the Lord wanted me to know what Denver had to say, the Brethren would have told us to read his books. Sigh. Carol’s not big on doctrine. The social aspects of the church are more important to her. We balance each other.
Careful, Ponderous and Solemn Thought
Many of the entries were familiar to me, having read them at one time or another on his blog. I was also impressed that a lot of content was shared here the first time in this volume and found full expression in his book, Passing the Heavenly Gift. It’s obvious the ideas found in PtHG were developed a long time before they were put together so powerfully in that controversial book.
My objective in the methodical and deep reading of Remembering the Covenant is obviously tied to my desire to obtain what Denver has written about in his first book, The Second Comforter. No, I have not yet obtained an audience with the Lord, but then, I’ve only been asking seriously for the last year or so. I started asking in earnest after my first reading of The Second Comforter.
Maybe my approach is all wrong, but what I’m trying to accomplish here is prove one way or another that a regular member of the church can have the same experience Denver Snuffer says we all can and should have – to receive a promise from the Lord of Eternal Life. And yes, that means a personal visit from the resurrected Lord, and to receive that promise from his own lips.
Why I Haven’t Received the Promise Yet
I found many helpful entries to explain why I haven’t had that sacred experience yet. One of them is found on page 261. You can read the entry on his blog dated 27 April 2010 – God is No Respecter of Persons. About halfway through the post he discusses what alienates us from the Lord. He makes an interesting point that it is not our sins per se, but the way we offend Christ.
Specifically he says, “He is offended when we are forgiven by Him, and then return to the same sin. This shows a lack of gratitude for His forgiveness.” Denver acknowledges that some struggle with addictions, compulsions and weaknesses for years, even decades. That’s me. He then offers what I found to be a sad commentary. It made me think that I must still have a long ways to go.
He writes, “When at last, because of age or infirmity, a troubling weakness is at last overcome, He will readily accept your repentance and let you move forward, clean, whole and forgiven.” This makes me sad because it causes me to feel that those who struggle with addiction will not be accepted by the Lord until the biological temptations of the body go away due to old age.”
I Sin Differently Than You
Perhaps you can help me out in my thinking here. Maybe some of you know what I am talking about. I’m going to be frank. They say confession is good for the soul. I’ve written about this before on my blog and got a lot of positive feedback from folks who said it helped them to be so open and honest about such a sensitive subject. You may think less of me after reading this.
Mental illness runs in my family. So does addiction. I’ll bet they go hand-in-hand. I recall a line used by President Uchtdorf in a recent General Conference address (April 2012). I believe he said it came from a bumper sticker. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” In my previous blog post on the subject I wrote I was exposed to Internet pornography in 1995.
However, that wasn’t my first exposure to pornography. It seems the adversary knew what my weakness was before I ever understood. I struggled with pornography from the time I was eight years old, long before the Internet. I find it interesting that this temptation came into my life right after I was baptized. It has been a constant battle with many ups and downs for nearly fifty years.
A Common but Serious Weakness
I have never confessed this in a public forum before. I am pleased to say that I am a recovered addict and have been clean for many years, but like an alcoholic, it can come back in a second. My state of mind is something about which I have to be constantly wary. I must always be careful about what I look at, what ads I see, what TV shows I watch, what web pages I visit.
This is not a secret from Carol. We have worked on this together over the years. I am amazed at how kind, patient, loving and accepting she has always been. This is an intimate part of our lives but human sexuality is a big part of the mortal experience so it has eternal ramifications. For me, the biggest part of this struggle has always been feelings of guilt and of disappointing the Lord.
The last time I tried to confess this sin to a bishop, I also tried to turn in my temple recommend. This was many years ago, early in my married life. He pushed the temple recommend back at me and said, “I want you to go to the temple more frequently and I want you to stop confessing this. This weakness is between you, your wife and the Lord. You work it out among yourselves.”
Broken Souls Are Loved by the Lord
I came away from reading Denver’s entry that God is No Respecter of Persons thinking that I will not be worthy or qualified for a visit from the Lord to obtain the promise of Eternal Life for many more years, probably just before I am ready to leave this life. Perhaps someone who struggles with an addiction is a special case, who can’t be trusted until they’re almost dead.
I found some consolation in reading his entry on Broken Souls on page 387 which can be found on his blog dated 25 May 2010. In it Denver describes his work with and love for those who find it difficult to associate with other members of the church because they struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression caused by addictions. I could immediately relate this to my life-long hurt.
He writes that he has close friends who struggle with addictions so haunting and so terrible a force in their lives that rising each day to face the coming fight takes greater courage than he could imagine. “They are acting in faith at every waking breath, as they fight against a foe that I do not comprehend and could not face.” Yep, that pretty much describes my daily walk in life.
Forgiveness for a Former Addict
Hope came as I read there, “I marveled at how very much these broken souls, these discouraged people … are the very ones with whom I feel the Lord’s presence and love as I have the honor of meeting and talking with them about the gospel. These are the ones He loves the most. These are the ones with whom he associated during His ministry. He associates there, still.” I like that.
I made a decision a long time ago to continue to follow the gospel path, to attend my meetings each week, to accept and faithfully serve in callings when asked, to attend the temple and to do all within my power to prove to the Lord that I loved Him and wanted His forgiveness. But I also accepted the fact that I would never really feel that I belonged, that I was not worthy of the Lord.
All this, because as a former addict, I did not feel I could be trusted. I could and would do all that we are supposed to do, including prayer and gospel study, but deep down, I knew my weakness and it terrified me that I was capable of such betrayal. I had known the Lord’s forgiveness early in my life, but my constant struggle over the years caused me to feel I had offended the Lord.
You Deserve Your Insecurities
On page 408, in the post entitled Developing Your Faith dated 30 May 2010, Denver writes, “Insecurities are a result of a lack of faith. You deserve them. You have not acquired knowledge yet. You have them as a gift, as a warning that you have not yet received what you need. Nor have you developed faith yet.” He then admonishes us to go and re-read Lectures on Faith Six.
Of course, that lecture is about offering sacrifice to obtain sufficient faith to be saved. In this lecture is found the famous quote 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.” I have thought and pondered about this for at least twenty years. I have yet to figure out what more I can sacrifice.
According to Denver, it is my fears and insecurities that I must sacrifice. It is my lack of trust in myself that comes from years of being a former addict that I must sacrifice. I know the Lord has forgiven me. That’s a given. I have asked and know that He has forgiven me. There has never been a hesitation when I have asked for forgiveness. But does he trust me enough to visit me?
Timing for the Visit From the Lord
I suppose the real question is, “Do I trust myself enough to let the Lord visit me?” Of course, we do not set the timing of the Lord’s visit. So the mechanics of how this works puzzles me. Let’s say I finally figure out in my mind at last a way to give up that lack of trust that I put there so long ago as I began my recovery from my addiction. I give up the fear that I can’t be trusted.
Well, that’s nice. That is, it’s nice to be able to say to myself that the Lord trusts me, but unless I hear the Lord say it to me personally, perhaps it’s just self-deception. The Lord has commanded us to drop doubts and fears from our hearts. I am willing to do so. For non-addicts I assume it’s a simple thing. You simply say to yourself, “I trust myself that I will not participate in sin again.”
I’m sure I’m over-analyzing this and making it way more complicated than the Lord intended. The gospel is supposed to be so simple that even a child can understand it. We are supposed to become child-like in our trust and faith in the Lord. I know I can trust the Lord, but I am not certain I can trust myself, even after all these years. There simply are no guarantees, are there?
Invitation to Dialog
For any other Snuffer readers out there, what do you think? Am I going about this wrong? Denver reports on page 421 in “Be Still and Know That I Am God” (2 June 2010), “Study what I’ve written carefully and anyone will find it is all there. Several people have done so, and have received the promised results.” That’s nice to know. I believe Denver and am happy for them.
I’m still pondering the approach I need to take to accomplish this work that only I can do for myself. One approach is to hang onto the belief that because I am a former addict who has offended Christ by returning to my sins after having been forgiven, that I must wait patiently until my life is nearly over before the Lord will visit me to proclaim I have Eternal Life.
The other approach is to give up all doubts and fears left over from years of sin, trust the Lord implicitly that He is willing to come to me now and ask all the more sincerely for that blessing. Perhaps I have missed something in The Second Comforter and need to go back and re-read it yet one more time, asking the Lord to show me what steps I missed the first few times I read it.
About twenty years ago I served in a unique position in the church. My calling was “Melchizedek Priesthood Leader.” Because our little ward was so small, the Stake President had placed all priesthood holders in the ward into one group. In effect, he combined the Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests Group and put me in charge.
I also served as the de facto ward mission leader because we had none. As you can imagine I felt a little overwhelmed. I often prayed for inspiration to know what to do to help our little ward grow, but it was to no avail. We lived in an older part of town with many transients. Older members kept retiring and moving away to Utah.
On one occasion I attended a stake meeting where I had decided to speak up about the problems we were experiencing in our little ward. I thought about and prayed about what I wanted to say. But for some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this particular stake meeting was not the right place to bring up my concerns.
Preparation for Prayer
Now in order to understand what I’m about to share, I’ve got to tell you a little bit about how I receive revelation. When I pray and ask the Lord to help me with a problem or to guide me through a difficult situation, I know I’ve got to do two things first. I’ve got to study it out and make a decision about a course of action.
