24 December 2014

Whom Shall I Fear?

I shared this meme on facebook today:


Here is the fuller Christian context of that quote:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." ~John 14:12
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit." ~Romans 8:1-4
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:38-39
Or, in the English Standard Version: 
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~Romans 8:37-39
Danny Lee Silk wasn't saying we'd never feel anything from the atmosphere around us. Look at the words he used: because of our victory in Christ Jesus, we don't have to be affected, or infected, by what we experience around us. None of it has to change our course, impinge upon our faith, or inspire fear or despair. We don't ever have to lay blame, or responsibility, upon anyone else for what we do, or what we believe. Jesus has offered us all that He has . . . and as we seek Him, we can become more and more the way Danny described. Take Elijah, for example:
"Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind.

Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” ~1 Kings 18:25-27, NLT
Then there's Enoch:
 And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him. ~Moses 7:13
Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the mighty and powerful King of Heaven's Armies of the Old Testament. He is the tender and careful Good Shepherd of the New Testament. He is the Risen Lord, who will wipe away our tears, and He is the Glorified Messiah who sits at the right hand of the Father, an advocate for us with Him. He didn't go through all He went through just so we could be limited here. If one child of God was able to receive power from heaven to part the seas, or to raise the dead, or to set at defiance the armies of nations, or shut the mouths of lions, then it is within reach of us ALL to do incredible things, for our God is no respecter of persons.

So . . . what are we waiting for? What does your heart long to do, in the name of the Lord, to bless His children? Is it to sing praise? To heal? To hear and understand such that you can comfort those who mourn? To preach the Gospel of the Risen Lord, so all mankind can come unto Him and be saved? Look deep inside your heart, and see what God has placed there . . . because whatever He has planted in your heart, He has also provisioned for you, and He will show you the way to realize the dreams and longings you cherish.

Now, let's go forward in faith, and obtain the word of the Lord, as Enoch did, so, once we have obtained His word, and our faith grows ever stronger, we might do His will, and be conduits for His power in the earth. 

For signs follow them that believe.

 

23 December 2014

Some thoughts about Jesus

"Though thousands crowded around Him daily, He was sensitive to the needs of the individual- the infirm who touched the hem of His garment, the small of stature who sat in in tree to see Him over the multitude. 
After being betrayed by one he called Friend, the Lord of Hosts was taken by a mob to an illegal trial where He, the Great Lawgiver, was falsely accused and incriminated. The King of kings was then judged by mortal rulers, and taking the place of a seditious murder, the Scapegoat of Israel was condemned to death. 
At Pilate's command, the Gentle Healer was scourged, bruised, broken, and torn. Then the Carpenter from Nazareth carried his wooden cross through scorning crowds to Golgotha, where in ultimate irony, He, the only perfect person to ever walk the earth, descended below all things, being raised up between two criminals to justify a guilty race. 
Though appointed to be the judge of all mankind, He plead for the forgiveness of His tormentors. And while the world trembled in distress of His agony, He worried about the welfare of a woman, His mother. His death brought darkness to the earth. His resurrection brought light and eternal life. 
Little did the hypocrites who consented to His death know when they cried for His blood to be upon them that one day untold billions would plead for His blood to be upon them, not to condemn but to redeem. 
To us is His promise that those who lose their life for His sake shall find it, that through Him, scarlet sins may become white like wool, and that those who deny themselves of all ungodliness will inherit all that God has. 
Though the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, He has prepared many mansions for us in His Father's house. May we take comfort in knowing that the Creator of worlds without end still numbers the hairs of our head. He who clothes the lilies of the field will clothe us in spotless robes of righteousness. The One who cried, "Why hast thou forsaken me," has promised that He will not leave us comfortless. Someday the Man of Sorrows will wipe all the tears from our eyes." ~T.G.

"Come Unto Me", by Jon McNaughton. Used with permission.

22 December 2014

What Do I Want for Christmas?

