Posts Tagged ‘Spirit of the Lord’
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
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…
If you have read a few of my past essays, you may have noted that one of my favorite subjects is revelation, and specifically personal revelation. It is only within the last few years since I started blogging that I have come to realize revelation is a controversial subject even among members of the church. To me, it is a foundational doctrine, much like faith, and the basis for a testimony.
Sharing sacred experiences
I have shared a couple of examples of personal revelation from my own life in previous essays. I know we have been counseled to keep sacred experiences private, but I felt impressed to share them as evidence that the Lord does give revelation to common members of the church like me. I like to think that my experiences are typical, or at least I thought so until I started sharing them.
Elder Oaks said, “Although we are generally counseled not to speak of sacred things … there are times when the Spirit prompts us to share these experiences, sometimes even in a setting where our account will be published.” Brigham Young said he would rather hear the people tell of their own powerful sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost than to hear any other kind of preaching.
Leaving a Record for Others
So I’d like to add another one of those experiences to my online record. A fellow blogger shared with me that one of his primary motivations for writing and posting essays was so that his sons would have a record of his faith, experiences and testimony. I feel the same way and hope that someday what I disclose here will help to strengthen the testimonies of others who may read this.
In the Young Single Adult ward where I serve as ward clerk, Carol and I recently shared the story of how we met and married. My part of the story involves a sacred revelatory experience. In order to get the full story, you might want to review Carol’s side of the tale as found on her blog. She provides much more of the background leading up to the experience I address here.
No Date before Proposal
Carol and I did not date before I proposed marriage to her. I had been off my mission for a few years and had graduated with a degree as a professional computer nerd. I had started my career in tech support and was working in Hollywood when she came home from her mission. I happened to be dating her best friend who invited Carol along on our date to Mormon Night at Disneyland.
It was a fun date – for Carol and me. We hit it off immediately. Carol was happy to be home and was talkative. Of course, what she talked about was her mission and the young lady I was dating just couldn’t relate. I could. I loved Carol’s enthusiasm and found myself commiserating with her sadness at having to leave and go back to the real world. We talked almost all night.
Doing my Homework
For the next three months I continued to pursue Carol’s friend through dating and other social activities such as church firesides. Occasionally Carol would be part of a group of young adults going to the movies, to the San Diego Zoo or some other activity. It was Carol that came over to keep me company several nights while I was recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled.
Yet I was infatuated with this other girl and kept petitioning the Lord in prayer to soften her heart towards me. I fasted often, went to the temple and did all I could to show the Lord that I was serious about getting married. I sent this young lady a dozen red roses with a note confessing my love for her. I simply could not understand why she didn’t seem to respond with enthusiasm.
The Dodger Game
One day Carol invited me to meet her at Dodger Stadium, which I did after work. So I told her about sending flowers to our mutual friend and asked her advice how I could get her to like me. I noticed that Carol got real quiet. I looked over to see her drawing a picture of a little broken heart on her Dodger program. She then quietly excused herself, left the game and drove home.
I thought about that all that evening and the next morning. I decided that it was inappropriate to have shared with her my efforts to win her best friend’s heart. So I stopped by Carol’s house after softball practice to apologize for hurting her feelings. She brushed off my apology but I dug deeper and asked her about how she felt about important things like family and marriage.
Revelation to Heart and Mind
It was then that the most amazing thing happened to me. The Spirit of the Lord came over me in a way I have rarely felt. While Carol was talking, the Lord communicated to my heart and my mind a vision of us living together many years down the road. It was pure intelligence flowing into my being. It was an answer to prayer more powerful than anything I had ever expected.
I can count on one hand these kinds of powerful revelatory experiences up to that point in my life. In addition to what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard a voice, just as distinctly and clearly as if someone had spoken, say to me that Carol and I could be very happy together. It was not an audible voice but it registered in the same manner as if I heard it and that was astonishing to me.
Feelings and Revelation
But along with what I saw and heard, I began to feel a most powerful feeling. The scripture says that the Lord will tell us in our mind and in our heart when something is correct. He also tells us that we must study it out first. I had done my homework. I had done my part. I had asked for revelation and had studied it out. I knew what I wanted and was living worthily of that answer.
We have been promised by apostles and prophets that the Lord will not leave us alone to make the most important decisions of our life. Who we decide to marry has eternal consequences. Acting on behalf of the Lord, these prophets have promised us that we can receive revelation to know for a certainty that the path we are pursuing is the right one and will lead to happiness.
Revelation is Personal
This is no idle promise. It is real. I am a living witness of the reality of such assurances. A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one. That answer came in a powerful way to me on that day. It was unmistakable revelation to me from the Lord.
Note carefully that when the revelation came to me, it was not intended for Carol. The voice did not say, “Carol needs to marry you” or even that Carol would marry me. It simply said that we could be very happy together. It was an answer to my prayer and was intended for me. It was what I needed to cause me to take action with confidence and to then ask Carol to marry me.
