Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Exceptional lives come through exceptional faith, not through magic.

On Sunday I had a pleasant conversation with a person I online knew from online exchanges. One thing she said was that she has to use a dictionary when she reads my books because I use words she isn't familiar with.

That comment made me uncomfortable because I find myself constantly at a loss for words. It just so happened that over the weekend I completed a read through "The Glory of God is Intelligence" and noticed at least 3 cases where the word I used was not only ill-fitting, but absolutely incorrect.

I think I'm a terrible writer, because I know the source of what I write about, and I know how long and hard the process is to try to convert the information to English, and to try to inflate the compressed signal out to something that is meaningful and applicable to someone that doesn't already know exactly what I'm talking about.

You have probably heard that, given enough time, a monkey can randomly write Shakespeare. I spend 2-8 hours per day practicing writing, and have been doing it for at least 6 years; It is still just as hard for me as it ever was. God has not given me the gift of writing. He has given me the gift of tenacity. He has set my face like a flint, and promised me the strength to accomplish anything I set out to do through this gift, according to my faith in him.

I'm able to do things no one else does because everyone else quits before they get there. That's it.

We love to ascribe to randomness things that are not random at all. It alleviates us from any personal responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves. If you want an unusually broad vocabulary, work with words for more time than most people do.

Now, this post isn't about my writing, or my vocabulary, or what that kind lady said. It is about you. It is about what you are doing with your life. It is about how you see yourself, God, and the world.

I would like to suggest that you are capable of a great deal more than you think you are. You are holding back. Stop pulling your punches, and discover the masterpiece life that God intended for you to have.

There is a such thing as inborn limitations. For instance, there is a limit to how well you will sing, how muscular your physique will be, or how tall you will be. Once you hit that limit, there isn't anything else you can do about it. But who actually works hard enough to hit that limit? How many people do you know who can honestly say "I've done everything I can towards this goal. I've left nothing on the table"?

When you stop short of your potential, it is always for one reason only. You think you have hit the limit of your capability. You have not. What you have hit is the limit in your trust in God.

All of us has access to this divine promise: You will have power to do all things that are expedient in Christ. "Power" does not mean things will be quick, easy, or fun. It would be nice if, when I write, I am visited by a pack of visible angels, who guide me to heaven where they show me a scroll containing all the words I should write while giving me a back massage. That is not how it works. Sometimes I sit and stare at the screen while demons chant to me how no one cares, how no one will listen, how I am not adequate to write these things. They try to distract me with aspects of work and home and people. I muster the strength to remain focused. I inch forward one sentence at a time as I ask myself, "do I really believe God? Do I really love him? Do I really love my fellow men? Then I MUST do this!" One inch at a time. I fall on my face and pray to God, and he strengthens me to keep going. Sometimes, I collapse in exhaustion on the floor, and get up twenty minutes later and keep working. Then, after all of that, I go to my jobs that pay the bills.

I'm not sure there is any such thing as exceptional people. I know there is a such thing as exceptional faith, and I know it is not something you are given but rather a choice you make. Anyone with exceptional faith will do exceptional things. An exceptional relationship with God is not obtained through rare spiritual experiences. It is obtained through crawling on your face towards him, one inch at a time.

It is unlikely that what is expedient for you to do is the same as what is expedient for me or anyone else. Maybe your exceptional thing is truly loving someone who is not loved by anyone else. Maybe it is choosing to have an attitude of gratitude in the face of an affliction that is not going away. Maybe it is obtaining the courage to see yourself in a more honest way, facing your demons, and improving. Maybe it is coming to grips with things you have tried unsuccessfully to ignore. What your exceptional things are is between you and God. That you can in fact have them, though, is beyond dispute. Go and claim what God has ordained for you.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Land of promise, life of promise: Where and how you live

What is a land of promise?

Here is how Lehi described his land of promise:
5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.

6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.

7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.

8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.

10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them. (2 Nephi 1)

Note:
-You can be afflicted in a land of promise, even when you are righteous.
-There were conditions appointed to Lehi's land of promise, and those who broke those conditions disqualified themselves from the blessing.
-There were bounds set on the experiences of those who lived the conditions of the promise, and those bounds were set by an all-knowing God to limit their experiences to that which would benefit them.