I want the starving children fed--in my own little town, among the membership of the LDS church, and throughout the whole world 

I want the orphans, dependent upon the generosity of others, provided for.

I want the exploited rescued, and to have safe places for them to sleep and learn. 

I want the street children in Manilla, abandoned by their destitute parents who simply couldn't feed them, to have the basic things they need: shoes, school supplies, regular meals, combs, toothbrushes, a shower to use, and a safe place to sleep.

My family is operating under a tighter budget than we ever have had to before. We are living in the least square foot per person we have ever lived. And yet, compared to so, so many, even in our own little community, we are wealthy. We have a lovely little home. We have decent beds to sleep in. We have all the first world conveniences we want: cars that run reliably, gas to run them, washer & dryer, dishwasher, heat, air conditioning, electricity, running water, hot water, a roof that doesn't leak, and our floors aren't made of dirt. (Although sometimes during mud season the mats inside the front door might fool you for a minute.)

My children have a family that loves them, and a safe place to grow and learn. Contrast that with the early life of one of my best friends, who was born into prostitution to a sex-trafficked mother, and rescued at eight years old, after her mother's death, by God working an absolute miracle in the Canadian court system.

My children are well-fed, and are in no danger of suffering from the debilitating or deadly effects of malnutrition, unlike 80,000+ active LDS children in the world, and too many in my little town.

My husband and I love one another. Our marriage is strong--strong because we have learned to forgive, and are learning how to grow, both together and alongside one another. 

We definitely have our share of difficulties and trials. We are given weaknesses, after all, that the Lord may show forth His strength in us. But our basic needs are met. The Lord will continue to provide. I just wish we had endless income, so I could feed and clothe and house every cold, hungry, lonely soul.
      11 Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people.
      12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.
      13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches . . .
      14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
      15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
      16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
      17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
      18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
      19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2)
We don't have riches. But to those who might . . . please consider those who not only don't have riches, but suffer hunger and cold.
      34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
      35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
      36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
      37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
      38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
      39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
      40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)

19 December 2014

If the Internet Died Tomorrow

What would I wish I had said?

I would wish I had praised and proclaimed my Lord, one more time. He is Good. He is Faithful--always! And He is so much more than I ever dreamt. He has saved me from my sins . . . made a way for me to move forward in faith and hope and JOY, instead of the despair that was the very air I breathed, before . . . and I hope and pray that everyone can learn this for themselves, can taste of the goodness of His love, can experience the profound, revolutionary paradigm shift that comes when you have a radical encounter with the Love that is God. 

Jesus Christ is a GENEROUS God. He stands waiting to redeem us, every one, right now! He stands waiting for us to turn and face Him, wherever we are, so we can receive the good, good things He wants desperately to give to us. So He can enfold us in His embrace and know of His goodness. We cannot slog this out on our own!!! We cannot, ever, "get it right", no matter how hard we try . . . we were given weaknesses so we could be proven in the midst of the test that is this life, while Jesus was given the Spirit without measure, so He could overcome sin and death. We were given weakness. And because of that mortal weakness, we can never be good in the eyes of God, save under one condition only: that we receive the redemption He offers us, by virtue of His victory over sin and death, offered out of His astounding love for us. We can only be righteous when we are clothed in His righteousness. We can only be holy when He has made us so. We can only see His promises to the faithful fulfilled when we stop trying to earn them, and instead realize that, while the blessings and exaltation we all long for absolutely require diligence and effort, we cannot merit them! We must first receive justification through our Savior by the baptism of fire, and then do what He asks, in all humility, giving every day, every moment, every thought, word and deed, as best we can as a love offering to Him.

