Sunday, February 26, 2017

When Jacob Became Israel

24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
25 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.
26 And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.
27 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.
28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
29 And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.
30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
31 And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.
32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank. (Genesis 32)

It is helpful to consider the situation that bred this experience. He was in charge of a sizable company of men, women, cattle, and small children. There would have been substantial work to do to care for the cattle and children along the way, making the long journey of several hundred miles even longer. The trip could have taken months. The whole time he was beset by anxiety over what Esau might do to him and his family once they reunited. Jacob "was greatly afraid and distressed" in fear of his brother, who he thought wanted to kill him (Gen 32:7).

What of Jacob's spiritual life? Some twenty years earlier, in the same path, he saw the Lord and angels in a dream (Gen 28). At some recent point after leaving his oppressive father in law, Jacob was met by a company of angels (Gen 32:1). The text indicates the physical presence of the angels. Unlike his previous experience, this was not a dream. But Jacob had more in store.

Upon reaching the river, Jacob sent his company in partitions. He was left alone at evening. Despite the arduous journey and the exhaustion that no doubt overwhelmed him, he spent the entire night in focused, intense prayer. At some point in the night, the Lord appeared once again to Jacob. Instead of appearing in a dream, where the physically impure body is protected from the glory of the Lord, Jacob physically saw the Lord in glory. Initially, the Lord appeared in an impulse of light and fire some distance from Jacob. It was so intense that it knocked Jacob to the ground with such force that it popped his leg bone out of his hip socket. As a witness to the force that hit him, this injury is most often seen today in intense car accidents.

The Lord dwells in everlasting burnings, and this self-contained, non-extinguishing ball of fire was at once violent, loud, peaceful and beautiful. The overwhelming nature of the light at first pinned Jacob on his face. The light from glory is not like the light we see in the telestial kingdom. It is not just a visual phenomena. Even with the most telestial light, the only physical effect is warmth on the skin. Light from glory pierces your body thoroughly. It is an utterly intense experience that permeates your being. In extreme pain from both his hip and the reaction of his flesh to the glory of God, he struggled to breathe as he attempted to shield his face from the light. The scene went on for what seemed like an eternity: Jacob struggling to hold on, and the Lord patiently waiting in silence. As the light penetrated his shielding arm and his closed eyelids, the glory began to purify Jacob's flesh. The pain started to gradually ease. By persisting in the glory, it sanctified his flesh by burning out the impurities. Eventually, he was able to remove his arm, then open his eyes. At first, the light was too bright to see clearly into. Then, his eyes adjusted enough that he could make out the shape of a man.

Most men, knowing they were in the presence of God, would have long since recoiled and said, "it is enough Lord." Jacob was not like most men. Jacob was a man of great tenacity, physical strength, and courage. He mustered every ounce of strength left in his devastated frame, and he did the unthinkable. He inched his arms forward, and scraped his body forward along the rocky soil. He immediately collapsed from exhaustion. The Lord patiently waited. Recovering some fraction of strength, he repeated the process. His injured leg hung powerless by his side. He repeated the process again and again, each time using his last ounce of strength, then collapsing for some time, then pulling from some previously undiscovered reservoir of strength to inch forward again.

Eventually, he came within arm's length from the Lord. Still prostrate, exhausted beyond measure, he lurched up and grabbed the Lord's feet. Like a boxer at the end of the bout of his life, he clung tightly to the Lord, who permitted him to remain there for a great deal of time. Finally, the Lord spoke and announced that he must go. The Lord blessed Jacob for having wrestled with his glory all night and overcoming. Most men quit long before their prayer yields the presence of the Lord. Of those who don't, very few indeed would endure God's glory without pleading with the Lord to stop the experience. Jacob truly was exceptional, and yet he was not exceptional enough for the Lord to tell him his name, a special blessing reserved for a special few.

We may wonder why the account we have is so abbreviated and adulterated. The answer lies in the false traditions of the revisionists. They did not like the idea of a man coming face to face with God, so they cooked up a silly story about a wrestling match with an angel. Thankfully, they could only revise the story so much around the two fixed points provided by the name of a physical place (Penuel means "face of God") and the well-known tradition of Jacob's limp.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Parable of the Dumpster

Dumpsters, even when empty, have a potent, rotten smell. A child who didn't know any better would not realize that the food that eventually ended up in the dumpster smelled very different when fresh. If a parent were to tell the child that food produced the smell from the dumpster, and if the child had (for some reason) never seen fresh food, he would get a very wrong impression about what fresh food looks, tastes, and smells like, wouldn't he?

