My mother taught me a profound truth when I was a teenager. She was trying to get me to go with the rest of the family to attend the premier of some movie down in Hollywood. I had made other plans to hang out with some of my friends and was being resistant, stubborn and rebellious, typical for my teenage years.
Only this time, I went too far. I would not do as she desired. In fact, I climbed up into my tree-house in the backyard and refused to come down. I guess it was the last straw in a long chain of events that summer. Mother had dad call the police. I ended up in Juvenile Hall for a week, learning what the word incorrigible meant.
The Fine Art of Culture
Mother was a great connoisseur of the arts. It was her mission to bring culture to our family and she did it well. We traveled to the Old Globe Theater in San Diego to see Shakespeare. We went to various theaters around the Southland to enjoy ballet, which I did not. My sisters, yes. Me, not so much. That puzzled my mother.
When live theater came to our little community, we went regularly. I have fond memories of seeing Peter Pan in theater in the round, unique to the old Carousel theater in West Covina back in the mid-60’s. The Doors later played there along with The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Animals, Rascals, and Dave Clark Five.
Mother dragged us to Hollywood for premiers: Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, The Bible. I don’t know why we couldn’t wait until they came out in our local theaters. Perhaps it was the excitement of Hollywood. We were still new to California, having moved here just ten years earlier from very rural Oklahoma.
Time Out to Sit in the Corner
My parents seemed happy to see me when they came to get me out of Juvenile Hall after a week. I did not enjoy my time there. I think I had only just turned thirteen years old. Some of the other kids were in there for much more serious crimes of arson, rape, murder. Many had been there for months, some years.
Mother asked me if I had learned anything. I think I said something hurtful which I won’t repeat here. Mother quietly cried. She and dad went out of the room to discuss my fate. Dad came back in, looking very serious, told me to gather my things, we were going home. It was a quiet ride back to West Covina from LA.
I thought a lot about that little episode. It wasn’t my first, nor was it my last brush with the law. I think I was in and out of jail at least a half dozen times before my sixteenth birthday. But nobody wants to read about my rebellious teenage years. Those days are long past. However, I’ve always remembered what mother said:
“Ultimately, we do in life what we deeply desire to do. Always have. Always will.”
Overcoming the Natural Man
Selfishness, rebellion and a willful nature are part of the natural man. I have plenty of experience in this area. It wasn’t until I was about seventeen that I decided my willful nature was not going to bring me happiness in this life. I decided to conform, submit and comply with the desires of others for me.
I became a model citizen, a perfect latter-day saint and made my parents very happy, or so they said. Life was good. Went on a mission, married in the temple, raised a son. Served in the church, taught somebody from some manual every Sunday. EQ Pres, Bishopric, High Council, HP Group Leader, Ward & Stake Clerk.
Submissive to God, not Man
I wish I had decided to be submissive to my Father in Heaven or my Savior as my central guiding light instead of what I thought others desired of me. At the time, there wasn’t much difference. Today, the difference is obvious, at least to me. Wanting to please God is so much more powerful. It has an everlasting effect.
I think that’s why I continue to feel the love of my Savior, in spite of my rebellious nature. I feel exasperation at times, as in, “Come on, Tim, rise up, you can do it,” especially after I’ve disappointed myself with a poor choice in response to some stressful situation. But ultimately, you do what you want to do. You always do.
Jesus the Very Thought of Thee
I’ve thought a lot lately about wanting to do good and wanting to please the Lord. That very thought is perhaps the greatest motivational idea I’ve ever considered. From the hymn: “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” and from Helaman 5: “There was power given unto them that they did turn and look.” Both inspiring thoughts.
As long as we focus on the Savior, He is determined to work with us. Repentance is simply turning to Him, asking and desiring to know and do His will for us. He will not disappoint us. Never in my life have a felt Him say “No, I will not help you.” He is constant and kind, always there, always willing to help, responsive to our love.
Our Thoughts are a Battleground
Perhaps that’s the key to a successful relationship with the Lord: love. He loves us. We all know that. But do we love Him? We say we do, but do our thoughts and our actions show it? Ultimately, we do what we want to do. The desires of our hearts become manifest to ourselves, to others around us and to the heavens.
“The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” A great thought attributed to David O. McKay. In the end, what do we take with us but our character, our thoughts, our relationships and the results of our deeds? Will our memories be sweet, filled with recollections of kind service to others?
A Spirit-world Visit
My father is a hero to me. A kind man, never cross, always patient, never angry. Without complaint, he rescued me from predicaments I had gotten myself into. In the final days of his life, he struggled to have someone open the door for him so he could pass through to the other side. He visited me after he arrived there.
Symbolically dressed in a Scottish kilt, he was accompanied by family members of our Celtic tribe. He seemed happy, progressing in his journey, anxious to be with my mother, yet she, earth-bound, came directly to me, full of care and concern for my welfare, looked deep into my eyes, told me she was happy for me then.
Time in the Spirit World
That was long ago. I’ve often wondered how time is measured in the spirit world. Have they moved on? Have they reacquainted themselves with the thousands upon thousands of individuals they researched and for whom they performed the ordinances they believed would bring salvation and open the door to exaltation?
Did mother meet Joseph, whose life she studied so diligently, or did she discover, as others who visited from the spirit world have reported, that he has gone on to other realms, still engaged in the work he did not get to finish here? Just how are the spirits on the other side organized? Are they happy? Are they progressing?