Then I present my decision to the Lord in prayer. I tell Him about the problem. I tell Him what I’ve studied. Then I tell Him what I’ve decided. Finally, I ask for a confirming witness of the spirit to know if what I’ve decided to do is good or best. It’s a time-tested formula that has worked for me as long as I have been praying.
After praying, I then wait and listen carefully. Sometimes I know immediately one way or the other about what I have discussed with the Lord. But often, my prayer is not answered right away. This was one of those occasions where I did not feel that confirming witness of the spirit that what I wanted to do was the right thing.
The Mind’s Eye
A little more detail might be helpful to understand how revelation works for me. When I ask the Lord for help to know if a certain course of action is the correct one, He will often answer my prayer by allowing me to see myself engaged in that particular activity. In fact, I can often hear as well as see some things in advance.
When I was young I wondered if I should go on a mission. I followed the formula. I studied it out. I made a decision and I asked the Lord for a confirming witness. I was then overwhelmed with what the Lord revealed to me about my mission. I saw myself helping people understand the truth. I heard myself preaching the gospel.
Over the years, this gift of seeing myself perform specific actions in advance of actually doing them has been repeated. There are times when I can hear the words I say as I am performing the task, such as teaching or speaking. There are also times where the Lord inspires me with specific words or phrases so I will write them out.
Revelation is Rehearsal
For me, revelation is kind of like a rehearsal. It gives me confidence and makes it easier to do the difficult tasks of life because I have already seen myself complete them successfully. I greatly appreciate this gift and have come to rely on it more and more as I go through my life. It’s like the spiritual creation before the physical.
Now back to my story. I had studied the problem out. I had made a decision. I had prayed about it. But I did not receive that confirming witness. I did not see myself sharing my thoughts in the meeting. I knew I had done my homework. I had done my part. The problem was clear in my mind. I felt confident I could explain it.
And indeed I could, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted expressed at that time in that meeting. The problem was real, my proposed solution was good, although not best as I later found out. In another setting, the discussion I wanted to have would have been appropriate. This meeting was not the time or place for my comments.
The Moment of Truth
I went to that meeting prepared, or so I thought. The meeting progressed to the point where the problems were being discussed. The Stake President solicited discussion. A sister shared her concerns. I raised my hand, was called on and began to speak. No sooner had I opened my mouth then I knew I had made a mistake.
A feeling came over me that I knew I was wrong in what I was trying to share. I should have stopped right then and graciously said something like, “What I’m sharing right now doesn’t feel right. Although I thought it was earlier, it doesn’t seem so now. Forgive me.” The discussion could have continued from there.
Instead, I foolishly continued to speak, reaching into my mind for the things I had studied out and thought about as I prepared to present my solution to the Lord. To my amazement and eventual embarrassment, what was once clear and concise was now a jumbled mess in my mind. I could not recall my points to make any sense.
The Stupor of Thought
And that, my friends, is how I learned that the stupor of thought is a real thing. I could not explain myself. My words weren’t making sense. My fellow brothers and sisters in the meeting were looking at me funny. Finally, the Stake President had to interrupt me to keep me from blathering on. My face burned with embarrassment.
The Lord had answered my prayer. I just hadn’t understood. There was nothing really wrong with my proposed solution, given a different set of circumstances. I didn’t have all the information the Stake President had. I didn’t have the whole picture. My ideas were fine, just not relevant or pertinent in the current situation.
I sat quiet the remainder of the meeting and reflected on what had just happened. I was chagrined and a little confused. It was then I realized I had not been careful in listening to the Lord as I prayed. I had not seen or heard myself sharing what I had studied out so carefully. There was no rehearsal, no advance spiritual creation.
Summary and Conclusion
I learned that the stupor of thought can last as long as it needs to in order to work. I had been given a stupor of thought and should have kept it to myself in my prayer. Instead, I took it with me to a public meeting where it was made evident to all. The stupor of thought God gave me caused me to forget my erroneous conclusions.
I have since learned to be more careful in my prayer rehearsals. If I am unable to see myself sharing my conclusions or performing my intended course of action with success first in my mind’s eye, then I know it would be better to seek another solution. I have come to greatly appreciate this wonderful gift of prayer.
I now know how to use the stupor of thought to refine my path through life without making embarrassing mistakes like I experienced in that stake meeting so long ago. In essence, I have learned to keep quiet unless the Lord distinctly inspires me to say something at the right time and in the right place. This has taught me patience.
Reference: D&C 9:7-9
How many hours a day do you spend studying the gospel? OK, how many minutes? Hmmm, let’s break that down. Would minutes per week work better for you? And no fair counting the time you spend sitting in church meetings or reading blogs that discuss the church. I mean time spent in the scriptures and asking the Lord to help you understand well enough to teach others in an intelligent way the doctrines you find there.
If you’re like me, your gospel study time is nowhere near what you would like or know it should be. When I was preparing for my mission I spent hours each day reading scriptures and various commentaries on the scriptures. I wanted to know what I would be teaching when I went out there to present the doctrines of the kingdom of God. I miss those days. I felt immersed in the spirit then and knew the Lord was pleased.
Fast forward thirty-six years. I’m an old man in my fifties. I’ve spent a lifetime of service in various callings, enjoying each one with the learning and growth that came with them. My calling right now is easy – stake auditor – and I have no serious demands on my time other than what is expected of any other computer guy who supports a small business with about 100 computers and a dozen servers. No big deal.
A Gospel Study Plan
There are two parts of gospel study that make it work for me. First is the discipline of a schedule. If I don’t have a set time each day where I know I have nothing else planned then the work of reading and writing is just not going to get done. Notice I said writing. For me, gospel study without taking notes, summarizing or writing out conclusions about how it can be applied or taught is really nothing more than reading.
Not that there’s anything wrong with reading. But at my age, I need to move beyond the basics of reading. Like most of you, I’ve read the scriptures dozens of times. I’m familiar enough with what’s in them that when someone quotes a scripture in a talk I can usually find it with the flips of a few pages or the scrolling of a few screens. Reading the scriptures and pondering them is certainly a good use of gospel study time.
I guess it’s the teacher in me that feels the need to prepare outlines, collect quotes, compare commentaries from different authors and gather everything I can about specific subjects. I’m not a scholar but from what I understand about the scholarly process, the idea is to become an expert on some aspect of the gospel and then to advance the body of knowledge with individual insights that add to the understanding of others.
Purpose of Gospel Study
But of course, that may be the wrong way to undertake a serious study of the gospel. Take a step back and ask yourself what is your purpose in reading and searching the scriptures. What do you hope to accomplish? What will be the end result of years of pondering and study? Do you want to come across as a “know-it-all” in the gospel doctrine class? I don’t. What I want from my time is pure and simple. I want to receive revelation.
The second required part of my personal gospel study plan is inspiration. If I don’t have some goal or vision or idea of what I want to learn or discover in exchange for the investment of my time, then I struggle with the natural man in me, the inner child that needs a reason why. Let’s face it – self-discipline is not fun without a reward. I have found over the years that I need to reward myself for the work of study.
My reward, and this is personal so it may not appeal to you, is to take what I have studied and present it to the Lord in prayer, asking for a confirming witness that my conclusions are correct. Because I have invested the time in study, it’s as if I give myself permission to talk to the Lord in a language that is beyond my own natural ability. It feels as if the heavens open. There is a real closeness to the Lord that is undeniable.
There is something about the language of scripture, particularly as found in the Doctrine and Covenants that brings the spirit of revelation into my heart and mind. It is especially powerful when read out loud. After completing a study session, I’ll retire to a private place where I can sit and read a section of the D&C out loud, as if I were acting as voice for an assembly found just on the other side of the veil. It is powerful.
I then kneel in sacred prayer. I find that if I have completed my preparations satisfactorily, I am enabled to exercise sufficient faith in prayer – and I pray out loud – to call down the powers of heaven upon me. The words just seem to flow. I know what to pray for and even how to phrase it. I am able to report to the Lord what I have studied, what I have learned and conclusions I have reached about truth and its relevance.
For me, the process works best when I am confirming what someone else has taught or claimed to be true. I confess I have received very little personal or “new” revelation through this process although there are times I can say with absolute certainty that the Lord has given me something sacred that is meant just for me. I then write it down. I do the same when I have a dream that I know has come from the Lord.
This is a sacred process. If you have not experienced it you may think it unusual or strange. I can tell you it is different from the way the world teaches we should study and gain knowledge. The difference is in the addition of the elements of prayer, revelation and a confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. I have been taught and have believed from my youth that a testimony is built with both study and sincere prayer.
I am impressed by those who know history or who know how to explain a doctrine well in an expository manner. But I am more impressed by those who know how to take that knowledge and nurture or build the testimony of someone else. Knowledge of the truth shouldn’t be like a club to be wielded in a challenging or threatening manner. What you gain from heaven should be used to uplift and strengthen.
If the Lord gives you light and truth through your efforts in study and prayer then it should be sweet to you and to others if you are directed to share it, especially in a teaching capacity. To edify means to bring a focused clarity to the mind and a confirming, sweet witness to the heart. If it does not edify when shared then it is not done in the Lord’s way. Even a call to repentance has a comforting spirit to it.
