Beloved Bridegroom

BelovedBridegroomI’ve been meaning to review this wonderful book for the last few weeks since I first read it. But I’m glad I waited because I’ve been able to ponder it and reflect on just how important the book really is. Have you ever been puzzled by the references in the scriptures to the wedding feast, the marriage covenant, the significance of the marriage ceremony or the parable of the ten virgins?

You’re not alone. Even though I have been a student of the scriptures all my life, I always said to myself, “Someday I’ll understand why the Lord would have one of his prophets marry a harlot. But for the life of me, it seems an awful mean trick to play on a man, knowing that she would leave him and go after her former lovers.” Well, that day has come. I now understand Hosea.

The Bride Waits Faithfully

The Lord desires to have a sacred and deeply spiritual bond with us, similar to the bond that exists between two very close people such as a husband and wife. He does not desire to be an unknown or distant God. He wants our relationship to be based on experiences that are closely shared, building a personal and intimate association. We are the bride. He is the bridegroom.

Like Hosea’s bride, we have played the harlot. We have all gone astray seeking after the ways of the world, when we should have been faithful as we promised when we entered into the wedding contract through baptism. In ancient Israel, after entering into the marriage contract, it was now time for the bridegroom to go and build a home for his bride. She waits for his sudden return.

Bride Price Paid with Blood

Understanding ancient Jewish marriage and family customs will help us understand the Savior. The people he taught were Jews. They understood the significance of why the bridegroom had to go away after negotiating for the bride, paying the bride price and entering into the contract. The bridesmaids, light, outer darkness, the father’s house and the closed door were all clear to them.

For us, it’s not so clear. That’s why Donna Nielsen’s book, Beloved Bridegroom is so essential to really understand the events that will take place when the Savior returns. He came and paid for us in the meridian of time with the price of His blood. He loves us and is beloved by those who know and understood what He did for us. It is now time for the Bridegroom to claim his bride.

The Father Determines the Time

While the bridegroom was away building the wedding chamber or “little mansion” for their honeymoon, if he had to communicate with the bride, he did so through the “friend of the bridegroom.” That’s interesting to ponder today. Who is the friend of the bridegroom that the Lord is using to carry messages to his bride? It seems to me that prophets fulfill this role.

The new home was built under the direct personal supervision of the groom’s father. The father wanted everything regarding the bride’s new home to be as beautiful and perfect as it could be. The father was the sole judge of when the preparations were complete. Only when the father determined everything was ready did he gave permission for the son to claim his bride.

Preparation for the Wedding

There is much work to be done before the bridegroom returns. Although she doesn’t know the exact date and time, the bride knows she must be prepared for the exciting day. One of those areas of preparation was the ritual immersion at a mikvah, a bath drawn from natural or living waters. It had to be large enough to immerse oneself completely in preparation for holiness.

From the time of the bridegroom’s departure until he returned for her a year or so later, the bride placed a lamp in her window and kept it continually burning every night. It was a token of her faithfulness, and she lived for the day when her beloved would return for her. The focus of her life during this time revolved around the thoughts of her future happiness with her new husband.

The Double Invitation

When the “wedding house” was finished, the father finally gave the long-awaited permission. The groom called and gathered his friends and the Father sent servants with a second wedding announcement. The first invitation or calling had been sent when the betrothal began. The initial acceptance implied a firm commitment. The second invitation went to those who had committed.

In Jerusalem, if you planned to accept an invitation to attend a banquet, you made it known to others. No citizen of Jerusalem would attend a banquet without changing his buckle from the right to the left shoulder. This was so that another person should not extend to him an invitation that would be wasted. The guests who accepted the invitation were then duty-bound to appear.

The Bridegroom Cometh

It was now time for the wedding procession, a very noisy and joyful group consisting of the bridegroom, his servants, companions, and closest friends. They wound their way through the streets. The people of the city would gather and watch the wedding processions enter and depart through the special Gate of the Bridegroom. There was much singing, dancing and merriment.

The procession would usually come late at night. The Jewish people thought it romantic that the bridegroom would come suddenly, with an element of surprise. They knew the general week of his arrival, but never the exact day. When the procession nears the brides home, a messenger was sent ahead to give the shout, “The bridegroom cometh!” He would then arrive within a half hour.

The Bringing of the Lamp

The bride had only enough time to make a few final preparations. She gathered her already-packed honeymoon clothes and quickly dressed in her bridal gown. She had her traditional gift for the groom ready, a carefully prepared tallit or prayer shawl. Now came the final call, “The bridegroom cometh!” Immediately the group and the groom rushed in to find the bride.

After the father of the bride made sure he was the man with the contract, the father would stand aside and let the groom take the bride. The procession reversed course, lifting the bride up into a special chair and carrying her home. Four strong men were given the honor of carrying the bride, accompanied by torch-bearers. This was called “the bringing of the lamp,” meaning the bride.