Emerging Mormon Mysticism
When Seth Payne wrote about Denver (and me) back in 2015, he referred to the “Emerging Mormon Mysticism,” comprised of individuals “primarily focused on direct experience with the ineffable divine.” I was surprised at the time, and am still puzzled today, that religion is anything other than direct interaction with God.
I mean, isn’t that what religion is supposed to be, a pathway to heaven, brought about by a loving Savior, who rescues us from the lone and dreary world? I desire to rise up, to walk the paths of heaven, like Elijah, ascending the fiery conduit to the realms above. Who will open the conduit so we may ascend Jacob’s ladder?
Choosing What to Read and Study
When I have questions like these, I first turn to the scriptures and then to other sources the Lord brings to my attention. In a recent email exchange with a reader, we discussed the idea of being led by the spirit, particularly in regard to what we choose to read and to study. It is a fascinating topic and worthy of consideration.
My reader had asked me for some additional clarification of my positions on a few doctrinal and historical questions. I provided links to some of Denver’s papers and a few of my own posts. He responded he had read my posts but felt constrained by the spirit to not read any of Denver’s materials, even though he said he tried.
Counseled to Burn Books
That approach to learning more about a subject reminded me of a visit with a Stake President early in our married life. Before we were married, I had amassed a small collection of what I considered classic anti-Mormon material, which I used for reference when I was researching and writing about a pertinent subject.
It bothered Carol. She mentioned it in an interview with our Stake President. I think he had called us to be Stake Missionaries or something. He counseled us to burn it. I resisted, having invested a few thousand dollars over the years. It became a sore subject in our marriage. In order to keep peace, I finally relented.
Constrained by the Spirit
Was my friend really constrained by the spirit to not read Denver’s materials? I believe he was. Carol has a similar response whenever I try to share something with her that originates from Denver’s writings. It is emotionally distressing. Out of love and consideration for her feelings, I choose to not share such material.
Similarly, could a loving Heavenly Father be protecting my friend from the conflicted feelings that would surely come about if he read some of the content to which I had referred him? I have no doubt. For him, it would not be good, especially since he currently serves in a leadership position in his ward.
Making Well-Informed Decisions
Of course one could make the argument that there is no way you can consider yourself well-informed if you don’t read both sides of a subject and especially if you don’t read foundational works of an author in order to understand more fully his positions and reasonings behind those positions, even if they are contrary.
Perhaps it is simply a character trait of my personality, the one my mother so clearly identified for me so long ago. Of course, I know the long-standing position of the LDS Church is to NOT read anti-Mormon literature, just as the counsel has always been to read only the official interpretation of the early church history.
Careful Consideration of Knowledge
But ultimately, I always do what I want to do in life, as my mother pointed out. I think about what knowledge I want. I research where to obtain it and then I go about very carefully studying it, making sure to jump to no conclusions until I have obtained sufficient understanding of the material in question. Careful is the key.
With forty years of engineering experience, I have learned to be careful when I analyze a problem. I make sure I identify as many of the variables as I can, study them out, understand their characteristics, how they influence the situation, and what effect they have on the outcome as they are tweaked one way or another.
Knowledge Changes Us
Similarly, there are variables in our learning experience. One we often overlook is how our deep study of a subject, and coming to a clearer understanding of it, can affect our relationships with others. For example, if you pay the price to become a professional such as a doctor or lawyer, don’t others treat you a bit differently?
Presumably there is respect for your years of sacrifice and diligence in becoming an expert in your field. Then there is usually a deference when consulting with you about the specifics of a legal matter or a health issue. Yes, we all know some lawyers and some doctors are jerks, but they usually know more than we do.
Breadth and Depth of Knowledge
Another variable in learning is just how deeply you are willing to delve into a subject. Are you one who desires only a cursory understanding that comes from a review of the literature, or do you hunger and thirst after deep knowledge, seeking out and devouring everything you can find published on a subject?
Thus, you may be involved in a field and may even make your living at it, but are you a subject matter expert? Do you want to be? Is it worth the price? Translate that to the spiritual realm. How deeply do you want to know spiritual truths? Why did Nephi express frustration about people who refuse to seek deep knowledge?
Takes Time and Experience
Joseph taught “…the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.” We often focus on the idea that it takes effort to ponder and think about the things of the spirit before we can understand them. But what about time and experience?
Have we ignored the other part of the quote about time and life’s experiences when we consider what things the Lord would have us obtain in this life? Some knowledge comes only with the passage of time, a precious gift of mortality. It takes time to determine how the knowledge we obtain affects our relationships.
Knowledge Affects Relationships
It takes time to understand that some knowledge is more important than others. It takes experience with life, primarily in relationships that change as we grow in knowledge and wisdom. Can our relationships survive an increase in knowledge? Now, do you understand why sometimes we can’t share everything we know?
Ultimately you act in life according to your desires. If you want something, you’re usually going to find a way to obtain it. Even if it takes years of sacrifice, in the end, we seek out that which we desire, hopefully after consulting with the Lord about those desires. Do we desire what the Lord desires for us? Do we pray for it?
Knowledge of God Saves Us
The Lord has been very careful in encouraging us to deepen our knowledge of the things of eternity. Why? Because just as knowledge affects our relationships with others in mortality, knowledge affects our relationships with Him in eternity. We are saved no faster than we obtain knowledge. The knowledge of God saves us.
God asks us to trust Him, to love Him and to hearken to His counsels. He asks us to believe His promises, that sacrifice is worth it and that he will compensate for loss in this life. After all, didn’t He give up everything in a divine act of trust in His Father in Heaven? Ultimately, we will do what we want. May we do it like Christ.