I would wish I had been able to find the words to plead with those I love to seek Jesus Christ. Not after the traditions of our fathers, but in plain simplicity. To dismantle the box we put God in. We've put God in a box! A beautiful, complicated, ornate, generations-old box! A prison out of which He cannot break, to be free to move and work miracles in our lives, because we choose, with the supreme right of our agency, to limit Him. To keep Him narrowly defined, confined to the role our own imaginations, our own understandings, assign. We do not do as Paul declared we could, and approach boldly the throne of grace, but view it from afar, as we would a monument, or a curiosity in a museum, too special for the use of the everyday saint, too reserved for those better and more spiritual than we are. And yet, and yet!, God spoke to Cain after Abel was murdered. God spoke to Alma the Younger as he went about seeking to destroy the church. God spoke to Saul as he traveled to where he would seek to kill more Christians. God spoke to Jonah, as he sulked in the desert because Ninevah repented. Our God will welcome your approach, no matter how unworthy you think you are. We're ALL unworthy creatures! That's why He did what He did, and gave us everything. So He could welcome us, whenever and wherever we sought Him, because He won the power to cleanse and forgive us. 

Jesus Christ IS the King of Kings! He is the Lord of Heaven's Armies, God of All Creation. He is the Living God, able to do all things! He is the God of Israel, who fought their battles, healed their sick, raised the dead, and then told His disciples that those who believed in Him would do greater things than that!

He introduced Himself to Abraham as the God of All Supply, El Shaddai. And He will provide for His own . . . and not stingily. He is Jehovah Rafa, Our God Who Heals . . . and He heals everywhere He goes. It is a product of proximity to Him.

But most of all, He is my friend. He said, in John 15:15: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." He has talked me through so many things, taught me profoundly beautiful things, chuckled at my mortal impatience and chided me in good humor until I could laugh at myself and try again. He has shared some of His secrets with me, given me beautiful dreams, taught me through His Spirit, and healed me of so many things that I've lost count. He loves to make me laugh, He delights in my efforts to master and learn to use the bewilderingly powerful personality He gave me, and in the joyful exercise of my intellectual and physical being. The more I learn of His perfection, the more I come to understand His love and affection for me, the more clearly I see my own frail mortality, and the more deeply humbled I am that He loved me so much that He gave everything--everything--that I could have peace and hope and joy and LIFE through Him.

Lord, I'm so amazed at Who You Are, and all You have done for Your children....for me. Won't You please reach out and touch the heart of every last person on this earth, Lord, so they might know--have first-hand, experiential knowledge--of what the Love of God really means? That each one can feel, in that impossible paradox, both their own insignificance in comparison to You and the immeasurable worth that Your devotion to them gives? Lord, show them  why You did what You did. Let them have a glimpse of Your goodness and Your absolute trustworthiness. Change for the best the way they see You, and everything else. Touch their eyes, Lord. Touch their hearts. Intercede for them, and open their understandings. Cast fear far from them, and fill the space that's left with Your Presence. Show them the easiness of the way, the lightness of Your burden, the simpleness of a walk with You. Show them they do not have to labor through this life in their own strength, dragging their load alone--but that You will take up the other side of the yoke and make all things possible as they believe in You! Please, Lord. This is my prayer. 

I know all of this sounds high-flying and optimistic, too good to be true, and that believing it all would just set you up for disappointment. I used to think so, too. 

But I was wrong. 

All of those amazing things in scripture? They're true!!! All of the promises God lays out for those who follow Him? He is bound to fulfill them when we do what He says! All of those signs and wonders that blessed so many during His ministry, and the ministry of others? They still happen, and they can happen to you if you truly believe, nothing doubting, nothing fearing

Our God is Good. You can trust Him.  

If He wasn't worthy of total and complete, throw-yourself-from-a-cliff-if-He-told-you-to trust, then He wouldn't be God, because He would be capable of betraying trust. And betraying trust is most definitely not part of the perfection of God. He is a God of truth, and cannot lie. 

You can trust in God. 

Try it.

