Sunday, September 30, 2018

Emitting and Absorbing Light

Light is the power of God, the glory of God, the knowledge of God, the will of God, the character of God. It is joy, felicity, salvation. It is perception of what is hidden and realization of what was unknown. It is the means by which things are perceptible, while it itself is invisible. It is in all things and through all things, and acts on them all, but is also its own entity. It is the comprehension of all things: an awareness that they exist, an understanding of what they are and are not, and a correct recognition of their value or lack thereof. Obtaining this comprehension is what it means to overcome all things. It is to be exposed to everything pertaining to this scope of existence while perfectly maintaining the revealed character of God in yourself.

Matter is eternal. It cannot be created or destroyed. Each piece of matter has a degree of light and truth it has attained. Matter can be organized into bodies great and small, and when this happens the degree of light and truth of the body is an amalgam of the light and truth attained by its parts.

Light exists by degrees. Light is ever-present in its fullness, but we only perceive it in terms of the degree of light we ourselves have received. This is what it means when the scriptures say "the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness comprehends it not." Matter of a lower degree of light can perceive light to a point just beyond what it itself has attained, but nothing beyond. All of creation can be seen as a collection of matter with varying awareness of the fullness of light that emanates from God.

The matter of this creation is not the light, but it can absorb and reflect the light. In fact, all of creation is a machine for generating light; the objective of God's creation is to maximize the degree to which the matter it comprises attains a higher degree of light.

We increase in light as we obtain, heed, and broadcast his light:

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. (D&C 84)
7 And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever.
8 But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
9 For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
10 And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. (D&C 103)

The process for this, in a nutshell, is given in the creation story, and this is the same process that continues to this day:

3 And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light.
4 And I, God, saw the light; and that light was good. And I, God, divided the light from the darkness.
5 And I, God, called the light Day; and the darkness, I called Night; and this I did by the word of my power, and it was done as I spake; and the evening and the morning were the first day. (Moses 2)


God's spirit moved upon the darkness, and some of the matter responded to his light. The initial step of creation was to separate the matter that responded to his light and the matter that did not--two groups he called "day" and "night" far before the sun was created. Successive steps further separated matter according to their response to his influence.

This is exactly how it works with us today as well. Joseph Smith taught:
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.

The Lord said "I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words." (2 Nephi 10:14) Jesus will be our light forever. "And that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world;" (D&C 93:2) We first seek him for the light he provides to us externally. Then we start to try to be like he is by owning everything he teaches us. Eventually, the day star will rise within us, and we will be like him.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (2 Peter 1:19)
Creation is a machine that increases the light contained in matter by extending invitations to greater light and truth. Some matter responds by one, ten, or a hundred fold. Some matter does not respond.

The physical properties of light and matter. Darkness absorbs light. Black absorbs all wavelengths of light. Lightness reflects light. White reflects all wavelengths of light. Other colors each reflect one or more colors.

The glory of God is repulsive to unsanctified people. Why? Because the glory of God includes the fact that all things are present before him, including the depths of chaos that by his grace elude us. When you look upon God in his glory, the seemingly endless depths of chaos are before you. In him they are ordered, but without perfect faith, you can't leverage your trust in him to endure even a temporary awareness of what you can't yet handle. A very small example of this is when Peter tried to walk to the Lord on the sea. As his eyes were fixed on Christ, he was able to walk. When he started to think of the sea, he began to sink, and was almost consumed (which is very interesting, given he was an experienced swimmer being a fisherman). Even the most experienced chaos walkers would falter in the presence of God if his full glory was manifest. This is why, when he appears, he only reflects the portion of his glory that the individual can endure.

How to reflect light

In this world, all things are incessantly pulled downward by the background of a lowly state of light and truth. Most people and things subscribe to this level of light and truth. However, there are some people who subscribe to a higher level of light and truth. In their interactions with the world, they constantly invite and entice others to act according to the higher level of light and truth.

To reflect light:

  • Rather than seeking relief from the consequences of your actions, seek how to improve your actions.
  • Earnestly seek to learn more than you know.
  • Be open to truth from all places and all people.