My Personal Motivation
There’s a reason the Lord commanded us to study and search the scriptures. The primary song “search, ponder and pray” teaches us that the responsibility to know the Lord and his ways rests squarely upon our own shoulders. Nephi’s lament that men will not search knowledge was meant for us in our day. We are the gentiles that need to come unto Christ through a deeper knowledge of the doctrines of the Book of Mormon.
The Lord isn’t trifling with you or me when he commands us to repent and to cast off the chains of the adversary that bind us. The Holy Ghost will inspire you with exactly what you need to do to remove the condemnation from your own life. I know that I must repent and am grateful for the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon that helps me through that process. I have a long way to go and hope the Lord gives me time.
I intend to get serious about my gospel study in a way that I have not done for a long time. I intend to recapture the spirit that accompanied me as I spent hours each day in gospel study while preparing for my mission. While I may not be preparing for a mission, I am preparing for an audience with the Lord and intend to be prepared when that day comes. I also intend to have that audience while yet in this mortal life.
How about you? How are you doing on your preparations to meet the Lord? Are you motivated and do you spend the time required to know what He expects and needs you to know before He can reveal Himself unto you? How much time do you spend in gospel study each day? Are you consistent? Are you discovering new things, immersing yourself in the scriptures and coming to understand the voice of the Lord?
I invite you to join me in getting serious about studying the gospel. Make it a higher priority. Be aware of the natural tendency to think that you have learned enough. Believe that the Lord has so much more that He wants to reveal to you. Be willing to pay the price through study and prayer. If you are already serious and consistent in your studies then I congratulate you and pray for the Lord’s choicest blessings upon you.
I promise you that the Lord will reveal great and marvelous things to those who make the effort in this life to receive them. I have tasted just enough of those promises that I know I want more. I have been immersed in the light of truth and the sweet comforting spirit of the Holy Ghost on many occasions after study and prayer. I want more. I want to know the mysteries of Godliness that he offers to share with each of us.
A line in my patriarchal blessing reads, “if you will listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, that comes to you, you will be directed into the path that you should go, that your advancement will not be detained, that you will use every possible moment in your development for the work that you have been called to do.”
I have long pondered that line and wondered what it meant. Now that I am getting old, I decided to look back at my life’s journey for evidence of the fulfillment of this promise. I was amazed at what I discovered with just a few moments of pondering. I share this as a journal entry, evidence of the Lord’s love for me.
A Blessing at the Age of Five
I attended the Presbyterian Church with my family the first five years of my life. I remember the singing and the constant getting up and down in the pews. I wondered what that was all about. Dad had to work most Sundays but mother took the rest of us to church each week. She was a schoolteacher and a good one.
In 1962 my mother had several people come into her life who were members of the church. She was intrigued. She asked questions. The missionaries came to our home. Most of my family was baptized. Of course, I was too young to receive that ordinance but in order to create a membership record I went up to the stand the next Sunday to be blessed by the Bishop.
I felt special. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was in the right place. Even at the age of five, I knew when something was right. This felt right. I felt like I was part of something important. I loved growing up in the old Covina ward and Covina stake of the 1960s and 1970’s. I attended Primary, Sunday school, and later priesthood, Sacrament meeting, mutual and seminary.
Reading Book of Mormon at Age Eight
I have a small keepsake given to me by my Primary teacher when I was baptized. The memento is a well-known painting of the Savior laminated onto a round slice of a small tree. On the back are the words, “Congratulations on your baptism. Be sure to let him guide and direct all of your thoughts and actions. Remember to pray always. Love, Muriel Bay.”
I knew my Primary teacher loved me. She also gave me my own copy of the Book of Mormon. It had a plain brown cover. It was the first one I read. I read it with my mother out loud. It was also the first time she had read the Book of Mormon. She would mark out all the instances of “and it came to pass” because she thought they were distracting. We finished it together that year.
For the longest time I thought that everyone read the Book of Mormon aloud with their mother when they were eight. I now understand how special that was. Because of sacred feelings I felt as we read together, I have never doubted the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I knew then and still know that it is the word of God and was given to us to guide and bless our lives.
God Can Show us Our Future
Shortly after I was baptized, we went as a family to Disneyland as we often did. There was an attraction called the Carousel of Progress in the park from 1967 to 1973. On the way out of the ride, you walked past an exhibit called “Progress City.” It was while looking at that exhibit one day that I felt the Holy Ghost whispering to me in a setting outside church or my home.
I don’t know why I found the exhibit so fascinating. I couldn’t wait to see it each time we went to the park. Perhaps it was the symbolism of the display. It seemed to speak to me of things that would come to pass in my life. On this particular occasion the feelings were intense. I seemed to hear the Lord saying, “I love you. You will participate in wonderful technology.”
The feeling was so real that I looked around to see who was talking to me. Yet I immediately realized that I had heard no audible voice. Nevertheless, the voice came into my mind and caused my heart to burn within me. I chalked it up to the magic of Walt Disney but the impression has stayed with me to this day as evidence of the whisperings of the Holy Spirit to me.
Recognizing a Lack of Authority
I didn’t do too well in school as a youth. Not because of any lack of ability but because of a lack of discipline. One year my mother felt it best to enroll me in a private religious school. I remember they required us to go to some sort of worship service at the end of each week. Something felt out of place. There was something missing but I couldn’t place my finger on it then.
I later realized what it was. It was the spirit whispering to me that the pastor who led the worship service was doing this as a part of his job. He got paid to preach the gospel to us. It felt different when my Primary teachers and Sunday school teachers taught me. It felt right. When this pastor taught, it was more for show, so the parents who paid his wages would be pleased.
From that day on I never doubted there was something special and unique about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even as a ten-year old boy in California who barely paid attention in Primary or Sunday school, I recognized the spirit of the Lord when it moved on teachers who were set apart by those in authority. That authority is only found in the LDS church.
Putting Words in my Mouth
I was asked to be the seminary class president in 1970. One day, Sister Starr became upset by the rude behavior of the kids. She started to cry and stepped out. As the president of the class, I took over, and found myself talking to my classmates about the importance of being respectful. I think that was the first time I experienced the Lord putting words in my mouth. It amazed me.
A Comforter in the Face of Adversity
In August of 1971 I concluded my young Boy Scout experience by going on a 50 mile week long trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. For some reason, the other scouts teased me. I felt out of place. Perhaps it was because of my asthma. I didn’t think I could make it up and down those mountains.
One day I felt especially sad about something the other boys did to mess up some of my equipment. I was too old to cry, and was not a fighter so I bottled it up inside. It hurt. The next day on the trail I stopped to look out over the beauty of the countryside and felt my heart burn with peace and a sense of wonder. I felt the comfort of the Holy Ghost and the Lord whisper peace to me.
Faith and a Patriarchal Blessing
I was fifteen when I received my patriarchal blessing in June of 1972. The bishop said I should fast so I did. He said wonderful things would happen if I exercised faith. My mother and sister went with me. Pati also received her blessing that day. I felt the love of the Lord in the most powerful way that I don’t think I had ever felt before. It was a spiritual feast that day and still is.
Vision in my Mind’s Eye
In 1973 I was in High School watching a video about how disk drives are made at an IBM plant. I experienced what I consider my first revelatory experience. I was shown what my life’s work would be. I knew then and have always known that I would work with computers. I was amazed at the clarity of the vision. It was simple and direct, private from God to me in my mind.
As I watched the video, I could see myself working with that technology in just a few short years. I saw myself specifically on a job where I managed the very same technology I was seeing in the video. That vision was fulfilled several times over the next few years as I obtained jobs before and after my mission where I used those specific removable disk drives of an IBM System 3.
Line Upon Line Revealed
In the summer of 1974 I was preparing to attend my first year of college. I prayed deeply to understand how the Lord felt about me and how my life would unfold. Intense feelings came upon me as scene after possible future scenes of my life were revealed to me. I saw myself teaching the gospel. I saw and heard myself speaking from the pulpit as real as if in front of a congregation.
Years later, I recognized as each of these scenes came to pass. As I taught in a priesthood meeting or stood at the pulpit as a High Councilor, those same feelings came flooding back. It was the Lord’s way of saying to me, “See, I told you how it would be. Aren’t you glad you prepared yourself for this experience?”
The Lord is Willing to Forgive
That fall at Rick’s College I heard Elder LeGrand Richards speak about the power of a testimony and how it had blessed his life as a missionary. Never had I felt the spirit impress me that I needed to have a testimony like his. I spent hours praying each night that week until on Friday I knew I could pray undisturbed late into the night while my roommate was at a dance.
I had an amazing experience of receiving a powerful knowledge of forgiveness and a witness of the power of my Savior’s love for me. I felt a closeness to Him that I had never realized could be possible. I understood better how much I needed him and to have his power with me in my life so I could be successful. I had not fully realized until then that I was nothing without his help.
Powerful Witness of the Spirit
I was blessed to have many free months in 1976 to do nothing but prepare for my mission. I spent all my time studying the gospel and trying to strengthen my relationship with the Lord. President Kimball taught that we could and should have our own independent witness of the truthfulness of Joseph’s mission. At this point, I already knew the Book of Mormon was true.
I decided to fast and pray until I got an undeniable answer for myself that Joseph was a prophet. For three days I studied during the day and prayed fervently at night. One the third night the Lord whispered peace to my soul. He told me it was enough. I knew the Lord was pleased with my faith. I had a confirming witness that what I had been studying about Joseph was true.