17 December 2014

The Light and the Dark

One of the bloggers I love reading wrote the following:
I also learned that whenever and wherever the Lord or His angels appear, the adversary and his minions are likewise permitted to tarry (either to precede or to follow). There must be opposition in all things! (2 Nephi 2:15-16.) The faith that allows one to pierce the veil of heaven also permits the adversary to make his subtle appeals and present his perverse proposals. (Matthew 4:1.) One who sees God is also given to gape into the very jaws of hell. (Doctrine & Covenants 76:44-48.) There is no light without darkness. (Moses 2:4.)
That last phrase stuck in my mind, as passages of scripture have at other times, and I kept turning it over and over, until I realized that it was inverted. Light is not dependent on darkness for its existence. Light is more powerful than darkness. As a good friend is known to say, "When you walk into a dark room and flip the light switch, the darkness doesn't get to argue."

Light exists without darkness, because light is a positive, active, living force. Darkness is the absence of light. It is what exists when something blocks light, when something stands before it.

So, in my own mind, that last phrase reads thusly:
"There is no darkness without light."

16 December 2014

Words Upon Waking

One night a few months back, I crashed super-early. I woke up three hours later, at midnight sharp, with two lines from scripture running through my mind: "O, ye generation of vipers!" and "God is able of these stones to raise up seed unto Abraham." I figured I'd better look them up and see what God had for me to think about.

These weren't snippets I had read recently, nor had I been thinking about them on my own that day.

I Googled "of these stones to raise up seed unto Abraham", since that was the last thing that ran through my head, and found that both phrases were in the same chapter, Matthew 3:
"In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”4 Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Interesting.

15 December 2014

God is Perfect

God is good. Good is God.

God is love. Love is God. Love is of God: it is a part of, an element of, a natural fruit springing from Him.

If something not-good happens, it's a product of the fall, and the sin and death that exist in this world. It's not God's will. It's His will that we humble ourselves and come unto Him. Bad stuff does happen. Often. But it's not God's will. He doesn't speak, and give someone a dreadful disease, or destroy a family through addiction. He does not mete out harsh punishments to "teach us a lesson". That's what an abusive parent would do . . . and we simply don't have an abusive God. We also don't have to "get it right on our own" before we can turn to Him.

Hello . . . His strength is made perfect in our weakness! We don't see it until we run into our weaknesses, and turn to Him!

His grace is sufficient for ALL.

So, remember. God IS good.

14 December 2014

Mercy and Grace

Generally speaking, the acceptance of things as they currently operate in the LDS Church follows a basic premise: "God brought beauty and blessings out of the painful/sad/horrible/difficult/wrong/abusive/sinful thing that happened. Therefore, what happened was His will." That, combined with quotes like this gem from Marion G. Romney, seal the submissive acceptance of whatever does happen:
“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.”
What this well-intentioned brother is talking about is God's mercy. His mercy is what turns trial into testimony, burden into blessing. In His mercy, Jesus holds back the punishment that justice demands, and blesses us, instead, hoping we will turn to Him in our extremity. Mercy happens, and can only happen, when we justly deserve a whole lot more consequences than we're getting . . . i.e. when we do something wrong, or stupid, and our merciful, loving God finds a way to turn that to benefit His work and to bless us.

Now, mercy is a distinctly different animal from grace. Our own LDS leaders define grace very well, in addition to the link I just provided. The church's website states: "grace is an enabling power".

When someone is gracious, they extend favor to someone who does not deserve it. It is the gracious response of a hostess that ignores the mud tracked onto her pristine floor by the shoes of the farmer's daughter who came to her home in town, or passes it off as nothing when it is noticed. It's the civilized response to another's discomfort, embarrassment, or pain. It is unmerited favor.

God's grace becomes active in our lives when we are following Him. His grace makes us more than we ever could be on our own . . . but it takes faith in Him. True faith, faith unto salvation. It takes us hearing God's word for us when we are turned toward Him, and then accepting that He has already provided all we need, will help us where we are weak, and perform amazing things through us--weak vessels though we may be. It takes us stepping out in faith--sometimes into total darkness, sometimes off a precipice into an abyss--for His Grace to become active in us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us why:
"My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
I'll repeat myself: grace makes more of us than we could ever be on our own. 

