Praying on the Mountain Top


praying-on-a-mountain-topOver the last few months I have been scouting local hiking trails for places to be alone. Why? There is something about raising your voice in prayer that makes it more powerful, or at least that has been my experience. I thought I had found two such locations but each time I returned to them, they seemed desecrated – beer bottles strewn about, signs of a party, things such as that.

So I kept searching. One of the first place I went was Mt. Pinos on the Kern County line. Sadly, it was covered in snow the first time I was there. I made a promise to come back. Thursday I did so. After performing a marriage for a friend and partaking of the sacrament, I began the hike up to the top. Just before I got there, the spirit whispered, “Turn off here, go left, I will direct you.”

I was not disappointed. After less than five minutes I encountered a beautiful fallen log, with an area encircled by the log as if it were set aside for privacy. I needn’t have worried. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and I had only seen two couples on the trail. They were going down as I was going up. I knew the Lord had directed me to this place. I had been praying about it for several months.

A Quiet, Peaceful Circle

ForestLogI sat in the enclosure with my back to the tree and began to pray. I will filled with joy and desired to express it. I prayed for about a half hour. I am not sure I asked for much other than to bless my friends and family. I had much to tell the Lord. Doing so in “voz alta” seemed to give my words that extra power and direction I had been searching for. My heart was overfilled with gratitude.

It’s Sunday as I write this so I have had time to ponder what happened. No, I saw no light, was not visited by any beings from the unseen world, and did not hear any voices speaking out loud. However, and of this I am certain, the veil was thin. I was surrounded by those who loved me. I felt their love. I knew they were there. Was it all in my mind? I suppose you could say that.

So what? Did that make it any less real? Not to me. The feeling of “thinness” of the veil stayed with me all the rest of that day and into the next. I expressed it in family prayer that night. Carol looked at me a little funny. There were words I did not normally used – expressions of purpose and meaning that were strong, powerful and heart-felt. They came from this feeling of thinness.

The Elements of Prayer

minds-eyeHow can I explain it so you will understand? I’m not sure I can. I was filled with peace, joy and a sense of connection to those unseen beings all about me. It was as if they too had been waiting a long time to “make the connection” and impart something unto me I cannot describe. A think a gift would be the best word – a spiritual gift, one filled with longevity and one that would grow.

I felt the Lord was pleased. In fact, I know he was. While I did not hear audible voices, there were voices in my mind, familiar voices I had heard before, especially that of the Lord. He let me know I was on the right path. He expressed satisfaction as I thought about some of the sacrifices I had made lately. He made it clear He was aware of them and appreciated them.

Open to my mind’s eye was a vision of what the future held. This is not unusual. I have had such visions before. They are always dependent on my behavior, my actions and how hard I worked to cause them to come to pass. They were familiar, as if I had seen them before, some place or time in the distant past, others in the more recent past, meaning sometime earlier my mortal life.

The Effort is Worth it

mesa-homesWhy am I sharing this? Am I trying to impress? I hope not. My desire is to communicate the idea the Lord answers prayer, especially if we make the effort to place ourselves in a spiritual state of peace and focused relaxation. I don’t know why, but my nightly prayers simply don’t come close to this kind of communication. Perhaps it’s because I’m still so wrapped up in the day’s work.

I prayed about whether I should share this. It was clear the Lord desired I at least document even if only as a part of my personal journal. In this case, the impression came that the idea of making the extra effort to be alone in the woods or on top of a mountain would be helpful to someone. I want to make it clear the Lord answers us according to our efforts to reach him in such a manner.

Was it worth it to climb a mountain for an hour or more? You can drive most of the way up. Yes, Absolutely. I used to find quiet spots on the mesa in St. George earlier in my life when visiting my in-laws. This was the same sort of prayer then – filled with a close bond that seemed to be obtainable in no other way. It is in these sort of prayers that the veil is thin and impressions clear.

Prayer Brings Confidence

sealing-of-couplesMy heart was filled with joy as I descended the mountain. Nothing had changed as far as my work and work expectations. In fact, I had to go back to work that night to take care of some things on the network that could only be done after everyone was gone for the day. I don’t think anything was changed as far as my relationship with my wife, it being a little strained right now.