How to emit light

This process of emitting light is akin to what happens with a lighthouse in the dark. A lighthouse shines its light for moment on each section of the sea. Everything in its spotlight, for a moment, transforms into what it could be if it were surrounded by light. What was a shapeless blob in the dark transforms into something completely different, while all reflective surfaces shine back into the darkness. Then, the beam continues on, and any ship that happened to be touched by the light can decide how to respond to that light. The greatest sorrow is to see the potential of what others could be if they embraced the light. It is also the loneliest sorrow, because they don't see it themselves.

We are commanded to emit light. The Lord taught:

33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.
34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.
35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness.
36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. (Luke 11)
Emitting light is different than reflecting light. To illustrate the difference, consider this. Days are sunny, sometimes rainy. Every day is followed by night. Some nights are bright (full moon, clear starry sky, etc.) and some nights are completely black. To emit light, the first step is to use those sunny days. When it rains, you can always remember how the sunny days are and rely on the fact that you will soon have another. The next level is to realize that everything you have on a sunny day (which comes from external sources) can be yours on the rainiest of days, if you can produce it inside yourself. The purpose of sunny days are to lift you up, yes, but the greater purpose is to teach you what it is like to have the light within you.

The moon reflects light, the sun emits it. The sun receives its power from energy sources we do not perceive, then it translates that power into energy sources we can perceive. It is a transformer that converts light beyond our comprehension into light that we can comprehend. This is a model for how we are to obtain and emit light.

6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (D&C 88)

The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of how to emit light in this world. He is the light and the life of the world. He descended below all things by willingly exposing himself to all things below. He grew by learning to cope with those things, strengthening himself by leaning on the Father's word and being obedient to it in all things, until he had been exposed to all things while maintaining the character of God. In doing so, he became the light, and now is the source of light for those who will do the same.

To emit light:

  • At any moment, choose to live earnestly according to your current understanding of right and wrong, particularly when it hurts.
  • Treat people better than they deserve to be treated.
  • Stand up for those who are oppressed.
  • Help others become better than they were.
  • Gratefully give up the things you have earned for the benefit of others, particularly those who will not comprehend and/or appreciate what you are doing.

Conclusion

Our purpose is to first obtain light:
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;
26 He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.
27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.
28 But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin. (D&C 50)
Then to share that light with others:

To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79)
Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—(D&C 123:13)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Scripture study: D&C 103

1 Verily I say unto you, my friends, behold, I will give unto you a revelation and commandment, that you may know how to act in the discharge of your duties concerning the salvation and redemption of your brethren, who have been scattered on the land of Zion;
2 Being driven and smitten by the hands of mine enemies, on whom I will pour out my wrath without measure in mine own time.
3 For I have suffered them thus far, that they might fill up the measure of their iniquities, that their cup might be full;
4 And that those who call themselves after my name might be chastened for a little season with a sore and grievous chastisement, because they did not hearken altogether unto the precepts and commandments which I gave unto them.
5 But verily I say unto you, that I have decreed a decree which my people shall realize, inasmuch as they hearken from this very hour unto the counsel which I, the Lord their God, shall give unto them.
6 Behold they shall, for I have decreed it, begin to prevail against mine enemies from this very hour.
7 And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever.
8 But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
9 For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
10 And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
11 But verily I say unto you, I have decreed that your brethren which have been scattered shall return to the lands of their inheritances, and shall build up the waste places of Zion.
12 For after much tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing. (D&C 103)

When I was a child, I remember one place we lived had a circular above-ground pool. I spent nearly a whole summer in that pool. We would walk in one direction around the pool, then after we got a good current going, switch directions and try to walk against the current. Even standing still in the current was both difficult and sufficient to eventually overcome the current.

God wants you and I to yield to his every word. He has placed us here--wherever here is--to stand in the current, and even to walk against it. If we do what he has called us to do, we will eventually overcome the forces of the world where we are. 

This process is always the same. It involves a great deal of suffering on our part. However, this suffering is the only way we can, through the justice of God, encounter the great blessings he anxiously awaits to give us. Like baking a cake, if we exit early, all our suffering will be in vain. 


I have stood in many currents, and fought against many, and God has shown me many more that I will stand in. In all of this, I have never been given any reason to doubt his strength, his commitment, his wisdom, or his trustworthiness. No matter how absolutely hopeless a situation has seemed, he has always delivered me, and has always shown me that the path he placed me on was completely necessary and completely worthwhile. 

