God even loves computer geeks like me

While sitting in the hospital room with my wife on Sunday morning as she was recovering from surgery, I asked her a deep and personal question.  She wanted me to help her with her latest blog entry as she dictated it so I recorded it on my laptop computer.  When she finished it, I asked her how she knew that the Lord loved her.

She didn’t answer me right away but thought about it until this morning after we returned from a follow-up doctor’s visit.  She then shared some things that were unmistakable evidence to her of God’s love for her.  It was a sacred and emotional moment that helped me to know I am not alone in seeing God’s hand in our lives.

Looking beyond the battle

Carol is going through a difficult time right now and it took a lot for her to share those touching personal evidences.  Dealing with her cancer is taking a lot of her energy and sometimes causes her to see only the immediate battle instead of the big picture.  I asked her to take a minute to look beyond the battle and she did.

While we were waiting for the doctors to discharge her yesterday, I shared with her some of the things that are evidence to me that God knows and loves me.  As I held her hand and recounted evidences from my youth of answered prayers, I felt that we don’t pause often enough to realize how the Lord shows each of us his love.

Praying over our flocks

There are so many times in my daily work that I am confronted with situations that tax my technical capabilities.  It can be tough being the only computer dude in a small to medium sized business.  You are expected to be the expert on a myriad number of software and hardware products.  That’s just what an IT Manager does.

Little do my co-workers realize that there is no way that one person can know the answer to every question about all those hundreds of technology products that we use in our business.  I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed for help from my Heavenly Father to be able to respond to yet another difficult tech question.

A not-so-typical problem

Let me give you an example from a recent experience that proved to me that the Lord knew what I was going through.  For several weeks a certain employee had been calling and complaining that emails were not getting through to her from a very important client.  We looked at everything trying to figure out the problem.

Finally, this employee laid down the law and said that this problem had to be fixed now!  I re-inspected all the filters through which our email passes and could find nothing wrong.  As I was reporting back via email, I decided to document the steps I had taken by including screen-prints of each filter and the corresponding settings.

A quiet whispered impression

Just before I was about to hit the send button, which in essence was admitting defeat, something impressed me to take one more look at the screen-prints I had included.  As I reviewed each line very closely, I noticed something so simple that I laughed out loud and then started to shout in joyous exultation.  I had found it!

My wife looked over at me and wondered why her normally so serious husband was shouting, “I’ve got you!” and doing a little happy dance.  I reminded her of the problem I had been dealing with for so long and told her that I had finally found the solution.  It was an exciting moment and one in which I felt profound relief.

The Lord stretches us

The problem was that the client had misspelled the employee’s name in her email address.  What compounded it was that she only did it occasionally and usually on the really urgent emails.  It was only when I had a screen-print in front of me with several copies of the incoming emails that I saw the simple yet terminal problem.

After I pointed the problem out to the employee with perhaps too much enjoyment, and everyone was happy again, I reflected back on how simple the problem really was.  Why hadn’t I seen it before?  I believe it was because the Lord wanted me to get to the point where I was about to admit defeat before he stepped in to help me.

Tender mercies of the Lord

I had done everything I knew how to do to resolve the problem.  I was convinced that it was what we call in the industry a false positive, or a piece of email being blocked in the spam filter because it met the criteria of the complex spam rules.  But it wasn’t a filter problem.  It just didn’t know where to deliver the email.

The Lord knows how much I hate to admit defeat.  I am a problem-solver by nature and thrive on resolving deep and complex technical issues.  That’s what makes my job enjoyable.  It is evidence to me that God loves me because he reached out and rescued me from having to admit defeat by prompting me to take that one last look.

The small and simple things

Now you may say that this was all just a big coincidence and that God had nothing to do with helping me to resolve the problem.  You may even say that I must not be very smart to have not seen right away that an email address had been misspelled.  But I can tell you that several of us had already looked at those screens for weeks.

This is not the only time the Lord has helped me in my work.  I could probably fill a dozen essays with example after example of how the Lord inspired me or blessed me to be able to do something that was beyond my natural ability.  I have studied and have worked in tech support my entire career but I have rarely done it alone.

Beyond my natural abilities

Success in my career is important to me.  It helps me to fulfill the commandment of the Lord to provide for my family.  Because the Lord gave me this responsibility and commandment, I feel that I have the right to call upon him to bless me in my work so that I can be successful.  It’s like we are in a sacred partnership together.

I have not always seen the hand of the Lord in my work.  Sometimes I have made rather foolish mistakes and wonder why they happened to me.  I look back and realize that I had been trying to do it on my own or not giving the Lord credit for helping me.  I always perform beyond my natural abilities when I ask God for help.

The Lord chastens us

The same thing applies to my spiritual life.  I have seen the hand of the Lord in my spiritual growth and development numerous times – too many to enumerate.  But I have not always acknowledged his kindness in helping me.  That’s when I struggle and wonder why I feel like I’m going through my life’s experiences all by myself.

It is only when I stop and think that I realize how truly blessed I am and how much the Lord must really love me.  The scripture says that the Lord chastens those who he loves.  If our chastening experiences are any indication then we must be some of the Lord’s chosen.  Now if I only knew for what purpose we are being chosen.

Preparing for eternity

I suppose I already know the answer.  Just as it is easy to overlook the hand of the lord in my work, thinking that something so mundane as computer tech support can’t be of any interest to the Lord, it is just as easy to overlook the tender mercies of the Lord in our lives as we pass through this episode of cancer in Carol’s body.

I love Carol and I will love her forever.  I chose her to be my companion not only for this life but forever.  I am convinced that we will pass through this cancer scare successfully.  I believe that the doctors caught it early enough that it will not be a problem once it is removed in the surgery next week.  That in itself is a miracle.

Summary and conclusion

It is easy to think that God doesn’t love us or isn’t interested in our mundane lives.  But if we stop and take the time to think about it, God is very involved in what we do each day.  We just have to look for ways that mean something special to us.  In my example, it was a subtle impression to inspect a screen-print just a little closer.

In Carol’s case, it is being able to fall asleep after a prayer in spite of tremendous pain, or wondering why you’re not stepping on the gas when the light turns green and then watching someone run a red light in front of you.  What about you?  How does the Lord demonstrate to you that he loves you and is involved in your life?

Divine manifestations must have a purpose

One of the delightful parts of a stake temple night is the opportunity to be taught by a member of the temple presidency.  On one particular occasion many years ago, the Temple President felt inspired to relate a few stories that patrons had shared with him about spiritual manifestations that they had received while serving in the LA temple.  It was an uplifting and edifying session.

I was very impressed with what the Temple President spoke about that evening.  He related some very sacred experiences of visits from the other side of the veil from deceased family members for whom the work was being done.  He gave specific examples of what people saw, heard or felt that was evidence to them of the validity of this work and that it is accepted by their relatives.

A conversation with my Stake President

While preparing to leave the temple that evening, I conversed with my Stake President about the things the Temple President had taught us in our chapel session.  I had served with this Stake President for several years on the High Council and felt comfortable sharing heartfelt concerns.  I knew that he would carefully consider what I had to say before answering with thoughtfulness.

“President”, I said, “I’ve been coming to this temple since I was twelve years old.  In fact, I was six years old when I was sealed here to my parents.  I have many sacred memories of this place.  I was endowed here when I was nineteen and married to my sweetheart not too many years after completing my mission.  I have participated in several thousand ordinances here in this temple.

Sacred temple manifestations

“So why is it that I have never experienced any of these kinds of sacred manifestations that the temple president described?”  As I expected, he thought for a few minutes while we continued to change back into our street clothes after the evening’s temple work was completed.  After a moment, he paused, put his hand on my shoulder and then responded very slowly and carefully.

“Brother Malone, some people do not require manifestations to be faithful.  The Lord knows their hearts and knows what they need.  You apparently do not need any additional evidence that the work being performed in these temples is valid and acceptable to both the Lord and to those for whom it is performed.  Your years of faithfulness are proof that you know the work is true.”

The Lord bears witness

He was right, of course.  I didn’t need a manifestation to know that the work being done in the temples is of eternal significance and validity.  I had known that since I was a child and had never doubted it.  I thought about his response and realized that there was never an occasion when I attended the temple that I didn’t feel the warmth and comfort of the spirit of the Lord.

It was just another piece of evidence to me that the Spirit of the Lord is always present when priesthood ordinances are performed, especially in the House of the Lord.  I didn’t need any additional evidence because I had the constant companionship of the Lord each time I sat in an endowment session or knelt across the altar in a sealing session.  Yes, I knew the work was true.

To uplift and edify

I have the same kind of experience each week when I attend Sacrament meeting, and especially in a testimony meeting.  There is just something special about attending church each week and partaking of the Sacrament.  I just feel different by the end of the meeting.  I feel happy and feel that my burdens have been lifted.  It never fails.  I feel this strengthening each week after church.

This uplifting feeling is always the same whether I am conducting the meeting as a member of the Bishopric, or just sitting in the congregation as a regular member of the ward.  I love to hear members of my ward teach the gospel from the pulpit and share their feelings about the truth of what they have learned and have taught.  Sacrament meeting is always uplifting and edifying.

Testimony meetings

Last Sunday I sat in our monthly ward testimony meeting and thought about the different kinds of testimonies I was hearing.  The Bishop was short and succinct.  He bore witness of the five basic points of an LDS testimony and then sat down, inviting others to share their testimonies.  I got up and rambled a little bit about testimonies and then bore witness of the same five points.

As we progressed through the meeting, I noted that some members talked about experiences that demonstrated to them that the Lord knew them personally and that he hears and answers their prayers.  Others spoke about the trials through which they were passing and then concluded with assertions that they knew the Lord loved them would not leave them comfortless in their trials.

When we say “I know”

I listened very closely to each testimony waiting for the phrases “I know” and “I believe.”  I think I heard “I believe” maybe once or twice.  “I know” was used by the majority of those who shared their testimonies.  I know these people and know that when they say that they know that the church is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, they mean it sincerely.

I was listening closely because of recent conversation with readers of my blog about testimonies and what it means to say the church is true.  I now try to qualify what I mean when I say that by adding some additional phrases like, “because angels conferred priesthood keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith,” and “because angels ordained Joseph Smith and gave him priesthood authority.”

Authority and the true church

You see, this authority thing is very important to me.  I’ve had a lot of dialogs with visitors to Latter-day Commentary about this very important subject.  I’ve tried to share with them that the idea of priesthood authority is one of the most important aspects of a church that claims to be the true church of Jesus Christ.  Ordinances of salvation require God’s authority to perform them.

That’s all we really mean when we say that we are the true church.  We are simply saying that angels came from the spirit world and gave Joseph Smith divine permission to do what he did in establishing the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth again in these latter days.  Of course, the idea that angels have visited man in our day is a very difficult thing for some people to accept.

Angels, visions and revelation

I have never seen an angel.  I have had no divine vision with my natural eyes.  I have never heard an audible voice from the spirit world. Yet I have never questioned that Joseph Smith saw God, was visited by angels, received revelations and brought forth the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.  Some of my readers find it fantastic that I can believe Joseph was a prophet.

How is this possible?  On what basis do I stand and say “I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph was a prophet and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ with a prophet at the head today?”  If I have not seen God or Jesus, and was not there when Joseph brought forth the Book or Mormon, how am I a witness?

Divine manifestations must have a purpose

In all my years in this church, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who said to me, “Yes, I saw God.  He visited me and told me…”  I have never had someone say to me, “I was praying very earnestly one night and the Lord appeared to me to tell me that he loved me and that my sins were forgiven.”  I have also never heard anyone relate to me that they were visited by an angel.

Now perhaps you know people who have received such manifestations or maybe you have been the recipient of angelic visitations.  I think that’s wonderful.  I assume the visits had a purpose.  I guess I’ve never felt the need for divine manifestations beyond what I have already received when I was young as I prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was indeed the word of God.

We live far beneath our privileges

When I was seventeen I was extremely motivated to obtain a manifestation from God about my standing before him and to know if the Book of Mormon was what Joseph said it was.  I obtained both of those witnesses and a few more that the Lord felt were needed in order to help me fulfill my purpose in life.  I’ve been coasting on those manifestations for the past thirty-five years.

I’m wondering if I’ve been coasting too long.  Our former stake president, now serving as a mission president, often repeated this from Brigham Young.  He said, “[We] may have the Spirit of the Lord to . . . direct [us]. . . . I am satisfied, however, that, in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges.”  Is there more the Lord wants us to have besides what he has already given us?

Summary and conclusion

The Lord reveals himself to man when he has a purpose or a mission for them to perform.  He sends angels to instruct man and teach him about the work that he wants performed.  He sends his spirit to assure men and women that the work in which they are engaged is divine.  He gives gifts of the spirit to help us do his work.  For Joseph, one needed gift was the power to translate.

When I needed to know that the church and the Book of Mormon were of divine origin, the Lord sent his spirit and confirmed these things in my heart and mind.  Over the years, that same spirit has encouraged and motivated me to ever increasing faithfulness and obedience.  Is the Lord willing to provide additional manifestations, and if so, what is the purpose they would serve?