Sunday, December 20, 2015

Salvation is the Greatest Gift

My Christian friends sometimes tell me that if I believe, I will be saved.  I agree with them.  But what I believe about salvation is way more nuanced than just believe and be saved.  If anything, the Book of Mormon teaches a black and white view of salvation.  It talks about heaven and hell.  Either you go to one or the other.  This is true and I agree with this but the revelations published as the Doctrine and Covenants gives me more of the shades of grey in between salvation and damnation.  You might wonder how there can be shades of grey if I believe in heaven and hell. Let’s just say that heaven and hell is the short answer and pertains to what happens to the soul before the final judgement.  The eternal outcome of the soul will be as nuanced as there are shades of good and evil because the judgement will be just.  And even in the nuanced version of salvation, if you think that any kind of separation from God is hell, then there is a way to see the Mormon doctrine of “degrees of glory” as black and white too.

The Lord Jesus Christ offered his blood as a sinless sacrifice for the salvation of all the children of God.  In my theology, there is both a physical death and a spiritual death.  Physical death comes from the Fall of Adam and Eve.  The spiritual death comes from sin.  Jesus Christ’s sacrifice atones for both types of death but in different ways.  When it comes to physical death, Jesus Christ’s death breaks the bands of death and everyone of every race and creed is redeemed from this death by receiving a resurrected body whether they believe or not.  This salvation a free gift.  Jesus offers salvation from spiritual death but we have to repent of our sins.  Sins are choices, and our agency is inviolable in heaven.  So if we don’t want to give up our sins, God will not make us.  We cannot be redeemed from the effects of sin if we don’t voluntarily give up the sin.  Here’s an example…how effective is it when someone takes away an addictive substance from another?  You don’t really think God will take these things away from us, do you?  However, he will not tolerate sin in his presence so we, if not redeemed at the Judgement Day, will have to dwell apart from him.  This is technically hell, even if the glory to which we are assigned is a peaceful place.

All of God’s children who have lived on Earth fall into one of these categories with only a few like Judas Iscariot, Christ’s betrayer, being in the category of Son of Perdition.  This chart is based on the words of scripture not my own philosophy.  You can read any of these scriptures online at

The concept of “Degrees of Glory” is not original to Joseph Smith.  Paul mentioned them.  However, Joseph Smith saw in vision details about them.  His vision persuades us to make the effort to make our faith real by actions that express it and show our commitment to God.  While no amount of effort will be sufficient to merit salvation, Christ has already committed his life to stand in mediation for us before the Father at the Final Judgment.  He will recognize us by our actions and we will recognize him.  In Matthew 7:22-23 we read, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  

I hope that in studying this topic with me, you have a clearer understanding of salvation.  I also hope that if you receive no gifts at Christmas, and if life is generally bad for you, that you still have Christ’s great gift — salvation from physical death which is free to all.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

War in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon is a scriptural record from a civilization with Jewish roots.  The book contains a narrative of the prophets and post-mortal visit of Jesus Christ to the people in the Americas somewhere.  It is also a story with symbolic merit regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ in that the sequence of events in the narrative supposedly mirror the sequence as it will occur in the last days.  In this way, the record is instructive in preparing for the second coming.

With that in mind, I looked at the sequence of battles where Captain Moroni, a heroic Nephite leader, successfully beats back a Lamanite invasion to see if there is any similarity between this war and World War II.  It is my hypothesis that there is a loose similarity which would support the idea that the whole book mirrors end times.

I can tell you for sure that there is not a Book of Mormon warrior that I would equate with Hitler although there is a similar use of flattery to gain political power. (Alma 46:3-7)

However, the similarities I found are interesting.
  1. There is a major exodus of Lamanites out of their homeland into Nephite-occupied territory before the conflict (Alma 27:14-15).  The similarity is that roughly half a million people left their homeland and fled to other countries in Europe and America because of conflict surrounding Nazi domination.  Source
  2. Massive defenses are constructed by Captain Moroni. (Alma 50:1-6)  During the 1930’s the French constructed the Maginot line.  (Source)  In 1942, Hitler started building the Atlantic Wall.  (Source)
  3. The citizens desire to change their form of government.  Nephites government has consisted of a secular rule by judges combined with a religious rule by a prophet.  The citizens want a king to supersede both. (Alma 51:5)  The similarity is that throughout Europe there was a collective interest in changing governments.  With capitalism in the middle, some advocated the political far right like Hitler, while others advocated the political far left like Stalin. (Source)
  4. The Nephite armies with Captain Moroni at the helm are faced with a two-front war. One Lamanite military general Jacob was unconquerable.  (Alma 43-62, 52:22, 33)  World War II was fought on two fronts, the European front and the Asia/Pacific front. The Japanese Kamikazi fighters were unconquerable.
  5. Young men turn the tide for the exhausted Nephite army. (Alma 56:5-7)  Young untrained men fly planes for the British Air Force and turn the tide against advancing German forces which makes it possible for US forces to land on British soil before invading France. (Source)
The Book of Mormon is a significant body of the prophetic words and counsel of God, the Father, to the whole world.  I believe it.  I see both practical truths for daily living and global truths pertaining to the Kingdom of God on Earth.  My testimony started when I asked God if this book is true.  It has continued to grow and develop as I search and discover the significance of each holy prophet in ancient and modern times.  Here is a second witness that the Book of Mormon is true.

Image credit:  2000 Stripling Warriors, painting by Arnold Friberg, used with permission

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Bride

I went to a wedding reception at the Paloma Pachanga, a ranch in Texas.  The bride was beautiful and beaming.  The groom was impeccably dressed and very suave.  The parents graciously greeted the guests and provided the feast.  All the guests celebrated the auspicious beginning of this couple’s new life.  It was all very traditional.

John the Revelator saw a wedding…
“The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white…” Rev 19:7-8

Join me as I explore the details of this wedding.  John said that the holy city, New Jerusalem, descends out of heaven like a bride. Rev 21:2

This is no ordinary wedding.  The groom is called “The Lamb.”  The bride is called, “New Jerusalem.”  New Jerusalem is a literal place and a gathering of saints. Isaiah speaks of a land that “shall be married” and that God will “rejoice” over it the way a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.  Isa 62:4-5

So is this wedding really an event?  If Jesus hadn’t told so many wedding stories, I might say no.  I think this is an event at the second coming that we need to watch for and prepare to attend.  Allow me to summarize briefly the stories Jesus told.  
  • The Ten Virgins:  Ten women wait at the gate to be admitted to a wedding.  Five leave to replace oil in their lamps and when they return, the gate is shut and they are not admitted. (Matt 25:1-13)
  • Men with Lights Waiting For Their Lord:  The Lord returns from a wedding and when he knocks, they open immediately because they have been watching. (Luke 12:35-48)
  • Great Supper with Guests who Wouldn’t Come:  The invited guests wouldn’t come so the poor and later the destitute were compelled to come. (Luke 14:16-24)
  • The Master Who has Shut the Door:  The dialogue that happens after the bridegroom has come, let the guests in, shut the door, and more come. (Luke 13:25-30)
  • When You Go to a Wedding:  Instruction to sit in the lowest seat, and how to invite guests (Luke 14:7-15)
All these stories talk about getting in to the event, not the actual ceremony or the feast thereafter.  Have you ever heard of a wedding where the invited guests weren’t allowed to enter?  I haven’t.  These stories emphasize being ready and waiting.

Why doesn’t John’s narrative include the feast?  Isaiah talks about a glorious feast when he says, “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” (Isa 25:6)  He talks about the people who waited for the Lord, but doesn’t mention that the Lord is the bridegroom.  The picture becomes clearer as the details are gathered from various locations in the Bible.

The bride wears a white dress as noted above.  Her skirts are symbolic of the gathering of people who come to her. (Isa 49:18) Unfortunately, the skirt is soiled with the blood of the innocents, which is why the Last Days will begin with destruction and end with a wedding. (Jer 2:32-36)  It is the peril of destruction that compels the destitute as mentioned in Luke 14.  When the Lord returns to the Earth at the second coming, those that are waiting for him will be invited into the marriage supper…and there’s going to be a rush for the lowest seats.