Entering the New Home

The most important period of the marriage festivities was when the bride entered her new home. The bride and groom were sometimes crowned with real crowns or with garlands of roses, myrtle, or olive leaves. The parents uttered a traditional blessing upon the bride and groom and the guests repeated the expression of a wish for happiness and fruitfulness in their marriage.

After these blessings were recited, the bride and groom and all of the invited guests who carried their lights went in. The door was then shut and bolted because there was not enough room for all who would seek to enter. Even the invited guests who came late were left outside. To be late was unthinkable at such an important occasion and was considered a gross insult to the host.

Light is Our Contribution

There was great disappointment for those not prepared or on time for the marriage and wedding feast. This is why the parable of the ten virgins, or bridesmaids was so easily understood by the Jewish people. It was considered a religious duty to bring light when attending a wedding. Light was associated with marriage as a special metaphor for joy, lighting the father’s house for days.

To bring a lamp to the festivities was the responsibility of every guest and was considered his personal contribution to the joy of the event. The expression “outer darkness” takes on a new meaning when we realize those not admitted to the feast would suffer agony of being alone when everyone else was rejoicing together. How sad for the foolish virgins who were not prepared.

Conclusion and Recommendation

I could go on and on with things I have learned from this book. If you note the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see they are almost all rated five-star. Yes, it’s that good. At about 180 pages, I was able to read it in one day, basically an afternoon and evening. I simply could not put it down because I was filled with so many “ah-ha” moments as phrases took on new and real meaning.

My little review here only covered two chapters – four and five. There is so much more. I’ll include the table of contents below. I highly recommend this book. I give it five stars. It is more than just a good book. I believe it is imperative that we understand these things in order to be fully prepared for the events of the last days which are now upon us. The bridegroom cometh!

Table of Contents

Chapter One – Family Life in Israel
– Roles of men and women, religious training of children, and family loyalty
Chapter Two – The Marriage Proposal
– Finding a mate, fire, desirable personal qualities, negotiating the bride price
Chapter Three – The Bride’s Acceptance
– Ketubah, gift, ratify covenants, cup of wine, veil
Chapter Four – Preparing a Place
– Father’s supervision, bride’s preparations, double invitation, procession
Chapter Five – The Ten Bridesmaids
– Light, outer darkness, the father’s house, closing the door
Chapter Six – The Wedding Canopy
– Wedding garments, crown of glory, seven bridal blessings
Chapter Seven – Gardens and Fountains
– The sanctity of sexuality, scriptural euphemisms, spiritual views, wedding chamber
Chapter Eight – Food for Feasting
– Seven species, wedding song, party manners, etiquette
Chapter Nine – Song for the Bridegroom
– Prophetic principles, celebrating life stages, biblical prosperity, peace in the home
Chapter Ten – Spiritual Betrothal
– Christ paid the bride price, gift of the Sabbath, honoring his name
Chapter Eleven – Spiritual Preparation and Marriage
– The Comforter, Sabbath bride, cup of joy, knowing God, rending the veil
Chapter Twelve – The Imperative of Fruitfulness
– Bringing forth fruit, vessels, glory, holy places, brides in scripture

Holiness to the Lord

LosAngelesTempleChristmasI love to sing in the choir, especially our stake choir. Our ward choir is pretty good, but it’s small. As with most ward choirs, there are never enough men. With only three tenors and four basses I never quite feel the majesty of a full choir. That’s why I enjoy the Stake choir. There is just something special that happens when you get that many faithful Saints singing to the Lord.

We’ve got maybe fifteen or twenty brethren and twice that many sisters. I’ve got six or seven other tenors with whom I can blend my voice. I sing better when we have that many voices. For those of you who sing in a stake choir, I think you know what I mean. We enjoy our practices but when it comes time to perform, oh the sacred and holy sound that comes out of those choir seats.

This next Stake Conference will be a little sad for us as we say goodbye to our Stake President before he leaves to preside over the Taiwan Taichung mission. I already know it’s going to be an emotional day. As the Stake Financial clerk, I meet with the Stake President every month. I have enjoyed working with him and appreciate his dedication and ability as a church administrator.

Administering and Ministering

I don’t like to focus on the mundane aspects of managing the church. Someone has to do it. I’m grateful to be able to contribute. I’m glad I can take some of the administrative burden from the Stake President. But administering as compared to ministering in the church is simply not one of my favorite things to do. I would much rather sing or teach a class or preach to the congregation.

We don’t use that phrase much in the church anymore. We are not professional preachers. We are all equal in our opportunity to stand before our brothers and sisters to share what we know. It’s nice when someone actually takes the time to prepare and deliver a talk designed to uplift as well as enlighten. I come away from such a meeting much more enthused about life’s challenges.

I believe that the Lord is pleased when we sing or preach in such a way that we bring a sense of holiness into our lives and the lives of those who hear us. It’s that feeling of holiness I’d like to focus on in this little essay. I don’t think we have enough holiness in our lives. I know I don’t. Even with daily prayer and gospel study it’s so easy for the world to take away that holiness.