We have to venture into territory where we are unequipped--not because we have no talent or ability, but because our mortal nature and intelligence falls short of the task at hand. It takes us trusting God enough to move forward despite Him calling us into areas of our weakness. Our weaknesses are what allow us to even SEE God's strength. In my 35 years of Molly Mormonhood, I felt such deep devotion to God, and would cry regularly as I shared my testimony. And yet, I never let Him fill my weakness. I gave Him no quarter in which to show forth His power, because I did it all myself.

Do we deserve either mercy or grace? Definitely not. Christ's sacrifice and victory give Him the right to extend them to us. The question is, which power do you invite into your life?

Can we grow in situations where God's mercy is alone manifest? Absolutely. Can we learn deep truths, beautiful things, and be changed for the better through His mercy? Absolutely. But can we learn as much through the operation of God's mercy as we could through the operation of His grace? 

No.

Can we rise up as on wings of eagles, be made into new creatures in Christ Jesus through the baptism of fire that precipitates receiving the Holy Ghost, can we prophesy, heal, cast out devils, move mountains, or work any other work of the Lord Jesus Christ through mercy alone? 

No.

That takes faith, which calls down God's grace.

It's nothing special for a group of people to claim blessings have come to them from God. It's no different from any other group of people anywhere--believer or not. He blesses all people, as often and as richly as He can. He makes the rain to fall, the sun to shine, on the evil as well as the good. The wheat and tares grow up together, and He blesses them all with what they need to survive, and even thrive.

But Mormon gave us a key to know when a people have true faith in Jesus Christ:
"[H]as the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has He withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will He, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain. For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in His name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made."
Contrast that with what Jesus Himself told His disciples:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
Please. Take a look at your life. Are you doing the works that we "see", recorded in scripture, that Jesus did? Are you empowered by His grace, and His Spirit, to do even greater works than He did?

Or are you instead living according to this gem from N. Eldon Tanner?
"When the prophet speaks the debate is over."

09 December 2014

The view from where I stand.

This post has been a long time in the making.

I've been publicly silent on matters of the LDS Church for the last couple of years, as my world has been rocked, my faith challenged, pummeled and put through fire.

I'm not offended.

I'm heartbroken.

Throughout my entire life, both in my church and in my parents' home, I was taught that agency ruled supreme. A war in heaven was fought for that freedom to choose. Jesus Christ lived, died, and conquered death so not only could we choose, but He could save us from our inevitable, and sometimes tragic, failings.

I was taught that the priesthood can only be exercised through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.

I was taught that leaders should and would honor, obey, and teach scripture. That the "standard works" are the standard by which ALL other teachings, doctrines, policies and procedures must be judged.

I was taught that we are to love one another, as Jesus did. Not as Lucifer sought to "love" his brothers and sisters by compelling them to choose as he wished.

I was taught to love and serve Jesus Christ.

But I didn't realize how much I depended upon and trusted in my leadership until this whole experience began. Having leaders that don't trust you puts an entirely new spin on things. On everything.

I had to find Jesus. Really and truly find Him, for myself. I no longer had the approval of those that I had relied on my entire life for validation and identity. I had to learn who Jesus thought I was. For real.

He was found.

In fire.

And overwhelming love.

That changed me, fundamentally. Totally. From the inside out. I KNEW. I know. And I couldn't hide it, not in my demeanor, not in my smile, not in my voice. I had a confidence in certain things that felt like a lion roaring in my chest. And even though I didn't feel as though I formed my words differently, and I didn't speak any louder, my comments in Sunday School were suddenly received very, very differently. Others heard it. And the overall response was discomfort. Distance. Uneasy silence in the very room in which I had taught and participated in lessons for years, with full acceptance and respect.