So if the bride is the church as clarified by Joseph Smith in D&C 109:73-75, and the church is a collection of saints as described by the Revelator in Rev 3:13-22, then here’s a proposition that requires some stretching.  There may be a correlation between the church as Grecian cities and the revelation Daniel saw of an entity called Grecia in Dan 8:5-8, 21.  If there is a positive correlation, then the collective “church” is going down because of the blood of the innocents.  Yet, individually, the saints will be saved as stated by Jeremiah, “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jer 3:14-15  I truly believe that biblical prophets wrote so extensively about the Last Days to prepare us to weather great losses and still be found waiting for the bridegroom when he comes.

Image credit:  Wedding Reception In Gold - Flickr/Flower Factor

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Revelation: Part 3

John Sees Destruction

To put what John saw in context, he begins by describing the epochs or “seals” led by a prophet.  This helps the reader to understand that what he is about to describe occurs in the seventh seal which prepares the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Very briefly,  the first epoch is described as a man on a white horse. One interpretation is that this prophet is Enoch.  The second epoch is described as a man on a red horse.  This prophet is Noah.  The third epoch is described as a man on a black horse.  This prophet is Abraham.  Next, a pale horse symbolizes Moses’ epoch.  Then the martyrs are mentioned referring to the epoch when Jesus Christ walked among men.  Lastly, the sixth seal is a day of preparation when people of all the tribes of Israel are gathered and arrayed in white robes. The  gathering of Israel is an oft-mentioned theme in the Old Testament. The seventh seal begins with destruction in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  The first six epochs are described in Rev 6-7 and Zech 6:1-8 gives additional insight.

First I want to summarize briefly what John saw happening in the seventh seal.  He saw seven angels orchestrate the powers of heaven and earth to cause disasters that would humble all people and call them to repentance.  After this first set of disasters, a separation occurs.  Zion, or the believers gather in opposition to Babylon or the remaining unrighteous unbelievers.  Amidst the believers a special rescue force of 144,000 is prepared.  They help believers gather to safety.  A second set of seven angels orchestrates a second wave of disasters.  This time, the disasters target Babylon who represents all those who chose not to gather to safety.  The power of the global government of Babylon is described.  A last call goes out for any remaining “people” who may not be believers but who want to gather to safety.  A group of ten kings topple the global government of Babylon but many people remain who do not repent.  Jesus Christ, riding a white horse, and accompanied by a heavenly army captures the False Prophet and fights the final battle with Babylon.  With the forces of evil in a state of impotence due to the strength of believers to resist all temptations, the the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ commences.  A few events happen on Earth after the Millennium, most notably the Battle of Gog and Magog, after which the Earth is renewed and receives a state of glory suitable to be the habitation of and location of the throne of Jesus Christ.  This is a summary of Rev 8-22.

The Revelation gives a lot of information on the descriptive characteristics and actions of Babylon so that it will be recognized for what it is.  The Revelation does not describe proprietary information on the divine rescue plan of God to protect and promote Zion or the believers while all the destruction is going on.  Wouldn’t God want people to recognize Zion and get to safety?  He does plan to save Zion but he isn’t telling his plan of action because that would allow others to thwart it.  Believers have been taught all through the Bible how to listen and recognize his voice and in this time their ability to do that will be a matter of life and death.  However, death as an outcome is not necessarily bad for believers because if they die in Christ they will be ok.

So, with that summary, lets go into detail on the first set of disasters found in Revelation 8-10.  These disasters may have a physical and a spiritual fulfillment.  I cannot interpret these words, but I can summarize what is found there and you can ponder it.  

First Disaster:  hail, fire mingled with blood and a third part of trees and green grass is burnt up.  I found that Isaiah mentioned grass being burnt in Isa 40:5-8.  He said all flesh is grass.  So if this were physically fulfilled as written trees and grass would burn.  If it were spiritually fulfilled maybe the burning is like a refiner’s fire which is mentioned multiple times in the Bible.