This world is full of turbulence, and it will get worse. Do not buy into any illusion of security. Do not sell your birthright for a bowl of porridge. The only safety is in God's will and word. There is no earthly power that can stand against God's will and word. I have seen situations as impossible as the Pharaoh not letting the Israelites go from Egypt, and I have seen God's will and word cut right through it. The key to releasing this power in your life is keep all of God's commandments, to seek and yield to his will in all things. 

The Lord Jesus said he gives peace, but a different kind of peace than the world purports to give. Peace in the world is measured by your goods or tangible situation. If you have lots of money, you feel secure. This is how the world gives peace, and it is completely worthless. Who you friends are, how much money you have, or whether your house is paid off will not protect you from bad things that can happen. Even worse, the better your temporal situation, the more it will occupy your mind. Worldly peace costs mental peace, and it seems like you can't have both at the same time. 

God's peace has absolutely nothing to do with your temporal situation. You can be sawn in half or burned at the stake and, in that moment, still have perfect peace. The world cannot take it away. This peace comes from a) knowing God's will for you, b) doing it without exception, and c) knowing his character sufficiently to believe his promises to you. When these qualities are present, you will have the peace that pervades the hearts and minds of all those that love God, and nothing in this world will be able to cause you to deviate from emulating God's character in yourself. No matter what hell you are put into, you will be in heaven. No one and nothing can take that away, only you can through turning away from or distrusting God.

His word will be fulfilled to the letter, every time, no matter what anyone else says or does, and no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. I have seen the most attractive things wither away, and I have seen the most unlikely promise be fulfilled to the letter. I have never seen God violate any of the promises he has made me, no matter how far-fetched and impossible they seemed. With a single decree, he can order the most unlikely outcomes. If you offered me the choice between all the riches and pleasures of the world and a promise from God, I will take God's promise every single time. 

He will shake all things that are not of him, and he will break them down. We get to choose if we will be left standing, because we filled ourselves with his will and word, or if we too will be ground to powder. 


If we are faithful like Alma and Amulek, who were subjected to the same shaking that caused the walls of the prison to fall, yet walked away unharmed, we will be saved by the very trials that destroy the institutions and people who stand against God.


God is good. He is worthy of all trust and obedience. He will lead, guide, and rescue us. Nothing is more powerful than he is. No one loves us like he does. His wisdom is perfect. His path is sure. He has graven us upon the palms of his hands, and we will never be disappointed if we lean on him.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Reality as we would like it to be vs. how it actually is

The great king Marcus Aurelius said, "To seek the impossible is madness." Quite true.

But what is impossible? Much success is had by seeking what others incorrectly identify as impossible, and entire lives are wasted seeking what the individual erroneously believes is possible to find.

As someone once said, "wickedness never was happiness." Pleasure can be encountered in falsehood, but it is mortgaged against a future realization of truth. The price for illusory pleasure may be delayed, but is always greater than what it provides.

It is always better to embrace reality than to hide from it.

And yet, we love a lie.

There are far too many examples of this in modern culture to enumerate. Here are a few.

1. Recently, our city and county began their annual budget creation process. Both decided to raise property taxes. The reasons provided were that the services provided by the government--lush retirement benefits for public employees, health services for the poor, etc.--are both important and increasing in price. Every mention was made of benefits to the recipients without any reference to cost to the payers, in spite of the fact that the membership of both groups is largely overlapping. In other words, money is not produced in a vacuum. Many of the people on government health subsidies will lose their house (whether owned or rented) if property taxes rise. Those advocating for higher taxes are not grounded in reality. They live in a fantasy world where the world is unconstrained, and where we can legislate according to how we wish things were rather than how they actually are.

2. According to social scientists' long-running studies, women have become less happy with every generation since they started measuring about 100 years ago. Why? A comparison with the lifestyles of each generation provides a possible answer. Modern technology and social norms are markedly different than they were 100 years ago. The functions that were uniquely feminine 100 years ago are now considered obsolete at best, and evil/oppressive to some. You'd think that such a marked deviation in happiness would attract research into how to correct it, especially given the surplus of sociology majors in the developed world, yet this is not the case. Instead, those with the presumed duty of studying and rectifying the situation are championing the very changes that make it worse. Advocates for "women's rights" promote things like loose sexual morality, multiple partners, late marriage (if at all) and token single kids. All of these policies tend to do exactly the opposite of what these people say they advocate for. They create an environment where men have every incentive to pursue non-commital physical relationships with young, attractive women, and avoid marriage altogether. These poor women have a great time, as they suppose, while they are young if they happen to be attractive, then only realize too late that they have frittered away any chance at marriage to a reasonable candidate because they've been betrayed by a system that treats relationships like a drug, and treats them like an object. They settle for a guy they'd never give the time of day to 10 years prior, maybe have a token kid, then cheat on him or leave him shortly thereafter because "it isn't exciting anymore." Only late in life if ever do they realize they've wasted their lives. They love a lie.