The historical disconnect between Joseph Smith's experiences and today make it impossible to effectively recover his teachings without God revealing it anew to you. That the remains of his teachings contain truth is undeniable. However, I have not yet met even one person who has reproduced Joseph's experiences in our day from what we have left (which has been mixed with many false traditions and intentional modifications).

Instead of seeking God from within the confines of the dumpster of the rotten remains of the restoration, which has passed through the gut of the long-corrupt LDS church, we should seek God as a humble child.

If you assume that the pungent odor of a dumpster heralds what you are seeking, you will be profoundly disappointed in your search. You will never find what you are looking for. Instead of seeking "temples" "priesthood" and "ordinances," we should be seeking the fruits of the gospel: gifts of healing, gifts of godly compassion, prophecy, and most importantly, a constant connection with God. If our religion has not yielded the ability to receive answers to the questions we ask God, we need a new religion. If our religion has not yielded the ability to receive frequent visitations from the Lord Jesus, we need a new religion. I know people who will fight to the death over their supposed reverence for Joseph Smith, and yet they do not realize that the concepts they revere are simply proven to be something other than what Joseph Smith taught: if they were on the right track, surely their reverence for what they assume are Joseph's teachings would have yielded the same experiences that Joseph had? If they truly revered Joseph, they would recognize what they embrace as the dumpster remains of something lost to the past. They would abandon it, and seek God directly as a humble child. And they would obtain.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What a prophet is and what a prophet is not

This is a continuation of this post.

We have to be very careful about what we desire from God. Typically, the Lord gives us what we want. Sometimes, he graciously warns us against what we desire, but we don't often listen.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,
 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
 6 ¶But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.
 7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
 10 ¶And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.
 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
 12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
 13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
 16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
 17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.
 19 ¶Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
 20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
 21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.
 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city. (1 Samuel 8)

The people wanted a king. Samuel told them that was a bad idea. They persisted. God gave them a warning. They persisted. God told Samuel to give them a king. And we know the rest of the story. They diverted themselves from God's intended path of blessing by desiring not what God wanted, but what they in their own foolish hearts thought was right.

We do the same exact things today. One of the ways we do this is in our idea of what a prophet is. We (especially we from and LDS background) like the idea of a strongman-prophet. We like the idea of reducing the complexities of the gospel into betting on the right horse. We like thinking that salvation is all about finding and then following someone who has had spiritual experiences. It simply does not work like that.

The Lord answers us according to the desires of our heart. If we believe in salvation-through-prophet, God will give us a man who thinks he can save us. He will produce a man who promises us all the blessings we desire in the packaging that we expect it to be offered in. As God told Ezekiel:

4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
 5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. (Ezekiel 14:4-5)
Those who believe this false doctrine are just like the Israelites who wanted a king: they aren't interested in what God thinks or says. They simply want someone that fulfills the pattern they are looking for.

We ought to pay special attention when a messenger begins preaching things that sound an awful lot like "keep doing what you are doing."
24 Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.
 25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
 26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
 27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
 28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.
 29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light? (Helaman 13)

Well, you might be thinking, if someone comes with godly works, and godly claims, what could we possible have to lose?

First, God has shown himself abundantly willing to allow people to go on thinking what they want to think. The Israelites thought that Aaron was meant to build them a golden calf. They thought that Samuel was meant to give them a king. The early latter day Saints thought that God had called them to build Zion. But none of these things were the case.

Second, there is no insurance policies against prophets who might be leading people astray. The Lord said to Ezekiel:

9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
10 And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him; (Ezekiel 14)

You see, God will hold the people who follow a deceived prophet just as accountable for their mistakes as the deceived prophet. This is ironic, because the reason people are tempted to hitch up to a prophet is that they think they can somehow shortcut into blessings from heaven without actually connecting to heaven. There is no way to do that. You actually have to access heaven, no matter if you are vetting the teachings of another man, or obtaining teachings directly. Both require accessing heaven.

