Sunday, August 26, 2018

Trust God

Complete reconciliation to our present understanding of God requires complete trust in God. In fact, any lack of reconciliation to God is caused by a lack of trust in God. Though a person may claim to believe in God, how much they actually do is wholly determined by how much they trust him.
Some do not trust God because they believe they know better than he does what will bring them happiness. It is written:

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3)

Paul gave what may be the most important reason to trust God. He said: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) If you truly believe that God knows all things and that he is all loving, you must necessarily believe that anything he wills for you is in your best interest.
God, seeing all things, is so much more capable of orchestrating our happiness than we are. The Lord taught:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6)

The Psalmist said:

1 Lord, I put my life in your hands.
2 I trust in you, my God, and I will not be disappointed. (Psalm 25, ERV)

What Christian can really say they truly trust God? Yet, any person who truly wants to acquire the character of God must come to this point.

If we really trust God, our desires all focus on him. When we trust God, we no longer value what the world has to offer, and instead focus completely on what God has to offer. Though we will appreciate temporal blessings God grants us, these things will always be in the context of complete trust in and submission to him, not ends in themselves.

God-oriented desire was perhaps the defining quality of the Lord Jesus Christ when he lived as a mortal on this earth. Having been stripped from his glory and knowledge in his humble birth, desire is the one thing he retained from before his birth--his supreme desire to seek and submit to the Father’s will. Though some claim that he lived as a God—meaning with power not available to other mortals—you will find that in actuality all of that came in response to his seeking the Father’s will and obeying it. This desire, above all else, differentiated him from every other person who has been or will be born on this earth.

If you truly want to be like the Lord Jesus, you have to trust the Father just as much as he did. The Preacher said: "The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walketh in darkness..." (Ecclesiastes 2:14).

If you turn to God, God will show you your true desires. They won’t be how you wish they were, but seeing them as they really are is the first step towards changing them into what you want them to be. The Lord taught that the light that reveals things as they really are is available to all, if we will just turn to him:

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3)

Trusting God leads to greatest joy. It is the best decision you can make in any situation. The Psalmist wrote:

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. (Psalm 37 ESV)

Trusting God is difficult to implement, but fairly straightforward to motivate. If we would come to be more like God, we must actually believe that God really is who he says he is. Paul said, “he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) If you actually believed that God was the source of all truth, and that he perfectly loved you, you would rest in assurance that his will is right and in your best interest. You would hold nothing back from him, seek him fully, and obey him completely. That such is not the case is the only proof you need to accept the idea that you could believe in God more than you do.

God knows all things, and it is precisely because of this knowledge that we ought to yield to him in all things. He is uniquely positioned to guide any and everyone to a greater place than they are now.

Woe to Myanmar

The voice cried "Mee-yun-mar, mee-yun-mar, mee-yun-mar," as I felt the incredible pain of these people, and wept bitterly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The true order of prayer

This post is in response to the person or people who has/have been praying about the true order of prayer.

There are many and diverse opinions on the provenance and meaning of the LDS temple ordinances. In my book, "Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men," I provide a summary of the history regarding the many changes that have been made to the temple rites. There are many who question whether Joseph Smith received any of what the LDS currently practice, or anything temple-related at all, from God.

In this post, I won't address any of that.

Instead, I will go over what the true order of prayer is, why it is called that, and why it matters.

The true order of prayer is not a special form of prayer; it is not something that is reserved for an LDS temple. It is not something that requires special ceremonial clothing, or ceremonial signs and tokens, or reserved ceremonial words.

Instead, it is called the true order of prayer because it shows us the mechanism of prayer. Every prayer that anyone ever offers fits into the pattern of the true order of prayer, or, to be more specific, the degree to which a prayer is effective is determined by how closely the pattern taught is practiced.

When someone understands and follows the instructions given through the true order of prayer ceremony, they will connect to heaven, and they will get an answer to their prayer. That is what Joseph referred to when he spoke of the keys of asking and receiving answers.
Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach Him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer. When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. (Joseph Smith, King Follett Sermon)
This quote may as well be the text of our topic. If you want to understand it from the scriptures, go read my books "Commanded in All Things" and "Seek Ye This Jesus." I won't rehash that content here today.

This content was given me this morning to teach from the Lord Jesus Christ. I invite you to test it according to John 7:17. Great blessings await those who do.

"Having a knowledge of God"

In the beginning there were many, some more advanced in intelligence than others. God was the most advanced of all, and he designed a system where he could distribute the light and truth he had accumulated to others. In brief, that system is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that light and truth consists of the commandments, which are progressive.

When you have a knowledge of God, you understand that he is the source of all light and truth. You realize that prayer is not a mechanism for getting what you want, but a mechanism for learning what he wants. This used to be generally understood in Christianity, but in modern times almost everyone shares the belief that used to only be harbored by pagans towards their idols, that God was some fickle, arbitrary, degenerate deity whose favors could be invoked by offering the most convincing sacrifice/prayer/etc.

Prayers that are concerned with what we want are not the true order of prayer. They are wishes.

"We begin to know how to approach Him"

As we 1) search for further light and truth, 2) live all that we learn, and 3) search for more, our knowledge, feelings, desires, and works approach his. None of these can be separated--they all grow together. The word "grow" is important. It is a process. It proceeds from a weaker relationship with God to a stronger one. The hand grips in the temple illustrate this process. Eventually, our faith in him becomes unshakable.

We approach God by becoming like him. We repent of all our sins, and we get to the point where we say that we have been true and faithful in all things (that we know of, at least), and we desire more light and truth. In a prayer circle, the participants demonstrate that they remember and live all that they have been taught. That needs to be our constant position, no matter what new commandments come our way.

"[We begin to know] how to ask so as to receive an answer"

This is a mechanistic question. When a person understands that God is the source of all light and truth, that he is full of perfect love, and that person has repented of all their sins and been true and faithful in all things God has given them, that person can invoke the mechanism of answered prayer.

Many times we hear that God is so compassionately condescending to be willing to hear the prayers of mere mortals. This is true. It is also true that we are very weak, and are encumbered by many burdens when we attempt to connect to heaven through prayer. These challenges include but are not limited to our difficulty in marshaling earnestness (real intent), the unworthiness of our best and sincere attempt at holiness, etc.

Prayer circles represent intercessors. In "Seek Ye This Jesus" I talk about intercession and how prayers are routed to the throne of God. You should go read that, because that is what prayer circles are meant to show you. When you have sufficient intercessors of sufficient righteousness, your prayer is boosted to the point that it is carried to the throne of God. God's kingdom is a kingdom, and there is a process, an order. Messages can go directly to the King, but in most cases they are routed through his ministers.