The Marriage Proposal
I wasted no time. I told her what I was feeling. She could see that something was affecting me. I also told her that I felt impressed to ask her to marry me. She was shocked. I said, “I’d like to be sure so I’m going to fast and pray about it today and tomorrow. Will you do the same?” She said yes and invited me to come for Sunday dinner after church. We then parted for the day.
After fasting and praying, I still felt the same way, so I formally proposed to Carol over roast beef dinner at her mom’s house. She said yes. Carol’s journal says that I didn’t even sit with her in church that morning. We were both stake missionaries and had an investigator at church and so I sat with him instead. I had not yet gotten used to the idea of thinking for two instead of one.
We can Receive Revelation
This sacred revelatory experience ranks high on my list of incidents that have influenced me in a powerful and enduring way in my life. I had been taught by church leaders growing up that I could receive revelation. I believed it. I expected it. So I was not surprised when it came. But I was not expecting it to be so intense and dramatic. Perhaps that was because it was so important.
Along with what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my thoughts, the Lord impressed upon me a feeling in my heart so comforting and unmistakable that I simply could not doubt that what I had received came from God. It felt as familiar then as it has felt every time I have experienced it since that time. I am confident that I knew and understood this feeling from before this life.
The Burning of the Bosom
I don’t always trust my feelings but I have learned to trust this one. I know from many years of experience that some feelings are temporary and fleeting. The feeling I get when the Spirit is trying to communicate to me is one that has an underlying sense of eternity. It’s hard to explain to one who hasn’t experienced it. I have come to learn it can be interpreted many different ways.
For me, the burning of the bosom that accompanies personal revelation has become very real. It is a strong, powerful and very comforting feeling. I can feel it when I am listening to particularly inspiring and motivational speakers in General Conference or any church meeting. I have felt it in prayer. I have felt it in giving priesthood blessings. I always feel it when I speak in church.
Revelation and emotional response
But the personal revelation I receive is not in the comforting feeling by itself. That is just the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to me that what I am learning or participating in is important. The feeling also comes in warning me away from danger or in preparing me for bad news. It is an amazing thing to have the gift of the Holy Ghost but it can take a lifetime to understand it.
Receiving revelation is not the same as experiencing the burning of the bosom. However, some, including me, almost always feel this comforting sensation when receiving revelation. It is up to each of us to learn how to distinguish between the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost that often or usually accompanies the receipt of revelation and an emotional response to something.
For a great discussion of this see Gerald N Lund. “Our Own Emotions as a Form of Counterfeit Revelation.” Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2007: 243.
This is going to be a little difficult to write because it is both a sacred and a sensitive subject. It is sacred because it involves personal revelation that is intended to be just that – personal. It is sensitive because I know from many years of experience and dialog with other members of the church that not everyone feels the same way or has had the same experiences I have had with the Holy Ghost and in particular, the feeling of the burning of the bosom that I have experienced.
You asked if I thought if everyone can experience or feel the burning of the bosom. I like what Elder Oaks had to say about that: “What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.”
Burning of the bosom
Elder S. Dilworth Young said, “It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right. Once one recognizes this burning, this feeling, this peace, one need never be drawn astray in his daily life or in the guidance he may receive.” Elder Romney taught this many times – that we can make life’s decisions correctly using instructions in D&C 9:8-9.
Elder Packer taught, “This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.” Another apostle said, “As I have traveled throughout the Church, I’ve found relatively few people who have experienced a burning of the bosom. In fact, I’ve had many people tell me that they’ve become frustrated because they have never experienced that feeling even though they have prayed or fasted for long periods of time.”
Some do feel the burning
So, from both personal experience and from what we have been taught by Apostles and Prophets, yes, we can and many do feel the burning of the bosom at various times in their lives. But for many faithful members, and perhaps most, the burning of the bosom is either very rare or non-existent. I guess it all depends on how you describe it or what you expect. If Elder Oaks can say that he has never felt caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion then I accept that.
I guess I am the exception and can say without a doubt that I do often feel a warm sensation in the area of my chest when I am engaged in something that I know pleases the Lord. In contrast, I have felt a cold feeling or absence of warmth in that same general region of my chest many times in my life when I have engaged in actions or even thoughts that offended the spirit. For me it is a very real and discernable sensation that has blessed me throughout my life since I was a youth.
You asked about my experience at Ricks College in regards to receiving an answer to prayer. This was not my first experience with revelation, nor was it the last, but it was one of the most powerful and tangible up to that point in my life. It has also been one of the most memorable and influential spiritual experiences to come upon me even though it occurred over 35 years ago. As I noted, it is sacred, but I do feel it is appropriate to share with you since you have asked.
I was 17 years old at the time. It was in the Fall of 1974. My family joined the Church in 1962 when I was five so I feel that I grew up as a member, attending Primary, Sunday School, MIA and Seminary. However, during my Senior year of High School, there was about a six to eight month period of time that I hung with the wrong kind of friends and did not attend church. In short, I had some repenting to do and felt a strong desire to know my standing before the Lord.