You can live anywhere you want in the world, but God has a specific set of circumstances designed specifically for you in order to guide you to exactly the subset of knowledge you require to enjoy the greatest happiness here and hereafter. Will you seek him to find out where that is? Are you there now? Would you bet your life on it?

What is a life of promise?

A life of promise is a life that has been pre-appointed and designed for a certain purpose and outcome. The Lord Jesus is a perfect example. His life was designed before the foundation of the earth for the purpose of redeeming mankind. Jesus could have lived any life, but he choose to seek and live the Father's will. Note that even Jesus had to seek to know the will of the Father and choose it above the infinite possibilities that existed for him. The same is true of all of us. Will you seek him to find out what that is? Have you obtained the life that will grant you greater happiness than any other life? Are you there now? Would you bet your eternity on it?

On promises

The real blessings of obtaining a land/life of promise are not so much in the objective experiences received, but in the sure knowledge that your experience lies completely within God's will for you. In other words, the blessings of a land/life of promise are complete peace of mind, contentment, and joy that transcends anything that can happen to you in this life. It is the promise that, if you remain completely reconciled to God and seek him with all your heart, you will dwell in him and he in you, and you will overcome the world through submission to him, because he has already overcome the world.

Everyone is capable of receiving this from God. Everyone is capable of living in such a way as to discover the path God would have them walk, and to walk in the confidence of knowing their life is reconciled to God's will: where they live and how they live. To obtain this, the path is simple but not easy. You must reconcile every aspect of your life to your sincere awareness of who and how God is.

What happens if you don't? Whether you have promises from God or not, you will be subjected to and immersed in experiences that are difficult (this is a gross understatement). Two people--one who has promises and faith and one who does not--will have very different experiences in the same difficult situation. Both may be dressed in rags, living in a hole in the ground, and subsisting on crude and scarce food. One will have sufficient peace, joy, and security that they will weep in gratitude when they pray to God. The other will curse God and wish to die. There have been times and situations where some have sufficiently hidden from the difficulties of reality through money, drugs, or other illusions, that they have made it through most or all of life without having to face the fire that comes involuntarily and unavoidably after this life. This time has ended, and we will all walk through the fire. The time has come to live as if unseasonal frosts will hit your garden, because they will.

God's promises will give you strength in times of great challenge. They will give you the hope you need in Christ to put one foot in front of the other, to endure while the fire does its work of purging you from everything that can't endure reality.

How do you get promises from God?

Everyone is responsible to obtain this from God.

The way you do this is by faith. I've made a few videos on faith, and I highly encourage you to watch them. Briefly, faith comes by hearing. You have to have a reason to believe something is real/true/from God, and then you act to test it. Maybe God has told you these things before, but you hardened your heart against it. Maybe you have never heard or thought these things before. Regardless, I'm telling you these things which I know to be true because I have obtained them. And you can too, if you obey the principles upon which they are predicated.

All of God's power is exercised on the principle of cause and effect. Promises from God sometimes reveal what the cause of the promise is, and sometimes they do not.

These promises can be conditional or unconditional. However, unconditional promises are not actually unconditional. Rather, they are based on a cause that has an end and has already been achieved. For example, all of mankind will be resurrected, but this is unconditional only because the condition (Christ's perfect life and sacrifice) has already been achieved, and is not reversible.

If the conditions of any promise given by God in the past are revealed, then you have the key to obtain the same promise yourself, because God is no respecter of persons. Anyone who follows the same conditions will receive the same blessing. Cause and effect.

Because God is no respecter of persons, we must conclude that nothing he does is arbitrary. He acts based solely on "the law" appointed before the world was. The word "law" can mean a lot of things in the scriptures, and when we look at it in low resolution by lumping together all of these meanings, we will never comprehend what God is actually saying. In the case of the law appointed before the world was, what we are talking about is the plan of salvation, or the relationship of cause and effect between everything we know in this mortal existence.

What about promises for which the conditions are not revealed? How do you receive the blessings of Joseph of Egypt? Or Moses? How do you receive the blessings of Lehi? We aren't told what that conditions of these things are, because these peoples' stories begin with their receipt of a promise. Alma 13 provides the key. In short, the answer is simple: Obtain and follow everything that God reveals to you.

Follow the light God gives you without exception, and seek more without ceasing. He knows the end from the beginning, and can/will lead you along like a shepherd leads his sheep. The sheep don't have to know or understand where they are going. He will lead you to a life so glorious that you can't think of it, let alone comprehend it, and might not even see it as desirable yet (but you will, as you gain more of the wisdom he has).