Most intercessors are angels, and some are men and women. Most are in heaven, but some are on earth. You probably have never seen or met either type, and that doesn't matter.

All intercessors are righteous. They act as a booster for the petition of the person at the altar, and help that petition get to the throne of God. Like the petitioner, these individuals have demonstrated their obedience and dedication to God through their unconditional dedication to the welfare of their spouse, their recollection of and obedience to all they have received, the robes of righteousness they have obtained, etc.

In the circle, they do not speak their own words. That is not their job. Instead, they echo the petition of the person at the altar. They pray for what the Spirit directs them to pray for. Just as I do not know who asked about this topic, but I responded by writing when the Lord spoke to me at 2am this morning, these people are moved by God to pray for certain things. His mercy is reflected in the help he can recruit for your prayer. You don't have to worry about any of that.

What you do have to worry about is the degree to which you sincerely love, honor, and obey God. Angels do not pass on messages from people who they cannot vouch for. At the veil, the attendant says, "Adam, having been true and faithful in all things, desires..." The attendant's testimony of Adam's perfect obedience precedes petitioning on his behalf. Angels do not intercede for you if you do not pass their judgment of worthiness, because to do so would require them to pray without faith, which is something they won't do.


If you want God to answer every prayer you offer, be true and faithful in all things, and seek to do and understand his will, not your own. This is the key of asking and receiving.

Monday, August 20, 2018

What activities lead to experiences with God?

When the Lord first visited me a half dozen years ago, his principle message was that almost all of my religious output was focused on activities that were of no worth to him. This shocked and hurt me beyond my capacity to express, as for ten years I had poured my heart, might, mind, and strength into being a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

A friend brought this survey to my attention. The results, in short, are that one's relationship with God is improved through things you do directly with God (like prayer and scripture study), not things you do with an institution (like church attendance and donating money to a church).

My experience agrees with this survey: the traditions of men do not bring you closer to God. There are a lot in the modern LDS church. In fact, every one of the activities on the right side of the above-linked survey are traditions of men, in spite of the fact that modern Mormons identify them as critical components of their faith.

I would go much further than the survey, and claim that the traditions of men actually keep you away from God. This is what Jesus said in the scriptures, what he said to me, and matches my own experience.

If you want to have the most/greatest experiences with God in the least amount of time, stop going to church, forget everything you ever learned at church, and do what the scriptures literally tell you to do. If you need a guided tour, consider the book, "Seek Ye This Jesus."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What happens when leaders don't lead

This post is, in a sense, a followup to this one.

Something strange happens when you put a group of people--any group of people--into a situation where their production can be measured. It really doesn't matter what is produced--mining coal, making cars, making money--you will find that the vast majority produce very little, some few produce a lot, and some outliers produce more than all the others combined. This behavior is described by the Pareto distribution.

This is also described in scripture:
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13)
14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (Matthew 25)
For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14 NIV) 

The Pareto distribution says, in effect, that 80% of production comes from 20% of people. The details are even more extreme. The top 1% of producers tend to produce around 34% of what is produced!

While production in this world is determined by a sophisticated cluster of factors, many of which are outside of an individual's control, spiritual intelligence is fully within the control of an individual. How much God reveals to us is determined by how well we listen and obey to the things he has given us in the past (see Alma 12:9).
1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—(Alma 13)

God provides an equal opportunity to all people, but many do not accept his invitation at all, and very few accept it completely.

Unto every one that hath shall be given

As stated in the parable from Matthew 25 quoted above, to those who have, he will give more. Why? Because they earned interest on what he gave them. In the parable, where does the increase come from? It doesn't come from the master, he is away on business. It comes from the independent initiative of the servants (or lack thereof). So where do they get it from?

They get it from other people, namely those who have it to give. Does this mean that we should be on the lookout for a guru to make ourselves a disciple of? God forbid. The practical point of all of this is merely that we ought to assume that every person we meet might know something more than we on some topic.

God will give direct revelation to anyone who seeks it, but you can't completely control this through your own behavior. You can't force God to reveal something to you. However, you can seek light and truth that is already around you. Our access to this light is limited only by our initiative. It is everywhere, just waiting for us to dig it out.

The difference between these two revelation sources is like the difference between gold nuggets laying on the surface of the earth, and flecks of gold dust embedded in tons of rock. Gold nuggets exist, but they are rare, and you can't really find them by searching. But you can mine rock as long as you have the resources to do so.

To mine gold you need to use the gold you already have to buy equipment, you need to expend the effort to dig it out of the ground, and you need to sort the gold from the much more abundant dross.

To mine truth, you need obedience to what you have already been shown, effort to seek out higher truth, and a willingness to test what you find.

Some an hundredfold

Some exercise a great desire for truth. The end up on the far right of the Pareto distribution of spiritual intelligence.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3)
Why did God send the "noble and great ones" here? Why was it necessary for them to be here in order for the rest of the spirits to be proved to see if they would do all things whatsoever that God shall command them?

These people are vital to holding together creation. Just as the first world would fall apart without the production of the top 20% of producers, leaving a desolation for the rest of the 80%, the spiritual top 20%:
1) Emit the light and truth necessary to stay the entropy that would otherwise destroy this world in a literal, physical sense.

2) Churn out light and truth for the "residue of men," just like large trees churn nutrients to the surface via their dropped leaves for the benefit of shallow-root plants:
And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:32)
The true messengers, through their condescension, provide opportunities for light and truth beyond what is deserved by the people who are exposed to it. Just as the sun receives unperceived energy and transmits it outward, transformed into light that is effectual to our earth, "chosen vessels" perceive and respond to the light that comes from God but is unknown and unknowable to normal people. They transform it into packets of light and truth that can be understood and received by normal people.

This comes in the form of:
     a) Explicit teaching.
...the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people...they were ordained...from the foundation of the world...on account of their exceeding faith and good teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest. (Alma 13:1,3,6)
     b) Systems that promote righteous living. There are three kinds of people in this life. The first kind will be good, no matter in what environment they are placed. The second kind are good if they are placed in an environment that supports and encourages that. The third kind are bad, no matter in what environment they are placed. The second describes most people on this earth. The first are less common. The third kind are rarest of all.

As a godly king, Nephi's job was to a) acquire more light and truth than his fellows by applying more heed and diligence than they did, and b) sacrifice himself to a greater extent for their benefit than they themselves did. Though Nephi was indeed more advanced than his brothers, he suffered far more than they did. It was not a glamorous job. It wasn't something to be envied. This is the unavoidable experience of all who, like Nephi, listen to God's voice and do what he says. They will unavoidably receive more light and truth than their fellows, immediately be charged to impart what they can of what they have received to others, and consistently be rejected and persecuted because of their attempts to help others. "For of him unto whom much is given much is required..." (D&C 82:3)

What happens if these spiritual leaders do not lead?