That witness helped me resolve concerns that had come to me as I read some of the early history of our church not found in our official curriculum. It also served as an anchor to my soul when I later read how much these same events troubled others. They did not trouble me because of this powerful witness to my soul that Joseph was the Lord’s prophet in spite of his mortal failings.
Trailing Clouds of Glory
One Sunday evening I attended a regional young adult fireside just before I left for my mission in July or August of 1976. As the speaker addressed us, I seemed to drift off into a vision. I saw the gathered youth there in a similar setting as if in the pre-earth life. I knew promises were made. I was part of something special. I knew I was on a path that was pleasing to the Lord.
Power to Bless Others
My mission experience was difficult. It was meant to be. I was a long way from home in a very humble part of the world. We worked hard but we weren’t as effective as we should have been. A new mission president shook things up at our first zone conference. He challenged us to get on our knees at end of each discussion and invite the people we were teaching to join us. I shared the amazing results in a previous essay on this blog.
Powerful Revelation in Marriage Choice
I returned from my mission, finished my schooling and went to work. I struggled a bit as many returned missionaries do because I missed that intensity of the daily immersion in the spirit. At one time I was working three jobs trying to get ahead in the fast moving world of computers. Finally, I stepped back, took a look at my life and remembered that I was supposed to get married.
I started dating seriously but the girl I thought I wanted didn’t find a computer geek like me all that desirable. Her best friend came into my life when she returned from her mission. We hit it off right away but I still pursued the other girl. I confessed my feelings for her, but at the wrong time and to the wrong girl. To my chagrin Carol left the Dodger game with a broken heart.
The next day, I couldn’t get her off my mind. I went to see her. I asked what her plans were and how she felt about family and the things of eternity. An amazing feeling of revelation then came upon me. Again, it was a revelation from God, personal and direct to me. I saw us in my mind’s eye thirty years down the road. That day I saw is now. I proposed on the spot. She accepted.
The Power of Bearing Testimony
I wrote previously about how Elder Holland taught me how to properly bear my testimony so it would have a powerful effect on others. I thought I knew all about bearing testimony from years of experience in the mission field. After being instructed by an apostle, I came to realize what a powerful tool it really can be if delivered properly, in the right setting and the right spirit.
I don’t believe I have ever been as immersed in the spirit as I was that day while bearing my testimony. The Lord was bearing witness to me at the same time that I was bearing my witness to others. It was a fulfillment of another line from my patriarchal blessing, “You will be blessed with the gift of prophecy and revelation that you might speak the words of the Lord pertaining to the salvation of his children.”
Much has been written by our detractors about the practice of bearing testimony. It has been ridiculed as brainwashing and a way of avoiding thoughtful discourse. Sadly, many within our own church have repeated their lies about this practice until they believe it. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a real power in the sharing of our testimonies that strengthens.
Conclusion: My Testimony
Although I hope that every essay on this blog testifies of my love of the Lord and a witness for the truth, I want to be sure that my testimony is recorded as it stands today. Who knows, this could be my last day on earth. I want to leave a record that I knew and loved the Lord and that I know he loves me. I hope I have presented some evidence of that with the vignettes above.
As simple as it sounds, I know that God lives. I know that he loves me. He has demonstrated that to my soul sufficiently over the years that I cannot doubt it. I know he desires my happiness and is pleased when I exercise faith in Him and in Jesus Christ. I look forward to the day when I am reunited with Him. I hope and pray that it will be a joyous reunion but know it will be up to me how I live the remainder of my life, true to my faith.
I know that Jesus Christ was and is a real person, literally the Son of God. He has a glorified resurrected body of flesh and bone. He continues to minister to mankind today. I am a witness of his love, his willingness to forgive, to teach us and to guide us through this life. Like our Father in Heaven, he desires our happiness and has done for us what nobody else could do. He fulfilled His mission so that we can fulfill ours in confidence.
The Spirit Bears Witness
The Holy Ghost is real. His whisperings are real. I have been helped by the Holy Ghost countless times. In fact, I feel his help every day of my life, especially if I ask and listen. He inspires me. He teaches me. He leads me to Christ. I am so grateful for the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is a real power in my life, one that I cherish and of which I strive to be worthy. The Holy Ghost burns the witness of the truth into my soul as I study and pray.
Joseph Smith was a prophet of God in every sense of the word. He was an instrument in the Lord’s hands to restore the truth to the earth through the Book of Mormon. I have studied his life and have learned of his failings. I feel to give thanks to God that he was so open and honest about what he experienced. The Lord re-established His church through Joseph. He restored authority and keys to perform ordinances that are binding in eternity.
I am so grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has blessed my life. I sustain and support the leaders of this church. I appreciate their efforts to guide and help me on my life’s journey. It is in the LDS Church that I have been able to receive the ordinances I need to come onto Christ. I look forward to many more years of service in this Church. It is through giving service that I find joy and fulfillment in life.
I wrote an essay several years ago on my old blog that still gets a lot of hits even though I retired that blog and transferred everything over here. I’m glad I kept the old blog up because occasionally I get a comment there that inspires me to write something profound. Well, I think it’s at least inspired and uplifting. I felt impressed to share it here. It starts with the comment from Samantha:
I recently started meeting with my Bishop to repent for other sins that I had committed. I was almost ready to get my Temple Recommend when Satan came at me with full-force. I began to engage in watching pornography and masturbation.
My Bishop is a wonderful man, but I am far too scared to tell him of the addiction that I am faced with. It is not a daily habit, but it is still a problem. I have prayed, and I have come to realize I cannot overcome this on my own.
I feel so awful and depressed after engaging in these behaviors. I want to be clean; I want to go to the temple.
Is there anything else that I can do that would be sufficient for the repentance process? I don’t want to tell my bishop, at all. I do want to overcome this addiction immediately though. Or at least be able to refrain from such atrocities.
And my response:
Much love your way. Thanks for reading and adding your comment. I commend you for your desire to increase your self-mastery. That’s a big deal. Some people are not bothered by viewing porn or masturbating. “It’s normal,” they say. In fact, we’re looked upon as being weird because we want to adhere to a higher moral standard commanded by the Lord and his servants.
I recommend visiting the sites I linked to at the end of the original essay. There is a lot of good advice to be found in those pages. Most of the comments I have added here over the years are intended to give hope and encouragement. I want to continue that in responding to your plea for help. I think I wrote this previously but I’ll share it again. This trial can bring you to the Lord.
I feel impressed to share something that may or may not be applicable to you. Perhaps it will be helpful to future readers. It has to do with responsibility and accountability. Going to the temple is a big deal. The temple is a place of revelation. When I go there I always come away knowing more about myself, what I really want out of life and what I want to do with my free time.
I’ll bet like most people who have written me about this problem, you’re fine as long as you keep yourself busy. If you’ve got a regular schedule of work or school or both, you do well in that structure. The difficulty usually comes when there are no pressing demands on your time and nobody waiting for you to do something for them – a teacher, a co-worker or a family member.
That’s usually when your thoughts turn to yourself and what you want. Those are the defining moments of life. Satan knows that, which is why temptation seems to strike hardest when you are pondering something like going to the temple. We grow and advance in our lives when we go to the temple. We come closer to fulfilling our purpose in life as we attend the temple regularly.
The best advice I can offer is to partake of the sacrament and ponder the promises found in the sacramental prayers. The key phrases are “always remember him” and “have his spirit to be with them.” I know you’ve probably heard this in every public prayer and perhaps you offer it your own private prayers – to have his spirit. But do we focus as much on “always remember him?”
There’s something special and wonderful in the Sacrament that even after more than fifty years I still don’t fully understand. No, it’s not magic. We don’t believe in that. But it is powerful and it is real. I feel hopeful after partaking of the sacrament with real intent. I want it to work in my life and because I want that, believe that it can, it does. My power is strengthened by the Sacrament.
At the end of every Sabbath day I feel empowered, partly through offering service but mostly because I have partaken of the sacrament and have pondered how I can better remember the Savior during the week. I think ahead to the moments when I know I will have down time and think what I can do to show the Lord that I do remember him and want his spirit to be with me.
For me, there is something of a miracle that takes place in those quiet moments. Because I have asked, the Lord reveals to me what I will be doing during those quiet moments during the week. I can see myself working on some writing project or some other activity that will be helpful to me and to others. No, it’s not guaranteed that I will do exactly that, but it’s clear that it can be so.
My desire to do good things and be good is strengthened. I am in a partnership with the Lord to make something special out of my life. It is in the quiet moments that my life really develops. But it doesn’t work unless I make the effort to remember the Lord. Every time I do, he gives me special sacred feelings that encourage me and help me feel like I can do all I’m asked to do.
I hope this helps. There is no easy answer. It’s not like you can turn off a switch. Sorry. You’ve got hormones and that’s a good thing. Without them you’ve have no drive or ambition in life. Well, I’m speaking from a man’s point of view. For a woman I suppose that without hormones you would have no desire to nurture and strengthen relationships. I thank God for the sex drive.
Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I have a theory about why we feel depressed or hopeless when participating in pornography or masturbation. I’ve shared it elsewhere. It has to do with the influence of unclean spirits – those who have no hope or light of Christ in their lives. It’s just a natural result of allowing them to use you, even for just a moment. You feel what they feel.