Thirdly, those who rely upon the teachings of a man instead of on God directly can never ascend past the telestial glory:

 98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
 99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
 100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
 101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.
 102 Last of all, these all are they who will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud.
 103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.
 104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
 105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
 106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work; (D&C 76)

It is interesting that one of the scriptures cited about says "deceived prophet" instead of "false prophet." Can you see how there is a difference? A false prophet never came from God. A false prophet is a total phony. They are liars, and they know they are liars. A deceived prophet is different. A deceived prophet may have accessed the heavens. He may have had many interactions with God. He may have worked true, mighty wonders from heaven. Yet, none of these things prevents a man from teaching false doctrine. All men are capable of being mistaken. Prophets only know what God has shown them, and no prophet has seen everything. Like anyone else, prophets must synthesize what God has shown them with their understanding of everything else. Everything else could come from their understanding of the scriptures, studies of human behavior, cultural biases, and what they have heard from others.

Furthermore, all men are capable of possessing lesser truth. For example, consider John the Baptist. He preached a higher degree of truth than the Jews, but a lower degree of truth than Christ. Christ's teachings would not have been new or radical if they were simply the same things as John preached. They were not. Some followers of John recognized that Jesus had higher truth, and started listening to Jesus instead of John. Many did not. While a post-Jesus follower of John (such as the disciples Paul encountered baptizing with the baptism of John) were not preaching false doctrine, they were certainly preaching doctrine of lesser light than the followers of Jesus (see Acts 19). Those who cling to lower light when shown higher light are akin to men who opt to eat stale, moldy bread when hot, fresh bread is offered to them.

Finally, if you believe any old man who comes with signs and wonders, what happens when you encounter a true prophet of God who has been sent by God to lie to you? Is this so far fetched? Here are two examples:

 1 And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
 2 And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
 3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
 4 And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Beth-el, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
 5 The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.
 6 And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.
 7 And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
 8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
 9 For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.
 10 So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Beth-el.
 11 ¶Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
 12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
 13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
 14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
 15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
 16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
 17 For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
 18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
 19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
 20 ¶And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came unto the prophet that brought him back:
 21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment which the Lord thy God commanded thee,
 22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.
 23 ¶And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
 24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
 25 And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
 26 And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.
 27 And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.
 28 And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass. (1 Kings 13)

 14 And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.
 15 And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?
 16 Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.
 17 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil?
 18 Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
 19 And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
 20 Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?
 21 And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
 22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee. (2 Chronicles 18:14-22)

Please do not be so simple and foolish as to believe a man's message is correct just because he has had experiences with God. He could be a liar. He could be wrong. He could be clinging to lower truth. He could even be sent from God to lie to you. We ought to focus on the Lord Jesus, and scrutinize what we hear from men no matter what they have revealed or how beneficial it has been in the past.

Rather than see these facts as a reason to condemn people who have, at some point, received valid revelations from heaven (and who may continue to do so), we ought to simply realize that men were never meant to be the source of light in our lives. Like the prophet in 1 Kings 13, we ought to mourn instead of condemn these people and their followers.

An ideal messenger of God will make himself redundant by successfully bringing up those who hear him to the point where they equal or surpass him in experiences with God, as Jethro did with Moses. Conversely, if we consider a man as the object of evaluation, instead of considering each message separately, we limit ourselves to the state obtained by that man. Unless that man is Jesus Christ, our decision will result in severe limitation on our part.

Every step along our truth progression is like a ladder. The sides of the ladder are composed of ever-increasing light. The rungs of the ladder are composed of messengers. Each time we encounter a messenger, we gain access to some share of the light they have accumulated in their pursuit of God. One can acquire, evaluate, and integrate a lifetime's worth of light in much less than a lifetime. Then, we apply those things that are true, and move onto the next rung. Every time we have sifted through a messenger's light, and applied all they have to offer, we can return to God and say, "Lord, I have been true and faithful to everything you have given me. Give me further light and knowledge." He will send us another messenger. These messengers come in diverse ways. In today's world, technology has made God's job of spreading light and truth unprecedentedly easy. The internet gives us access to the entire population of holy men on the earth just as soon as we are ready to search for and hear them. Angels are also dispatched today just as in ancient times, though they are not the only means in todays connected world.