Service in the Temple

On each temple we read the words, “Holiness to the Lord – The House of the Lord.” I went to the temple last Friday and will go again next Friday. We always have Stake temple night just before our Stake Conferences. Being instructed by a member of the Temple Presidency in our chapel sessions is a highlight of our time there. I feel a little bit more of that holiness that I so desire.

I’ve been going to the temple for all my life. I mean that literally. I was six years old the first time I entered into the Los Angeles temple to be sealed to my family. I enjoyed baptisms in that same temple every six months as a youth. I was endowed there before my mission and married there after my mission. I have been back almost every month for the last thirty-seven years.

There has never been a time I have gone to the temple and not come away feeling a little closer to heaven, a little more connected to the Lord. I look forward to getting older because I know I’m going to be one of those little old men you see in the temple every time you go. There’s just something special about serving in the house of the Lord that can help us to feel more holy.

Commanded to Be Holy

Holiness is a frame of mind as well as a feeling that we cultivate. It’s not a false piety but a genuine feeling of closeness to the Lord in spite of being far away. It is a way of thinking and acting that causes us to remember the Lord many times during the day. It is noticing His hand in our lives, in the daily interactions with others and His help in dealing with troublesome things.

Holiness is sensing the sacred and the divine in nature around us but also in the flow of our lives. Holiness comes when we accept that the Lord is trying to mold us into something that may be different from what we had in mind. We become holy when we accept the Lord’s chastening hand in our lives without becoming bitter or questioning why such trying things happen to us.

It is the desire for holiness that prompts us to overlook faults in others and ourselves. It is that need, that intense passion to be all that the Lord wants us to be that burns holiness into our hearts. “Be thou Holy,” the Lord said. He didn’t say to be holy only when you are in church or only when you read the scriptures or pray. We are commanded to be holy, to do things with holiness.

Worship Brings Holiness

When I cultivate a feeling of holiness, I am able to overcome the world, even if it’s just for a moment. If we let them, the fears that permeate our society will suck out the feeling of peace that we need to be holy. Holiness is next to reverence and a part of worship. It’s a time to reflect, to ponder and to meditate. Surrounding ourselves with light and beauty will engender holiness.

Holiness is something that we give to the Lord. That’s the significance of that phrase, Holiness to the Lord. We ascribe Him to be a Man of Holiness. We can be filled with that holiness when we praise Him, when we worship Him, when we sing unto Him and when we pray unto the father in His name. He hears us. He knows our efforts to please Him and to will return holiness unto us.

That’s the beauty of true worship. When we praise Him or sing unto Him, we become one with Him. We begin to feel about things as He does. He is filled with holiness and peace. Majesty and glory are His because He earned them, but He is willing to share them with us, here and now, in this world, when we reach out to Him in our hearts in the spirit of worship. He makes us holy.

Holiness is a gift from God

If we sing in a choir with the intent to be united and to praise God, we are magnified. I have felt this many times. My soul expands and I begin to feel the expanse of eternity. It seems that God cannot resist touching our hearts and our minds when we worship Him. I have felt the same thing when I teach under the influence of the spirit. That connection with God engenders my holiness.

Holiness is a gift from God, yet it is something that we can claim. Indeed, we have a right to claim it according to our worthiness and our efforts to repent. God loves to bless his children with feelings that help us understand His true nature. Man of Holiness is His name. Think about that. Perhaps there is no better phrase to describe the God whom we worship – a Holy Man.

I also want to be a man of holiness, but so often feel like Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am. My heart sorroweth because of my flesh. My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about because of the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins. Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

Become Holy to receive Him

Holiness is a step on the rung of the ladder to come unto Christ and to be received into His presence. He who embodies all that is holy is ever so willing to teach us how to become holy. Jacob exclaimed, “Oh how great is the holiness of our God!” He offers it to us as a tool for us to come back into His presence. He has abundance and enough to spare for all who desire it.

If our eyes become single to His glory then holiness descends upon our spirits. Holiness brings us to a unity of the faith. There are times when singing in the stake choir that the unity of voice is converted to unity of faith. It is a wonderful feeling, this bestowal of holiness through worship. Receiving the spirit of holiness through worship and praise, we can endure His consuming fire.

We must cultivate this sense of holiness and let nothing detract us from achieving it. No devil, no evil being, mortal or not, can dissuade us in our quest if we are committed to obeying this great commandment to become holy. We must become holy so that He can share with us all that He has. We can achieve that state in this life and receive some of those blessings now if we desire.

We can be Holy

To the western man or natural man way of thinking, we want something to “do” to become holy. It has been my experience that I can be doing all that the Lord asks of me and yet still not feel holy. If you are confident you are already doing all that you can to be holy and still don’t feel so, then it’s time to change your thinking. We must literally decide to obey the command to be holy.

Achieving a state of holiness is a gift you accept. We are commanded to receive it, just as we have been commanded to receive the Holy Ghost. Being holy takes faith. It requires that we cast out fear. We are commanded to do so. It also requires us to resist the urge to self-criticize. There is no way to accept this gift of holiness and find fault with ourselves for thinking we are holy.