Each individual is responsible for the good they can do in the world. It is hard to overstate the effect of just a few righteous people. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."(James 5:16)

A righteous persons' efforts can save the lives of a person, a city, or even a nation. And you wouldn't even know about it.

One reason things aren't worse than they are is because the efforts of a few righteous men and women are holding back the judgments of God from the earth (see, for example, Jacob 5:50).

Still, one reason that things are as bad as they are on earth today is because people who are at the top of the Pareto distribution are not living up to their potential. They are either doing only what others do, and therefore less than they could, or they are using their gifts to make the world a worse place instead of a better one.

An example from the scriptures of each of these two scenarios would perhaps help.

The kings of Israel were meant to be spiritual leaders. Unfortunately, few were. Hezekiah was a wonderful example of one who lived up to his role. By living righteously in a wicked kingdom, he was able to reverse the covenant curses laid on his fathers, and obtain God's mercy for an entire kingdom.

The watchers--fallen angels who used their advanced knowledge to curse mankind instead of bless them--are a great example of what can happen when leaders attempt to subvert God's purposes. Many of the problems on earth today can be traced back to information revealed inappropriately by the watchers, and much of the wickedness on earth at the time of the flood was tied to their influence and actions.

The wicked erroneously believe that the only reason a person would want to know whether they are exceptional or not is to gloat. Pride is not the motivation for being great. The cost of greatness is far greater than the benefit to all who are motivated by the vanity of carnality. Instead, the truly great are motivated by just one thing: the love of their fellowmen. The self recognition of their greatness has very little to do with whatever recognition they desire in the eyes of others. Instead, it has to do with their ability to cope with the exponentially increasing demands of living true to what they know, and having the stamina to continue to work against that.

For most, a focus on whatever they do right will lead to an overinflated ego: entitlement, covetousness, sin. At some point in your ascent, though, if you don't realize you are different, you will not have enough drive to continue to act different to the standard--a standard which is far below your own potential.

When you are normal and you act below your potential, bad things happen, mostly for you and sometimes for others. When you are exceptional and you act below your potential, really bad things happen, mostly for others, who rely on your light even if they don't realize it.

Ezekiel quotes the Lord in saying that a priest's duty is to
...teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23)
Without people who know better, those who do not know better will become far more wicked than they otherwise would be. Those who are only good when placed in an environment that promotes that will be evil, and joined with those who will be evil no matter their environment, they will create a majority problem that then makes it even harder for those who would be good no matter what.

What evidence is there that many people will be evil when their environment promotes it? The Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram's studies show that many people have an "innate propensity" for evil. It is the environment that brings it out.  Another example is found across Indian Reservations, American ghettos, and most Central American countries. These problems are wholly explained by systems of thinking. Systems of thinking are created by and sustained by those in power. "When the wicked rule, the people mourn." (Proverbs 29:2)

What would have happened if Moses wasn't who he was? Could God have blessed the Israelites the way he did? He could not. Israel was far too wicked to merit the blessings it received. Moses was the vital ingredient that balanced the equation. Because of the righteousness of Moses in the face of the wickedness of the Israelites, God was able to bless Israel and retain his justice. Moses' intercession for Israel in spite of all their shenanigans opened the way for God to continue to bless them long after justice would have required their destruction.

Modern consequences

Our natural scientists sell their souls to fabricate unmerited fear about climate issues, choosing their paychecks over their conscious.

Our social scientists spin tales about gender choice, abolishing biologically-dictated gender roles by edict, promoting sexual promiscuity over traditional family units, and ignoring the harmful mental and social effects of homosexuality, as if they could create reality in the image they would like it to appear.

Our technologists create a world so complex that the majority of people cannot add value, as their IQs and/or training do not provide for creative problem-solving contributions.

Our bankers feed a system where inflation makes it impossible to retire in order to pocket pennies off every dollar they fund in debt.

Our politicians have developed a nanny state where individuals are completely disincentivized to take personal responsibility, and regulations make it nearly impossible to start a small business, all in the short-cited interest of votes from the ill-informed.

Our generals foster endless immoral wars, selling their soldiers as chattel in exchange for high salaries and cushy post-military jobs in the military industrial complex.

What could cause these spiritual leaders not to lead? 

Being better is not what you think it is. It means suffering more than anyone else, for less personal benefit. This is repugnant to people because:
1) It is indelible proof that being less is a choice. That doesn't feel good to those who have decided not to be better.
2) People project their own wickedness onto the person who is better. They assume that he or she will do what they would if they were in that place.

But I don't think these reasons are the best explanation for why people who could lead do not do so.

The number one cause, I think, is an incessant stream of people telling them that they are the same as everyone else; that there is no such thing as someone who is better than another, or one idea being better than another, or a culture being better than another.

When God assigns someone to do something, is he making them arbitrarily special by imbuing them with special magical power? Or is he simply using someone who has already acquired most if not all of the light and truth they need to be used in the ways he chooses? God told Moses to part the Red Sea before he did it, and without that word he would not have been able to do it. But was Moses a normal man when he was told to do it? Or had he already completed 80 years of training under God's graceful tutelage? What man do you know who, if a voice in his head said, "command the seas to part and they will obey my word" would then convince 6 million people to follow him to the beach and then proceed--in front of all of them as they are pursued for their lives by the most powerful army in the world--to command the sea to part with no doubt that it would be done?

By fooling ourselves into believing that God instantly transforms normal men and women into holy men and women, we cut ourselves off from the instructional period every single one of them underwent. We avoid that intense, painful, prolonged journey thinking that somehow we can possess what they had after this life without doing any of the things they did during this life, which is exactly how they became who they were, and without which they could not receive what they did.

God might not command you to part the Red Sea, sure. And you might not end up rich and powerful. But if you follow every commandment you know, and every one he will give you after that, one thing will happen for sure. You will grow in light and truth at an exponential rate. Knowledge will flow to you in a way that is so powerful that no thing, no person, and no situation in your life will be able to stop it. This is how Joseph of Egypt was able to become the wisest man in the known world while locked in a dungeon for 10 odd years.

If we do not accept that some people are greater than others, we cannot believe that there are behaviors, attitudes, and motivations better than our own, or worse than our own. This is damning in two ways. First, it terminates any real effort to become better. Whatever gulf exists between us and God is cemented through believing there is no bridge between. Second, it will result in the eroding of your character down to the lowest common denominator. If one isn't greater than another, then there is no reason not to adopt the most depraved behaviors, attitudes, and motivations.