Early in the Fall of 1974, I attended an assembly at Ricks College, now BYU Idaho, in which I distinctly remember President Eyring introducing Elder LeGrand Richards as our devotional speaker. I had heard Elder Richards speak in General Conference before but I had never been in the same meeting with him in which I could feel his spirit and sense his enthusiasm for the gospel. Something in me caused me to sit still and pay careful attention to what he was saying.
As he taught the gospel and bore fervent testimony of the work of the Lord I remember thinking to myself how much I would like to be able to speak with the power, confidence and enthusiasm that he had. A distinct impression came over me, and I attribute this to the whisperings of the spirit, that I could have that same witness that Elder Richards had and that I could teach like that someday if I would pay the price of study, devotion, obedience and especially of intense prayer.
Led by the Lord
As I left the devotional assembly I pondered the message I had felt from the spirit long and hard. Like Joseph said, I reflected upon it again and again. Never had anything penetrated my heart so deeply. I felt drawn to the possibility that I could know what Elder Richards knew and that I could receive it in the way he testified – through humble prayer and revelation from the Lord. I wanted to know what the Lord thought of my efforts to repent thus far in leaving my sins behind.
On Friday, I determined that I was going to put the promise to the test. My roommate was gone for the evening to a dance so I knew I would have a few hours alone to talk to the Lord in prayer. I felt filled with desire as I began my efforts and was impressed that the words flowed so easily. It was clear to me that the spirit was directing my thoughts and helping me to express myself. I am confident that I went on for a solid hour reviewing my life with the Lord as I prayed aloud.
The second hour was not so easy. In fact, it became very difficult to confess my sins of the year that had passed and to have revealed to me the effects my actions had upon myself and on others. Tears flowed as I saw how I had hurt myself and others and again, the spirit impressed me how the Lord felt about my sadness and the misery through which I had passed. I felt no judgment or condemnation, only that the Lord was pained because of my pain and that he wanted to heal me.
Finally, in the third hour, I was in agony as I pled with the Lord to forgive me and to restore to me the innocence and happiness I had once felt before the days of my rebellion. I asked again and again for relief. I wanted to know that I had been forgiven and that I would yet be able to make something of my life in spite of the sin and disobedience of earlier days. I pleaded and begged for a witness or a manifestation of the Lord’s love for me and that I had been forgiven.
Opposition is real
It was towards the end of the third hour that I saw clearly in my mind’s eye the reality of the existence of unclean and evil spirits. As I recalled moments of my sinful behavior, the Lord showed to me that I was not alone, that there were beings from the unseen world participating with me in my sin. I was appalled at the scenes I was recalling and abhorred the fact that the adversary had used me during those moments. My pain was real and I was suffering terribly.
Just as I was about to give up in despair that I would receive no relief from my torment and just as I had about decided that my emotional outpouring of grief and despair were in vain, I realized that something unusual was happening about and within me. I began to sit very still and to pay close attention to what I was feeling or rather sensing. A tangible feeling of peace came over me and a feeling of happiness, almost euphoria entered into my heart and mind. It was powerful!
Warmth filled my being almost from head to toe. I did not see, but I sensed light all around and within me. Now this is the most difficult and personal part to describe of what I experienced. I did not see anything with my eyes. I did not hear anything with my ears. But I knew that I was not alone at that moment. I began to hear words, no, full sentences in my mind and saw myself at some future time in my life, participating in sacred and powerful events related to the gospel.
I cannot adequately describe what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my heart, but I will tell you that I sat transfixed for what seemed like another hour as scene after potential scene of my life was revealed to me. I both saw and heard myself speaking and teaching the gospel with the same kind of confidence that I had seen in Elder Richards earlier in that week. I knew as I was seeing this that it was not guaranteed, but was conditional upon my willingness to prepare for it.
That’s why I say that from then on, everything changed. I knew that I would soon be going on a mission. I knew I would marry in the temple. I knew that I would accept and serve faithfully in many callings over the years. I knew I would serve in a leadership capacity in my local ward and stake. I saw myself doing all these things and especially saw myself teaching and speaking from the pulpit, hearing specific things that I would be saying and teaching. It was amazing to me.
Now, as I said this is personal and sacred. One who is not familiar with the revelatory process could describe this as the frenzies of a deranged mind, brought on by emotional distress over the imagined need to repent for what I considered sins. Anyone can say what they like, but it was real to me and nobody will ever be able to take away this experience that I still hold sacred. The feelings that accompanied this revelatory experience are indescribable but filled me with joy.
Summary and conclusion
Yes, what I experienced that night at Ricks College so long ago was much more than a burning of the bosom. It was a tangible immersion in the spirit. I felt like I was baptized by fire and yet I knew at the same time that I had so much more to do to qualify for a real born again experience. It was the beginning of a long path to realize the dream of being able to teach and speak like I had seen demonstrated to me by an Apostle of the Lord. I still have a long, long ways to go.
Thanks for asking me to share this with you. I think I would like to post it on my blog. I haven’t felt inspired to write much there lately but this experience might do some good for someone else. I hope I have answered your questions about the burning of the bosom and about the reality of the revelatory process. I am a personal witness that it is real. The Lord answers prayer and will give to us what we ask for in faith, if it is something that we need and will be for our good.