Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Coming Into the Presence of the Lord in Mortality

At the risk of sounding like an evangelical Christian,  I want to testify that in this mortal life, nothing is more important than developing a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is not a distant or impersonal or relationship of feelings.  This is an actual, literal relationship with an actual, literal person.  So I ask this, how can you have a relationship with someone if you don't actually meet them in person?

The Lord is so loving, so kind, so compassionate, so GREAT, that we would shrink from His presence if He came to us without setting aside His glory.  Nevertheless, He wants to interact with us.  He wants us to be in His presence.  And He makes a way for it to be possible.  Not only that, He expects it of us.  And He commands us in scripture.

I take literally the admonition in the scriptures that we should seek the face of the Lord.  This is not something to be deferred into the eternal world.  To wait until then to seek His face would show a lack of valiance, which may very well consign me to a lesser glory hereafter (D&C 76:79). 

I want to KNOW my God.  I want to be in His presence, in actual, literal fact.  I want to heed His commandments that I do so.  The scriptures have a lot to say about this:

D&C 93:1 
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

Matthew 5:8 
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

John 14:21 
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

D&C 50:45 
And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am. 

There are many others, many of which are personal eyewitnesses who saw Christ.  Moses, Nephi, his brother Jacob, Moroni, Mormon, Joseph Smith, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Alma the Younger, and so many others.  These are EYEWITNESS testimonies.

The Book of Mormon is an instruction manual on how to obtain a relationship with Christ and how to actually come into His presence.  Not only are we given tools to come into His presence, but He commands us that we should.  

When I learned of this idea a few years ago, I was stunned.  I had never been taught that this was something that could happen to me.  And yet I found testimonies of people who DID have it happen to them.  If they can do it, why can't I?  Why can't you?

Not only are we commanded to seek Jesus Christ and have a personal relationship with Him, we MUST DO SO IF WE WANT TO HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!!!!  When D&C 76 says that those who are celestial receive the testimony of Jesus IN THE FLESH.  The flesh is this mortal life.  We receive a testimony when we hear it.  Who do we hear it from other than Jesus?  It is His testimony of us, not our testimony of Him.  Even Satan has a testimony of Jesus, but it doesn't do him any good.  We must receive testimony from Him that we are sealed as His children if we are to have the faith to have eternal life.

I share this because it is the most important thing I have ever learned.  The Spirit sings to me in my soul that it is true.  YOU can know Jesus, literally and actually.  I urge you with all my soul to seek Him.  Do not let others get it your way.   Do not listen to those who would tell you that such things are not necessary, who would tell you to avoid the "mysteries" of the gospel.  We are COMMANDED to seek the mysteries, and Alma tells us that if we don't know the mysteries we are bound down by the chains of hell (Alma 11).  SEEK THIS JESUS!  He wants to have a personal relationship with you, me, and everyone who will do what is required to gain it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Accuser

One of Satan's names is "Accuser".  Someone who accuses us is our adversary, so this is an appropriate name-title.  What implications might this have for us?

In a criminal trial, the parties are the complainant, the defendant, and the judge.  I am reminded of the following scriptures:

Jacob 6:13
Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.

Alma 12:12
And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.

Mosiah 16:10
Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—

There are several others I could quote as well.  The point is, when we see the word “bar,” it ought to call to mind a court or trial.  In this trial, each one of us will be a defendant.  We know that this is our role because we are the ones being judged.  Christ takes the role of judge.  After all, it is His bar.  So, that leaves the complainant. 

When we make a complaint against someone that results in them being tried in a court for a crime, we take on the role of accuser.  We accuse them of the crime, then they have to defend themselves.  The judge decides whether they are guilty and if they are, they are then sentenced.

Think about the people in your life who have wronged you.  Have you moved on, glad of the fact that when the final judgment comes, they will be judged for those things?   But in order for them to be judged of those things, someone must bring a complaint.  If you are the one who was hurt, it is YOU who will be called upon to file the accusation.  Otherwise there is no charge for the perpetrator to be charged with.