The best way I have found to sustain this sense of holiness is to focus on the phrase, Holiness to the Lord. As I worship him, I raise myself to a higher plane, a different state of consciousness. I praise Him, ascribe holiness to Him and in turn he beings me into that state of holiness through His grace and mercy. It’s a reciprocal feeling. He loves me and loves to bless me. We are holy.

Remembering the Covenant

RememberingTheCovenantI received my copies of Denver Snuffer’s Remembering the Covenant, Volumes 1, 4 and 5 the other day. Why would I invest $55 to purchase printed versions of something that is available for free online? I’ve already purchased and read Denver’s previously published eight volumes. And for the most part, I read the majority of what’s in the books on Denver’s blog over the past year.

Two reasons: I’m an old guy. I like physical books. I enjoy turning the pages, marking them up and seeing them stored in my library. Second, I found it interesting Denver hinted at something I have been thinking about for a long time. We take the availability of the Internet, Blogger and hey, even electricity for granted. The day may come when these things are no longer guaranteed.

I like the formatting of the books, the new chapter organizations and the footnotes. The blog comments are not included. That’s understandable. If you’re read some of them, they get way off the subject and frankly, there are some weird things in there that are distracting from the content. I’m not saying comments aren’t valuable, just that they can take things in unintended directions.

Commentary on The Second Comforter

I feel like a late-comer to the Denver party. Now, he wouldn’t like that characterization. He has always said the important thing is the message, not the messenger. And of course, Denver is not the only one focusing on the idea that we can and should receive the Savior in this mortal life. By that I mean a personal visit from the Lord in which he ministers to and teaches you sacred things.

As Denver noted on his blog, volumes two and three in the series were published previously as the single volume Removing the Condemnation. The advantage of purchasing them in this new format is that they are in a larger font and split into two volumes. I chose to save a few bucks by just getting the ones I didn’t already have. Amazon already has the three other volumes bundled.

So for me, having the luxury of the printed volumes allows me to study Denver’s commentary on his original book at my leisure, which is usually at night before retiring for the day. I learned recently that if I work on the computer right up until I retire, it makes it difficult to get to sleep. There’s something more relaxing about reading a book instead of reading on a computer screen.

Two Areas of Disagreement

In the year or so since I was introduced to Denver’s writings, I’ve made it a point to share with Carol some of the things I have been learning. She’s not all that interested, especially since the first book I
read from Denver was his last one, Passing the Heavenly Gift. We basically disagree on two points – the desirability of meeting Christ in this life and just what priesthood power is.

Carol was taught all her life and believes that there is no need to receive the Savior in this life in a literal way, meaning you don’t need a personal visit to be saved or exalted. She says that will come after this life. When I show her the scriptures and the teachings from Joseph she responds, “Well, the majority of the members of the church aren’t going to see Christ in this life, so there.”

We read chapter one of Passing the Heavenly Gift together. I wrote about her response in my first essay about Denver early in 2012. We’ve had an ongoing discussion about power in the priesthood ever since. Every time a baby is blessed, a baptism is performed or someone is confirmed or ordained, she leans over to me and whispers, “not valid – no power, right?”

Difficult Ideas to Accept

She’s trying to point out that, in her mind, Denver’s argument that power of some kind was lost, does not make sense to her because of the special feelings we each feel when we witness an ordinance of the priesthood, partake of the sacrament or attend the temple. While in the Celestial room, we’ve discussed what he has written. Gratefully, we’ve been able to keep it quiet and civil.

Carol’s viewpoint is that receiving a personal visit from Christ in this life is not necessary, at least according to all we’ve been taught growing up in this church. The focus has always been, receive the ordinances, including marriage in the temple, then endure faithfully to the end. That means as long as you attend church, accept callings, pay tithing and pray often, you’ll be exalted.

Thus, she says the focus of Denver’s first book is unnecessary, at least according to what we’ve been taught. What she got out of Denver’s last book is that he was very clearly saying that the church lost something with the death of Joseph, perhaps even sooner. She took great exception to this idea. What exactly was lost has been a matter of discussion between us over the past year.

Focus on the Book of Mormon

I’m glad I read his last book first. I had long been feeling that there was something missing in our modern church compared to the early church, meaning in the days of Joseph Smith. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe that Joseph was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is scripture and is intended to guide our lives.

I also believe that Joseph received the sealing power from God, just like Nephi did, but that there was so much more he wanted to share with us that he received from the Lord before his life was cut short. He did not live to see the completion of the Nauvoo temple. There were things he knew that he tried to teach in the last few months of his life, that we just didn’t quite understand.

I’m looking forward to reading and studying these three volumes, Remembering the Covenant. I note that he positions them as a commentary on the Book of Mormon. I like that. There is so much of this marvelous book that even after a lifetime of studying I still don’t understand. I know Denver taught much of this stuff in his Gospel Doctrine classes over some twenty years.