Second Disaster: a great mountain burning with fire and a third part of sea creatures and ships die. I think that only a volcano would burn with fire but a volcano would be a physical fulfillment. One other reference to a volcano is in Isa 34:9. The idea of a third may have something to do with purification as referenced in Numbers 19:12.  It’s mentioned in the first, second and third, fourth and sixth disasters.  I don’t know if it is literal.  One other Old Testament prophet spoke of a destruction by thirds in Ezekiel 5:2.

Third Disaster:  a great star turns all the water bitter via Wormwood/Artemisia.  There are a few references to Wormwood in scripture but the one that struck me was in Lamentations 3:18-20 where the bitter water was such a potent reminder of God’s power that just the memory of it humbled the prophet.

Fourth Disaster: a third part of the sun, moon and stars was darkened.  This idea is repeated in many Last Days prophecies.  If it were fulfilled physically there would be darkness covering the daylight.  I have thought about this prophecy and my personal interpretation is more symbolic.  I think the sun is like first world countries, the moon like second world countries and the stars are all the other countries.  I think this verse could be fulfilled by an economic disaster that shuts down trade in many but not all countries.

Fifth Disaster:  a star falls and a key is given to the “bottomless pit” or heaven.  In this disaster a creature like a locust torments men for five months.  A physical fulfillment would be actual locusts infesting the land.  A spiritual fulfillment might be that tanks reminiscent of locusts cause destruction through warfare.

Sixth Disaster:  four angels are loosed to kill a third part of men by fire, smoke and brimstone. I don’t know how this will be fulfilled but Isaiah used the idea of brimstone to talk about a day of vengeance in Isa 34. When I see the word brimstone used in scripture I usually think of nuclear bombs but that is my own interpretation.

Seventh Disaster:  this "Mystery" disaster is divided into three “woes.”  The first woe is that two witnesses will prophesy for 3.5 years.  They will be killed and their bodies lie in the streets until they are spontaneously resurrected.  The second woe is a great earthquake.  The third woe is lightening, thunder, an earthquake and great hail.

What is the reason for these disasters and the second set of disasters John saw?  When I read The Revelation, I see that they are followed by a call to separate from Babylon.  The disasters motivate people to put aside their pride and unite against evil. The disasters motivate people to repent of sins they would otherwise not acknowledge.  There will always be some who won’t repent. Jeremiah says that dishonesty before God is one of the biggest reasons people will be destroyed.  They won’t acknowledge their sins, or the effects of their sins on others and they “hold fast to deceit and refuse to return.” Jer 8:5

Read The Revelation: Part 1
or The Revelation: Part 2

Interesting news items:
Did you know that there are 1,700 seed banks in the world to preserve seed in case of widespread disaster?  LINK

If you liked this post you might like Last Days Parables

Image credit:  The Pale Horse by Gustave Dore - Flickr/Waiting For the Word

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Revelation: Part 2

John Sees Believers

John depicted with a Church leader
In my last post, I explained how John the Revelator saw God and the glory of Heaven.  This post will cover the part of John’s vision concerning the variety of believers at the time of global destruction before the second coming of Jesus Christ.  What he saw is hard to understand because he spoke of the believers using geography words reflective of the church in his day.  Today believers are sprinkled among every nation.  Some live in poverty under the thumb of a ruthless dictator.  Some live in freedom.  While John did not judge believers based on what he saw, his vision shows that God is aware of the many who believe and the circumstances in which they live.

This post is only about the believers John saw. I’m going to assume that most are Christians.  However, based on the words in this chapter, I think Jews are considered believers even though they only believe half of the Christian Bible.

The first group of believers John names “Ephesus.”  You can substitute any nation, creed or minority group.  I won’t speculate on who John saw.  This group has leaders who have lied to them.  These believer have not fainted but they are weak.  They have left their “first love.”  I’m going to take a guess at what their first love was:  The Bible.  In taking that guess, I’m assuming that these believers are in an area that was founded on Biblical principles and virtues making it their “first love” or founding principles.