3. Young people complain incessantly about the lack of jobs. In actuality, the jobs-to-working-people ratio is at historic highs. What is the problem? No, it isn't that there aren't enough jobs, or even that a large number of them are part-time or low-paying. The problem is that young people don't realize that they lack the skills required to obtain modern, high-complexity jobs. Where I live, there are over 1,000 open jobs in computer science paying 2-3x the average wage. The universities here will produce only 100 or so computer scientists per year, and only about half of them will be good enough at what they do to secure those jobs. There are many unfilled jobs for skilled trades (many requiring only 2 years of training, and some providing on-the-job paid apprenticeships). Those jobs tend to pay 2x national average wages. These trends are not unique to my state, it happens nationwide. There are plenty of jobs, and they pay plenty of money. The problem is that people aren't selecting the right fields for training.

4. Some people go to therapy weekly for over a decade, but would rather die than learn something about themselves. When they do happen to encounter a friend who cares enough to try to help them, they cut them off.

5. Some people work three jobs to make ends meet, but won't face their fears of failure by going after training that will triple their earnings potential.

Etc.

This is one of the most quoted passages of scripture, and it happens to be perhaps my favorite.

Unfortunately, most people stop on verse 16. The passage theme does not end there, and the most important part is what comes next.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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)

Verse 16 describes the what. After that, Jesus provides the why.

By default, we are separated from God. Unlike in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve dwelled in the literal presence of God (they saw and spoke to him regularly), each of us is born into a situation where we do not see God, and we do not hear his voice.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the process by which we regain the same relationship with God that Adam and Eve had in the garden of Eden. A key part of this process are his commandments--progressive instructions that give us increasingly more accurate estimations of his character, so that we can become more and more like he is.

Because the gospel is a process of becoming more like he is, and because our default state is to be opposite to how he is, we ought to understand that the gospel is the process of being corrected, over and over again.

If we submit to the Spirit, which is the reason we are here, we will find that it leads us to places we never supposed. God will shed light on all the dark corners of our character, and we will find ourselves traversing wave after wave of personal, deep change. As we endure more and more polishing--and outright rebuilding--we will get to know God better through the ever-increasing influence he has on our constantly improving character.

You can predict how far a person will go in their life's purpose by seeing how they react to "the light," or to correction. Unfortunately, just as the default state of man is to be separated from God, the default state of man is to "sit in darkness," or not come to the light. This manifests in their refusing to consider something better, or actively fighting against it.

I know a few people who rejoice in correction, but it is by far the rarest trait I know of. Most of us bumble through life completely unaware of the sources of further light around us. Most of us run away from the very things we need most in life.

We are capable of so much more. Why intentionally ignore the pitfalls in our character, when doing so will invariable cause great harm to ourselves and others--far more harm than confronting the truth?

Why do we love a lie, when the truth is by definition more fruitful? Why do we turn away from the light?

Is it not because of a lack of trust in God? Is it not because we do not really believe that he knows more than we do, and loves us more than we love ourselves?

Trust God. Submit to him fully. Test him. He will prove that he is worthy of all trust.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

When the alternative starts looking better

I am no expert, but I've watched with interest as Russia has developed military capabilities far advanced from those of the United States. To go into the details would be a digression, but suffice to say that, in my naive view, the only thing preventing Russia from preemptively annihilating the United States is the assurance that our nuclear subs and those of our allies would immediately counterattack and destroy Russia. And it seems the Russians are developing the capability to track and destroy the subs as well.