What did change was a sense I was on the right path. No, it was more of a confirmation of such. I KNEW I was on the right path. My efforts and reading, studying and sharing both on my blog and in private emails was pleasing to the Lord and He let me know it. I came down with a greater sense of encouragement, a greater desire to make a difference, to contribute, to strengthen others.

As a note of closing, I want to express thanks to Keith for sharing certain things on his blog. For the first time in nearly two years, I was able to perform a priesthood ordinance outside my own home. At one point I was touched. I had clearly seen myself performing this ordinance when I had prayed for permission to do so previously. It was acceptable to the Lord. His voice is unmistakable.

God bless…

A Short Self-Analysis


confused-babyPost #1: A Short Self-Analysis

Do I resent giving others what they ask? That is the limit of my grace.

Do I fear giving others what they ask? That is the limit of my faith.

—————————————–

explanationPost #2: Children Will Give a Straight Answer to These

Do you like being forced to do what you don’t want to do with your own stuff?

Do you like being forced to be around people you don’t want to be around?

—————————————–

What, then, does the Golden Rule tell you about the laws you should write, vote for, or uphold?

Thoughts On Thoughts – A Pondering Post


the-thinkerShould adults be punished for cussing?

Should children be punished for cussing?

Do you like being punished for your thoughts?

Do you like being punished for speaking your thoughts?

Do you like being circumscribed in how you speak your thoughts?

Do you like being told you’re wrong and being argued into submission?

What does the golden rule tell you then you should do?

If you can’t speak your thoughts freely in your own home, where can you speak freely?

In Zion, shall one oppress or suppress one’s neighbor in their speech?

Should sufficiently unpopular speech be suppressed by force?

Should the audience’s taking offense justify oppressing a speaker in their speech?

Is that different than declaring certain speech shall be punished if someone takes offense?

Is that different than declaring one may be worthy of death for their words?

Is that a different rationale than that applied by the Islamists who just shot a bunch of journalists in France?

Is it just to expect a speaker to know beforehand the magical combination of words which will trigger you?

If a speaker knows what you take offense to, and says those things, is your offense then under his control or yours?

Do we have free will only until someone utters that magical combination of words that turns us into rabid dogs?

Is taking offense a choice?

Can we be trained to take offense at certain things?

Can we break such training?

Should we break such training?

Praying In The Holy Ghost


winter-wonderlandBut ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. Jude 1:20

Interesting phrase- “Praying IN the Holy Ghost”

I’d like to briefly explain what that might mean   I believe praying IN the Holy Ghost is an important part of the true order of prayer. It is finding the Holy Ghost in prayer.  It is a process of quieting your mind and your body in unified harmony and making them defer to the Holy Ghost.  It is allowing the Holy Ghost to speak through your heart and your words in the act of prayer/meditation. The Holy Ghost communicates the Mind of God. You repeat its words.

We must realize that most of what our natural mind and heart prays for is our own will and not the Will of the Father. That also goes for what we should be thankful for, what to repent of, and where we need help. There is rest in the lord and praying in the Holy Ghost can place you in that rest. Recognizing this is a big step in becoming a little child.   I believe one of the most important elements of heaven connecting prayer/meditation is actually finding the Will (Mind) of the Father- in that moment, through the Holy Ghost and express it.

Let the Holy Ghost speak through you. Let the Holy Ghost find and communicate the Lords Will for you.   This of course isn’t always easy with our limited vocabulary. The language of our heart is more encompassing and a better way to communicate with the Lord then words at times. Focus with your mind and communicate with your heart.  The word and will of the Lord is within you and knows much more what you need then you do.

In this life, withIn you, dwells the record of Heaven- the Holy Ghost.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”.1 Cor 6:19-20

The good news is that it is the record of Heaven and will bring to your remembrance all things because it knoweth all things(Moses 6:61). You ARE sufficiently equipped right now!  You don’t need to look elsewhere!

In my attempt to feel, hear, know, and actually find the “voice” of the Holy Ghost the steps below seemed to help.  In the process I became better at pinpointing or bringing all of me closer to the spirit. I found my breath and then softly heard how similar to a whisper it sounds. Along with this Joseph’s words rang true to me “and when the heart is sufficiently contrite then the voice of inspiration steals along and whispers–” (TPJS, p. 134.)

Suggestions while in the act of deep pondering/communicating with God:

YOU ARE THE TEMPLE. Literally– realize this.  After pondering deeply, QUIET down your mind.  QUIET it down even more reaching inwardly. Listen carefully or feel carefully with your spiritual mind and heart. Find the fabric of holiness within you.   Find, feel and hear your spirit. Notice the love, the breath, the voice, the fabric is delicate.  It steals along and whispers.. it is there.  THE BREATH OF LIFE “the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart” Deuteronomy 30: 11-14

Words are effective only if they carry the correct meaning to your mind. Many of the words we use have attached traditions and connotations that block us from opening our minds enough. We must approach God as an infant. I think the word “prayer” at times needs to be replaced in our own minds. Rethink what “prayer” means. Instead of prayer I’m going to us these words to replace it: The act of deep pondering with your mind focusing on things of God as you let your heart communicate with God through your emotions, feelings and at times words.

I believe a key to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is noticing its presence in you always until it is second nature. While you are walking, driving, waiting in line, talking, breathing… ” it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven,  that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-14

Heaven is within you, within arm’s length (literally) and within reaching distance always. All of this is made available by and through the Spirit of the Lord.

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21

“And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.” (Enos 1:4)

Confessions of a Mormon Blogger


MembersFacingDisciplineI thought about entitling this “Lessons Learned from Church Discipline,” but I don’t want that to be the main focus of this post. First, to be clear: In spite of rumors to the contrary, I am not under any restrictions or church discipline. I turned in my temple recommend because I felt I no longer qualified – all based on my understanding of the way I thought a question had to be answered.

So Easy to Be Judged and Misunderstood

One of the things I learned is how offensive this action is to some people. I was truly shocked by the number of private and public emails, blog comments and Facebook comments from people who expressed disappointment, shock and even anger at what I had done. To them, it was as if I had turned my back on the church and was declaring myself a non-believer or even an apostate.

Wisdom in Keeping Some Things Private

I also learned the wisdom of following counsel to keep some things private. I am now certain I misinterpreted my priesthood leader’s request to not write about this on my blog or Facebook. I thought he meant to not share the private details of the conversations, which I haven’t. I believe now he meant to not share *anything* about the process. Too many people have misunderstood.

Yet Open Dialog Helped and Persuaded

OK, so I’m a fool. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the conversations that ensued with wonderful input from some of my friends who helped me understand what that temple recommend question really means. As they have shared, just because you read material from individuals who have now been excommunicated, it does not mean you are no longer worthy of a temple recommend.

Come to Understand Certain Key Words

You’d think I would know better. I’ve probably conducted hundreds of recommend interviews over the years but never had anyone say anything other than “no” when asked the affiliation question. I thought deeply about those three words: a) support, b) affiliate, and c) agree. They refer to “teachings or practices that are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the church.”

Stigma of Being Labeled an Apostate

I have spent two and a half years reading, studying and trying to understand the writings of one LDS author who has now been excommunicated. In spite of this, I am more confident to answer that last temple recommend question “yes.” There are many, many things in his writings which caused my heart to burn and with which I agreed as I studied them. I found much truth in them.

Support, Affiliation and Agreement

Once this author was excommunicated, I had to answer the question for myself if I supported, affiliated or agreed with his teachings. I made up my mind he was not teaching new things, he was simply offering his interpretations of key scripture. I happen to agree with many of those interpretations. Did that make me an apostate, especially since I intended to go to his lectures?

Responses Based on Both Love and Fear

I discovered the idea of reading the material of a now-excommunicated author and especially my intention of attending a couple of his lectures was particularly offensive to some of the people I know and with whom I keep in touch on Facebook. It confused me. What motivated such words of condemnation? How had I threatened them by my intentions? Were they really that insecure?

Seek Learning by Study and Also by Faith

This particular author is presenting a series of lectures along the Wasatch Front. I purchase the recordings, study the transcripts and write blog posts about them. I do this because I have asked the Lord in prayer for knowledge on opening the heavens, which is the subject being addressed. I have learned answers to private, individual prayer are difficult to explain to those not involved.

Must Experience It Yourself to Relate

It reminded me of my missionary days and the salt analogy from President Packer. I had tasted salt. In my personal and private prayers, I received undeniable witnesses I was on the right path for me. The Lord was pleased with my studies, my efforts to understand the truth and my future intentions to deepen that understanding through attending lectures discussing profound doctrines.

Takes Time to Understand Deep Doctrine

After many discussions, Carol has agreed to attend two of the lectures with me in July, although I know it is not something she really wants to do. As part of my “due diligence” in forming my opinion and ascertaining truth for myself, I felt it important to experience the lectures in person. There’s nothing like hearing someone teach in order to get a better understanding of their spirit.

Continue to Invest in Close Relationships

That brings up another thing I learned – the importance of lots of open conversations with others in your family who are invested in your spiritual standing with the Lord and the church. I tried to reassure Carol over and over that my many hours of studying this material – along with studying the scriptures – will NOT lead me away from her, from the LDS church or from our Savior.

United as a Family in This Challenge

I believe Carol has a right to participate in my upcoming counseling session with the Bishop and Stake President this week. I intend to ask them if she can attend the meeting. Ordinarily, such interviews and counseling about temple worthiness are conducted separately, even when husband and wife are being interviewed for the recommend renewal process. That’s just the way it is.

Surprise at the Rapid Growth of the BlogGrowthOfBlog

I am extremely appreciative of the thousands of people who read my blog. Each time I write a post, it goes into the news feeds or email boxes of people all around the world. I know because I have reviewed the list of subscribers. There are many additional thousands who come to read my blog each time I post something new. Hundreds have joined the dialog to share their comments.

Thoughtful Comments From Blog Readers

For the most part, readers and commenters on the blog are civil and respectful toward each other, even though my subjects tend to cause strong feelings. There are those who are supportive of the conclusions I have reached in my studies and those who see them as heretical or false doctrine. I am constantly reminding my readers I am not teaching doctrine – only expressing my opinions.

Facebook Readers are a Different Breed

On the other hand, I notice the dialog on Facebook has a different tone. It seems more combative with occasional personal attacks. For a while I disconnected my Facebook connection to the blog until I saw how many hundreds of readers came from Facebook. Every blogger seeks readership and I am no different. I write to be read with the hope of being understood, otherwise why write?

Grossly Uninformed but Still Opinionated

Many of my readers have taken the time to read, study or otherwise come to an understanding of some of Denver Snuffer’s commentary on the scriptures. Others have a cursory comprehension based on the summaries of others. That’s unfortunate. They come across as misinformed and even bigoted because they have missed the wonderful depth of doctrine that he has explicated.

A Closed Mind is a Dangerous Thing

It never ceases to amaze me that people want to talk about Denver as opposed to my desire to discuss the scriptures he has opened to unorthodox interpretation. It also surprises me how many people are adamant they know such interpretations are wrong because they do not fit what we have taught in the standard historical narrative over the years. Their minds are closed – period.

Equally Yoked – Both Love to Write

Carol and I have discussed this often with specific examples of individual cases from my blog. Since Carol is a writer with some experience and skill, having invested thousands of hours in her craft, I know she can relate when people are dismissive of her ideas about superior ways to get a story across. I am grateful for my dear wife who accepts the importance of continually learning.

Edifying Content Can be Controversial

When I first started sharing my study notes, observations and commentary on the things I was learning from this writer, I was surprised at the polarity in the feedback. One of the best tools of a writer is persuasion. Everyone should learn to write persuasively. Writing with passion is also a skill that helps get your point across. But there is a difference between passion and ad hominem.

Persuasion Part of Power in the Priesthood

As I have attempted to share what I have learned about certain uplifting subjects such as power in the priesthood, it became clear even long-time members of the church do not understand the source of that power and the only authorized way the Lord endorses our exercise of that power. They seem to be confused between authority and power even though it’s such a basic doctrine.