Of course if you don’t believe in the existence of evil or unclean spirits you’re going to think this is crazy. That’s OK. As I wrote at the beginning of my essay, I’m not writing this to those who are unbelievers. My experience in life has settled the question for me. They are real and I know of their existence through experiences too sacred to share. But let’s not dwell on that aspect.
Focus on the Savior. Focus on building hope. Believe that you can eventually master yourself. Be happy that you even want to. God bless you in your efforts. Nobody can do this for you. In the temple we learn all ordinances are personal, performed one at a time for each individual. No answer fits everyone, but I have found this plan has met with success time after time in others.
Good luck and God bless. You can do it.
About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.
For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.
Open and honest discussion
It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.
There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.
A well-qualified historian
One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.
Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation. He knows early church history.
Serving faithfully in the church
And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple. I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history. I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.
I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.” I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.
Believing in spite of knowing
This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?” I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.
Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?
Shocked by our history
Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church? For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey. Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.
Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.” Things were different back then, weren’t they? The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.
History not being hidden
When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.
For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.
Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright
Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission. Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.
We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review. Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.
Consider carefully the source
For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil. Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.
We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.
Get the facts straight
If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.
Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?
The Joseph Smith Papers
Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation. In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.
I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.
We can believe the prophet
As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.
Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.
One of the greatest blessings of membership in the LDS Church is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Of course we are not the only people in the world with whom the Lord works through his spirit. But we are the only people who have claim upon the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. That is a very unique and special claim.
When asked by a President of the United States, “How is your religion different from all the other religions of the day?” The Prophet Joseph Smith answered, “We are different from all other religions in the mode of baptism (immersion) and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (by those who have authority).”
God inspires all
In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel. People everywhere can be inspired by the Holy Ghost.
However, the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is available only to those who receive the gift through the laying on of hands by one who is authorized and then remain worthy of that gift. This basic doctrine is taught and emphasized often from the pulpit and in the classrooms of our church each week.
One of the most important duties we have in this life is to learn how to interpret the impressions of the Holy Ghost that we receive though this gift. Sometimes they come unbidden but most of the time we need to prepare for and ask for spiritual guidance. With this sacred gift, we can be confident that the Lord will respond.
God will guide us
This gift contains an inherent covenant promise that the Lord will respond to our requests for guidance. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” As long as we do our part in striving to keep his commandments, repent and seek his spirit, we can rely on his promise.
However, the gift needs to be exercised and developed until we can go before the Lord with confidence and ask in faith for what we want. We need to learn what specific things we need to do to achieve the results we desire. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
We know we must study things out and come to an understanding or a decision on a subject before we approach the Lord for a confirmation of our decision or course of action. Sometimes it can take years to fully consider and achieve a mastery of a subject before we can approach the Lord and ask to guide us to further knowledge.
Much already revealed
That’s why the Lord and his prophets counsel us to study the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles. When we ask the Lord for help in some area of our lives, we can expect him to answer through both the promptings of the spirit and very often by directing us to what he has already revealed on the subject.
It is amazing to me the number of times I feel impressed to look to the scriptures or a recent conference talk for the answer I am seeking. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” It is while I am reading the scriptures or conference talks that I feel the impressions of the spirit.
I think it is in the process of reading revealed words that we become most familiar with the mind and will of the Lord for us. We begin to think like the Lord and develop a greater understanding of how he speaks. The mind of the natural man is not attuned to God’s way of thinking so it takes effort to understand revelation.
Revelation requires humility
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Even our natural reasoning processes, if they are not directed by the spirit of the Lord, can lead us to false conclusions. “For the natural man is an enemy to God … and will be forever … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”
The rest of the verse (Mosiah 3:19) emphasizes being submissive. I guess if there is nothing else I have learned about receiving revelation, it is the idea that in order to receive it, I must be in a submissive state of mind and willing to do whatever it is that the Lord reveals to me. Indeed, I must strive to become like a little child.
Of course, I know that the Lord will not tell me to do something that is contrary to what he has already revealed. For example, if I ask the Lord for help in knowing the best way to get out of debt, I am confident that he will not direct me to play the lottery, nor respond to email invitations to send money to Nigerian scammers.
Revelation is real
That is why I am confident that the Lord is sincere in his promise to reveal the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The key phrase there is “with real intent.” Like you, I have witnessed this promise fulfilled over and over again throughout my life. I have seen it happen for young and old when they ask with real intent.
I do not doubt the revelatory process. It is real. I have witnessed it in action throughout my life in Bishopric meetings, High Council meetings, in disciplinary councils and in preparing and presenting talks and lessons over the years. It seems to flow easiest for me when the revelation being requested is meant to help others.
But the Lord never reveals things that are outside the stewardship of my family, my own life or my specific callings in the church. While I may feel a desire to help another, if I do not have a direct responsibility for them, then I need to be very careful about what I feel impressed to tell them the Lord would have them do.
Revelation for others
I had a recent experience with this that confirmed to me how easy it is to step over the line into imposing my will on another. The Lord will never direct us to do that. In counseling with a fellow church member about a difficult situation in their life I shared some personal observations about what I thought got them into trouble.
Since I was not this individual’s priesthood leader, I was not entitled to know the whole story and made a judgment based only on what I saw. My counsel to this individual was flawed and was offensive because it was lacking in understanding. Gratefully, they were forgiving when I apologized after the error became apparent.
My point is that the Lord will never reveal something to me that another person should do unless I am responsible for that person as a husband, father or priesthood leader. That can even be applied to prospective marriage partners. The Lord will not tell us that another person should marry us. It should not be phrased that way.
Revelation to marry
When I asked my wife to marry me, I felt the Lord whisper to me that we could be happy together. Of course Carol had her agency and could have said no. It was an act of faith on her part to accept my marriage proposal. The Lord knew I needed that revelation to prompt me to propose, but it was intended for me and not Carol.
I knew the Lord wanted me to marry. I had been praying about it for some time and was actively seeking a marriage partner. I knew that the Lord had revealed through his prophet that “soul mates are fiction and an illusion.” So I wasn’t looking for that one special person, just someone with whom I could be happy.
I know that’s not very romantic but what made it special for me was the intensely strong and powerful impression that flowed into my heart and mind as I pondered asking Carol to marry me. In my mind’s eye, I saw us many years down the road, even in these years today, enjoying each other’s company, growing old together.
What I have learned
In conclusion, I guess there are two things I have learned about revelation. First, we must be humble and submissive to receive it and second, we can never receive revelation for anyone else’s life outside our own immediate family. It just doesn’t work that way unless the Lord puts us in a priesthood position that requires it.
Impressions of the spirit are very private and should be kept so. They are personal and unless you are the prophet of the Lord or have a direct priesthood stewardship for someone else, are meant specifically for one individual – you. They are not to be shared with others unless you feel prompted to do so and then only carefully.
I have been blessed throughout my life with impressions from the Holy Ghost. It is specifically because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost that they seem so abundant. Receiving revelation can be almost a daily occurrence, but usually it comes in the form of very quiet, subtle impressions that are sometimes almost imperceptible.
What a wonderful day it is to consider together our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I’m grateful to partake of the sacrament with you and to renew my covenant to remember him and to follow him. I’m not sure that I really understood the significance of that covenant when I first took it upon myself at age eight.
I’m still trying to understand what it means to really keep that covenant each day. Some days I do better than others. Sundays are a joy to me because I spend them in activities that are centered on the mission of the church – to invite all to come unto Christ. It’s during the week that I sometimes struggle to remember Him.
I suppose it’s a life-long pursuit, isn’t it? – To figure out how to really come unto Christ as we have been commanded to do. As Moroni taught, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness … love God with all your might, mind and strength …” – Moroni 10:32
Another Book of Mormon prophet taught, “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 …” – That’s found in Omni 1:26.
I think I understand Moroni’s instruction to deny ourselves of all ungodliness. I get that. It means to resist temptation and to do all within our power to control ourselves. The Holy Ghost helps us with that task, by making it clear what is offensive to the Lord. To me, knowing what is displeasing to the Lord is half the battle.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Like me, I’ll bet you’ve experienced that feeling when the spirit impresses you with an understanding that something you just said or did was not an especially good idea. I’ve even caught myself saying, “Well, I’ll never do that again!” I then store those feelings somewhere where I’ll remember them in a similar situation.
I’ve always felt the Holy Ghost helping me with this growth process in my life. I can testify that he is real and that he really does help us. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a treasure, one that I deeply appreciate and try to use each day. In fact, I like to think that the Holy Ghost and I are good friends since we talk so much.
We have running conversations at work. I tell God what I’m trying to accomplish and how I plan to go about doing it. Then when I get stuck on some part of my task, I exclaim, sometimes out loud, “Now that didn’t work right, did it? What should I do?” And you know, impressions come to me to try a different method.
I have no doubts about the revelatory process. It has become a very comfortable part of my daily life. After years of practice, it has become second nature to talk with the Lord and to listen for his answers. I don’t know if God has assigned a computer-savvy angel to work with me but I do know that someone is helping me.
I hope that you feel the same way and from conversations over the years I know many of you do. Isn’t that a wonderful gift – to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? And it is because of the Sacrament that we are able to have that gift always. How I love the Sacrament and the promised blessings to be found therein.
