Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spiritual Technology

I don't remember how this idea really came about, but I think about it every now and then.
There are all kinds of prevalent technologies in this modern era we live in. It's very fascinating and exciting to me! I personally think we need a boom in power technology. Oil and gas seem old fashioned nowadays since there are better things out there.
These technologies range from electronic technology, mechanical technology, medical technology, etc. The technologies I mentioned are, what I think, external technologies. They are telestial technologies, if you will. We rave about the latest technologies–the latest iPhone, electric vehicle, television set, etc. So, why do I call these “telestial technologies”?:
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132)
Maybe that's a stretch for some. Well, just roll with it for a second. I believe there must be celestial technologies also. We don't think of it like that, though. And by celestial technology, I'll say spirit technology–an internal technology. I think our spirit is capable of any of these external technologies and more; speed travel, higher states of consciousness, pure forms of communication, etc. Think of some yourself! What is the spiritual technology counterpart of an external technology? Pretty cool to think about, right?
This is why I believe in a technology that the world knows and understands very little about. I believe that our own bodies and spirits have the potential of a celestial nature, which isn't possible with these external/telestial technologies. With this celestial technology, our bodies and minds will be able to comprehend in immeasurable ways compared to these lower technologies (e.g., electronic communication). Pure information, knowledge, and truth is possible with spiritual technology. Because I believe this spiritual ability is celestial, the telestial technology isn't capable of discovering it–it must come from within us; it must come from a higher source to us; it comes by a personal relationship with God and seeking His perfect will for us. Eventually, the telestial technology isn't even needed, because a practice of celestial laws prepare us for something greater.
From Hugh Nibley, Approaching Zion:
There is full-time employment for all simply in exploring the world without destroying it, and by the time we begin to understand something of its marvelous richness and complexity, we'll also begin to see that it does have uses that we never suspected and that its main value is what comes to us directly from mere coexistence with living things—the impact on our minds and bodies, subtle and powerful, that goes far beyond the advantages of converting all things into cash or calories.
…With our present limited knowledge we could devise a perfectly practical order of things in which there would be no need for doctors, lawyers, insurance men, dentists, auto mechanics, beauticians, generals, real estate men, prostitutes, garbage men, and used-car salesmen. Their work is justified as an unpleasant necessity, yet there have been successful human societies in which none of those professions existed, any more than dukes, earls, and kings need to exist in our society. Nature around us, such of it as has remained, admonishes us that paradise is a reality. Through modern revelations we have learned that Zion also is a reality. Paradise is the proper environment of Zion. Here we are faced with a clear-cut proposition that recent developments of world history, if nothing else, admonish us we can no longer afford to ignore. The Tenth Article of Faith contains our future: our glory or our condemnation.
My hope is that this may convince others that a higher power does exist. If one merely believes in spirit matter, there must be some greater potential that we can attain. Our spirit and bodies, our soul, are in a telestial state. To what extent can we enjoy these spiritual technologies in this life? Or should I say spiritual gifts? Our Heavenly Father has great gifts for us to enjoy in this life if we work for it! You know the scriptures.
So, what of all these external technologies?:
President Joseph Fielding Smith marveled at the technological advances of his day. “Great progress has been made in mechanics, chemistry, physics, surgery, and other things,” he said. “Men have built great telescopes that have brought the hidden galaxies to view. They have, by the aid of the microscope, discovered vast worlds of microorganisms. … They have discovered means to control disease. … They have invented machines more sensitive than the human touch, more far-seeing than the human eye. They have controlled elements and made machinery that can move mountains, and many other things have they done too numerous to mention. Yes, this is a wonderful age.” However, he was concerned about another trend he saw in the world. He lamented: “All of these discoveries and inventions have not drawn men nearer to God! Nor created in their hearts humility and the spirit of repentance, but to the contrary, to their condemnation. … Faith has not increased in the world, nor has righteousness, nor obedience to God.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven)
Don't get me wrong, technology has been great for us; but I can't help but wonder what we could have enjoyed! Our society, any society in the history of the world, passed up Zion for…external technologies? For some reason we prefer these lower technologies. Would we prefer to talk to God on our iPhone? Why would our “need” of the external technologies be extinguished?
From Approaching Zion:
Arthur C. Clarke writes that within the foreseeable future all the most powerful and lucrative callings in our world will exist no more. Because of new processes of synthesizing, organizing, programming basic materials of unlimited supply into the necessities of life, we shall soon see “the end of all factories, and perhaps all transportation of raw materials and all farming. The entire structure of industry and commerce … would cease to exist; … all material possessions would be literally as cheap as dirt… . [Then] when material objects are all intrinsically worthless, perhaps only then will a real sense of values arise.”
Essentially, Babylon will cease whereas Zion will thrive. We will not be working for money, but rather building up and working for Zion. This won't happen magically, but through living higher laws of the Gospel. I think learning how to live these laws and incorporating them in our lives would be necessary; but it must be done by knowledge as much as zeal.
Zion is attainable now, but we all have to prepare. Let's forget about these external technologies! Let's hone in our spiritual technologies through prayer, study, and worship! God delivers, I promise. He'll more than make up for what we will pass up. What we are capable to experience with the spiritual faculties are much greater! Yet, we can't ignore our telestial state of existence. We still have to serve and do many good works. But if we do it with an eye single to the glory of God, obeying His voice, we'll see miracles. It may very well be difficult, but if we can find comfort in Him rather than these external technologies, we're on the right track. If we're going to use them then let's use them for good. The less time we waste, the better. Let's bring about Zion.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Finding God