As the months passed, things continued to deteriorate. Well-intentioned ward members said the expected phrases, and I knew well the tone they used . . . I had used it before, many times. It was the sincere feeling of one who had absolutely no idea what the other person is going through, and the chasm is so great between the speaker and the hearer that the hearer feels powerless to speak out, to speak up, to actually say what is going on and to be heard. And, for the first time, I was not the speaker of those phrases. I was the hearer. And I had so little hope of actually being heard, of being understood, that I couldn't speak.

And I can tell you this: the number of active, faithful, true-believing Mormons that have any idea of what actually goes on in the hearts and minds of those who go "less active" is so small as to be statistically insignificant. "Oh, they were offended," is the most common response. I wasn't offended, unless you consider the word in light of how Matthew 18:6 in the King James Version was translated:
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Children have no pride to offend. But you can definitely hurt them.

I have had to work through some pride . . . after all, I'm no longer a child. But I'm not where I am right now because my pride was offended. I am where I am because I, along with my family members, have been hurt and betrayed. Not just by some members of our ward--those supposed to be as family to us--but also by leadership of the church at every level, leadership that actively teaches and preaches contrary to the Word of God.

Leaders who say, "you will do this my way, because I am your priesthood leader", when their opinion or personal preference varies from the directions I have received directly from the Lord, or even scripture.

Leaders who say, "if I hear you have talked to anyone about your beliefs, you will be excommunicated".

Leaders who, in response to scripture that contradicts the position they hold, say "Let's see what our current prophets have to say about that".

Leaders who say, sustaining is like an oath that binds us to obey, who say "look to us", and "we cannot lead you astray".

Leaders who hold up the basic business leadership practices of Babylon and call them continuing revelation. Leaders who preach a leadership-based version of vox populi, vox dei

In response to leaders who stand in agreement with those things listed above, at whatever level they serve, I say:

  • The man we revere as the founding prophet of the LDS Church said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
  • The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that correction is to be done clearly, early, through teaching and persuasion, with love.
  • God will never contradict Himself. When He says something, He means it. He knows the end from the beginning, and doesn't need to correct Himself or take "do-overs". He gets it right. The first time.
  • Oaths to follow men began with Master Mahan, and have only wreaked havoc since then.
  • Setting oneself up as a light is the very definition of priestcraft.
  • The wisdom of the corporate world, the checks and balances their boards use to amass wealth, are no substitute for the unmistakable, ringing truth of the Word of God.
  • Unanimity never has, and never will, be a sure way to determine God's will.

07 December 2014

What "sustaining" now means.

On September 23rd, Vern and I met with our bishop, at the bishop's request. This is the email we received two days before:


We met in the bishop's office, and he clarified that he wanted to discuss the fourth question in the temple recommend interview, because Vern had made a couple of comments in Gospel Doctrine just before that which weren't in agreement with the instructor's views. The question he wanted to discuss was this:
#4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church? 
I'll leave Vern's story for him to tell. Mine is simple. After he was done talking with Vern about this question, the bishop asked me if I sustained the leaders of the church as prophets, seers and revelators. I opened my mouth to answer that I sustained them with my prayers and faith, as the Doctrine and Covenants encourages, when he cut me off and asked:
"If you lived in the time of Brigham Young, and he said the saints were going west, would you have gone?"
 My answer was straightforward and simple:
"If God said "Go", I'd go. If He said "Stay", I'd stay.
I left that office without a recommend, because, according to my bishop, my answer did not satisfy the current requirements of sustaining leaders.

It has been strange, not being a "card carrying Mormon" for the first time in my life. It's even more strange, having run afoul of this strangely-morphed version of the faith I have loved my whole life. And yet, I'm grateful for the overt insanity of the last couple of years' interaction with my leadership, as it has revealed a great deal of the traditions of my fathers.

07 November 2014

Head of the Corner

"My hope is built
On nothing less
Than Jesus' blood
and [His] Righteousness. 

I dare not trust
The sweetest frame,
but wholly trust
in Jesus' Name. 