Remain True and Faithful

In case you were wondering, I see no incompatibility between studying the works of Denver Snuffer and remaining a faithful member of the church. In fact, as many others have stated, I don’t think I have ever studied the gospel more intently in the past year since I first encountered his works. Denver has repeatedly encouraged us to remain faithful and serve in the church.

Yes, his first book is somewhat unconventional in that the doctrine of seeking an audience with Christ in this life is no longer taught in our church. And yes, his last book is controversial in that he put in one place all the arguments we have been reading on the Internet for years that there is something amiss in the direction of the church compared to what Joseph restored so long ago.

Can one believe that something is missing or not quite right in the church today and still answer the temple interview questions honorably? Absolutely.  I sustain the Brethren as authorized to lead this church. I see nothing in what Denver writes to be contrary to or opposing the teachings and practices of the Church. Denver has encouraged us to be faithful and serve in the church.

Future posts on Denver Snuffer

Although this blog is not devoted to discussing the writings of Denver Snuffer, I intend to bring up a number of things I have read in his books that I find interesting and worthy of discussion. I have had a paradigm shift in the way I view the priesthood that answers so many questions for me. I am also delighted to see the idea of meeting Christ in this life being taught and promoted.

Surely the Brethren cannot find fault with anyone who encourages us to seek an audience with Christ for the specific purpose of receiving instruction pertaining to our salvation. And surely they can’t fault him for informing us in one place, in a very favorable way I might add, about the things we have read in many places on the Internet regarding a different view of our history.

Don’t call me a Snufferite. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m just a regular member of this church. I merely want to know what I must do to have an audience with my Redeemer in this life. I can’t imagine anybody labeling this as an undesirable thing. I’m simply grateful that Denver says it can be done and that he has done so. Thank God for his testimony and witness.

For More Information

In case you are interested, I’ve written several previous entries about Denver Snuffer:

01. March 24, 2013 – Overview of The Second Comforter
02. March 9, 2013 – A New Star Will Shine Forth
03. March 3, 2013 – All Are Invited to the Feast
04. December 25, 2012 – The Four Phases of Mormonism
05. December 11, 2012 – What Denver Snuffer Teaches
06. July 7, 2012 – Deceived by an Angel of Light
07. May 12, 2012 – Orthodox Mormonism
08. May 5, 2012 – Ten Parables by Denver Snuffer
09. April 8, 2012 – Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil
10. February 26, 2012 – Loss of the Sealing Power

Meeting Christ in This Life

DoctrineOfMeetingChristMy friend Eric has e-published another free book on Lulu. This one is entitled, “The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life: Jacob’s Ladder, the LDS Temple and Greater Things.” It is 144 pages. His first one (110 pages) was about the Plan of Salvation symbolized as One Eternal Round. He also published a short booklet (68 pages) about the Sacrament.

Eric was my Bishop a few years back. I also served as one of his counselors in the Bishopric. We now serve together in the Stake Presidency. Well, sort of. He’s the Executive Secretary and I’m the Stake Financial Clerk. But positions in the Church certainly don’t matter a hill of beans, do they? I only mention this to let you know that Eric’s a good guy and can be trusted. He’s a physician here in our local area.

The booklet is mainly a compilation of quotes and scriptures. A few words from his introduction might give you a feel for the content and Eric’s focus. He also included a Step 0, which is to Study Christ, to learn about Christ, and expressed a hope that our time spent on this lower level is short. In other words, we all should be a little further up the ladder by now in following Christ, seeking to meet Him.

Spiritual Progress on Jacob’s Ladder

So pick up the little booklet from Lulu. It’s free and is a thoughtful and well-organized compilation. Quoting the introduction, “Jacob’s ladder, symbolically applied to our own personal spiritual progression, has 3 principal steps:

Step 1:  Telestial Level – Follow Christ
Step 2:  Terrestrial Level – Meet Christ
Step 3:  Celestial Level – Know Christ

“For us, Step 1 occurs in this mortal life. Step 3 occurs after this mortal life. This book would like to suggest that Step 2 can occur in this mortal life (Hence the title). On this salvational ladder, knowledge makes up the steps. Faith, hope, and charity make us attempt to climb the steps. Grace, provided through the Atonement of Christ, is the power that actually moves us up the steps.

“Nothing is worth more than the spiritual climb up this ladder. Nothing should be allowed to distract us from the path to knowing Christ. Mortal life is too precious and short to waste on the relatively less important things. I do not place my faith in the Church, which is an organization of imperfect humans. I place my faith in Jesus Christ. I have membership in the Church because I feel it helps me progress along this path.”

The Ladder Leads to Christ

Eric has gone to great lengths to compile these quotes and scriptures in a logical and comprehensive manner. He leads you step by step or rather rung by rung up Jacob’s ladder, providing evidence that meeting Christ is not only a doctrine of the Church but is the central theme of the gospel – something we all MUST do. I like the format of an e-book. You can keep it handy for reference in electronic format.