The parable of the chicken coops

Perhaps two years ago, finding my understanding of the potential for free ranging chickens to be incorrect, I was in need of a large enclosure to attach to my chicken coop to protect my chickens from predators. The project cost me a tremendous amount of time and money. I invested everything I had into building that building. It looked very nice, and it certainly achieved its purposes in protecting the chickens. At some point, we decided we needed more chickens than could fit in the original coop and extension, so we built a new coop. When I built the new coop, I incorporated fixes for all the limitations I had discovered in my previous design. It was even more expensive and time consuming to build. We moved the chickens over, and the old building has sat unused for perhaps 6 months. Where I live, this has been a record snowfall year. No one I have met, even the old timers, remembers a winter with more snow. Two days ago, we had a tragic accident. Unexpectedly, the old coop extension collapsed under the weight of the snow. Not knowing I needed to, I had not designed the coop with the sheer strength it needed to withstand a load of about 3' of snow. My wife called me at work with the news, expecting me to be very upset. When she told me, I uncharacteristically didn't care. In fact, my attitude was so nonchalant that it was as if she told me "just so you know, the wind blew today." We say this a lot, but I can truly say that I literally could not care have cared less about it. In spite of all the trouble I had put into it, in spite of all the cost, in spite of the loss of use and the intensive cleanup that will be required, I just didn't care. It was counted as dross to me.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my excommunication from the LDS church. I only realized this because a friend of mine reminded me. It had not even crossed my mind. What I have learned from the Lord in the last year vastly eclipses anything he did or could have taught me in the LDS church in the preceding 14 years.

If I had not moved to a new coup, I still would have lost a chicken coop, but I would also have lost all of my chickens. If we trust God, we are willing to identify what we yet lack, and willing to let him escort us to a better place. It doesn't matter what kind of effort we put into the previous system of things.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

High Stakes and Little Time

God exposes us only to the light and truth we have the capacity to obey. Everything that you know is right, right now, is within your current capability to do. However, with few exceptions, everything that you know, right now, is still insufficient to save you.

A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge. One is not saved until he puts all things under his feet. In the case of sins, you do not put them under your feet until you gain enough knowledge to perceive that righteous behavior is wiser than sin.

God does not force new truth on anyone. He patiently waits until the experiences a man encounters within his capacity prepare him for new truth. Though that time is variable, it tends to be long. Passive people, even when perfectly obedient, will require far more time than our current life limits provide to obtain the glory God is willing to give them in this life.

How do you experience more? First, you actively pray for more. When you cry to the Lord and express your desires to know him no matter the cost, something changes in you. You become more sanctified because as you turn your heart to him. You unlock experiences that he otherwise could not send to you. When you do this, I suggest you think long and hard about it before you do. Most of us are in complete delusion about what we actually want. Realize that the results of this type of prayer will deeply unsettle you. You will go into it thinking you are doing pretty well with God, and come out of it realizing just how far from him your desires are. He will break your heart into many pieces, he will expose your ugliest inner workings. By definition, this will be worse than anything you've been through, because you are asking him to turn up the heat. Surprisingly, he need not send any externally obvious Job-like trials to you. There are 1,000 points of improvement in any given day; 1,000 occasions where God could inform you of a higher order of behavior, thought, or desire. When we live in a state of reconciliation to God and hunger and thirst after righteousness, he can reveal many points of improvement to us on any given day. We can live in a constant, aggressive state of improvement. The only thing that limits our rate of growth is our own heed and diligence in seeking and applying his word. This is directly proportional to the trust we have in God. If we really believe he is everything he is, and we truly trust him, we will beg for his instructions every moment of every day.