The second group of believers John names “Smyrna.”  This group has corrupt leaders.  John calls them Jews.  My guess is that they are Jews.  They live in poverty and tribulation.  John counsels them to fear not the suffering of the body because the “second death” or suffering of the soul after the final judgement is worse.

The third group of believers John names “Pergamos.”  These believer live “where Satan’s seat is.”  The clues to these believers circumstances are in the doctrine of Balaam expounded in 2 Peter 2:10-22 and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  The Nicolaitans were a mafia-like group.  In some countries this looks more like a drug cartel.

The fourth group of believers John names “Thyatira.”  These believers are full of good works, faith and charity.  That’s good!  However, they have allowed adultery to continue among them unchecked.  John foretells great tribulation and death among them in the last days.

The fifth group of believers John names “Sardis.”  These believers are spiritually dead.  To understand what he means by “spiritually dead” I found a few other contemporaries who used similar language.  James says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)  Paul says, “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14) I wonder if being spiritually dead means that faith is dead, works are dead or both faith and works are dead among these believers.  John counsels this group to strengthen the believers who “remain.”  This leads me to suppose that many of these believers no longer believe.

The sixth group of believers John names “Philadelphia.”  These believers have the Key of David.  They are weak but they are promised protection in the hour of tribulation.  The Key of David is a heaven-bestowed priesthood authority to act in God’s name.  These believers are the Latter-day Saints because we definitely have the Key of David.

The seventh group of believers John names “Laodiceans.”  These believers are neither hot nor cold.  They are rich in terms of money but poor in terms of spirituality.  John counsels them to buy “gold tried in the fire” and to overcome their spiritual blindness.

All groups of believers will go through the Last Days.  John sees that the believers in all categories who “overcome” or endure the destruction with their faith intact will be blessed in the next life. John counsels us all to “hold fast” to that truth which you have.  If what John saw is all fulfilled, and I think it will be, we’re in for a rough ride.

This post references the Revelation of John chapters 2-3  In my next post I will discuss the destructions John saw before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Read The Revelation: Part 1 here

Image credit: Flickr/psyberartist

The Revelation: Part 1

John Sees Heavenly Glory

I have not seen heaven, but John did.  When I read John’s Revelation, I see many interesting details about heaven.

First there is a description of a glorified being who is later identified as Jesus Christ.  He has white hair, bright eyes, and a bright countenance.  The number one characteristic mentioned is light.  He has no darkness in him.  We learn that he is the “first begotten of the dead” which means he is the first to overcome death and be resurrected.  He “washed us from our sins in his blood” which means that his blood was spilt to ransom us from the just effects of our sinful actions.  He will come again to this Earth in glory. (Revelation 1)

John describes a throne (presumably God’s). (Rev 4:2-5,10)  Around the throne are seated 24 elders.  In front of the throne is a “sea of glass,” and an altar where the prayers of sins rise like incense before God’s face. (Rev 4:6, 8:3)  Many angels are around the throne worshiping God.  (Rev 5:11-12) Heaven is also filled with many people of all nations and peoples dressed in white robes. (Rev 7:9)  They serve God day and night in a heavenly temple.  (Rev 7:15)

While John’s Revelation gives more details than any other prophet on the beauty of heaven, he was not the only one to see this realm.  Every age has had a prophet to lead them who was given a vision of God and a mission to convey that knowledge to others.  Adam led his children with the knowledge of God he had from the Garden of Eden.  Enoch led his people and their faith was so great that their city was taken to heaven.  Noah led his children after the flood to believe in God.  Abraham and Moses both recorded part of their great visions of God.  The age known as the “meridian of time” was when Jesus Christ himself walked among men and taught them of God, our Father.  After Christ’s death, believers were hunted and killed, which led them to “hide in the wilderness.” (Rev 12:6) As leaders of nations became more tolerant, Christians worshiped more openly while continuing to suffer persecution at the hands of others during the Middle Ages in Europe.