The chapter on Jacob’s ladder is enlightening. I had the pleasure of being taught by Bishop Chun on a regular basis in the combined third hour instruction that took place once a quarter. He was continually reminding us to wake up, like Jacob needed to do in order to begin his ascent up the ladder. Of course, Bishop Chun was also a fan of the Matrix so maybe “wake up” meant even a little more to him.

The Temple is a Map

He writes about the temple being a map: “How is the temple endowment a map? Our spiritual understanding of the symbols shows us where we are, how close we are to God’s presence. The hidden treasures of gospel understanding will remain hidden to the spiritually unenlightened mind. The mysteries are ingeniously concealed within the symbolism of the temple ordinances.

“How much we are able to see, discern, and understand is a measurement of our spirituality. Understanding the symbols is what endows us, because personal revelation is required to understand the symbols. Continuing to receive until we are at such a spiritual level that we can pierce through the veil and enter the presence of the Lord—that is being endowed with spiritual power from on high.”

Obtaining Knowledge

I have been re-reading Denver Snuffer’s first book (second edition, 2008), The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil. I’m in Chapter Four – Nephi’s walk. The focus of Denver’s message, or actually Nephi’s, is that we must act upon what we believe in order to have sufficient faith to come unto Christ and save our souls. A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.

But the kind of knowledge we’re talking about here is the kind that comes from obedience. When you learn a principle and then live it, you obtain your own personal witness of its validity. You then have knowledge. That’s another step up the ladder. The trick is to know what knowledge is most important to obtain and then to let nothing stand in your way of obtaining that knowledge experience.

Seek the Face of the Lord

We are to seek the Lord’s face. We start with a desire to believe. Nephi heard his father tell of his visions and dreams. At first he was skeptical. He decided to ask God to help him believe. He says the Lord visited him and softened his heart. We know the response of his brothers. Sam believed Nephi’s words but Laman and Lemuel hardened their hearts. Nephi’s first visit was to simply soften his heart.

Have we had that first visit from the Lord? I have. But it only comes if we ask. I have had my heart softened towards the things of God. I have asked Him to help me accept difficult doctrines and to have the courage to act upon them. Like Nephi, there was no rushing wind, no parting veil, nothing material happened. But I had a desire to receive, I asked for it, and I received. Skepticism and doubt vanished.

Hear the Voice of the Lord

Nephi teaches us the next step in the path when he reports back to the Lord on his efforts to share his testimony with his brothers. He then hears the voice of the Lord saying, “Blessed art thou Nephi, because of thy faith…” I think we just left a large number of church members behind. I would say the majority have experienced step one in that they had a softening of the heart, else why would they come to church?

But this hearing the voice of the Lord thing, that’s where we lose a lot of people. Of course it was not an audible voice. The voice of the Lord came into his mind. I can’t tell you how many conversations and private dialogs I have had with people who said, “How can I tell the difference between my own thoughts and the voice of the Lord?” This sacred subject has received a lot of attention over the years.

Visions or Dreams

The ability to hear, just like the ability to accept what is heard, is directly related to keeping the commandments. The more faithful you are in obeying the word of the Lord to his prophets, the more prepared you are to receive his voice individually. The cleaner your personal life is the better you can hear his voice. When the Lord speaks to you, you will know it. It is accompanied by a quiet peace in your heart.

Sometimes the Lord chooses to speak to us in a vision, also called a dream. I know few people who have open visions, but know many who have communicated with the Lord through dreams. Don’t discount dreams as a legitimate method of the Lord to answers the prayers of his children. I have received some sacred visions in this manner. I know when a dream is from the Lord. I record them in my journal.

Daily Walk With the Lord

The next step or rung on the ladder is to understand the process of the daily walk with the Lord. God is not some distant being who cares nothing for you. He is someone who cares enough about us that He will help us accomplish whatever it is He asks us to do. Just like Nephi had the faith to say, “I will go and do,” we too must walk each day with the assurance that the Lord will help us step by step.

Start each day with prayer. Tell God what it is you need to accomplish that day. Tell him why you are trying to do what you must do. Ask him to help you and to walk with you as you step through the process of each task. Talk to Him as you encounter difficulties during the day. Listen for His calm reassuring voice telling you that you can do it or suggesting alternative ways to accomplish your task.

A Pause on the Ladder

And that’s about as far as I’ve come in my third re-read of Denver’s book. I have my pen and highlighter out and am marking each step and each part of the process so I can say I understand and evaluate where I am. I am pleased to say I am at least up to this point. I desire to see His face, I have heard his voice in my mind many, many times. I can also tell you that this daily walk with the Lord is a real thing.

I know we can meet Christ in this life. I have not seen His face yet, but I know where I’m at on the path. He has asked some difficult things of me. I have failed some tests and passed others. Tests that used to come at me over and over again now seem to have served their purpose and no longer appear on the path. I am so very grateful for a living and loving God who lets me know where I am in life.

Invitation to Dialog

Where are you? I invite comments. I love the dialog. Thanks for reading my story.