When you have your opportunity to file your complaint and make your accusation, what do you think will happen?  Remember, according to the law of justice, the punishment for sin is death.  Death from righteousness, that is.  It is removal from the presence of God completely, without even the Holy Spirit as a light.  Complete darkness.  So when your accusation is judged fairly, the penalty is spiritual death for the party who wronged you.

Ouch!  I guess that guy should not have been so unkind and unfeeling toward you.  Well, he got his.  Now it is your turn for judgment.  You enter the presence of the Lord, and He looks upon you with love and compassion.  He asks if anyone has any accusations against you.  You look around, confident in the saving grace of the Lord.  Then someone steps forward and tells the court about the time you….And you stop listening as you remember when you made such an awful mistake.  But surely you have been forgiven since then.  You have walked with the Lord for a long time.  You have been His friend.  What about the grace of salvation?

With horror, you realize that because you have made an accusation against another person, you must be held to the same standard that he was.  Therefore, the same punishment must be delivered to you that you would impose on your fellow man.  Otherwise the law of justice would not have proper claim. 

See, the thing is that mercy cannot claim you as her own if you make an accusation.  It would be unfair to the law of justice.  You are judged by the measure by which you judge another.  That standard is absolute, and only One among us ever merited of himself freedom from judgment. 

When others wrong you, or make mistakes, act like complete @sses, or harm you in any way, I implore you to remember the grace that Jesus Christ gives to us.  He is the way to salvation.  Without His grace, we are lost.  Do not accuse another.  If you do, you are in the employ of Satan, and will receive wages of him.  Break free from Satan’s grasp and come to Christ.  Then, at that day, His bar will be pleasing, and your conscience will be clear. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Glue That Holds Us Together

I've been thinking a lot lately about Alma 11-13 and the ideas of priesthood and sealing, and also about the resurrection.  I still don't have all the answers, but some after some intense studying of the scriptures, some communion with the Lord, and conversations with friends, I think I have a good start on understanding a few things.

We talk so much in the Church about "priesthood authority".  I will say this - we, as a Church and as "priesthood holders" have a little authority, as we suppose, and generally exercise that authority with unrighteousness (D&C 121:39).  But we ought to remember that the only power or influence that can be used by virtue of priesthood is persuasion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, unfeigned love, kindness, pure knowledge, and lack of hypocrisy (D&C 121:41-42).  If this is the case, what the Church call "priesthood authority" cannot possibly be right.

At the risk of sounding like an overly simple '70s song, all we need is love.  The pure love of Christ, of sacrifice, of charity, to have priesthood.  This is the glue that binds us together.  When we speak of temple sealings, we should remember that everything that happens in the temple is ONLY a symbol.  It is only a preparatory ordinance.  Do you think that God will not honor agency in the eternal world?  If you have been "sealed" in the temple to your spouse, do you think that is the end of what you need to do?  Just continue on in church activity and then the "odds are you will be exalted?"

There is SO SO SO much more that needs to be done.  You must first become cleansed within by the blood of Jesus Christ by obtaining the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.  Then you must learn to LOVE and sacrifice for your spouse, your children, your family, your friends.  You "seal" yourself to them by love.  True understanding of why this is comes from having an eternal perspective.  I don't want to get too much into this except to say this - if you were to gain eternal life in the presence of God and your spouse and children were shut out because they did not meet the conditions, and if God were willing to give them another try at mortal life, would you give up what you have gained to help them along in their journey? 

Do you love your family enough to risk everything?  This is what priesthood is, it is love so great, so powerful, so everlasting, that you would give up your very soul for the betterment and progress of others.  If you had such love for them, would you not be sealed to them?