Offer your whole soul
It’s that second scripture in Omni that I’ve been pondering lately and trying to understand. What does it mean to offer your whole soul as an offering unto the Lord? I’d like to consider that with you today as part of my assigned topic to come unto Christ. I’ll call upon Elder Bednar and President Eyring to help us along.
But first I’d like to share a story from Sister Nadauld who served as the Young Women General President a few years back. You may remember this. It touched me deeply at the time she related it and it still does each time I share it. Although it is simple, it is a powerful story that introduces our subject in a touching manner.
Sister Nadauld is the mother of seven sons. Two of them, Adam and Aaron are twins. When they were about five years old they were just learning to ride their bicycles. Can you think back to those days in your own life? I can, even though it was a very long time ago. Of course having home movies helps my memory now.
As their mother glanced out the window to watch her boys, she saw the twins speeding down the street on their bikes going very fast. “Perhaps they were going too fast for their level of ability because all of a sudden Adam had a terrible crash! She saw him tangled up in a wreck of handlebars and tires and arms and legs.
“His little twin brother, Aaron saw the whole thing happen and he immediately skidded to a stop and jumped off his bike. He threw it down and ran to the aid of his brother, whom he loved very much. These little twins truly were of one heart. If one hurt, so did the other. If one got tickled, they both laughed.
“If one started a sentence, the other could complete it. What one felt, the other did also. So it was painful for Aaron to see Adam crash! Adam was a mess. He had skinned knees, he was bleeding from a head wound, his pride was damaged, and he was crying.
“In a fairly gentle, five-year-old way, Aaron helped his brother get untangled from the crash, he checked out the wounds, and then,” related Sister Nadauld, “he did the dearest thing. He picked his brother up and carried him home. Or tried to. This wasn’t very easy because they were the same size, but he tried.
“And as he struggled and lifted and half-dragged, half-carried his brother along, they finally reached the front porch. By this time, Adam, the injured one, was no longer crying, but Aaron, the rescuer, was. When asked, “Why are you crying, Aaron?” he said simply, “Because Adam hurts.”
“And so he had brought him home to help, home to someone who knew what to do, to someone who could cleanse the wounds, bind them up, and make it better—home to love. Just as one twin helped his brother in need, so might we all be lifted, helped, even carried at times by our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He feels what we feel
Sis Nadauld concluded her touching story by pointing our hearts toward the Savior. “He feels what we feel; He knows our heart. It was His mission to wipe away our tears, cleanse our wounds, and bless us with His healing power. He can carry us home to our Heavenly Father with the strength of His matchless love.”
From this story I have come to understand better one purpose of the Lord’s mission, which is to heal us. I have felt that healing power many times in my life, and again, it is activated most by my weekly participation in the ordinance of the Sacrament. I still suffer the pains of life, but feel strengthened by his love for me.
Through a lifetime of experience, I have also come to understand very clearly another important part of the Savior’s mission. He has cleansed me from the effects of my sins. Although repentance is an ongoing process that I will use the rest of my life, I have felt the cleansing power of the Savior free me from the devil’s grasp.
There is no doubt that the effects of sin are real. They have a very debilitating influence upon our spirits. Sin keeps us from feeling good about ourselves and keeps us from feeling the Lord’s love for us. He is also unable to bless us with the help that we need in this life when we participate in sin and do not completely repent.
I have long loved this statement from President Harold B. Lee that I first heard in my youth: “If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins … then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you.” I have felt this desire to know my standing before the Lord.
I can’t tell you how many times I sought an answer from the Lord to know if I had done enough to repent of my youthful rebellions. President Lee continued, “In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance.” I love that!
I testify that we can have that promised peace of conscience that comes after doing all we can do to repent. It is a real experience.
Clean Hands and a Pure Heart
But it is from a powerful Fall 2007 General Conference address by Elder Bednar I learned something that opened my eyes to the need to do more than be cleansed from sin. He took my understanding of the repentance process to a different level. He introduced the idea by quoting one of my favorite scriptures from Psalm 24:
“Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully.” He then said, “Brothers and Sisters, it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart.” I had never considered that.
Elder Bednar then taught us so clearly, “Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better.”
“All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us.”
Did you catch that last line? It was an “ah-ha” moment for me when I heard it. I knew the Lord could heal me and could cleanse me but I had not understood how the atonement makes me a saint.
I know that I am a child of God. I know that he loves me. I know that I can be and am happy when I repent and make efforts to put off the natural man. I feel at peace with God when I fully accept the love Jesus offers me in bridging the gap between my efforts to repent and what is required to be fully cleansed from my mistakes.
But it is the purifying of my heart that has long eluded me. I know I have a good heart because I am pained by sin and always want to do better, but the strength of the natural man is sometimes so great that it almost overcomes me. I cry out in my prayers that I just don’t see how I can be the man that I know God wants me to be.
That our Hearts May be Purified
Do you remember what the people in King Benjamin’s day said after they had heard the words of the angel that he shared with them? “… they all cried aloud with one voice saying: “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified.”
I think most of us get it when we talk about receiving forgiveness. We know it comes through the atonement of Christ. But that’s not all that we can receive each week as we partake of the sacrament. We can also have our nature transformed and our hearts purified. Our desires to do good and to become a saint can be strengthened.
Do you ever find yourself full of the spirit on Sunday and saying, “I feel great! I feel so close to my Heavenly Father and my Savior. I know that they love me. I’ve been spiritually fed and uplifted at church today. I can do all those hard things that I know I should. I’m going to be so much better this week.” I have.
And then sometime during the week, after an exhausting day at work or an especially trying day with the kids or with the demands of others upon your time, you find yourself saying, “I just can’t do it anymore. I’ve had it. I just don’t want to do all the hard things that are asked of me. It’s too much. I can’t put up with all these difficult demands.” What happened to that Sunday determination?
Well, that’s what Elder Bednar was trying to teach us – how to have our very nature changed so that our desires to do good are strengthened. It is through the ordinance of the Sacrament that we come unto Christ, put off the natural man, and become a saint. We can have our hearts changed so that we no longer desire evil.
But, and this is my concluding thought, we must offer to the Lord our whole soul in exchange for the purifying of our hearts. For me, that means determining in my heart and mind before I partake of the sacrament that I am going to do whatever the Lord asks of me that week. Wow! That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Can I do it?
Must I do everything that I feel prompted of the Lord to do? Yes, for me, that is what it means to offer my whole soul as an offering to him. The Tabernacle choir sings a hymn that illustrates this so beautifully for me. It’s called, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The line that describes this process goes like this:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
May God take our offering and purify our hearts is my prayer.
On this Pioneer day, I decided to answer all the personal questions that you are asked when you fill out the profile on Mormon.org. There are a whole lot more under the FAQ section (about 80) but that will have to wait for another day when I have more time. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of answering these questions and felt like I was being interviewed, thus the title of this blog post.
01. Please explain the part prayer plays in your life?
Having grown up with daily prayer, I can’t imagine a day go by in which I don’t communicate with my Heavenly Father in prayer. We start the day in prayer as a family asking for the Lord’s blessing upon us as we work. We end the day in prayer the same way, usually kneeling by the bed, reporting our activities to God and thanking him for his help. We give thanks for the food we eat at mealtimes and participate in public prayers in our weekly worship service. It is through prayer and reading scriptures that I feel close to God and directed in my life.
02. Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?
The most powerful admonition of the Lord that has helped me find happiness in this life is his commandment that we love one another. I remember this whenever I feel that I have been misunderstood or hurt by someone else, either intentionally or not. It is so easy to take offense in this world but the end result is that we only hurt ourselves when we do that. To love others is to trust in the Lord that he will help make everything all right, even if it doesn’t appear that way at first. He also requires us to forgive others since we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. We show our love by forgiving.
03. Please share your feelings/testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel.
Even though I grew up hearing the Joseph Smith story I am still amazed as an adult to realize just how powerful his history really is. Think about it! Angels, gold plates, visits from God, Jesus Christ and ancient apostles and prophets – these are all miraculous events that we just don’t hear about everyday. It is truly a marvelous thing to learn all that the Lord did through Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God. I am especially grateful for revealed doctrines that clarified and corrected the errors of man in the many religions of the world.
04. Please share your feelings/testimony of Joseph Smith.
I have read at least a dozen biographies of the life of Joseph Smith, and continue to be amazed that the Lord was able to accomplish so much through this one man. He was a prophet in every sense of the word in that the Lord revealed his will for us through him and continues to do so through the prophets that have followed. But it was Joseph who paid so dearly with his life even though he did what the Lord told him to do in bringing forth the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I hold Joseph Smith in high regard and look forward to meeting him in the world to come. I want to thank him for his faithfulness in translating the Book of Mormon.
05. Why do Mormons go on missions?
I went on a mission because I watched a video of the prophet asking all worthy young men to serve the Lord as missionaries. As he shared his vision of how the gospel would go to all the world, I deeply felt a desire stirring within my soul to be a part of that great army of missionaries. It was a major sacrifice for me to leave my studies and spend two years in Central America seeking out those who would respond to the Lord’s invitation to come unto him through baptism. I loved my mission experience and found joy in testifying to the world that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. We go on missions because we are commanded to share the gospel and feel the desire to seek out and bring the message of the truth to all who will receive it.