We see both perspectives in play in modern society. You see the middle class adopting the worldview of the underclass in everything from work ethic to dress to music. Now, what happens on the outside is far less important than what happens on the inside, but the latter is usually evidenced by the former.

At what point can a woman call herself wealthy? When her net worth is 100k? 200k? 300k? Surely there is a point where the facts support that she is in fact wealthy, though there may be disagreement on the exact threshold.

At what point can a man call himself an expert weightlifter? When he can squat 500lbs? 600? 700? When he holds the world record? Whatever the threshold, surely there is a point where is is, in fact, an expert weightlifter.

How many times does someone have to actually do exceptional things before their belief that they are exceptional ceases to be hubris or narcissism?

Becoming the word

An interesting question arose recently. What is the limit of an instantaneous conversion?

The scriptures contain several miraculous conversion stories. Can a person become saved instantaneously?

Precision in words is important. Conversion, saved, etc., can mean different things to different people. Rather than use words that different people associate with different meanings, I will instead discuss this topic using a different paradigm.

The process I'm about to describe plays out many times in the scriptures, as well as in the lives of all people who come to God. One of my favorite examples of this process, though, is found in the story of a man named Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

Nephi had an incredible experience. While agonizing over the welfare of those he loved, Nephi heard a voice that said:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people. (Helaman 10)
There are two things to notice here. The first is a question of why God said this to Nephi. We don't have to guess. God said "for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." The second question is how did Nephi get to this point? The narrative previous to this tells us. Nephi was no slouch. He dedicated all his time and effort to living and teaching everything God had revealed to him. This included going all over the world he knew preaching to everyone, including to those who wanted to kill him because of it.

God explains what pattern Nephi followed: he kept all his commandments, and he preached God's word without ceasing. You have to obey everything you know, then he gives you more, then you become more and more like God.
32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.
33 Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.
34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me. (Moses 6)
The Lord said to Enoch, "all thy words will I justify," but he also said why. He said "Behold, my Spirit is upon you." He was not saying "at this moment you feel warm and fuzzies." He was saying, "you have acquired my Spirit to such a degree that what you think and feel in a given situation is the same as what I would think and feel in the same situation. Therefore, creation will yield to you just as it would yield to me, because you have obtained and subjected yourself to the same knowledge as I have."

Note how the Lord said that Enoch will abide in him, and he will abide in Enoch. We become one with the Father not through some magical process, but by acquiring and assimilating the principles he lives by--his word.

The Lord said:
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (D&C 68:4)
If you are moved upon by the Holy Ghost temporarily, you will be temporarily quickened by the Holy Ghost, and you will speak some words that align with the mind and will of God. If you are quickened by the Holy Ghost permanently, everything you say will be according to God's mind and will.

Speaking in accordance with God's mind and will was called "speaking with tongue of angels" by at least one holy man because angels from God come as his messengers. This is because angels speak only the words they are given:
2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32)
If you feast upon God's word, or reconcile yourself to everything that God reveals to you while hungering and thirsting for more, you will absorb his word and bit by bit, your heart and mind will be aligned with his. You will become his word.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 29:30)
Becoming the word is the same thing as sanctification, and it is the same thing as obtaining eternal life. It is tellingly referred to as "receiving the words of eternal life." For example:
59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
60 For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
61 Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
62 And now, behold, I say unto you: This is the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten, who shall come in the meridian of time. (Moses 6)
"Receiving the words of eternal life" does not mean having God tell you "you have eternal life" (though this happens and is vitally important). It means that you have received the words/knowledge/law pertaining to the kind of life that God lives--the character he has. This is how Jesus become "the Word."
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (1 John 1)
John wrote that Christ was the Word, and he showed them the Word, and enabled them to obtain eternal life by becoming the Word.

John wrote: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) This scripture means several things: 1) If you want to see Jesus, you have to first become like him. 2) When you become like him, he will appear to you. 3) When you become like him, you will comprehend what he is like because you have become that way yourself.

Abiding the presence of God requires a preparation process:

10 And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual.
11 For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.
12 Neither can any natural man abide the presence of God, neither after the carnal mind.
13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected. (D&C 67)
Of what does that process entail? You have to actually trust God!
43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
50 And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me. (D&C 84)
You have to actually yield to him with no restrictions. Why no restrictions? Why can't we have a list of things he "could never ask us to do" or commandments we'd never follow? Because, by definition, those things we do not yet comprehend are incomprehensible to us.
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)
Jesus said:
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)
A lower person cannot comprehend a person who is spiritually more advanced. They think they can, but they are ignorant on top of ignorant: they are both blind to what they could see and blind to what they don't see. You can only comprehend what is lower than you. The only way you can really comprehend a person is to surpass them spiritually. No man knows the Son but the Father, because you can't really know Jesus without becoming like he is.

One does not become the word all at once. You become the word the same way a fossil becomes a fossil. Bit by bit your native understanding of things is replaced by iteratively more accurate estimates of the mind of God. You become like he is. You have to yield to the Holy Spirit, and become like Jesus by first doing what he says and then assimilating his character.

We become the word by "feasting upon the word of Christ":
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. (2 Nephi 31)
Notice here that those who press forward feasting upon the word of Christ will obtain eternal life. Why? Because they have acquired and assimilated the words/knowledge/law pertaining to the kind of life that God lives--the character he has.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. (D&C 93)
"Feasting upon the word of Christ" does not mean reading the scriptures. It means 1) obtaining an advanced understanding of his will, 2) obeying it, and 3) assimilating it into your character. Here, "advanced understanding" means advanced with respect to your current understanding. Where do you get that advanced understanding from? From true messengers, from revelation, from visitations, from the scriptures, or from any other source wherever it might be found.

This is not an event. It is a process. By obtaining and assimilating God's word, you are sanctified and made holy:
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. (3 Nephi 27:20)
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3:35) 
Why do so few people have dramatic experiences with God? These come commensurate with our effort in obtaining and assimilating God's character. We need not puzzle over the meaning of verses like this one:
And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. (Ether 4:7)
Why did the brother of Jared see the Lord, but you have not? The brother of Jared obtained and assimilated God's character to a greater degree than you have. Seek, follow, and become God's word like the brother of Jared, and you will receive the same degree of experience with God as the brother of Jared.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

God is real, and he is a God of miracles

Many--too many--gospel discussions focus on the provenance of books of scripture. Anyone whose faith rests in the archeological or other textual "evidence" of scripture has weak religious principles. The truth of scripture is not manifest in the shaky wisdom of men, but in the fruits the principles it teaches brings forth.