Interview With a General Authority

LynnGRobbinsUnless you count my Mission President who later became one, I have only been interviewed by a General Authority once in my life. I was serving on a High Council when a new Stake President was called. The visiting GA interviewed all the High Councilors and Bishops. It was short. I was happy for the new President.

I’m in a different stake now. Our Stake President is leaving to serve as a Mission President. Funny, that’s what happened to the last Stake President. Elder Lynn Robbins is the visiting GA. I don’t think the Stake Financial Clerk (that’s me) is on the interview list. I’ll be happy for the new Stake President and continue to serve.

I got to thinking about how I have changed in the thirteen years since my interview with a General Authority. I took a stroll down memory lane as I was driving home from work today. I thought about my testimony and wondered if it had grown. I decided to conduct my own interview and share it as a journal entry on my blog.

By the way, this is not the way my interview with the GA went way back when. He asked two questions: 1) “Tell me about your family,” and 2) “Who do you think should be the Stake President?” He had such a short amount of time and at least twenty-five men to interview. If I remember correctly, there was also a member of the Area Presidency in the meeting. I assume they compared notes afterwards.

GA: So, Brother Malone, tell me about yourself.

Me: I’m a life-long member, happy with what the church has done for me and happy to serve wherever I’m asked.

GA: Tell me what the church has done for you.

Me: My first thoughts go to Primary and Sunday school, Seminary and Institute. The church gave me an organized and focused foundation early in my life for studying and learning the gospel.

GA: And you appreciate that.

Me: I do. If there’s anything that defines me it’s that I like to study the doctrines of the church, organize them in my mind and then share them on my blog.

GA: Oh, so you’re a blogger. Tell me about that.

Me: I like to think of my blog as a way to check my gospel understanding. I write what I think are orthodox, standard positions of the church on difficult subjects and then throw them out there for comment. I am always surprised at the response.

GA: Why is that?

Me: Because there is such a diversity of opinions out there on what is orthodox. I think I’ve discovered that you can believe just about anything and be a member of this church.

GA: [laughs] Indeed. The gospel net gathers of every kind. What do you believe?

Me: About the church?

GA: Yes. How does the church bless you today?

Me: Two things come to mind right away: Fellowship and service. I love to worship with the Saints and I appreciate the opportunity to help the Stake Presidency with their heavy responsibilities.

GA: I understand you serve as the Stake Financial clerk. Do you enjoy that?

Me: I do. I believe the Lord has helped me become equal to the challenge. Besides, I enjoy helping other financial clerks. The main task is sharing how to use MLS.

GA: If you could choose any calling in the church, what would it be?

Me: It doesn’t matter, but I miss teaching the gospel on a regular basis.

GA: Why is that?

Me: Teaching requires study and preparation. I need that challenge of making sure I understand what the Lord wants to be taught.

GA: But the church provides the material to be taught.

Me: I understand. It’s not the material the people remember. It’s how they felt.

GA: What do you mean?

Me: Sitting in a Sunday school class should be a spiritual experience. Yes, it’s a time when the doctrines of the gospel are discussed but more importantly, it’s when spirits are fed. There should be “ah-ha” moments as Saints realize they can do what the Lord has asked them to do. That’s why the Lord gave us the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon – to show that we can come to know the Savior.

GA: Tell me about the Savior.

Me: I wish I could say I “know” Him, but at this point in my life I can only say I know about Him. I know He loves me. I know He helps me. I know He sends angels to help me. I have spent most of my life learning about Him and hope to learn more, so much more, before I meet Him in the next world. I love to hear stories about Him, especially from those who say they have met Him in this life.

GA: That’s one of the marvelous things about this Church, isn’t it?

Me: What do you mean?

GA: That we teach each other about the Savior and can learn from each other.

Me: It is. But I long for the day when I can learn from him directly. I have come to a point in my life where it seems everything I read in the scriptures tells me that He wants to reveal Himself to us. The spirit also tells me He has things to share with us that He can only do with a personal visit. I am working on trying to understand what I must do to be ready for whatever it is He wants to share in person.

GA: That’s a wonderful desire. Most people are content knowing that they will meet Him in the life to come. They live their lives as best they can, obeying His commandments and enduring faithfully to the end.

Me: And up until a few years ago, I would have responded the same way. I can’t tell you what it is, but something is driving me to learn all I can about the steps to part the veil and converse with the Lord in this life. I know it requires a kind of faith that I don’t yet have. I have a running conversation with my Heavenly Father every day about what I should work on next to prepare me for that glorious day.

GA: I commend you for your efforts. I’m sure the day will come if you are faithful. Now, who do you think should be the next Stake President of your stake?

Eternal Lives, Past Lives and Reincarnation

EloheimEternalLivesI am strongly opposed to the idea of past lives or reincarnation. I have always considered it a false and pernicious doctrine that leads one to do less than their best in this life, thinking they will always have another chance to get it right in the next life. Some people have said that the church teaches this doctrine and that it is called Eternal Lives (plural). I disagree, believe that most LDS believe as I do, that Eternal Lives means eternal increase and would like to address that in this position paper.