LDS Bloggers Being Excommunicated

Because I have written so much about what I have learned by studying the scriptures behind the doctrines expounded by this particular writer, I became concerned as I was made aware of others who were being excommunicated for what appeared to be simply reading and commenting on the same books I was studying. My fellow bloggers were excommunicated for endorsing a book.

Practices of Fear and Control in the Church

I knew about the Strengthening Church Members Committee from the excommunications of the September Six back in 1993. I remember those days. It put a real damper on intellectual pursuit of the doctrines of the gospel. It initiated a period of time where nobody dared to ask questions anymore for fear of being reported by the SCMC committee to their local priesthood leaders.

Strengthening Church Members Committee

Now, I don’t think the SCMC is particularly looking to find fault with my material, but I have to wonder at some of the IP addresses in my logs that come from downtown Salt Lake City. I know I have readers in the Church Office Building. Some of them have written and called me. I have enjoyed our discussions. Thousands of readers come from Utah but don’t comment. That’s okay.

Guidelines from the Church PR Department

I’m not paranoid. I’m just concerned, especially after learning of the excommunications of some of my fellow bloggers who write about the same subjects. In light of the disciplinary action for Brent Larsen, Will Carter, John Dehlin, Kate Kelly and Rock Waterman, the church recently responded with some helpful guidelines. My friend Log helped me parse the church statement:

  1. Insisting on changes to “Church” doctrines or structure.
  2. Recruiting others.
  3. Creating organized groups. <—- that’s “affiliate”.
  4. Staging public events.
  5. Creating literature. <—- books and blogs qualify.

Tone of Your Writing Determines Response

Based on these guidelines, there’s no doubt the church IS looking at the blogs of the members, searching for content with the wrong “tone.” Clearly, “How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking.” I hope I’ve made it clear. I have questions but I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t consider them doubts or present them as such to anyone else.

Leave Official Doctrine Up to the Church

Another key for LDS bloggers is to avoid teaching. Leave that up to the church. Pondering and speculation are OK. Some doubt the profitability of speculation. I don’t. I love to consider “what if” scenarios. I guess it’s the computer guy in me. I do that all the time at work. Otherwise, you might find yourself called in by your Bishop or Stake President asking specifics about your blog.

Future Direction of My Blog

To close this post, and hopefully encourage some of my readers who wonder about where I’m going with this, I thought it might be helpful to share my conversation with Carol in our weekly family council this afternoon. Because she loves me and seeks reassurance, she is also concerned about what I am doing with my blog, my studies and what I intend to do with what I am learning.

Reassurance is Always Helpful

We went over the five points of testimony. I assured her I know God lives. We pray together as a couple each morning and night. My personal prayers are rich, rewarding and fulfilling. I know my Savior lives and loves me. I feel His presence during the day. I am certain he walks with me and is very interested in how I respond to the daily challenges I face with work and my blog.

My Testimony and One of my Questions

I know Joseph was a prophet of the Lord and received keys to administer this latter-day work. I know he received the priesthoods – both Aaronic and Melchizedek – and passed on the Aaronic priesthood to the church. The power of the Mechizedek priesthood must be received by each of us individually. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the gift of God.

God Bless our Prophets and Apostles

Some have expressed difficulty with my qualifications of the priesthood as I have described it above. That’s one of the questions I am working out in my own mind. I sustain each of the fifteen men to whom we have given the title of “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in this church by common consent. I pray for them each night. I am happy to pay my tithing to the LDS Church.

Acceptance of Local Priesthood Counsel

I look forward to receiving counsel from my local priesthood leaders this week. I plan to fast all day before our meeting as I seek to be humble before the Lord. I intend to accept and implement any counsel they offer, or any discipline they feel needs to be administered. However, if asked to remove my blog, I will need to talk to the Lord about that as I feel He approves of my blogging.

Need Official Guidelines for LDS Bloggers

Note: I started blogging in 2007 just slightly prior to this invitation from Elder Ballard for LDS Members to get involved in the “online conversations” about the church. It sure has taken a long time for the church to finally start coming up with some guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable in our blogging efforts.  I wonder what took them so long. Didn’t expect this kind of response?

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