Second, you must get rid of your unbelief. When you are already experiencing everything possible through prayer and a contrite spirit, God can still give you more through what I call revelatory proxy experiences. This is when God gives you a vision or other revelation that allows you to experience what someone else experiences, or what you would experience in the future under certain conditions. There are many of these in the scriptures, particularly in the Old Testament. Prophets aware of future calamities wept bitterly for the sins of Israel not just because they were told of what was going to come, but they knew what it would feel like when it did. They were not just given information about future events. In the spirit, they had actually lived through them. Our spirits are not bound in time like our bodies. At any moment, God can move our spirits forward or backward in time, and in an instant give us any number of experiences that would take much time in the body. This has happened to me on several occasions. On one of these, I was dealing with some situation with my kids in my house, and as I turned to descend a set of steps, I was instantly in the future. I instantly knew the situation: I was outside of my home, in a small group of men. We had been holed up in sanctuary for a long time due to a ravaging plague that had either created or exacerbated apocalyptic conditions. The others had been grumbling about finding more space, since it had been a while and they perceived the danger was gone. For a long time we scouted around, finally coming to a certain house. We talked about who would go inside to inspect for any corpses, knowing that doing so would expose that person to infection. I went inside, and as I searched this home I saw the contorted, tortured body of the former owner. Then, after the passage of some time in the vision, I was back at the top of the steps, and no time had passed here. I almost collapsed in physical and emotional exhaustion. The only difference between my seeing that vision and having actually been there was the lack of physical exposure to the plague. In no time at all, God was able to have me experience all these things. Sometimes, the supernatural lack of passage of time is not the miracle of revelatory proxy experiences. Sometimes, the miracle is being able to experience things in our bodies that our totally outside our normal circumstances. For example, I was once praying when I had the sudden prompting to pray for a man I had seen at church. It was just the normal "please bless so and so." Suddenly, as I thought of the man, his current emotional state was downloaded to me. This man had been struggling for some time with his wife who had early onset dementia. I knew exactly how he felt. I was able to pray with earnest struggling on his behalf, and God worked a miracle in response. I have never had a wife decay with dementia, and yet I know exactly how that feels. Once a similar occurrence transpired when I prayed for a friend with a chronic intestinal disease. As I prayed, I was immersed with incredible pain in my stomach. It was exactly what he was feeling at the time. I prayed and prayed for God to heal him.

We need to tenaciously ask for more experiences from God. The stakes are high and there is little time. Of course, none of this matters if we haven't already repented from all our sins and reconciled ourselves to God's commandments.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The devil resists repentance

In a dream: I was in the shower washing away the filthiness from my body when a demon (I assume the devil) seized upon me. My entire body became locked up, and I was forcibly slid across the floor to the mirror adjacent the shower, positioned at head level, where I saw the darkness of the demon in my face. Some time ago, I would have looked away in fear and horror (see below), but because I have developed unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I stared down the demon and his dark influence. Not because I am anything of myself, but because I have fully submitted to the Lord Jesus, and I know of his greatness and power. I immediately cast him out in Jesus' name, and awoke.

We frequently underestimate the power of supernatural beings. God is indescribably more powerful than we imagine, as are his angels. The same is true of Satan and his minions. I once was present when some close associates began to joke about Satan. Speaking from experience, I told them if they had ever met them, they would not joke about him. He is no joke. Our only hope in defeating him is to cleave to the Lord Jesus with all our might, mind, and strength. In his grace, he will create a positive feedback loop to give us more might, mind, and strength, until we increase sufficiently in light and truth to overcome the devil and all his minions.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sacred Cows Keep You From God

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4)

Jesus said true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The first barrier is to worship God in spirit, that is, sincerely with all one's heart, might, mind, and strength. But effort is not enough. It must be coupled with knowledge. The Samaritan woman thought that she worshipped the same God as Jesus. But Jesus possessed further light and truth (more law). The Samaritan woman both possessed beliefs that were not true, and was missing truths that Jesus possessed. Additionally, the Samaritan woman's faith--while obviously not passive--had not been sufficient to yield a knowledge of God. There is a necessary quantity of correct knowledge necessary to yield a knowledge of (meeting with) God. There also exist false beliefs that will prevent a knowledge of (meeting with) God. The woman believed in a God that had been constructed by man, not a God that had been revealed to man. Many of us do the same.

The Abrahamic sacrifice and being redeemed from the fall

I wrote this very important post recently that lays out some teachings regarding truth. If you haven't read that post, you really ought to before continuing.