Associated with Adam-God Theory

By way of background I’ve written a little about this before in an essay where I reviewed a book entitled “Teachings of The Doctrine of Eternal Lives.” For some reason, this subject seems to be related to discussions of the Adam-God theory, which I have also written about previously. My position hasn’t changed even though I’ve had many people engage me in private dialog on the subject. They come up with all kinds of weird spins on what we are taught in the temple.

Adam and Eve Immortal at Birth

I remained convinced that Adam was born an immortal child of God our father and his heavenly mother. Eve was also an immortal child of those same resurrected beings. Jesus Christ did not have a mortal experience until he was born unto Mary. What he put aside was not an immortal and exalted body but simply his status as the most intelligent and most advanced of all of Heavenly Father’s children.

No reintroduction of the Veil

I do not believe we have more than one opportunity to pass though mortality. The same applied to God and to Jesus Christ. There was no “reintroduction of the veil” to God, to Christ, to Adam or to any mortal being ever born on this earth. Elohim does indeed mean Gods – plural – which is in line with what I believe that many of us were Gods – and still are. The veil of our mortal bodies simply hides that fact from us for a season.

Definition of the Fathers

The Fathers, in my opinion, are those early patriarchal prophets who have been resurrected and await our joining them when we finish our mortal probation. We are to be like them and to be sealed unto them with the sealing power that can only come from the voice of the Lord. None of them has ever entered the womb again. That simply cannot and does not happen. They are resurrected and exalted beings now. We would do well to emulate their examples in following Christ.

God only Experienced Mortality Once

I do not believe Gods experience mortality more than once. I have re-read the accounts of the King Follett discourse several times. I simply do not see that Joseph taught that doctrine. Jesus helped to frame the worlds under the direction of our Father by virtue of his position as the most intelligent, the most obedient and the most advanced of all our Heavenly Father’s children. He was assisted by Michael, who was to become the first mortal of this earth – Adam.

No Immortal [Exalted Being] Can Become Mortal

I disagree that our Heavenly Father and Mother became mortal again after they were immortal [and exalted]. Sorry. That’s a false doctrine. Yes, it’s true that came to they earth and ate of the fruit of this world. Adam and Eve were born to them here upon this world as immortal beings, from immortal parents. Adam was created of the dust of this earth in the sense that his parents ate of the fruit of this world when he was conceived. They had already had countless spirit children, but Adam and Eve were the first immortal children they brought forth on this world. This was not the first time they had done this. They had brought forth immortal children on countless other worlds before this one.

Immortal Beings Bear Immortal Children

Again, there is never, was never, will never be a time when the veil is reintroduced to an immortal and exalted being. The mortal body is the veil. An immortal [exalted] being will not become a mortal being for any reason. Not even Jesus did this. Yes, he was a God before he was born because he had obtained all knowledge available to him before mortality. But he was not an exalted being. That requires immortality. Immortal beings cannot bring forth mortal children (*See excellent comment from Donald below). Adam and Eve were immortal [but not exalted] until they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then became mortal.

Update 4-10-13: I added the words in brackets above

No Past-Life Mortal Experiences

We establish ourselves as valiant in the pre-mortal life by our obedience to the commandments there and our faithfulness to the performance of assigned duty. There are no past-life mortal experiences to be remembered or relied upon as a source of growth or experience. Past-lives is a false doctrine explained by the presence of spirits who have attached themselves to us, which can be easily detected by those with spiritual insight or priesthood keys of discernment. This is clearly taught in books by Mel Fish and Doug Mendenhall.

Pre-Mortal Life is as a Spirit

Adam did not choose to become mortal again. He chose be born as an immortal child of Heavenly Parents and then chose to become mortal just as we are taught. I have never had a mortal life before my present time on earth. I learned and grew in a pre-mortal life in the presence of my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I am fairly certain I had some say about the timing of my birth into this world. Like Adam, I am searching for authorized messengers to teach me more. Up to this point I have accepted what I have been taught by prophets in scripture. But I know there is more that can only be received from heavenly messengers or from Christ.

We do not Cycle Through Mortality

I disagree with many on the interpretation of what Joseph taught in the last few months of his life and which Brigham tried to systematize in the endowment. I have studied many interpretations of others on what Joseph and Brigham taught. I have considered many versions of Adam-God theories from numerous individuals who have shared them with me. I simply have never found anything better than Elden Watson’s great summary. It is settled in my mind and has been for many years. I have yet to find anything that can convince me that we will ever become mortal again. That is not what eternal lives means.

Share Greater Light and Knowledge

This is my position paper. If I am wrong, show me where. Provide me with further light and knowledge. Point out my flaws in logic. Let me know where I have misunderstood prophets. I’ve shared this position many times over the years and most everyone has agreed that this is an orthodox understanding of what we as a church believe about the purpose of life and mortality. If you want to know more about the source of the idea of past-lives, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. Past-lives is not a doctrine that originated with God, but it can be explained. If you’re interested, I can add that in the comments.