We'll start with my favorite scripture on this topic:
12 Now, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me, and withdrawn his face from me, I said in my heart: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly;now I have found thee; (Abraham 2)
Abraham was diligent in seeking God. Before this time, I would say Abraham had been well accustomed to hearing God's voice. He didn't stop there, though. It didn't count as finding God until, finally, he saw the Lord's face. It wasn't hearing His voice; it wasn't through a revelation by the Spirit; it was when he saw the face of the Lord that mattered. This is beautiful doctrine to me.
The scriptures testify of this doctrine various times. You just have to look for it and recognize it. President Lee stated that this is the Gospel in one verse:
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; (D&C 93)
But this is only for prophets and apostles. Right?
Orson Pratt states it so matter-of-fact:
And it is our privilege to so live that we may come into possession of all the promised blessings. Among the blessings promised by our Lord Jesus Christ, unto those who humble themselves, and seek unto Him, is that “You shall see my face, and know that I am.” This does not mean the Apostles only, but the promise is to every Latter-day Saint who will comply with the conditions, that such person “shall see my face, and know that I am.” These are some of the promises that have been made to the Latter-day Saints through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The same promise was made to ancient Israel, through Moses, the great lawgiver and Prophet who promised that they should all hear his voice, and see his face, if they would hearken to his counsels, and obey all His commandments. The promise was not to the Priesthood only, but every son and daughter of God had the same promise, because all are destined to come into the presence of God, and behold the glory of His countenance. If we would attain to these blessings, and enjoy the fullness of the promises made unto the people of God, we must cleanse ourselves from all unrighteousness, that we may endure His presence in the world of glory.
Even if you don't believe it, live as if He were here already:
11 Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them. (Jarom 1)
This is what the prophets have been teaching all along. From TPJS:
…This is why Adam blessed his posterity; he wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, etc., “whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10.) Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing; and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them; but they prophesied of a day when this glory would be revealed.
It's not about creating a religion. It's about preparing a people: Zion. Isn't this what we're preparing for? This is the end result. How can we prepare for Zion, or how can we prepare to see Him now if we don't prepare now; to live as if He were already here?
It is all done by faith:
8 But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world, and glorified the name of the Father, and prepared a way that thereby others might be partakers of the heavenly gift, that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.
9 Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith.
10 Behold it was by faith that they of old were called after the holy order of God. (Ether 12)
Doesn't it make sense that this is the way? If we would just hearken unto the Spirit perfectly, our doubts would quickly fade. It may sound impossible, but it's not. As we obey the Spirit, our faith burns brighter and brighter. We will know when it comes from God over time and experience. It would come to a point that no doubt would remain. In the process, the Spirit cleanses us as we obey. This is the faith of the Brother of Jared.
What more could I say?:
41 And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen. (Ether 12)
These things are real! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! Obtain and seek the best gifts! The things of this world are useless, but only to be used in building God's kingdom on the earth! Hearken unto the Spirit! Seek His voice! Okay…calm down; but this is great stuff!
Eventually we'll get there if we're diligent:
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)
I invite all to seek the Lord, in this life. I know it's possible. Perfect obedience to the Spirit is possible. Zion is possible. We are weak, but God will help us to overcome. He has helped me overcome many things, although I still lack much. Yet, I acknowledge the source of this power to overcome. Obedience is rigid at first, but if we are diligent it will become natural with His help:
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm 27)

The Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost

My wife is a superb example of living in the 'now'. She's a great doer. She's very accomplished, and is a very capable person. She has a strong, determined mind. On the other hand, I tend to live in the future, and worry in the 'now' about the future. I've been chastened a few times already to “lighten up” and to quit taking myself so seriously (by the Spirit, not my wife). I admit to setting a high standard for myself, and I think God wants me to be content with what He's so graciously given me at this time and to do well with it. He has allowed me to see where I need to be. I've experienced it.
So, why am I telling you this in relation to the topic? Well, this is one thing I need to work on before obtaining this blessing. So, this is a really important topic to me. It's the first hard-fought badge in this mortal life, in my opinion. Why is it so important?:
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3)
It's the minimum requirement to enter into the Celestial Kingdom. To say it's not an event, or to think we have obtained this blessing when we really haven't would be devastatingly damning, in my opinion. Maybe that lacks tact, but give me a pass for this one (it's difficult to compile something in a public setting when it was written for me). We really should gain some understanding for what it is.
There is a difference between a forgiveness of sins and a remission of sins. Those who are born again have a remission of sins:
2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins. (3 Nephi 12)
7 And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God. (D&C 82)
As I said, I know I have yet to experience the fulness of this blessing. I'm quite unqualified and inadequate to teach it. It takes spiritual acuity to even ask if one has received it. And make it count. You don't want to get this wrong. Research the scriptures and read the experiences of those who attained the blessing. If we aren't involved in the scriptures daily, that would be our start; that along with communication with God and knowing/recognizing His voice. What are the blessings? Although one has had a change of heart, it doesn't mean one has received the mighty change of heart. I've had a few changes of heart. Great even. But I know what I don't have. Surely, this is the time to repent and prepare to meet God. This is our shot. It takes strict obedience to the word of God. It brings great works by small means. We then know where the power lies. The angst and love that the prophets have in the scriptures testify of the importance of its attainment. Therefore, I leave an example of someone who I know has received it:
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
17 Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
18 Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
19 I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
20 I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?
21 I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
22 And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? Behold, what will these things testify against you?
23 Behold will they not testify that ye are murderers, yea, and also that ye are guilty of all manner of wickedness?
24 Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?
25 I say unto you, Nay; except ye make our Creator a liar from the beginning, or suppose that he is a liar from the beginning, ye cannot suppose that such can have place in the kingdom of heaven; but they shall be cast out for they are the children of the kingdom of the devil.
26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
27 Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
29 Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
30 And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
31 Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!
32 Yea, even wo unto all ye workers of iniquity; repent, repent, for the Lord God hath spoken it!
33 Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
34 Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;
35 Yea, come unto me and bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire—
36 For behold, the time is at hand that whosoever bringeth forth not good fruit, or whosoever doeth not the works of righteousness, the same have cause to wail and mourn.
37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!
38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.
39 And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.
40 For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.
41 Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.
42 And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works.
43 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should hear me, for I speak in the energy of my soul; for behold, I have spoken unto you plainly that ye cannot err, or have spoken according to the commandments of God.
44 For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come.
45 And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?
46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
47 And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.
48 I say unto you, that I know of myself that whatsoever I shall say unto you, concerning that which is to come, is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.
49 And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again. (Alma 5)