Trust him without holding anything back. He will lead you to a life so much greater than anything you could have designed or obtained for yourself. He knows all things, and he loves you more than you love yourself.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Keep checking YouTube

I have been making a lot of YouTube videos. I hope you check out the channel. You may find some of those videos are helpful to your understanding of gospel topics. You also may find that some are very shareable. I hope in particular that you consider sharing the series on the Lectures on Faith. If you subscribe and ask for notifications, you'll get an email when there is a new video. Enjoy!

UpwardThought YouTube Channel

Friday, April 5, 2019

Homosexuality

I received this email:

With the latest LDS policy reversal on LGBT families, I was wondering what your take on homosexuality is. Is that just because if we accept the law of Moses was a lesser law, and it condemned homosexuality, then anything of a higher nature would obviously do the same?

Here is my response:

One thing the Lord told me that has helped me understand some things a little better is that one way he helps us derive the benefits from principles higher than we can currently understand (and avoid the consequences of acting contrary to them) is through giving us commandments. We don't always get why, but then after the fact, he will explain it. Through obeying him based only on our trust in him, we can grow in our understanding to the point that he can teach us why.

Homosexuality was forbidden by the law of Moses, and is still a sin today, because a person living in a homosexual lifestyle can't progress as far as one who is not in joy, happiness, etc. It is not always the case that God's commandments are borne out by scientific evidence. In this case, there is abundant evidence that practicing homosexuals are much more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, kill themselves, etc, than heterosexuals.

The world will tell you that the sex you find attractive is not a choice. This is the same world that is now telling you that the sex you are is. Jesus is mighty to save, and he is also capable of doing everything easier than that, including revealing to you the hard truths that will show you that heterosexuality will lead to greater happiness than homosexuality. If God can change the heart of a person to no longer desire to sin, surely he can also change a heart to longer desire members of the same sex.

He will lead us to a better place every time, no matter where we stand.

The Lord taught that there is a class of bodily imperfections that we are given by God so that "the works of God should be made manifest":

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9)

God issues us bodies that have tendencies that deviate from how they would act if they were perfect. Why? So that his glory can be manifest when you, as an entity made to act and not be acted upon, through your spirit, subdue the tendencies in your flesh. This is the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the end of everyone who seeks, obeys, and trusts Jesus.

Homosexuality is just one of many such tendencies. Too many argue about whether people are "born this way" or not. It actually doesn't matter, at all. Did it matter that this man was born blind? No it did not. Jesus healed him. If you seek and trust Jesus, he can make you like he is. There are no exceptions to his power to save every individual that puts their trust in him.

Homosexuality deviates as much from God's plan today as it ever did. This isn't an excuse to see homosexuals in any less of a loving light as we do anyone else struggling with any other deviation from God's perfection. The cure to all temptation and all imperfection is to seek more light from God, more knowledge, and to implement it in full trust that he is perfect, loving, and merciful.

On the other hand, how can you say you love a person if you know of information that would make them happier, and do nothing to help them see it?

You see, this is the same situation as everything else in the gospel: God has all knowledge, and possesses the information needed for all of us to possess what he has. Inasmuch as he has given us light, we ought to spare no effort in helping others receive the same (and obtain it from others when they have more than we do). That is love. It is not loving to encourage people in their denial of reality or in pretending negative consequences don't exist or don't matter.

As far as the LDS church goes, expect acceptance of far greater violations of God's commandments in the future. Two nights ago I had this dream:

I was in an LDS temple. As I walked down a hall, I looked up and saw a big tube of meat taped to the wall where it met the ceiling. I reached up and took it. I went into the locker room and put it on the bench. I noticed there were one or two other people who had found meat and done the same. Then I saw that there were many people grabbing pieces of meat, breaking open the tubes and snatching at as much as they could. I said "excuse me, that is mine." They voraciously stole as much as they could as I tried to keep them away. I decided whether to start throwing punches, but decided to let them go. It was clear they had no intent of eating the meat themselves, they just wanted to ruin it for the few who had found it there.

The LDS church has become a place where very few look up and obtain the meat they are looking for, and those few who do have it violently stolen from them via the damning traditions embraced by the crowds.