The word "priest" means one who performs a sacrifice on behalf of another.  The suffix -hood means group or association.  So "priesthood" is a group or association of those who sacrifice for others.  It isn't some magical power, some authority to be lorded over another, some exclusive club.  To obtain priesthood, we must be willing to sacrifice and actually do it.  We must also be pure inside in order to do it.  How can we sacrifice for others if we are unclean?  If we have not gained eternal life from God, we have nothing to sacrifice, and therefore cannot have priesthood.

For anyone who reads this, I urge you to reconsider your understanding of priesthood.  Ask yourself if you are clean.  If not, go and obtain the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.  When you are clean, then you have something to offer, and you can go forth and sacrifice.  This willingness to sacrifice is the glue that holds us together, in this world and the world to come. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

That Guy

You know that guy, the one who never shaves before he comes to church, and always wears a colored shirt.  That guy who makes uncomfortable comments in Gospel Doctrine class and gives uncomfortable lessons in priesthood meeting.  That guy who just can't follow the manual or read from the Ensign.

Then there's that guy who turns every discussion into a gospel discussion, who sounds critical of the leaders.  That guy who doesn't attend church every week.  The one who wouldn't think anything about sneaking a mild barley drink now and then when no one is looking. 

And you also know that guy, the one whose relatives aren't pioneer stock, who left the church.  That guy who lets his kids play on Sunday and (gasp) watch TV on Sunday, but still claims to keep the Sabbath day holy.

And who could forget that guy with the checkered past, who didn't serve a mission, who had to confess a few things to the bishop.  That guy who is a spendthrift, always buying new cars and fancy stuff.

And finally, we all know that guy who just doesn't understand doctrine correctly, always spouting off funny ideas.  That guy who lets slip the occasional curse word, and skips church sometimes to take his family hiking or on vacation.

We all know that guy.  It's too bad about him.  He just doesn't get what it is be Mormon.  He doesn't follow his leaders.  He doesn't look like a Mormon.  That guy is going to end up in the Telestial kingdom if he doesn't follow the prophet.  I would hate to be that guy.

Oh crap...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Sure Foundation

I've been thinking a lot lately about faith, church, repentance, and coming to the Lord.  Actually, I think about these things a LOT (just ask my wife).   I feel compelled to write about my faith and how it ties into the Church, repentance, and Christ Himself.

If you haven't read it, my first blog post gives a little background about how I was converted to the Lord.  In essence, it was my story of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost (BFHG).  This mighty change in me marks the day that my eyes began to be opened.

I'm not going to rehash the whole story here, but suffice it say that many things have happened since July 2010 when I had my BFHG.  Members of my family have had crises of faith, some have left the Church altogether, and I have begun to critically examine my own faith.  I do not believe it was an accident that me, my sister, and my mother all began our awakening at around the same time, independently of one another.

As I have progressed spiritually, I have been able to see the utter foolishness in which I lived.  I always thought in the back of my mind I was "saved" in the Celestial Kingdom because I had done the ordinances and been "sealed."  But when I looked with eyes to see at who and what I was, it brought upon me the horror talked about, as we ponder what it would be like to be cut off from God eternally.  That is what truly motivated me to seek repentance.

After the Lord granted me a remission of my sins, I was DRIVEN, I hungered for knowledge of God.  Not long after this led me to discover the idea that I could see Jesus Christ in this life.  This is not something that I should be content to defer into eternity.  NOW is the time for men to come unto God.  I was so taken by this idea that I started looking everywhere for accounts of those who had received such a gift in this life.  I knew that this was discussed in the scriptures, but I was looking for accounts from here and now.  Why didn't this stuff happen now?  Why didn't our Church leaders talk about this?

In my studies, I came across the accounts of Iohanni Wolfgramm and several of the early Saints from the modern LDS church.  Then I found the writings of John Pontius, and things really began to take shape.  I was sure that Brother John had seen the Lord, and up until just a few months ago, I took as fact the idea that John had seen Jesus Christ.  However, as I go back and look at his writings, I can no longer see where he clearly says that he is a true witness of Christ.  Nevertheless, John was a good man, and I owe him a lot for writing what he did.

John Pontius's writings set the stage for me to discover the writings of Denver Snuffer.  At first, I would not read his accounts because I did not like the critical tone he occasionally took of the leaders of the church.  Then one day, I decided to ask God if Denver had really seen Jesus as he has testified of in The Second Comforter.  I knelt down and asked, and received a witness of the Spirit that Denver did indeed see Christ.  What a great motivation that was!  Even so, I was still not sure about him because of the criticisms I had read.

In September of 2012, I had several promptings in short period of time that I should read Passing the Heavenly Gift.  The Spirit told me that I had nothing to fear from truth, because God is a God of truth, and all truth comes from Him, and my faith is rooted in Jesus Christ and nothing and no one else.  And thank God it is, because I'm not sure I would have survived intact without that faith.

I read PTHG in two weeks.  There were a couple of parts that I had trouble accepting and those took me a few months to digest and understand.  But my paradigm of Heaven flipped upside down in those two weeks.  I was astounded at what I read.  But the Spirit testified to me so strongly that what I had read was true.  And it changed everything.  My entire understanding of Church history, of significant points and principles of doctrine, and of the scriptures, changed almost overnight.

Unlike many people I know, I did not have a sense of betrayal or anger associated with my paradigm shift in faith.  I am thankful for this.  On occasion I get frustrated and even get a flash of anger here or there, but I remind myself that the men who have led and now lead the Church are stuck with the same issues that confused me my whole life. 

As I have embraced truth, I find myself quite far from the LDS mainstream in my beliefs and views.  I don't publicly trumpet this (at least not in person or at church), but I have a far different understanding of things than most people that I know.  I still love the church and want to continue affiliating with it, preaching repentance and Jesus Christ to all that will listen.  My greatest desire would be that my family, friends, and neighbors would come to know Jesus Christ and be baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost so that they can be part of God's kingdom.  Without this vital change, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven because there is no other gate.

The more I try to follow the promptings of the Spirit, the more resolve I feel to cast away false traditions, traditions of men, and any and all things that hedge up the way between me and the Lord.  I feel like I'm trying to construct a mansion on a property that originally held a small cabin and still maintain a place to live while the home is under construction.  It is messy and uncomfortable.  Part of me would like to un-know everything I have learned.  A bigger part of me wants to step away from the church altogether for a time, just to have time to learn on my own.  I am determined to construct a mansion of truth and nothing else.  At some point, all of our false traditions have to be put away.

The glory of God is intelligence.  Intelligence is light and truth.  Therefore, I must search into truth, no matter how difficult, unpleasant, or ugly it may be.  I realize that this search may result in perceived offenses, deception, or anger from others.  That is as it must be.  But I MUST find Jesus Christ, in this mortal life, if I want to lay claim to the blessings that are offered through Him, the Firstborn.  I have no part of those blessings if I don't have knowledge. And the knowledge I seek is the knowledge that I may have a claim on those blessings.  That is the knowledge one must obtain when they are saved in the kingdom of God.  I am sure I am still a total fool.  I am a mortal, and I see through the glass darkly.  But a small sliver of light has penetrated my heart and given me to see just a bit more clearly.

For those who know me who may find this blog, I say with authority that I know where I stand before God.  I have a testimony of Jesus Christ as my savior.  I know it because I am a firsthand witness to His power to forgive sins, namely mine.  I have seen the Lord in vision and have tasted a very small portion of His love for the people of this world.  He loves us more than we can imagine, and He loves perfectly.  I hope to use the understanding I have received from Him to bring others to Him.  That is all I want from life, to bring souls to Christ.  I desire to have a place in the establishment of Zion in these last days, but I am willing to give it up if it will help others come unto Christ.  This is my testimony.  I say it in the name of Jesus Christ, with power and authority from the Holy Ghost.  Amen.