Keep the Commandments

If you asked me a few years ago about this subject I wouldn't have had too much to say about it. I mean, it seemed pretty straight forward. It might have even been a pretty boring topic (okay, it was). However, I have gained different insights where this topic has become quite fascinating to me.
First, I want to share an experience on this subject. I'm not too big on sharing experiences, but this one makes a good point. I hope.
I had been pondering over making a decision in my life and took it to the Lord so I could move forward in faith. I was just about to start studying the scriptures and decided to ask Him at this time about it. I had this certain decision specifically stated in my mind, and before I could utter a word about it, I heard the words, “it is required of you”. At first, I thought it was pretty peculiar that God would answer me in such language. Nevertheless, I immediately wrote the answer in my journal, determined to follow, and began reading the scriptures. To start off, it just so happened that I read Mosiah Chapter 2:
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you. (Mosiah 2)
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? (Mosiah 2)
To me, there are two types of commandments. The first type: these are the written commandments in scripture, commandments in the Church (statutes), commandments from our modern day prophet (via the Holy Ghost). The origin of these commandments are from God. The scriptures explicitly state what God requires of us. These are commandments for everyone. Then, there is the second type: these are things God requires of us personally and uniquely; or as the scripture says, “he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you”. I'm sure you could think of a bajillion examples of these in the scriptures, e.g., Nephi was commanded to build a ship.
How do we think of commandments? Are we doing well? The following is a contrast between how Laman and Lemuel think of the people then, and Nephi's view:
Laman and Lemuel's view:
22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us. (1 Nephi 17)
By the way, Nephi directly answers them as to whether they “had hearkened unto the words of the Lord”.
Nephi's view:
35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it. (1 Nephi 17)
Why was there such a great difference in perception between what Laman and Lemuel perceived of the people keeping the commandments and what Nephi perceived of the people keeping the commandments? Keeping the commandments is serving God and obeying the Spirit. This includes the written commandments and obeying them in truth. Keeping the commandments in this way will help us “receive grace for grace” and God will help us in our growth.
Whichever type of commandment we're talking about, it must always be that we obey because we obey the Lord. If I could stress anything in ALL my writings ALL the time, it would be this:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matthew 22)
It's God's will we must seek. Why?:
4 For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him. (D&C 3)
I believe God is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. He cares very much about us. This is why He gives us commandments:
4 And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me. (D&C 59)
Commandments are to draw us closer to God. In fact, they are to propel our faith in God. I hope we don't think commandments are burdensome, because they are actually great blessings to us. I will also add that we are never too unworthy to seek His help or to hear His voice. I've heard His voice in the most unworthy periods of my life. I heard His voice and acted in faith, and in doing so increased my ability to repent and draw near to Him again. He will teach us how to overcome.
As we do so, God strengthens us. He cleanses us through seeking His voice and His spirit. One grave mistake I made when being released from my mission was thinking that my great spiritual experiences were over; that because I wasn't a missionary anymore I wouldn't feel the spirit as frequently or have as many spiritual experiences. THIS IS FALSE:
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (D&C 88)
C'mon, now. Even Cain heard God's voice, and he wasn't all that great. To part the heavens, we must have a desire to continually seek God–not just when we're going through a tough trial, but always. Make sure that when heaven opens, you listen and obey. Otherwise it'll close right back up again and we'll wonder why God abandoned us when He really hasn't (that's not the only reason it closes, though).
Here's a summation:
25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things. (1 Nephi 15)
Notice how he separates “give heed to the word of God” and “keep his commandments”? Why wouldn't they be one and the same?
God has also warned us the importance of knowing and obeying the Lord's voice in modern times:
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.
51 For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
53 And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D&C 84)
The spiritual blessings are far greater than what we can now see; and to me, they exceed the value in temporal blessings.


I wasn't planning on posting something about this topic, but here it is! Nothing too great, but something that I've experienced as being very important.
Humility is not being concerned with our petty, daily injustices, but rather submitting to God's will. That can be a challenge. Many times it takes a great trial to bring us down low. And many times that's probably the reason. Many times it's because of our own fault. It's a requirement in our search for God. He asks of us a sacrifice of “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3rd Nephi 9). Being humble to our neighbors can be a very useful trait, but it's the humility to God that really counts:
38…Take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you. (Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 34)
I don't know why, but that is beautiful language to me: “humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God”. It is very descriptive of the type of real humility that we must obtain. Humility is what prepares us to do God's will. It prepares us to detach ourselves from faith in things and people, and instead prepares us to renew a determined faith in God:
41 O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi, Chapter 9)
With humility, we can start anew. We admit to God that we know nothing. Our way is not going to work. It takes that process to believe correctly. And remember, “unbelief” in the scriptures also means that we don't believe the correct doctrine:
7 And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be. (2 Nephi 32)
I think that God is more likely to give us truth when we beg for it in humility, after seeing the errors of our ways. I hope begging doesn't have a negative connotation. I don't mean for it to. I mean, we're all beggars. We all need God. It becomes clear to us by our weaknesses, sin, and long-fought trials that perhaps are yet to be won. It is then after we have fought for the truth that we will finally treasure it. Something for which we'll always remember and be thankful. It becomes locked in our heart, and sacred. We made a sacrifice to obtain it, after all.
32 May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road! (2 Nephi 4)