In the meantime, it may seem extreme for me to say the sub response is the only thing keeping them from attacking. This world would be a very different place were they to do so, and the thought of directly (through nukes and biological agents) and indirectly (through the starvation and civil violence that would follow) killing 320 million or so people is chilling to say the least. Why would they do such a thing? Because the alternative is starting to look very bad. The United States has committed so many unprovoked overt acts of aggression against Russia that it has, for at least a decade, severely impeded the Russians' quality of life. Sanctions, military actions, etc. At some point, whether it has happened yet or not, the Russians will be left with no choice but to attack the United States because the outcome of that skirmish will be better than what they have now.

This vignette is not the point of the post, but the situation it illustrates--when a poor alternative starts looking better than the present--is an important theme in the end times we live in.

Everywhere I look, I see a situation where the alternative--a post-desolation situation--would provide a better environment for encountering truth. This statement, I hope, seems a bit extreme, but let me explain.

The internet is a prime example. Never before has so much information been in the hands of so many so easily. Yet, the principle use by far of the internet is to distribute porn. It is so pervasive that it takes quite a bit of work to avoid suggestive images, as even ads today can carry inappropriate images. Then there is the time sink. Everyone is on their phones all the time. Children don't play with other children. Parents don't spend time with their kids. Spouses ignore each other. The cost of the internet is very high. And what of the benefit? How many people actually learn more than they would have 30 years ago because of the internet? How many serve more? What is the net result of the internet? It is negative. Though it pains me to say as someone who has made great use of it for good, we would be better off without the internet.

Media is another example. Movies have a way of teaching us that is hard to replicate in other forms. I could go on for hours, for example, about how The Hobbit wonderfully illustrates lessons about character and the hero's journey and undiscovered potential and order vs. chaos and so on. In fact, I have done this until the person I was speaking with told me "enough about the Hobbit." Some movies are instructive even if not positive. Saving Private Ryan is not a positive movie, but the grit portrayed seems necessary to show the horror of war, which seems to be one of the themes of the move. Are all or even most movies worth watching? Most are not. I am appalled by how many movies have completely unnecessary violence, language, and behavior that would lead anyone to assume that modern life is about killing, stealing, cheating, or lying your way to greater personal benefit. Movies have more subtle detrimental themes: there is no accurate portrayal of real life. Tom Cruise is made to look the same he did in the 80s, doing things physically that people half his age would struggle with. We are layered with movies about women in their 40s getting the man of their dreams and having their token baby. As a man at the halfway point of his life, these portrayals are harder for me to believe than a dragon who wants to kill dwarves. And yet, they are so extensive that people actually believe that they can like a hedonistic lifestyle and still be happy, that they can delay family and still have it all in the end.

We could do the same exploration for every aspect of modern life. The question is the same in each case: Are we better off?

I worry a great deal about today's youth. What chance do they have of developing a notion of right and wrong, of learning to sacrifice, of learning to work hard, of having meaningful relationships in life?

The trappings of modern life seem more like an obstacle to be overcome than a tool to advance progress. These young people would be better off in a primitive subsistence lifestyle, where they grew up in the presence of their parents, working with their hands, in a state of constant toil. This wasn't always the case.

I dread the fulfillment of what is prophesied in the scriptures. Yet, I know it will come, and I expect to live to see it. I don't want to see it, but when I pray for people today, I can't help but sometimes ask for the Lord to bring it. In spite of the unimaginable suffering it will bring, it seems as if every day that he waits, the Lord is allowing people to wallow in a situation beyond the capability of almost all to overcome. What's worse is that the experiences people have in the meantime are sometimes irreversible. Modern culture is permanently poisoning people. Just as the Egyptian culture was too much for all but a few (Moses, Caleb, etc.) to overcome, modern culture is something so pervasive that every generation that comes to adulthood in our present culture is one more generation that will have to die, for the most part, before Zion can really attain what it is meant to. That is a truly awful thought.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Anyone in Utah want to help some malnourished children?

Hi all,
As some of you know, I used to be on the board of the Liahona Children's Foundation. LCF provides nutritional supplements to impoverished Latter-day Saint children and their friends. Malnutrition is a condition that causes physical and mental dysfunction that can persist into adulthood. It is pernicious because it tends to perpetuate from one generation to the next because malnourished children tend to grow up without the income potential necessary to prevent malnutrition in their own children. The opportunity to help is significant, as nutritional supplements are very inexpensive to make and distribute.