Tucked away in that post was a paragraph that I will repeat here:
We can extend our capacity to accept new light and truth through penitent prayer and humility towards God. When we truly believe we know nothing, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we are totally willing to let go of anything we think we know, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to dismiss anything out of hand (as John instructs us--"try the spirits" or test new truth to see its fruits), we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to "set up stakes for God," or dictate to him what is right and what is wrong, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we realize that what was right before and what God might have inspired us to accept before could be superseded by something higher (as happened to Nephi when God taught him a higher commandment regarding killing), we are much more willing to accept new truth. It is possible to come to the point where no truth pertaining to the Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial kingdom has power to derail you, despite the fact that you do not yet know them. This is when your calling and election is made sure, or rather this is what it means and what it takes.
Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. If you haven't read that story, or haven't read it recently, consider making it your next reading from the scriptures. Many people call Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac the "Abrahamic sacrifice," and use it as a type of what God requires from each of us before we can be redeemed from the fall. As important as this experience was, it was not the first time that Abraham was tried (incidentally, tried and tested are not the same thing; it is more correct to think of this as purging impurities from metal in a fire rather than a test you take in school). Abraham was tried as a child when he was assigned to guard his idol-maker father's wares and choose to destroy them. He was tried when exposed to textual accounts of Shem, Noah, and the fathers and their experiences with God, recognizing his father's religion was inferior and choosing to believe there was something better. He was tried when he was sacrificed by his father, and tried when he had the opportunity to forgive him. He was tried when commanded to leave his home in Ur. He was tried when his father and brother--whom he had rescued through his own merits and mercy--turned away from him. He was tried when his wife was taken by a rich and powerful ruler--twice--for long periods of time without his knowledge of her condition or any likelihood that she would come back to him. He was tried when he took Hagar to wife. He was tried when his marriages were ravaged by the jealousy of Sarah. He was tried when God told him that his beloved son Ishmael would not be his heir. He was tried when Lot, whom he had sacrificed so much for, selfishly chose the better section of land at their parting (not because he cared about the land, but out of sympathy for Lot and what he stilled lacked in spite of all Abraham's efforts on his behalf). He was tried when he went into battle to rescue Lot. He was tried when he parted ways with Ishmael and Hagar. And finally, he was tried when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac.

The Abrahamic sacrifice isn't one thing. And it isn't always giving something up. It is a repetitive process where God challenges you to change your paradigm, specifically by changing what you believe. Giving something up or taking something on are only the manifestations of that change in belief. The Abrahamic sacrifice is not a point event, it is a process. The goal of that process is to successively increase your trust in God until you are willing to yield completely to him without exception. This is the same as saying that you would do anything he might command, no matter what it is. This is the same as saying there is nothing that you would not do if he commanded it.

People who are not yet in this state sometimes have a list of things God has commanded people to do in the past that they would never do. Sometimes, they get rid of that list by transferring it to a list of things they believe God would never command them to do. There is no difference. These people sometimes say things like, "the God I believe in would never command me to _______." In a way, they are right. As Jesus said, "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what [who] worship." We know him because we have met him, and this is always the result of those who worship God in spirit and in truth. The God they believe in is of their own creation. He does not have power to reveal himself to them, and he does not have power to save. We are saved as a result of knowing the true God, not believing in a God of our own creation. We are saved because he possesses intelligence that exceeds our own, not because he matches what we in our fallen state consider to be right or wrong.

Ironically, those who put God in a box do so out of fear. They fear that if they let God out of their boxes, he would end up less loving, less merciful, or less good than they presently imagine him to be. That is ironic because it is only by removing your limitations of him that you can see just how loving, merciful, and good he really is. It far exceeds anything you can imagine when you box him up in false traditions. If you look at every person in the scriptures who came to know God, you will struggle to find someone who found him less godly upon getting to know him. Instead, you see the opposite. You see deep, loving, worshipful reverence increase in proportion to how well someone knows God.

Putting God in a box does not protect you from disappointment. It keeps you from a portion (a considerable portion) of his goodness and glory. You may have experienced God in some way--spiritual gifts, revelation, joy, or even visitations--but your experiences are limited and diminished. In the scriptures, there are those who had miracles, those who had revelation, those that experienced great joy, those that saw him, even those that touched him. But of the set of everyone who experienced God in some way, how many were able to abide in his glory? The answer is surprisingly few. With almost every experience, he held something back, sometimes considerably so. Every commandment you refuse to consider diminishes your potential glory, but it also diminishes the quantity of the Lord's glory you are able to abide. For each thing "your God would never ask you to do," you remove yourself from the opportunity to experience that much more of him.

I believe in a God who killed perhaps billions of people in a worldwide flood. I believe in a God who commanded Abraham and Isaac to lie. I believe in a God that allowed Hagar to be cast away. I believe in a God who has commanded Moses to slay cities of men, women, children, and animals, none of which had ever met their attackers. I believe in a God who choose to heal only one of the countless handicapped at the pool of Bethesda. I believe in a God who considers heeding a single prophetic dream sufficient to decide between the life and death of millions of people. I believe in a God who called David, a man who killed Uriah to cover the adulterous relationship with his wife, a man after his own heart. I believe in a God who asked Nephi to kill Laban.

Does your theology account for all of these things? If not, you must confess that this God is not the God you worship. Not yet, at least. What are you doing about that?

In spite of all of these things, my witness of his mercy, perfection, love, and glory exceeds that of those I have met who do not believe or cannot account for these things. This is because I have chosen to lay aside what I think I know and ask God about these things with an open heart and real intent, and he has given me convincing reasons for each and every one. These have not only answered my questions, but in the process revealed to me a deeper love, perfection, mercy, and glory than I had ever supposed he possessed. With each revelation, my faith and trust in him has increased, until it has become unshakable. There is nothing he could ask me to do that I would doubt, and nothing I would refuse.

Perfect love removes all fear. If you truly love God, than seek to know him on his terms, holding nothing back. Only those who put everything they think they know about God on the altar can come to know him.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Truth and the Spirit of Antichrist

 1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6)

There are two types of people in this world when it comes to accepting truth: There are the children of the devil, who are not interested in accepting new truth. There are those who will accept some truth. The first category has many more members than the last.

Truth is progressive, not finite. It is not possible to know all truth. Truth is only limited by what portion of it pertains to a certain glory. The truth pertaining to the telestial glory, for example, is finite, as well as the truth pertaining to the terrestrial glory, as well as truth pertaining to the celestial glory. There is truth and glories above that of which we are not aware, and cannot be aware while in the telestial kingdom. Consider the following:

Truth is multi-dimensional. Here, some of the many dimensions of truth are illustrated as horizontal lines. Because truth is progressive, these lines are continuous. If I could draw better, I would have created additional dimensions as one ascends in truth. The orange hyperplane illustrates a snapshot of the current state of a given truth seeker. All truth seekers have a current state defined by the quantity of truth and degree of truth accepted. It is not drawn as a flat plane because an individual's degree of truth in any dimension (roughly the same as saying "on any topic") is independent from the degree of truth in any other dimension, except that when one rejects new truth in one dimension, it makes it harder to accept (and in extreme cases, will cause the loss of) truth in others.

For any two people, one will have more truth than the other. However, this is more complicated than one person knowing more about every topic than the other, because of the multi-dimensional nature of truth. The Father and Son have more truth than anyone who has ever or will ever live in the telestial world.

There are three types of people in this world when it comes to glory had before the world was: There are those who came from and are inheriting a telestial glory, those who came from a terrestrial but are condescending to a telestial glory, and those who came from a celestial but are condescending to a telestial glory. The first category has many more members here than the second, and the second many more than the last.

Graciously, God veils a person's knowledge from before this world when they are born. The main reason this is so beneficial is that it gives all people access to higher intelligences than their own. This may be puzzling at first, because God veils a person's knowledge when they are born. What he does not do, and cannot do, is remove their desire for further light and truth. Many mistakenly believe that Jesus was born with some divine ability to be more righteous than everyone else. In fact, he was just as human as anyone else. There was nothing about his body that made it any easier to do God's will. What was different was that he had a stronger desire to seek light and truth than anyone who has ever lived. This was not a supernatural gift, it was an unavoidable consequence of the refinement of his soul that had occurred in times before this creation. Likewise, any person born here who possessed a higher degree of glory before this world was retains the desire for truth developed previously in spite of lacking the knowledge they had then.

In this graphic, you see persons a, b, and c (time is the x-axis). All of them start at the same amount of light. Light and truth is offered to all people equally. When one acquires more, it is through greater effort in searching and more consistent obedience. At first, person b acquires light and truth at a much faster rate than his fellows. However, he wanes in effort and therefore stops progressing. Person a overtakes person b, and in the end will acquire much more light and truth than person b. Person c is inconsistent in their approach, and even goes through a period of disobedience where they lose light and truth, before regaining some through sore repentance. 

You'll notice on this graph the presence of a horizontal range. The dot represents the current light and truth (a 1 dimensional summary of the orange plane above for simplicity). Above this dot lies the new truth that this person does not yet have but is capable of receiving. Below this dot is the range of truth that this person is capable of teaching. 

In this graphic, person a can teach person b, and person b can teach person c, but person a cannot teach person c. If they tried, person c would reject person a's teachings and subsequently have light and truth taken away. They would lose enough light that they would try to kill person a.

The spirit of the antichrist is to turn away from higher light and truth. It is a pitfall that every person born on this earth can commit. To say that differently, there exists truth for every person that is so advanced as to be beyond their capacity to see its truthfulness. If such a truth is presented to you, you will turn away from it, lose truth, and seek to kill the person who taught it to you. 

We can extend our capacity to accept new light and truth through penitent prayer and humility towards God. When we truly believe we know nothing, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we are totally willing to let go of anything we think we know, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to dismiss anything out of hand (as John instructs us--"try the spirits" or test new truth to see its fruits), we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to "set up stakes for God," or dictate to him what is right and what is wrong, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we realize that what was right before and what God might have inspired us to accept before could be superseded by something higher (as happened to Nephi when God taught him a higher commandment regarding killing), we are much more willing to accept new truth. It is possible to come to the point where no truth pertaining to the Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial kingdom has power to derail you, despite the fact that you do not yet know them. This is when your calling and election is made sure, or rather this is what it means and what it takes.

Now, you might wonder, couldn't person a just choose to teach things they know person c is capable of receiving? The problem here is that person a has an obligation--a covenant--to stand up for the truth at all times and in all places. They may very well be able to speak in enough parables, or in enough vague generalities--as Jesus did--to avoid someone trying to kill them for a time, but eventually they will always come up against situations where they only thing that can be said to challenge falsehood lies outside the range of the audience's truth. This is how Jesus and many others came to die.

Jesus was able to teach the general public in his mortal ministry because he, like us all, was born at the bottom of the light and truth continuum. Through his unfailing heed and perfect obedience, he advanced to record levels of light and truth. At the time of his 3 year ministry, he was already so far ahead of his fellows that from the beginning men sought to kill him. Meanwhile, when he appeared to the Nephites in the Americas after his resurrection, he taught those same things and higher truths that those in Jerusalem were not prepared to hear. No one sought to kill him. This is because everyone below the necessary threshold was killed prior to his appearance. 

Those who seek after God with all their heart, might, mind, and strength will only be of use to those of lower levels of glory while there exists an overlap in the truth the one persons possesses and the capabilities of the other.

The spirit of antichrist does not always plainly seek to kill. Many times, it is expressed as religious penalty. For example, since the modern LDS church considers excommunication the severing of one from all covenants with God, and the assignment of all prescribed penalties for turning away from him, it is a fate much worse than death. When the LDS church excommunicates the righteous, in their mind they are doing far more than killing their body. Sometimes, the spirit of antichrist is expressed in a desire to slay one's character. People will create and spread rumors, bear false witness, etc. to bring down a person any way they can.

A brief prophecy

This is an excerpt that I heard and tracked down to this blog, which I post to source but not to endorse.

"...My Spirit will fill My remnant bride that is practicing righteousness and holiness, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This will not be a light sprinkle but a deluge of My Spirit will be poured out in the former and latter rain outpouring. Each successive event will be bigger and more destructive and the measure of My Spirit will increase in measure before each one. The ones who have chosen the assignment of reaping My harvest, will be protected, and thousands of souls will be saved by each one. Everything will culminate at the opening of the sixth seal. My Spirit will transform their DNA to a point where they will glow and they will be changed back to their original state just as Adam and Eve before the fall. This will happen to very few, but these few will do the mightiest work that My kingdom on earth has ever known."
This matches exactly with my current understanding.