The Role of a Prophet

I've retained this title from my initial journal entry, and I think I'll keep it that way. This entry was built around this scripture, which then accumulated a lot more information pertaining to it in a relatively short period of time:
10 Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?
11 Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow. (2 Nephi 7)
The first time I read this I thought, how can someone obey the voice of his servant and still walk in darkness?
What I think it means is that there are those who are afraid to submit to the Lord directly. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth from God. We don't want to repent. We don't want to sacrifice everything we have to know God. Instead, we'll just listen to His servants and obey them. It takes real, genuine effort to come to God and face Him, to sacrifice everything to know Him. Geesh, this sounds harsh, but these are all pretty great things! Seeking God in our lives brings true peace. It's not seeking God that brings unnecessary pain in our lives.
Is that what it means to “walk in darkness and have no light”?–To follow the prophet blindly?–To trust in your own ways and not the Lord's?
Here is the Old Testament's version in Isaiah (difference in bold):
10 ¶Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow. (Isaiah 50)
This verse clarifies what it means between walking in darkness and light. Can it be any more clear?:
12 ¶Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8)
Is there much faith required in blind obedience? By the way, it wasn't blind obedience when Adam did not know why he made burnt offerings to the Lord. He did it because God Himself told him to. It's not blind obedience when God tells us to do something.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— (D&C 84)
On the other hand, did Laman and Lemuel obey Lehi? Yes, although grudgingly and usually unwillingly. Did they see it as obeying Lehi or obeying God? If they did understand God's will and followed Nephi's example and asked God, I'm confident that we would have likely seen a different type of Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. But they obeyed to some degree, nonetheless, and still walked in darkness. I imagine that one still has to have pure intent initially to receive a witness if it's after the trial of faith.
Brigham Young said this:
Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.“
That is, read the scriptures with the guidance of the Spirit. Is there any other way to read them? If the scriptures were written with the guidance of the Spirit then surely we must attune ourselves to that same Spirit of understanding. In this way, it is God we obey in the end. Not His servants. So, how do we do that?
There is a correlation with following God and obeying our leaders. We need to know, to some degree, that what our leaders say comes from the Lord. Then we can act in faith–-not blind obedience. So, what's the difference? Faith requires some assurance. Is it in line with scripture? Do we have a witness from the Holy Ghost? It is then that we can act with some faith to act accordingly.
Our leaders want and need our prayers just like we want and need prayers to fulfill our callings. It's a unified effort to bring souls unto Christ. But we have to learn directly from God. We must act in faith by some assurance. Otherwise, there is no faith to act on. It would become faith in our leaders. Faith placed in anyone/anything but God is a form of idolatry. That includes faith in a church. Faith must lie solely in our faith in God, and be detached from anything/anyone else.
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)
What if we go through this life without seeking God? This scripture parallels well with Isaiah's words. Here, Job is speaking of those who don't know God (see entire chapter):
5 Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.
The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.
7 The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down.
8 For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare. (Job 18)
Here is another key to unfolding Isaiah's words found in TPJS:
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel—said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church—that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls—applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall—that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.
Additionally, from TPJS:
Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.
Even Wilford Woodruff stated (in reference to the parable of the ten virgins):
These judgments that I have read will come to pass, and though Brigham, Joseph, Noah, Daniel and Job, or anybody else were in the land, they could not do more than deliver their own souls by their righteousness. The man that is righteous cannot save the wicked. We have got to live our own righteousness, that is keep the commandments of God.
I feel this also needs to be brought up. President Wilford Woodruff once said:
I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff [Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212–13.)
The key word here, of course, is attempt. I highly doubt any prophet has deliberately attempted to lead us astray. The word attempt implies putting forth an effort to do something. But could it be that we have erred in doctrine to some degree, in some ways? Has it ever happened?
Pres. E.T. Benson sheds more light on this subject, quoting various church authorities with the same insights:
Said Brigham Young:
“You may know whether you are led right or wrong, as well as you know the way home; for every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind …
"What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire of themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path that the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.”(JD 9:149-150).
Elder Heber C. Kimball stated: “The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1888 edition, p. 461).
How then can we know if a man is speaking by the spirit? The Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants give us the key (see 1 Cor. 2:10-11; 2 Ne. 33:1; D&C 50:17-23; D&C 100:5-8). President Clark summarized them well when he said:
“We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak … the Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” (Church News, July 31, 1954.)
Will this Spirit be needed to check actions in other situations? Yes, and it could be used as a guide and a protector for the faithful in a situation described by Elder Lee at the last general priesthood session of the Church when he said:
“In the history of the Church there have been times or instances where Counselors in the First Presidency and others in high station have sought to overturn the decision or to persuade the President contrary to his inspired judgment, and always, if you will read carefully the history of the Church, such oppositions brought not only disastrous results to those who resisted the decision of the President, but almost always such temporary persuasions were called back for reconsideration, or a reversal of hasty action not in accordance with the feelings, the inspired feelings, of the President of the Church. And that, I submit, is one of the fundamental things that we must never lose sight of in the building up of the kingdom of God” (Conference Report, April, 1963, p. 81).
Maybe Paul is right that we need to "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” before God (Philippians 2). How confident do we feel in our ability to obey God than it is to obey the prophet? If the lights were turned off, could we still see? My experience is that God will prove us greatly and see how far we will go to obey Him. He may ask of us things to do that seem so easy ordinarily, but for some reason will challenge us greatly in the moment. Hearkening to the Spirit greatly expands our faith over time much quicker than faithlessly obeying the words of the prophet. I admit that many times I have shrunk in fear to obey, but the goal should be “that [we] shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 98). I strongly believe this is possible.
So, what am I trying to say?
We should only revere bishops and prophets for what they are–-men. It is always about the message they carry and never about the person, with the exception of Christ.
From TPJS:
Wednesday, Feb. 8.—This morning I read German and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that “a prophet is always a prophet;” but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.—DHC 5:265.
The duty devolves upon ourselves to know when the prophet, or any of our leaders, speak in the name of the Lord. Nothing has to be done in blind obedience. We should only trust in God. Obtaining the gift of salvation requires knowledge, and it must be gained by seeking His voice. In my opinion, the prophet (today, or in the past) doesn't want us to follow him. They're only trying to show us the way to the Father:
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel. (Numbers 11)
So, what is the role of a prophet? In part, I would say they give us a jump start in how to approach God. But it's still our individual journey. We can't live on borrowed light in these last days. The end result should be to obey God.
Like Paul said:
24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. (2 Corinthians 1)
26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
30 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.
31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
32 Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Host. (2 Nephi 28)