LCF is run almost completely by volunteers, so almost all of the money donated goes right to the people who need it the most: the children, in the form of supplements, and a trustworthy but needy woman (called a coordinator) in each area who receives a small stipend for monitoring the children and providing the supplements.

Year ago, Brad, the founder of LCF, asked me to travel to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to begin the foundation's operations in the continent. At the end of next month, he is bringing several coordinators from Africa to Utah to provide reports and presentations on the program where they live, and to solicit donations. I have attended these presentations before--hosting them and/or bringing your friends is a wonderful way to help out.

If you are interested in hosting or attending an event, please reach out to Brad at Walkerspad@aol.com.

-Rob

Friday, September 21, 2018

Belief, information, faith, action

This is not a real conversation, but it could have been.

Person: "I don't know if God is real. I want to believe he is, but I don't really hear his voice. I pray and ask, and I don't get anything."

Rob: "What kind of experiences do you want?"

Person: "Hear a voice, see a vision..."

Rob: "What would you change if he said he was?"

Person: "Huh?"

Rob: "You are asking him if he is real. What would you do differently if he was? What action would you take?"

Person: "Well, I just want to know if he is real."

Rob: "27 O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
28 Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God. (Mormon 9)

What do you think it means to 'be believing' and 'begin as in times of old' by 'com[ing] unto the Lord with all your heart' without doubt?"

Person: "Um..."

Rob: "Do you think belief comes by information, or by choice?"

Person: "Well, I guess I always figured by signs, but I never thought of information."

Rob: "Signs do not necessarily inform action, but information does. Belief is a choice. Information isn't given for belief, it is given to inform action. This passage describes that before asking, one must already have their minds firm in the choice to believe. Then you seek what you seek not for lusts, but in order to serve God."

Person: "How is asking if God is real 'consuming it on [my] lusts?'"

Rob: "James 4:3 says 'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.' In literal Greek it says 'You ask and not receive because wrongly you ask that in the pleasures of you you may spend it.' Lust is seeking something for your own purposes. We should only ask God for things that we believe are according to his purposes."

Person: "So I shouldn't ask God if he is real?"

Rob: "It is not about what you are asking, it is about why you are asking. Consider the following passage:

14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.
15 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
16 But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
17 And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
18 O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. (Alma 22)

This man was asking God if he was real. And God answered him. Why was he asking?"

Person: "He said 'that I may have this eternal life.'"

Rob: "Exactly. What was he seeking?"

Person: "The will of God."

Rob: "I seek experiences from God so I can learn about parts of his will and character that I don't know about. That is very different than asking for these things so that I believe. Because I seek his will, he gives me what I ask.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (1 John 5:14)

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: (1 John 5:14)

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 5:7)"




Saturday, September 8, 2018

An orphanage in Uganda needs help

Hi readers,
It has come to my attention that there is a 45-child orphanage in Uganda that needs help. The good news is that this facility is an amazing accomplishment given the fact that it is largely the work of one man--an ex-child soldier/survivor from the war there. The bad news is that, due to few sponsors, the orphanage is struggling. They have had some support to build a building and a website, but most of what is done on the ground is accomplished by the founder one day at a time.

If you want an opportunity to make a difference, here is a great one. Consider reading up and donating.

http://www.futureuganda.org/

-Rob

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Reaching your potential

This post is another angle of this post.

When I was a teenager, I got my hands on a few bodybuilding books. One thing that I found interesting was that everyone has a genetic maximal potential for bodybuilding. The elite bodybuilders, through hard work, diet, and steroids, are able to develop their muscles to the point where they hit the genetic limit of how large certain muscles can get. This limit differs for every person and muscle--every person might have greater or lesser potential for large calves, big biceps, and so on. Because so few people invest the hard work, sacrifice, and drug use to get to that size, very few ever discover their genetic limit.

In everything we might seek to do in this life, we have an individual potential. Relatively recently, the Lord showed me that, for a long time now, he has given me the gift of perceiving the potential in others. I had long endured a great deal of frustration because I did not realize the way I saw the capability in people differed from how they saw themselves and how others saw them. The Lord sometimes reveals things to you in a moment that would take a very long time for a mortal to explain to another mortal, like when he showed Moses in a moment the population of the earth, or when Nephi was shown millions of his posterity through hundreds of years. In this case, what I saw the immense frustration and sadness I had felt over a lifetime due to this gift. My immediate reaction was to ask him, "Lord, why did you do this to me?" Though a comically naive and cheeky question in hindsight, at the time is was in earnest and a heartfelt response. [Sidenote: far too often we doctor our words to God as if he doesn't know the truth of how we really feel. The only thing we accomplish by not admitting our hearts to him--however they are--is distance between us. This is the equivalent of Adam "hiding" from God in the garden of Eden.]