06. Why do Mormons do family history or genealogy work?
Besides being a commandment to seek out our ancestors, we do family history research because we feel a desire to know and appreciate the story of those to whom we are indebted for our very lives. I am a product of all those who came before me. My parents were influenced by their parents and they were who they were because of their parents and so on back as far as we can discover. Once we have the basic facts of their lives such as names and dates, we are privileged to go to the temple and perform proxy ordinances for them so that they too may meet the commandments of the Lord to be baptized and enter into covenants of exaltation. We do family history work so we can be saviors on Mt Zion (Obadiah 1:21).
07. How has attending Church services helped you?
One of the highlights of my week is to attend church services each Sunday. I serve in a leadership capacity in my church, and attend a few more meetings besides the regular three-hour block of Sacrament, Sunday school and Priesthood meetings. I love the interaction with others who believe as I do and feel as I do about trying to follow the teachings of the Savior. I say try because nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes each week. That’s another reason why I love to go to church each Sunday – I get to renew my baptism covenants by taking the Sacrament each week. I learn more of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these church services and feel a unity with God and with my fellow saints as we worship God and Jesus Christ together.
08. What has helped develop greater harmony in your home?
Like everyone else, I have experienced moments of argument and disharmony in my home which leave me feeling frustrated, resentful, hurt or angry. I do not like such feelings, especially in my home where I want to relax and feel happy, safe and secure. So over the years, I have made a greater effort each day to promote harmony and unity by not arguing and not finding fault with my family members. I was not very good at this as a youth and so I appreciate the blessings that have come to me as an adult as I try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to love others, especially members of my own family, who need and deserve my love the most. We can have a harmonious home by practicing kindness and forgiveness.
09. What have you done successfully to shield your family from unwanted influences?
Of all the teachings of the church about family, this idea of keeping out the world has been the most difficult but the most rewarding. Television and the Internet are two of the most challenging types of media to monitor and control. We believe in freedom so we encourage each other to seek after virtuous and uplifting material. So the shield we put into place is not anything controlling such as “thou shalt not!” It is more of making sure that we understand the differences that certain material, music or entertainment can produce, compared to the results of worthy content. We seek out and support worthy entertainment and uplifting media content and pray constantly that we will each desire such material over the worldly offerings.
10. Could you talk about your baptism?
I was eight years old when I was baptized and for me, that is a long time ago. My father, who was a recent convert, had to work the evening of my baptism, so he was unable to perform the ordinance. I was baptized by a young man who was preparing to serve a mission. My father was able to confirm me a member of the church the next day and I remember the special feelings that came to me as he conferred upon me the gift of the Holy Ghost. I remember my primary teacher was there and gave me a picture of the Savior mounted on a small piece of wood. I still treasure that memento and the words of encouragement that she penned on the back. I’m sure I did not understand all the implications of the covenants I was making at eight years old, but I have come to appreciate the blessings of this ordinance more and more each Sunday as I take the Sacrament and remember what the Savior miraculously did for me in taking upon himself the effects of my sins upon conditions of repentance. It is baptism that makes my repentance possible.
11. Why/How do you share the gospel with your friends?
I am not a very outgoing person so I believe that the best way I can share the gospel with others is through providing a good example of following the teachings of the Savior. I have been amazed over the years as I see the influence that my behavior has on others. I feel it brings respect and a kind of trust that can come in no other way. I am sometimes surprised that people, including co-workers, will unsolicited confide in me details of problems they are working out and seek my advice and opinion. I am then able to share my beliefs that following the teachings of Jesus Christ can and does help me deal with problems and that it can help them too. Because I am shy, I find great comfort in sharing my feelings about the gospel online and am an active LDS blogger. I also use modern technology like Facebook and Twitter to share my life. The gospel comes up in the natural course of sharing things online and results in online dialogs in non-threatening and informative way.
12. How does making right choices help us make more right choices?
When we choose the right even when it is hard to do, we strengthen our character and develop integrity. Deciding to do the right thing one time makes it easier to do the right thing the next time. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the added advantage of the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift helps us understand what the right thing to do is in difficult situations. When we decide to follow the impressions of the Holy Ghost in making life’s choices, we show God that we value and appreciate this gift. The impressions of the spirit will then become stronger or easier to recognize and we can grow in always making right choices. Of course, being mortal, we will all make mistakes. The Holy Ghost can also help us repent and make better choices in the future.
13. In what ways have your prayers been answered?
There are so many countless examples over the years that it is hard to share just one or two. Perhaps the most dramatic for me was on the day that I proposed to my wife. After I returned home from my mission, I had been praying for quite some time to find a woman who believed as I did and with whom I could be happy. I was dating my wife’s best friend but the chemistry was just not there. One day my wife invited me to a ball game and I told her about my troubles getting her friend to like me. I could see that her feelings were hurt. The next day I visited her in her home and had a long conversation about life and marriage and family. I had some very powerful spiritual feelings as I was talking to her that I knew were an answer to my prayers. I proposed on the spot and we were married a few months later. The Lord helped me with one of the most important decisions of my life.
14. What are you doing to help strengthen your family and make it successful?
My role in the family is to provide security and stability – both financial and spiritual. I enjoy my responsibility to work and earn the money that we need to have a home, food, clothing and other necessities of life. But more importantly, I enjoy my responsibility to provide spiritual direction for my family. We are strengthened by attending church together, by praying and reading the scriptures together and by pursuing worthwhile family goals. For example, my wife and I take classes at the local community college in the evenings in an effort to improve ourselves and keep our minds active. We are strengthened as we work together as a family to accomplish good things with our lives and to provide service in our church and our community. The gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in this endeavor.
15. How has your knowledge of the Plan of Happiness changed/benefited your life?
Sometimes this life can be a drag on the spirit because of all the disappointments and setbacks that come as a natural part of living in this world. Understanding the Plan of Happiness helps me to realize that such setbacks are temporary. I remain convinced that the Lord is very involved in my life and wants to help me through my journey until I am ready to return to his presence in the life to come. Knowing that I lived before I came to this world to experience mortality helps me to have a bigger picture of things. Knowing that I will live in the world to come and that I will someday be resurrected with a glorious and eternal body give me hope that goes beyond the drudgery and dullness that this life can sometimes be. The Plan of Happiness is just that – a plan for me to find and achieve happiness through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and enduring to the end of mortality true to what I know.
16. What is hope and what do you hope for?
Hope is the belief and conviction that there is purpose and meaning to this life. Hope is the understanding that even though we pass through trials and troubles, we can have the assurance that our experiences are for our good and will cause us to grow. I hope for a glorious resurrection. I know that this is dependant upon my personal righteousness and my works of faith in this life. Yes, the resurrection is a free gift to all men, but we believe that the quality of our lives in the hereafter is very much dependant on our actions here. This life is a time of testing and proving and we can hope that our efforts in struggling against opposition in this world will be rewarded by a just and merciful God who wants to bless and help us through it.
17. How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?
In the Book of Mormon we read that “men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). I can’t think of any more concise and explicit scriptural reference that helps us understand the purpose of life. Of course, the Book of Mormon provides a lot more insight into how we go about finding that joy and even helps us to understand what true joy is. One of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon is the prophet Lehi’s dream about the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8). In his dream he partakes of the fruit of the tree which is desirable to make one happy and is sweet above all that he had ever before tasted. Eating of the fruit fills our soul with exceedingly great joy. The fruit of course is the love of God and we obtain it by holding fast to the Word of God that is represented by the Rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream. What a great story!
18. How has the Holy Ghost helped you?
I consider the Gift of the Holy Ghost one of the greatest blessings in my life. There have been so many instances in which I have been helped by the Holy Ghost that it is hard to imagine getting through this life without this wonderful gift. The Holy Ghost inspires me and encourages me to do things that are hard to do but that result in happiness for me and for others in my life. The Holy Ghost has warned me of danger many times, prompting me to stay away from certain things and places. The Holy Ghost has helped me by prompting me to a certain course of action that I otherwise might not have considered. The Holy Ghost has been my constant companion in my work, helping me to remember things that, if forgotten, could have been the cause of much distress or pain. The Holy Ghost has comforted me in times of sorrow and distress, helping me to feel the love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior even when I do not feel worthy of their love.
19. What blessings have come through your faith in Jesus Christ?
It is because of my faith in Jesus Christ that I am able to get through some of the more difficult aspects of my life. For example, it is hard for me to do things in a public setting. But I have been taught and believe that it will be for my good. The Lord has promised me through the scriptures that he will help me through these difficult circumstances as I exercise faith in him. And like everyone in this world, I am no stranger to making mistakes and poor choices, even when I know better. It is through my faith in Jesus Christ that I put into practice one of my favorite little sayings that helps me keep going: “Success is not in never falling, but in getting up each and every time we fall.” I know that I can be a better person than my fallen human nature would dictate, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that I am willing to make greater effort each day to be the man that I know he would have me be.
20. How can we develop greater harmony in our homes?
One of the best ways I know of to live in harmony as a family is to do all within our power to avoid criticism, cutting remarks or any attempt to make another family member feel less than loved. We do this by sharing the same ideals and goals – to seek happiness in living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where some family members may not have fully accepted the vision of the gospel, we can provide an example of tolerance and patience with them, just as our Heavenly Father and our Savior do with us. Fighting, arguing, bickering and contemptuous behavior toward any family member is not the way to have peace and harmony in our homes. Thus, we pray each day that such undesirable activities are mitigated by expressing love and kindness in all that we do. We are each at differing levels of maturity in our understanding of this concept, so it is up to those who do, to live it better each day.