In 1820, a boy named Joseph Smith, received a vision of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ when he knelt in prayer to ask what church he should join.  His vision included a mission to convey his knowledge of God to others in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.  He began to tell people about what he had seen and was immediately reproached.  During his life he was taught incrementally what God wanted him to do and how to organize a body of saints.  He was killed by opponents while imprisoned in a jail on false charges.  For more: click here.  Joseph is the prophet called to lead people in this the last dispensation before the second coming of Jesus Christ. If you are ever in New York, you can stop by his home and see the forest where he had his first vision. There is a holiness about that forest to this day.

Joseph’s visions of heavenly glory are recorded here:

John in his Revelation describes many events of the “last days” before the second coming.  His witness warns all who read his words of the destructions planned and promises the eventual return the Jesus Christ.  In my next post, I will explain the part of John’s vision where he saw the believers.

Image credit:  painting by Carlo Innocenzo Carloni

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Identify Yourself

This post is about identity, resilience, and where the power to deflect attacks comes from

Racial issues always seem to ruffle feathers.  I acknowledge the pain that accompanies questions of my value in society.  The picked-on victim mentality can be adopted by anyone and makes us especially sensitive to even the slightest insult.

The power to deflect the darts deflating personal worth comes from God’s word, the family and our choice to identify with the truth.
Who Am I?
Identity in God’s Word
  • Moses said, “Behold, I am a son of God in the similitude of his Only Begotten…” (Mos 1:13)
  • Genesis says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  (Gen 1:27)
  • And “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10)

Each of these verses describe the human being as valuable, in appearance like God and of a divine parentage.  With this knowledge, the comparison of skin colors or ethnic backgrounds are moot.  Male and female humans are infinitely beautiful in all their varieties.

We are social creatures.  Our happiness comes from connection with others.  When connection is withheld based on race or any qualifier, we are pained.  It is human.  The beginning of all connection and social interaction happens in the family.  It is to the family that we must look for the answers to identity questions.

Sheri Dew says, “the family should be a place 
  • of security and safety
  • where we may safely retreat
  • where love and acceptance are the undergirding and prevailing sentiments
  • where we hear many more positive messages than negative ones
  • where we can safely be vulnerable
  • to develop our resilience
  • to replenish our emotional supply
  • where we are reminded on a daily basis what is important and good
  • where happiness really comes from 
(Dew, Sheri. No One Can Take Your Place. pp 173-174)

I know that family doesn’t measure up to this definition very often but I want to begin with the ideal.  People who are resilient are able to connect with others in difficult times.  Often they draw strength from their family narrative.

As a youth, I chose to emphasize my connections with friends.  I thought friendship would last forever.  While I’ve had some deep and beautiful friendships over the years, they have not lasted like family.  You just can’t shake family.  They are connected to you by definition and whether you turn to them or not, they are always around.

It is amazing to note that those who deflect identity crises the most gracefully have someone in their family where they find a sense of security.  The power is even present in the family history stories from the past.  The narrative of strength, perseverance and faith may not be clear in the immediate family but visible in ancestors who fought bravely in battle, persevered in times of drought or stood up to injustice.  

Ultimately we choose to identify with the truth of our value as God’s creation, as an integral link in a family and as a part of the human family narrative.  The God and Father of our souls valued us so highly that he gave his son Jesus Christ as a ransom for our broken and corrupted souls. (John 3:16)

Image source: DeanDraws

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Battle of Jericho Revisited

Joshua led the Israelites in a decisive battle against the walled city Jericho.  After sending spies in to scope it out, he received divine help in overthrowing it.  His instructions were to march with the Ark of the Covenant around the city once a day for six days.  On the seventh day he was to march around the city with the Ark of the Covenant seven times and on the seventh time, the shofar (ram’s-horn trumpet) was to be blown and the people were to yell loudly.  Miraculously the walls fell down.  This event became memorialized in the Jewish calendar as the Feast of Trumpets.

I want to explore how this story could be applied allegorically to other situations.  There are many kinds of walls.  We build them to protect ourselves.  (See Hiding from Love by John Townsend).  Sometimes the walls we build end up inhibiting our freedom to move forward in life.  

For example: I have a fear of being abandoned.  So when I meet a new person that I’d like to have for a friend, I experience anxiety at the thought of rejection.  I approach friendship tentatively.  If there is any competition, I withdraw.  This fear has become ridiculous in that it prevents me from present happiness.

In order to break down the wall of fear, I might need to circle the problem.  I might read a book on the subject.  And reading can give essential insights into difficult problems, but it might take more circling.  I might need to consider my self-defeating thoughts.  I might need to accept my characteristics which are off-putting and decide that whatever others think, I love myself.  I might need to set some goals for meeting people and learning to be vulnerable (See Daring Greatly by Brene Brown).  And still, the walls may not come down.  

How many of us give up when one or two of our solutions are unsuccessful?

And what about that going seven times on the seventh day around the wall?  As we become more and more focused on a problem, we begin to gain emotional momentum.  This momentum is in the faith and hope needed to overcome the wall (See Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron).  When we yell, with God’s help, the wall will come down.  

I think that often we have conflicting motives.  We want something but another desire conflicts with it in some way.  The yell that brings down walls comes from the unified voices of all our desires.  No longer are we conflicted.  No longer is there anything else that we want.  

God works miracles when we are finally ready.

Image credit:  By the Providence Lithograph Company [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You Know It's Love When...

What all kinds of love have in common 
From 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; 

This story was written by a family member and read by Laura Schlessinger on her radio show:

“When I was growing up, I used to wish my parents would divorce, and we would go live with my dad.  My mother was manic depressive schizophrenic, so she was not mentally capable of raising my brothers and sisters (six in all)….My father played both mother and father.  He would go to work, come home, fix dinner, clean the house and then play with us.  I never heard him complain about his life.  She was extremely hard to live with and unrelenting because of her disease.  She had very few good days (as we called them) but my father always treated her with love and respect.  Everyone who know our situation said he was a saint.

“I once asked my father why he didn’t leave her because of all the pain she caused all of us.  He expressed the following: that she, before her illness, was an amazing woman whom he loved dearly.  When she was at her worst he thought very hard about leaving (this was about 1961), but decided he couldn’t because we would all be put in foster care and no one would take care of her.  He said he put his trust in God to help out on the bad days.  It was truly for better or for worse….

“My mother in the last few years of her life had mellowed more and had more better days than bad.  They lived in an assisted living facility for the last two years of their lives.  The nurses told us they had never seen a more loving couple than my parents.  When the nurses woke them up each morning, they were cuddled together.  My mother worried about my dad as much as he worried about her.  They were married 55 years until they both passed away within two months of each other.”

charity envieth not; 

You cannot make someone love you, make them change, or control what others say and do.  Envy can come into play when you see something someone else has that you want.  Envy is also when you want someone to do something different or love you differently.  Loving relationships are full of contentment and approval.

charity vaunteth not itself, 

Some kinds of love have strings attached.  If there is an expectation of appreciation, admiration or attention, the kind or loving action is being used to elevate the giver.  It is also not loving to expect a loving action in return.  Love should not be used to buy, manipulate or form friendships or alliances.

Real love doesn’t debase the self either.  If the love given to others means neglecting yourself, the gift is not good.  Love comes from the overflow of good things not from emotional poverty.

Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Strategies for Ditching the Devil

The devil is real.  He and his angels are battling God for the souls of men.  But neither God nor the devil appear and make men do their bidding.  This gives us, mortals, the agency to choose between light and darkness.  After a series of poor choices, the outlook may be bleak.  So if the devil is having a heyday in your life, what can you do to get rid of him?  And by the way, we all make poor choices, so the darkness is familiar to all of us.  The strategies for winning though, are known by those who live in the light.  Here’s a few that I’ve thought of:

Mental Strategies

So the devil is going to play mind games with you.  He is the master of temptation.  When Jesus was alive, the devil came to him and said, I see that you’re hungry, turn these stones in to bread.  Jesus used the Word to counter him.  Then the devil said, “See all the kingdoms of the world?  All this power will I give thee…” if you worship me.  Jesus got strength from the commandment that says you should only worship God.  Then the devil challenged his identityThrow yourself from the top of this building and see if God loves you enough to send angels to save you.  Jesus was certain of his divine identity and refused to put God to a test like that. (Luke 4)

Strategy #1 — Use the Word to counter temptations of appetite.  The word is like a sword that cuts down the Devil’s logic. (Eph 6)

Strategy #2 — Use the Commandments to counter temptations of power and influence

Strategy #3 — Ignore the Devil when he challenges your identity.  You are the offspring of God and your divinity is not negotiable.

Strategy #4 — Sing a hymn.  The Devil hates holy music and he will leave you alone if you articulate in your mind the words.

Minesweeper Cutting Loose Moored Mines

Physical Strategies

Think for a moment about the strategies of men who make junk food for general consumption.  God did not inspire them to make food that damages the body so the Devil must be behind it.  Then consider yourself in state of emotional distress and along comes the Devil tempting you to reach for that easy pre-packaged snack.  If it is in your house, you will almost always fall to the temptation to eat it.  Eventually you will be enslaved to the consequences of an unhealthy body. (In using this analogy I'm not trying to be excessively critical of the foods we eat but to show how some things that are easily accessed can be tempting.)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Becoming Covenant Keepers

1.  Faith in God
We must begin by knowing enough about God to follow His guidance in the major decisions of our lives.  Without confirmation that He approved of the decision, we might not have sufficient faith to endure the challenges of keeping covenants

2.  What do Covenant-makers have in common? They keep their word.
- Bad Guys:  “I had to pronounce the oath whereby I was to say that should I betray the organization, my flesh would burn like this saint," Buscetta (a former Mafia Boss) said.  (LA Times, October 31, 1985)
- Good Guys:  “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (US Declaration of Independence)
- God:  “I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.”  Mosiah 26:20

3.  Accepting the Terms of the Agreement
Making an agreement with a bank includes terms and conditions.  Generally, entering into this type of agreement means that I will not default on my obligatory payment.  And if I do, certain penalties will be enforced.

Making an agreement with a spouse in marriage obligates me to perform familial duties.  My spouse relies on the strength of my word as security on this agreement.  Would a marriage be binding if one person didn’t agree to the terms?  In today’s culture, many people avoid making a marriage covenant.  It makes sense to question a person's integrity.  Fear of making covenants leads to a loss  of the emotional and mental security that an agreement of this nature guarantees. 

Making covenants with God entails an agreement to keep his laws.  “I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.  I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”  (D&C 82:9-10)  In return for our allegiance, he promises us eternal blessings.  Baptism is a sacred covenant with God.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who's Got the Reins?

One of the most profound stories in the book Little Britches describes how the cowboys taught a horse to be ground tied.  They pegged the horse's reins to the ground just out of reach of water and left the horse there for a few days.  It was torture, but the lesson was never forgotten.  When the reins were down, the horse knew not to move.  This method is not used today as far as I can tell.

The reins guide the horse with the slightest of pressure.  The reins give the owner a lot of control.  This idea was used in the Bible to describe the relationship that God has with his followers.  God holds the reins and directs us with the slightest of movements.

"I the Lord search the heartI try the reins, even to give every man according to his waysand according to the fruit of his doings." (Jer 17:10)

How does God check our hearts?  He uses the reins to see if we will obey when we hear His whisper. It is a reality check not a guess.

My baby climbs.  He gets into things that he shouldn't and often spills liquid intentionally.  If I say "no" to him, he looks at me but he doesn't respond.  He probably understands the word just by the tone and manner that I say it but his heart hasn't been trained yet.

When God warns me, I should do more than just look at Him.  My heart recognizes His voice.  Unlike the baby, I have been trained.

The Bible says that God gave Jezebel "space to repent."  Her disregard for Him led to a heavy punishment.  It says that God will judge the works each one of us has done.  Our works will be judged by how we responded to the reins.  Our reward will be given at the judgement day. (Rev 2:20-23)

So what happens when we drift away from God?  Who has the reins then?  Well, God allows us to be driven as chaff or to be tossed as a ship without a sail or anchor.  He lets us experience life without the reins.