The Lord's first purpose in giving me this gift was to help me to try harder than others might in helping a person. If you think little of someone, you will only try a little to help them. 


When was the last time you gave $100 or more to a homeless person? Would you give more to your mother were she in that place? Do you see what I mean?

This gift allows me to see my own potential as well, which has caused me to exert what I have come to realize is a different-than-usual amount of effort in doing things that others would write off as impossible. That has proved to make a tremendous difference in my life, as I lack natural strength in many things that I have had to push through and learn to do to be even normally functional, when my life has required that I be more than simply functional. Some people who don't know me well think that my views of myself make me a narcissist. What they don't realize is that I see the same--or greater--potential in nearly everyone I meet. The difference is that I heed the invitation, typically with far more credence than even the few others who do likewise, demonstrated by obedience and diligence (see D&C 130:19).

So what is this gift like? It is very hard to describe. Essentially, I can talk with someone for just a minute or two, and just as clearly as I can see the clothes they are wearing, I can "see" what they can accomplish. I can "see" what they are doing now and how they are, how they could be and what they could be doing, and what they can do to get there. Maybe you think that would be a neat gift to have. Like all of God's gifts, it comes with great cost. First, once I know their potential, I have the responsibility to do whatever I can to help them take the first step towards that different reality. That typically entails a great deal of effort, time, and sometimes money. Yet, very, very few people accept that invitation, no matter how hard I've tried to work on my persuasiveness. As a result, I live in constant sorrow for the happiness that others could otherwise have. Second, there is the fallout of the experience. Typically, these interactions end badly. When they do, at a minimum, I'm rewarded for my awareness of someone's greatness by being accused of being demanding or having unreasonable expectations. Typically, these people end up hating me, never talking to me again, or at least avoiding me. They sometimes malign my character publicly to make them feel better about ignoring the truth about themselves that I helped them see, and which they chose to interpret negatively, because they don't love the light but prefer the darkness (see John 3), preferring to suffer in ignorance of their flaws than to grow by discovering and overcoming them.

I do not think less of people when they reject the invitation. Instead, my heart breaks to a thousand pieces for them, and I "see" and feel the sadness they will feel when they are shown what they could have had, and how God sent them at least one messenger (and probably many more) to help them get to a place of greater happiness, but they would not receive it, and instead were given what they were willing to receive (see D&C 88:32). I pray with great intensity for the person, asking God to forgive them, pleading for mercy, explaining why it is very hard for them, and asking him to give them another chance through someone or something more persuasive than me.


As rare as it is to meet someone who has maxed out their muscular potential, they do exist, and there are places you go can go to find quite a few in one place. When I think of every person I've ever met, I would struggle to provide a list of people who have reached their spiritual potential. Everyone seems to have a line in the sand, and I can see it as clearly as I can see the clothes they wear. What is your line in the sand? What are you doing about it? Do you realize that every line in the sand is really a lack of trust in God's goodness, love, and knowledge? He knows you perfectly. He will not ask something of you that is not better for you than anything you can come up with for yourself. 

You have tremendous potential. If I know you personally, I've seen it. Chances are, you have no clue what you are capable of. You have no clue what good you could do in this world if you rose up from the dust and took upon you the will and strength of God. One day, you will know. You get to choose whether that day will be in this life or after.


For those who do not seek and embrace his invitations to rise up, their meeting him after death will be an awful experience. The piercing ferocity of his glory will cause you to instantly and fully comprehend how differently your life would have gone had you sought and yielded to his holiness. You will realize the suffering that occurred here in the lives of others because you buried your gift--or perhaps because you were simply willfully unaware of it.

If you could see in yourself what the Lord sees in you, you would see him coming to you, and in spite of a full knowledge of everything you've ever done and left undone, he would reach for your hand and with the greatest confidence say, "come, come, your future is far more glorious than you've ever imagined!"