If you believe in God merely because of what the Bible says, for instance, than your religion is not much worth having. A religion worth having ought to be able to reproduce the fruits of the gospel documented in the Bible in your own life. If you do not have the fruits of the gospel in your life as recorded in the scriptures, either the scriptures or false or your understanding of the gospel is different than the gospel had by those who wrote it. Either way, you ought to change your beliefs.

The purpose of miracles is to help people have faith--to help people become willing to believe in what is purported to be the gospel sufficient to live what is taught and observe whether the promised fruits arrive.

There are many false positives. Organized religions will teach something, sure, but most teachings are unaccompanied by any fruits at all. Those that are tend to be diminutive compared to what we find in the scriptures. Others hide behind the promise that though their religion does not bear the fruits promised by Jesus in this life, it will magically become capable of saving you in the next!

I like what Joseph Smith said about testing what is offered:
If you will obey the Gospel with honest hearts, I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that the gifts as promised by our Saviour will follow you, and by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God. (Joseph Smith, Quoted in Hyrum Andrus, “Joseph Smith's Idea of the Gospel”.)
Before continuing, I strongly recommend you read these posts. I won't copy paste them here, but I should. Please go read them:


There are a few people I interact with who are constantly telling me that God does not exist. This is a curious statement to hear, because I have met God. I have seen him, he has spoken to me, and he has touched me. These people tell me that my spiritual experiences are a figment of my imagination. I realize that because there are so many false positives--so many people who claim to believe in God (without actually doing what he says, of course) and yet have no experiences with him--these people have very little reason to believe that God exists.

None of these experiences are shared to boast. I wish others would share them so I would not have to.  I publish this account that you may know that God is real. This verse is true:
For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. (D&C 76:5)
His power is sufficient to save any of us if we will merely turn to him, believe him, and obey him. Normal, common people have the duty and privilege to reach higher toward heaven, that through their testimony others might come closer to Christ (see Alma 13).

Jesus is the Christ, that he is real, and that there is no sweeter prize in this life that to associate with him. If you want to know more about how you can have more experiences with God, I recommend you read the book "Seek Ye This Jesus," which you can download as a free pdf, read on Kindle, buy on Amazon for print cost, or listen to in a free audiobook.

In no order:

Brain cancer healed

I knew a woman who worked selling candy on buses. She had five little kids and a deadbeat husband. She was a very kind, sweet lady who worried about others more than herself. She had been fainting on the bus, and she was very worried. I advised her to go to a doctor, where she found out she had multiple large tumors growing in her head. Because of the number and locations of the tumors, the doctors could not operate, and radiation and chemo were a longshot. She came to me with all the faith in the world and asked me to pray for her. I spent some time fasting and praying. I wrestled with the Lord as described in "Seek Ye This Jesus." The Holy Ghost fell on me, and I went to her house, laid my hands on her, and the Lord healed her. She was immediately and completely healed. Her symptoms ended and the next radiology imaging showed the tumors were completely gone.

Baptized by fire

I was baptized in water in a portable font in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. As I sat on the steps of the font, still soaking wet, Elders laid their hands on me and said, "receive the Holy Ghost." At that moment, I felt a fire starting at the crown of my head that went down to my feet. I was not surprised at all, because I believed what I had been taught, and I was taught that when I was confirmed, this is what was supposed to happen. I began noticing the fruits of the companionship of the Holy Ghost right away. I was newly disinterested in sinful things, and my mind was frequently quickened with revelation about gospel principles (especially when I asked questions) and about life in general.

My first experience praying with real intent

Years ago, I learned my brother was going to Iraq, and the Spirit gave my a distinct impression that he would be killed in action. I spent several hours each night begging with the Lord to spare his life so that he might have the chance to hear the gospel as I did. I pleaded that it was not fair that I had the chance and he did not. I pleaded that God would take my life, if need be, to answer for his, that he might have a fair chance at the happiness that I had received. After over a month of praying late into the night each day, I heard a voice that told me to stop praying about it. This was the voice of God, and it was the first time I heard his voice. Accompanied with this voice was an outpouring of peace that I recognized could only come from the Spirit (not because I had been told so, but because I was coming to recognize what it felt like when the Lord was reaching out to me). Some weeks later, I was talking with my brother over the phone. He recounted to me that about that same time I heard God speak to me, he was involved in an intense firefight. He was the first man out of a building when several men opened fire on him and his squad. As he was running, he felt a hand push him to the ground with so much force that he broke his foot in the process. After the battle, he found bullet holes in the wall where his head had been before he was pushed. As he communicated this story to me he--an atheist--said that he knew that it was an angel who pushed him, and it was because of my prayers that his life had been spared. As he told me that, the Spirit witnessed to me that such was the case.

A word of comfort

My grandmother suffered for years in a nursing home after having several massive strokes. My mother, who worked full-time, spent many hours after work each day caring for her for years. It was an incredible emotional and physical burden to carry. Several times I prayed to God that he would let my grandmother die so that my mom could be released from that burden. Those prayers never went very long, because God told me that it wasn't expedient at that time and that he had a purpose in this. Early one morning, I was working out when the Lord spoke to me and told me to pray. I stopped what I was doing and immediately knelt down and began to pray. The Spirit told me what to say, and I was immersed in the Lord's mind and will. I thanked him for everything that had happened with my mom and grandmother, as he gave me to understand exactly what the purpose was for how things had happened. Then I asked him to free her spirit from her body, which request he granted. I was overwhelmed with his love for my grandmother and my mother, and also for his condescension in involving me in this process. I was given a message for my mom, and I called her and said what I was told. She was incredibly attached to my grandmother, and very much unwilling to see her die. Somehow, the Lord's words soothed her heart completely. That evening my grandmother died suddenly, and it happened in exactly the right way to help her children best deal with the situation.

Revelation of a podcast

Early one morning I was frying some eggs for my kids. Unexpectedly, the Lord spoke to me. He mentioned a friend who I had not spoken to in months. He said: "tell _____ that it is my will for him to start a podcast preaching the same things he does in his blog." I said, "but he will be afraid that he won't be able to maintain his anonymity." The Lord gave me a promise for him, and told me to tell him. I immediately stopped cooking eggs and wrote my friend an email. The friend wrote me back and explained that the Lord had just told him the same thing a few days prior, but that he wasn't sure about it and had in fact been worried about anonymity. He started the podcast, and has had many emails from people whose lives it has helped.

My first experience with the Book of Mormon

I was introduced to the Book of Mormon as an 18-yr old private in basic training. I thought the missionaries' story was plausible. At the time I was not a follower of Jesus, but I did not disbelieve that he existed. I was simply not worried about it. I had been introduced to the gospel according to several sects and had found gaping holes in their reasoning. It did not ring true to me. The missionaries' story seemed solid to me. I felt that it could be true.

After learning of the so-called plan of salvation, I decided that I had to pray and ask God about the gospel according to the Mormons. If it was true, I felt there was urgency in me being baptized and following God. If it wasn't, I was wasting my time. When I knelt to pray in the barracks after lights out, I realized that before I asked God if the book of Mormon was true, I would first need to know---not merely believe---if God existed. I always figured there was a God, but never had to make a decision based on that belief. I knew that if God existed, I wanted to do any and everything that he required of me. I had a desire to please him. It didn't make sense to make a commitment to a being when I did not know if the being was real or not.

Being in public, I prayed in my mind "God, are you real?" I felt a feeling of love that I had never in my life felt. It is impossible to describe, but it was exceedingly strong and impossible to dissociate with my question. God had just told me he was real. I thought, "thank you. Is the Book of Mormon your word?" The feeling came back over me, twice as strong as before. I thought, "thank you." I went to bed comforted.

A dream

My first revelatory dream came while I was on a full-time mission. I had left a girl I was very much in love with, and I had no doubt I would marry her when I got back. In the dream, I was shown that my choice to serve a mission meant that things would not work out with her. This was a big shock to me, and it is exactly what happened. She didn't want anything to do with me.

Revelatory dreams, for me, are very different than normal dreams.

The preexistence

The first waking vision I had was about the preexistence. One day I was sitting in the living room when all of the sudden, the room I was in disappeared and I saw myself in a large area with lot of people in small groups. Everyone was wearing white. I saw a cluster of people whose faces I did not recognize, but whose spirits I did. They were my loved ones. I saw myself in the center of this group, and I was promising them that if they agreed to come to earth, I would do everything in my power to help them accept the gospel and keep their estate here. Then I was back in my living room.

The desolation

Another waking vision I had was about an apocalyptic time. I was going up the steps to tell my kids something, when all of the sudden I was outside. There had been a plague, and I was with a group of men. We were armed. We were looking for houses to spread out into after having been cramped up in one small area for some time. We came to a house and had to decide who was going to go into it to see if there were any bodies. We drew straws and I drew the shortest. I opened the door to the house and as I went inside, saw the corpse of a man who had died from the plague. I then came out of the vision. I had been in the vision for what seemed like hours, but no time had passed here. I was very distressed and physically tired. This vision happened shortly after we moved into our present house, and before I was able to drive around the neighborhood. I found out later that the house I saw exists, exactly where I saw it.


I was once minding my own business when the voice of the Lord came to me and told me my National Guard unit was going to be deployed to a certain country, and that I shouldn't put in any more offers on houses (at the time, I was house hunting). My commander called me a few days later and said "have you heard our unit is getting deployed?" I told him I had. He didn't ask from whom. 

The gift of tongues

When I first arrived to Chile on a mission, I knew what the people were saying even though I did not yet understand the Spanish they spoke. My companion would attempt to interpret during lessons, but I would interrupt him and say, "it's okay. I know what he said. How do I say ____?" Many times, I would notice his translation wasn't correct.

The gift of discernment

At times I have experienced the gift of discernment. On one occasion on my mission as we taught a man with a good heart but plenty of struggles, the Spirit opened the window of his soul to me, and I saw plainly what the truth was, in comparison with what he was saying. I told him what the Lord had revealed to me. His response was very much like what we find in Alma 12:7.

Comfort on a cold day

One day in Chile, while in the street in the rainy winter, I found myself exhausted, cold, and hungry, a common occurrence on that mission. I paused and looked to the sky in prayer. I asked God why he didn't stop the rain, even just for a moment? I was given to feel why he didn't stop the rain, which isn't important right now, but more importantly, he made it very clear to me that he was with me and was quite aware of my situation. It was a very special experience.

A promised land

One day I was driving home from work. As I crested the mountain pass that opens to the valley I live in, the Lord spoke to me and said, "this is a promised land to you and those I will give to you."

A house

I was invited to interview for my job. My wife hopped on Zillow to see what houses were like in the area. When she came to a certain house she said the Lord had shown her that this would be our house. I said, "isn't this a bit premature? I haven't even interviewed yet, and the odds are low that I'll get this job." She said, "you will get this job, and we will get this house." The house was $220,000 out of our price range. She made me promise to get a realtor and see the house while there. We had our offer for the house ready when the offer for the job came, and we got the house for $220,000 less than the list price.

The Lord's hands

I was once agonizing in prayer over some things external to me that were very troubling. All the sudden, I was filled with peace as I saw the Lord's hands held out in front of me, together with palms up. I saw the nails in his hands. He said, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (Isaiah 49:16). Then he disappeared. I was absolutely overwhelmed that he--the creator of the universe--had stooped before me (I was kneeling) to show me his hands.

The Lord is whipped

One morning, as I was praising God, he opened the eyes of my understanding and I saw a brief glimpse of his scourging. I only saw the scene for enough time to see one stroke land across his back. I saw the flesh of his back split open as the whip landed. I had never imagined it the way I saw it. Just as the flesh burst open, my heart burst open, and I praised his condescension, patience, mercy, and goodness through my tears.

A comforting touch

One morning, I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. He touched my right shoulder with his hand to comfort me. I was not dreaming, and it was not a vision.

The Lord chastened me

The first time I saw the Lord was after I spent about two years in consistent prayer and focus on seeing the Lord. It was all I thought about. One night, I had a night vision of the Lord. That experience is very hard to describe because of the contradictory nature of the feelings I experienced. On the one hand, the intensity of love that I felt in his presence was indescribable. On the other, my own awareness of my nothingness was beyond description. His presence is so empowering--you feel like you can get up and run into your potential faster than you ever have before. He explained some things to me, correcting my understanding of some things he wanted me to do in my life.

The tree of life

For a period of time I was pondering how Nephi was shown his father's dream after praying about it. I, too, wanted to see the tree of life. I prayed in absolute focus about this, and a vision opened. I was very close to the tree, and could see the color and texture of its bark. It was incredibly white, and the texture of the bark had deep grooves.

A sparrow

Once, through my carelessness, I accidentally killed a small bird while I was working in my yard. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. I picked up the bird and walked to a quiet place. I prayed and explained to the Lord that it was not fair that this innocent bird suffer the penalty of my carelessness. I quoted his words from the sermon on the mount about caring for the sparrow, and I asked him to bring the bird back to life. The whole time, I had the small bird in my hand. I opened my hand, and the bird flew away.