I've recently been reading Avraham Gileadi's interpretation of Isaiah. I agree with his interpretation of the Isaiah verses I've used (Isaiah 50:10-11). His interpretation is as follows:

For verse 10: He implies, because these two ideas are in parallel, that those who fear the Lord are the ones who heed the voice of the Servant. Those who don’t fear the Lord don’t heed his voice. The Servant is the light who is sent to light up the darkness of these people. So those are all word links. They’re also metaphors. The voice is the Servant himself, in that sense, and thelight is the Servant himself. He personifies the light. Walking in the darkness, since the king of Assyria, and Babylon personifies darkness, it means that you’re influenced by him, in a metaphorical sense, on that level. But, if you trust in the Lord, and rely upon God, it has its own power—then the light begins to dawn for you and things begin to make sense out of the chaos, out of the confusion. And then there is hope and there’s the possibility of deliverance for you, from the powers of darkness, from the king of Assyria, and from the destruction of Babylon, from the Sodom and Gomorrah calamity.

For verse 11: Since he’s talking mainly, here, to a reprobate group—the ones who were cut of—or the ones who have alienated themselves, the ones who have a bone to pick him—this is the final summary. “ But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then, by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled. This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.” In other words, they’re just trouble-makers who are lighting fires all over the place, that people need to keep putting out. The light of truth that they have is like a mere spark, in comparison to the light that the Lord has sent in the personhood of his Servant, or to the greater light that the Lord himself is. The Servant, although he’s a light, which is a power of creation, is only a forerunner to the Lord himself who is the greater light. He’s like the sun, peeking up over the horizon, and the Servant leads into God’s presence. But they won’t even have anything to do with the Servant, so they’re going to end up in agony. “This shall you have from my hand,” that is from his left hand, the king of Assyria. They will experience all of the covenant curses that come upon the wicked, through the instrumentality of the Lord’s left hand, the king of Assyria.

Here is his website: