Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tests come on levels

The other day I was praying and thanking God for his grace in withholding certain things from me. I trust God fully. He only does what he does out of love for us. His ways are higher than our ways, and he only works for our benefit. If he withholds something, it is because he loves us.

There is a connection between how pure our hearts are and how much of heaven he can give to us. Where our heart is determines how much he can open the blessings of heaven to us without condemning us. When we have access to more than we are prepared to receive, we will sin against it, and in doing so the justice of God will require our suffering to atone for turning against the light. It is merciful for him to withhold what we are not prepared for.

We are here to overcome all things. God sends us tests from time to time. The tests aren't for him. He already knows our hearts. The tests are for us. To often (always?) we think we are further along than we are. Tests show us where we really are, sometimes on a meta-level.

Our compassion for others is a indication of how ready we are to receive God's blessings.

Around 8 years ago, I faced a test. I was living in downtown Salt Lake, and visiting the temple there often. During this time, a friend introduced me to a man who taught me that it was mockery to God to visit a temple and beg for God to hear my words after passing through the homeless sentries outside the temple begging for me to listen to their pleas for help. That lesson impacted me, and from that point I made sure that each time I passed a homeless person as I walked to the temple, I would stop and talk with them. By this point in time, I knew the regulars well enough to notice that this one particular man had never been there before. I turned from my path and walked over to him. I introduced myself and asked his name. He was so ashamed that he wouldn't even look into my eyes. He explained that he had been laid off and lost his health insurance, leading to a lapse in a required medication that controlled a condition he had that caused his forearms to swell to a grotesque level. He said it was very hard to find a job looking as he did. I asked him how much his medicine cost, and told him to wait there. I went to find an ATM, withdrew what he needed, and gave it to him. He thanked me with incredulous gratitude. I said it was no big deal (and it wasn't), and went on my way grateful for the chance to be of service beyond what is normally possible with beggars. I never saw him again.

Around 3 years ago, I faced a test. I was driving a good distance between a conference and job interview. In the middle of nowhere, I saw a man standing in front of a pulled-over truck with his thumb up. I figured the truck had broken down and that there was no cell phone reception there, and I immediately pulled over. I quickly found out that this was not the driver of the truck, but a homeless man who was in really bad shape. I got over the sight and smell, and we drove for 3 hours to the city I was headed for. We had a lot of time to talk. This man shared with me some prophecies concerning the future that I know are true. When we reached my destination, I took him out to dinner and purchased a hotel room for him for the night. As we parted at the hotel desk, he looked at me with a grateful longing. I never saw him again.

For years I have looked to these two events as tests that I passed. A few weeks ago, the Lord replied to my pleading for more light and truth by showing me that tests are not binary (pass/fail) but layered. The truth he revealed to me caused me great anguish and sore repentance. Now I am going to share it with you.

What I did in the first test is more than most would do. However, it wasn't enough. If I truly cared for that person, I would have forgotten about the temple that day. I would have insisted that this man come and stay with me until he get back on his feet. I would have taken him out to get his medicine, and also some new clothes. I would have provided him transportation to get to job interviews. I would have given him food and money to take care of his needs. I didn't do any of that, and in fact I didn't even think of any of that. At the time, I did not have the capacity for that level of compassion. I wept many tears of anguish upon learning of my failure--not because I had made a mistake, but because I sincerely wished I could have helped that man more than I did. I don't know where he is, but someday I will see him again, and I will tearfully ask his forgiveness that I didn't think to do more.

What I did in the second test is more than most would do. When you are driving along a winding highway at high speeds, you really don't have much time to react. In this case, there was no turnaround for me to get back had I not decided in the moment to stop. But frankly, I would not have stopped for a random homeless guy in the middle of nowhere. That truck was a miracle, because it bridged the gap of my lack of compassion. Having picked him up, there is no way at the time I would have insisted he stay with me for 3 hours if that wasn't how long we had to travel together. Yes, I bought him a nice dinner and a hotel room. But why didn't I invite him to stay in my room? And why didn't I give him anything extra to help him along his journey? He told me he was headed to the east coast, and we were in Montana. Why didn't I buy him a bus or plane ticket? Why didn't I give him money for food? I had to repent in bitter anguish for not thinking of these things. I could have saved him a tremendous amount of trouble and suffering with very little effort. When I see him again, I will owe him a sincere apology, and I hope he forgives me.

In both cases, I received blessings from God that God showed me came directly as a result of what I did right in those situations. Yet, in both cases I could have received so much more if I were further along than I was.

God opens the blessings of heaven to us in proportion to the level of charity that we have. When we bless others to the degree that others do (that is, not at all), that is what we will get from God. When we bless others more than others do, we will encounter God more than others do. When we bless others to an extent that there is nothing--nothing--that we hold back, God will do the same to us. He will bless us with all that he has. The law of heaven requires this.

Compassion can't be faked. We really have to possess it.

There only one law that will cause you (as an individual) to become Zion. Until you become Zion as an individual, you cannot qualify to be a part of a group Zion. This law is to keep all of God's commandments:

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself. (JST Gen 9:21)
One of these commandments is to care for the poor. Caring for the poor doesn't mean to give to everyone who asks. It means to give to everyone who needs. There are those who need and don't ask, and there are those who ask and don't need.

To come to Zion, you must come to the point where you love everyone, including those who hate you, sufficient to give them everything you have.

The extremity of this position is one reason why Zion communities cannot be composed of individuals who are not yet Zion. If the community includes those who are not there yet, those who are will quickly be destroyed by them.