An answer to prayer

One evening after a long, hard day, I prayed a quick prayer before jumping into bed. Just as I was as my head hit the pillow, the Lord told me to get a pen, and he gave me about a paragraph of a revelation to a man in my neighborhood. I wrote every word, and then he told me to go tell that man what he said. I said, "if I do that, he will think I'm crazy!" God said, "if you don't, I won't speak to you anymore." The next morning, first thing, I went to see this man. I knocked on his door, and as soon as he answered I said, "thus saith the Lord:" and said what he said, and was anxious to get out of there. Instead of telling me I was crazy, this man stood in silence for what seemed like forever. Then he started crying. After he got control of himself, he told me about the prayer he had offered. The Lord had given me a very detailed answer to the very prayer he had offered.


One day I was rushing out of the house, late to work. As I got into my car, the Spirit told me to go grab my Bon Jovi CD. In spite of how odd that may seem, I have grown used to obeying strange promptings. I went and got the CD. When the song "Keep the Faith" came on, it pulled in my attention from what I had been thinking about. About a minute into the song, a clear prompting came to contact a friend of mine, which I did. It turned out, unbeknownst to me, that the friend had miscarried a baby she had named Faith, and that day was the anniversary of the day the baby was stillborn.

At the cross

One time I found myself at the foot of the cross. It was taller than I imagined. The scene was awful beyond description.

A better kind of miracle

Temporal miracles are wonderful. They show us that God does indeed have all power to save mankind. They frequently alleviate suffering or support us in tough times. However, the greatest miracles, in my opinion, are miracles of the heart. The ultimate purpose of temporal miracles are to give us a reason to believe and live God's word. Temporal miracles do not save us. They do not necessarily change who we are. But God's power manifested in our hearts makes us a new person. Miracles of the heart happen as we willingly take in his will and word, and make it our own. 

These miracles are the sweetest fruit of the gospel: when we notice the change in our hearts that reconciles us to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. 

The Spirit of God has caused me to intercede for those who seek to destroy me, who have bitterly used me, or who have selfishly mistreated me. I've cried long, intense prayers begging the Lord to forgive them. I've invested great deals of time, money, and trouble trying to give them another chance. 

God has given me a framework of knowledge that supports me in the greatest trials, helping me maintain godly character through times of torturous pain, profound sorrow, and abject loneliness.

God has given me an unquenchable thirst for more light and truth.

He has made me ceaseless in my efforts to help others.

He has given me unlimited courage to do his will in spite of what men will do.

These have been wonderful opportunities to follow the light that comes from above, and it is miraculously different than what the natural man wants. Temporal miracles come from time to time as an outward witness, but gifts of character are always present in those that love God, and yours to keep as long as you are faithful. To me, these gifts of character are much more significant than the other miracles he has manifested in my life. 


This list is not exhaustive. There are events that would reveal personal details about other people, events that I forget, and events I don't feel comfortable sharing right now. 

The magical thing about the gospel is that no matter what experiences you have had, and what principles you currently believe, there is always something greater available. I know that there are much greater experiences in my future, because I know that there is more and better to know that what I currently believe. 

The point is this: God is still a God of miracles, and he seeks to be intimately involved in the lives of everyone who will seek him.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Seeking Correction

God called Moses the meekest man. We don't have his full story, but we do know that this man was accomplished in whatever he did. In the first 40 years of his life, he managed to become the greatest hero of the world's most powerful nation. He was a military and civic leader. We don't know much about his spiritual growth in that period, but he knew something both of the Hebrew religion and the purpose God had for him. After his exile from Egypt, Moses took up a career as a shepard--a vocation that was considered an abomination in the Egyptian culture in which he was raised. And he was an undershepard at that--in the service of a man who was no doubt many times the inferior of his previous socioeconomic position as prince of Egypt. Then Moses met God, went to Egypt, and worked many great miracles.

This man who had dwelt in heaven for 40 days, parted the sea, etc., was approached by his father in law--who had had none of these experiences as far as we know--with advice. What was Moses' response? "So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said." (Exodus 18:24)

What would your response be? It turns out that our response to correction is perhaps the most important factor in how close to God we grow in this life. If salvation is a function of knowledge (and it is), and if correction from others is the primary mechanism for conveying light and truth (and it is), then how we respond to criticism is the key upon which salvation hinges.

11 The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.
12 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law;
(Psalm 94)

What is the role of correction in the gospel?

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:
12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
(Proverbs 3)
Every second of life is an opportunity to test the accuracy of your models. Every experience will either support or refute your principles--your way of simplifying and making sense of the world. Your simplifying model is how you operate without engaging your active brain. As an example of this, have you ever driven to work without consciously thinking about what you are doing? You turn the key, back out, pull into the road, and so on, until you get to work. This is what you've done every day, and since you've never encountered an exception where your behavior proved to be insufficient, you don't have to think about it. Compare this to the first time you drove to your job. You were thinking the whole time. Even with a GPS, you had to actively map the GPS instructions to your visual experience.

When your model is supported, you feel great. You don't have to use your active brain. When your model is refuted, you are robbed from the comfort of passive thinking. There is a hole in your model: either you are missing something or something is wrong. The pain of being wrong is magnified beyond the direct application. Were you to drive to work one day and find that the main road does not exist, you would not only be very confused about how to get to work, you would wonder how you could be so sure about this and be wrong and still be confident in the passive models that make up the majority of your life. This is why those who are going through a faith transition get so much negative response from their spouses. Their spouses are thinking, "if they are willing to change this fundamental, never-changing thing, what else might they change?" Suddenly, all of these things they took for granted--your vocational stability, your living condition, maybe even your marriage--are no longer passive guarantees.

Correction is the discovery of weakness in your model. These are opportunities to discover how to have a more accurate view of reality. Whatever is more accurate is better, without exception. Illusions can bring pleasure or comfort, but always with interest. The bill always comes due, and when it does, it will always cost far more than acting according to a more accurate estimate of reality would have.

Here is an example to illustrate my point. My kids are scared of heights. Maybe all kids are. There is a fire escape staircase outside of the building I work in. I always leave via those steps. The steps are made out of metal grates, and my office is a few floors up. The kids always freeze when they go outside, and I have to hold their hands and show them it is safe to walk on the grates, even though they can see the ground. If somehow I could put cardboard over the floor, they wouldn't be scared. But the reality is they are high up from the ground, and they ought to be more careful. Closing your eyes on a tightrope might ease your fear, but it won't make you safer, and might be the last decision you make.

Humility as the measurement of how much we seek to be corrected

Most adults get excited at the idea of going to a party, a baseball game, or some other social event. How excited do you get when you are corrected? We ought to love correction.

There is a famous experiment where rats' affinity for wrestling each other was measured. Rats have a good variation of strength, and strong rats tend to always win wrestling matches. Scientists expected the strong rats to win every time. Yet, what they found was that, as long as the big rats let the little rats win about 30% of the time, the little rats would continue to enthusiastically initiate wrestling.

Humans are much the same way. We have a ratio of wins to loses that has to be maintained before we quit. I know people who have to be right 100% of the time. I know people who need to be right 90% of the time. What is your ratio of willingness of being wrong? Marriage scientists John Gottman says that humans require 5 positive interactions for every correction, so maybe that is the average. By this account, humans are far worse than rats at seeking further light and truth...

But what difference does it make? Who cares if we need to be right 95% or 70% of the time, right?Wrong. "And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130:19) What difference does 10 or 20% make? All the difference in the world, and in the next. 

Correction is always a good thing. "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty." (Job 5:17) Every time anyone accepts correction, they are better off than they were before.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)
What does it mean to reject correction? It means that we would rather trust in ourselves than God. It means we think we know better than God. It means that we prefer to wallow in our own ignorance than accept a higher path provided by a God who loves us perfectly and knows better than we do what will lead to our greatest happiness.
31 The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. (Proverbs 15)
Humility is a word thrown around a lot. What is real humility? It is how much correction you can take before you quit!

How much correction can you take before you quit? We should love correction, and get as much of it as we can. Jacob is a great example of humility. He didn't quit at 0% (see this post). Jeremiah was a good example of humility. In spite of his awful life, he said:
23 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
24 O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. (Jeremiah 10)
We ought to seek 100%, no holds barred correction. Those who are not at this state cannot achieve Zion:

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 Genesis 9:21)

We ought to beg and plead with God to correct us, and be diligent in seeking every interaction with others as a potential correction. "Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish. (Proverbs 12:1)" We ought to feast on the scriptures and other materials that could expose our weaknesses.

I have previously taught that as an individual grows in light and truth, they become less capable of reaching those lower on the truth spectrum. One reason for this is that the more spiritually intelligent a person is, the more often their interactions with someone will be correcting in nature. It is easy to imagine a situation where one person has something to teach another person more than 70% of the time, let alone more than 10% of the time. Most humans are less willing to learn than most rats, so that is a problem, and why those who are close to God spend their time as outcasts from society. People don't want to learn, they want to be left alone. That is, until the bill comes due, at which point they seek a consequence mule to take up the burden they were unwilling to anticipate.

When is it good to correct others?

Salvation is an individual affair. While this means that the righteousness of another cannot save you, it does not mean that you have no responsibility to others. In fact, if you don't also teach others what you God has taught you, even perfect obedience to those instructions will not save you:
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)
Part of having light is letting that light shine, which requires sharing it with others.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5)
You are responsible for the consequences of another's actions until and unless you ensure that they are aware of them.
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (Ezekiel 3:18)
The only exception to this rule is when you have already given that person a lesser invitation and they have rejected it:
7 He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.
8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. (Proverbs 9:7-9)
But is it kind to correct others? How is it kind not to correct someone? If a principle is true, and someone doesn't have it, and you withhold it from them, you are exposing them to all the negative consequences of not having it. Is that kind? No, it is selfish. Kindness is doing what would lead to the greatest good with the person. Giving them what they want is not kindness, when you know better.

Paul taught that one way God shows his love is through correction.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
(Hebrews 12)
Anyone can give a person what they want. Only a real friend will give you what you need, whether or not they are wise enough to know it.

A lot of times, they don't know it, and correcting them is going to offend them. They will say that you are wrong, that you are judging them, or that what you ask is impossible.

Maybe you are wrong. An honest introspection should produce a great rebuttal, and maybe you will learn something.

You are certainly judging them. This isn't a bad thing, as long as you are right.

As far as impossibility goes, God never commands what we cannot do. When it comes to self-improvement, awareness is a guarantee that it is possible:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)

It seems that everyone seems to have a line in the sand. Should they? No. But they will. Sometimes, even that small correction will make the person so offended that they will cut you off. Jesus said that laying down your life for your friends is the highest sign of love. Is losing your friend easier or harder than giving your life for them?

Should a person's line in the sand prevent you from correcting them? No, but start with the smallest possible correction. If a person can't accept a small invitation, they will reject a larger one as sure as the sun rises each morning, because light cleaves to light and those who turn away from a little light will always turn away from more.

How should you correct others?

Here is a question to contemplate: How did you come to the knowledge you are about to share? Chances are, you acquired it at a great price, with much time and effort. It takes an immense amount of skill, or at least deliberation, to package what required a great deal of time and effort to acquire into a bite-sized package that will be instantly digestible to someone else. An analogy: suppose it took you 15 years of education to get to the point where you learned the ins and outs of integral calculus. Suppose you come across a young teenager who has a problem calculus can solve. Can you get him to the point where he understands enough about calculus to get the job done in, say, 15 minutes? Of all those who know calculus, what percentage could simplify it to practicality instantaneously? This is the meaning of the verse: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Timothy 4:2)

The mission of the army special forces is to train indigenous rabble into functional soldiers. Each member of the unit is capable of training and leading a platoon of indigenous pseudo soldiers. The level of skill they impart is not overly sophisticated, and yet the Green Berets are recognized as the most highly trained soldiers of all. It takes a great deal more knowledge to masterfully impart a well-constructed invitation to advance than it does to actually make that advancement. This is a case of the tip of the iceberg vs. the underwater mass.

You don't just dump what you know on someone. You learned these things slowly, over time. God gave these things to you not so that you could vomit them onto someone else, but so that you can exercise your faculties to construct a suitably controlled experience crafted to ensure the highest likelihood of acceptance in the person you are correcting.


Jesus gave the disciples an out. He asked them whether they would cloak themselves in willful ignorance, saving themselves from the ever more apparent difficulty of their discipleship in the illusion that he was not who he claimed to be. He asked them who they thought he was. Peter's reply must be our own: he is the Christ, and no matter how difficult his path may be, what other path is there? He alone gives the words of eternal life. And what are those words? They are the corrections we receive.

In this life, we can hide from the truth. We can shield our ignorance with illusion and thereby avoid correction. But 1) this does not shield us from the consequences of ignorance, and 2) when we die, we are fully exposed to things as they are, with no shield of ignorance. In a sense, we are in a pit, and no amount of wishing is going to get us out. The path out is long and brutal, but staying is far worse.

One day soon, you are going to die. You didn't come to this world to be comforted in illusion. You came here to acquire greater light and truth. The sand is running through the hourglass. Your satisfaction here and hereafter will be determined by one thing: how hard did you try to acquire further light and truth? You control the flow, 100%. Realize that the more you constrain that flow, the less joy you will have in this life and after this life.