21. Can you think of a specific challenge in your family that Gospel Principles helped overcome?
Like most families, we have experienced our share of challenges that have tested our faith and caused us to lean deeply on our understanding of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to overcome. For example, my wife and I have both lost parents to death, have had our share of serious health problems, including cancer, and have suffered through multiple seasons of financial stress due to unexpected unemployment. In addition, we have been pained as not all family members have accepted our faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But it is because of the teachings of Christ that we are encouraged to be patient, that we are comforted when discouraged, that we are inspired when distressed and that we are given strength when we feel weak. We go on and we press forward, believing that it will all work out for our good, either in this life or in the life to come. We meet those challenges with strength knowing that we are not alone and that God has promised to help us through them if we will but exercise our faith in Jesus Christ and remain true and faithful to him.
22. How can your talents and gifts bless others?
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God gives gifts to each member for the purpose of blessing and supporting each other in this life. Some of those gifts and talents are more obvious, such as singing, musical ability, acting, performing or even a talent to be able to speak with confidence in front of the congregation (trust me, not all members have this talent). But the scriptures teach that God gives some gift or talent to every member. Perhaps one is blessed with the ability to be a good listener, another to share heart-felt testimony of how they know the church to be true, others with the gift of teaching children or even just the talent of being able to live peacefully among their neighbors. When we share our talents and gifts with others, God blesses us and we are “magnified” or made more effective so that others can receive the same benefits that we enjoy.
23. Think about your everyday activities. What are things you act upon each day where you cannot see the end results? How does faith move you to action?
A very simple everyday activity for me that is an act of faith is prayer. I have never seen an angel or heard a voice in response to my prayers, but I continue to pray each day, believing that God does hear and answer my prayers. And indeed he has – by sending the comforting feelings of the Holy Ghost to bless and confirm to me that he loves me and wants me to know the truth for myself. My faith in God and my trust in the words of his prophets as found in the scriptures causes me to continue to pray both as an individual, with my family, in my congregation and in the homes of other members of the church that I visit. The end results of my prayers are not always evident right way but are just as certain as if I had seen the effects at the time of the prayer. I am confident; yes I can say that I know, that God hears and answers our prayers that are offered in faith and with real intent.
24. How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?
I first read the Book of Mormon when I was very young – probably 5 or 6 years old. I read it out loud with my mother, who was a schoolteacher. Our family had recently joined the Mormon Church so this was also my mother’s first time reading the Book of Mormon. I remember the special feelings I had as we read it together. I felt a warm and comforting spirit as I read. I have read the Book of Mormon many times in the many years since I first read it. In fact, there is not a year that goes by in which we do not read from it either individually or as a family. No matter how many times we read the same passages, we always seem to learn something new or have our faith in the truthfulness of the book reaffirmed. The same warm feelings always return. But it is by following the principles of the gospel that are written in the Book of Mormon that we draw closer to God. It is in the pages of the Book of Mormon that we learn more about the purpose of life and God’s plan of happiness for us. The Book of Mormon teaches us to study things out and to pray about them that we may know of their truthfulness for ourselves.
25. Can you talk about the missions of the Church and your participation in them?
Up until recently, we as members of church recited the mission of the church as follows: to preach the gospel, redeem the dead and to perfect the saints. Within the past year, a fourth mission has been added: to care for the poor and the needy. We now call these four areas of focus simply the purposes of the church. In my life, I have participated in each of these areas by serving a mission and continuing to share the gospel, by doing family history or genealogy work and by magnifying my callings to serve in the church as a teacher, leader or whatever I’m asked to do. I’m grateful to be able to assist in caring for the poor and the needy by contributing money to the fast offering funds of the church and by volunteering to serve food at the local homeless shelter on a regular basis. These missions or purposes of the church help me as an individual member focus on what is really important to our Heavenly Father – to save his children, both temporally and spiritually.
The endowment that we receive in the Lord’s temples today is not the complete endowment that the Savior intends us to have. The ordinances introduce us but the endowment is not complete until we have come into the heavenly presence and have been instructed in the things of eternity.
You may ask, “If there is more to the endowment than what I have been taught in the temple, then why hasn’t someone explained it to me?” A careful reading of scripture revealed in these last days contains all we need to know to fully understand that there is more, much more to it.
The redemptive mission of the Savior
In his role as our Redeemer, a primary mission of the Savior is to baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire. He did not complete that mission with his disciples in Jerusalem while he was among them, explaining that he had to go away first in order for them to receive this sacred gift.
He also said that his apostles would do greater works than he did. In other words, they would give the gift of the Holy Ghost, which he had not yet done. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that he gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost and the authority to give this gift unto others.
Receive the Holy Ghost
This is a major part of the ministry of Jesus that continues to this day as we are confirmed members of the Savior’s church. Interestingly, the wording of the ordinance is in the form of a command, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This honors agency and requires us to make an effort.
I think we can safely say that there are millions of people who have been baptized, and have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, but have not yet received it. Even the apostles were with the Savior forty days after he gave the gift before they finally received it.
Promise of the Father
One can be given a powerful gift, or the right to receive it, but unless it is actually received, it has no real effective power. The Savior taught that we will receive power after the Holy Ghost has come upon us. So until we receive this power, the Lord’s mission is not complete for us.
The Savior made it clear several times that the gift of the Holy Ghost is a promise from our Heavenly Father. Along with the promise of a Savior, this gift was promised before this world was created. It is the Savior that baptizes us with fire and the Holy Ghost. This fills us with great power.
We must seek this gift
I wonder how much our missionaries truly understand and teach their investigators that there is another step to their baptism that they must complete on their own after the ordinance is performed. I sense that too many new converts do not continue on the path to be baptized by fire.
We must ask for it in humble and earnest prayer. We must hunger and thirst after this gift. As Paul said, we must covet this gift. It is a pearl of great price that is worth all that we pay for it and more. Even if years of effort and sacrifice are required to obtain it, we are commanded to do so.
Temple ordinances part of the process
We strive to ensure that converts receive the ordinances of the temple a year after they are baptized and confirmed. The temple ordinances serve two purposes. They give us the promised blessings of the family sealing ordinance and prepare us further to receive baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Being baptized with fire is a requirement of the Lord to enter into his kingdom. I believe it is analogous to being born again. It completes the process of baptism when we are immersed in the fire of the Holy Ghost. The temple endowment helps us to understand and complete that step.
Endowed with power
The translators of the New Testament used the word endue to describe the process of fulfilling the Father’s promise to all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Redeemer and are baptized in his name. Endue could also have been rendered to clothe, invest or to endow, as in give power.
The Lord used the word endow to Joseph Smith when he commanded him to build a temple in Kirtland so that he could endow the Saints with power from on high. It was in the Kirtland temple that so many rich and powerful outpourings of the Holy Ghost were received by the faithful.
More than the ordinances
The endowment consists of so much more than the ordinances of the temple. The ordinances are just the starting point for what the Savior has in mind for us when he promises to endow us with power. There is great power in the ordinances but there is additional power beyond that.
The additional power is found when we are consumed with the burning of the Holy Spirit within us, strengthening our desire and commitment to submit our will to God’s. It is found as we strive to be born again and to be visited by fire and the Holy Ghost as were the Lamanites in Hel 5:45.
Pattern found in Third Nephi
In the book of Third Nephi we read the account of the righteous that were spared and visited by the Lord after his resurrection and ascension in Jerusalem. Towards the end of the year in which great destructions accompanied the Savior’s crucifixion, the saints gathered at the temple.
Some 2,500 people were to become witnesses that day that Jesus Christ is the Savior to the entire world. They went forth and felt the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and thrust their hands into the wound in his side. They then knew with personal first-hand knowledge that he lives.
Witnesses know for themselves
Because of this personal knowledge, they were witnesses in a way that nobody could ever dispute. They had seen him and they had touched him. No matter what anybody else said, they knew that Jesus lives and is a real being with a resurrected body of flesh and bones like man.
And yet they lacked something. When the Savior had announced in the darkness of the destruction earlier that year that he would visit them, he promised that he would baptize them with fire and with the Holy Ghost, thus fulfilling his mission as he tried to do among the Jews in Jerusalem.
The endowment begins
It was the end of the first day and the Savior announced that he would leave and come back the next day. Yet, their faith kept him there and began the events of something extraordinary that he had wanted to do in Jerusalem but which he could not do there because of the lack of faith.
Because of his love for them, the Savior first attended to their physical infirmities and brought their children to the center of attention. He then led them in mighty prayer, blessed the children and directed the attention of the multitude to the angels that were descending to minister to them.
In the midst of fire
The angels appeared “as it were, in the midst of fire.” I contend that this is the baptism of fire of which the Lord has tried to teach us many times. This immersion in the heavenly element constitutes the fullness of the endowment that he promised to them and still promises even to us today.
This is the same experience that the Lamanites enjoyed in Helaman 5:45 when they were encircled about by a pillar of fire. The Lord said that they were baptized with fire and knew it not. This is also the process of transfiguration that completes the promises found in the endowment.
To be continued…