Christ alone,
Cornerstone,
Weak made strong
in the Savior's Love. 

Through the storm
He is Lord,
Lord of all!

When darkness seems
to hide His face. 
I'll rest on His
unchanging Grace.
In every high 
and stormy gale
my Anchor holds within the veil. 

My Anchor holds within the veil!

Christ alone,
Cornerstone,
Weak made strong
in the Savior's Love. 

Through the storm
He is Lord,
Lord of all!

There may be more words to that song, but those are the ones running through my heart right now. And I rejoice, comforted, that my wandering heart is bound to the Anchor within the veil, Jesus Christ.

And I praise God for the Cornerstone. The stone rejected by the builders that has become the head of the corner, Who is the Only One truly Mighty to Save. 

Thank You, Lord.  A thousand times.  Thank You. 

06 November 2014

Why do we have the Law?

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. ~Galatians 3:19
Today, someone online quoted this scripture, as part of a discussion about how the Law of Moses relates to us today. Here are some other translations that shed more light on the intent of that verse:

NLT:
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.
Aramaic Bible in plain English:
Why therefore is there The Written Law? It was added because of apostasy until The Seed would come to whom The Promise belonged, and The Written Law was given by Angels in the hand of a mediator.
God's WORD Translation:
What, then, is the purpose of the laws given to Moses? They were added to identify what wrongdoing is. Moses' laws did this until the descendant to whom the promise was given came to Abraham. It was put into effect through angels, using a mediator.
Weymouth New Testament:
Why then was the Law given? It was imposed later on for the sake of defining sin, until the seed should come to whom God had made the promise; and its details were laid down by a mediator with the help of angels.
Taking these additional translations into account, it becomes clear that the Law of Moses was given to teach and instruct.

Gill's Exposition has this to say:
"Wherefore why then serveth the law?".... If this be the case, might an objector say, why was the law given? what ends and purposes are to be served by it? of what use can it be? there had as good been no law at all, if the inheritance is not of it, and there is no justification by it. To which it is answered,
it was added because of transgressions; four hundred and thirty years after the covenant made with Abraham; it did not succeed it, nor take the place of it, and so make it null and void; but was over and above added unto it, for the sake of restraining transgressions; which had there been no law, men would not have been accountable for them; and they would have gone into them without fear, and with impunity; but the law was given, to lay a restraint on men, by forbidding such and such things, on pain of death; and also for the detecting, discovering, and making known transgressions, what they are, their nature and consequences; these the law charges men with, sets them before them, in their true light and proper colours; and convicts them of them, stops their mouths, and pronounces them guilty before God. . . .
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Lehi talked about this to Jacob in 2 Nephi 2:
5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
 6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
 7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
 8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
 9 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.
 10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—
 11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
 12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
 13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
More from Gill:
"till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made": either Christ the seed of the woman, and of Abraham, who was to come in the flesh, and is come; and to whom the grand promise of life, and all the promises of the covenant were made; not for himself, but for those he represented, and in whom they are all secure: until whose coming to finish transgression, and bring in everlasting righteousness, the law was to continue in the form in which, and the use for which it was added, and then to cease as the ministration of Moses; for through the coming of Christ it received its full accomplishment, and came to an end; the ceremonial law was utterly abolished, and the moral law ceased to be a covenant of works, though it continues a rule of walk and conversation; and the whole Mosaic economy was no more: or else the seed here intends the spiritual seed of Abraham; particularly among the Gentiles, to whom the promise of blessedness, of justification, and eternal life was made; and the sense be, that till such time that a generation of faithful men, of believers in Christ, should arise among the Gentiles, the law was to continue with the Jews; but when they should spring up, the middle wall of partition should be broken down, and Abraham's spiritual seed among Jews and Gentiles make up one body, one people, and be fellow heirs and partakers of the promise of God in Christ, through the Gospel. . .
The key phrase there is "the ceremonial law was utterly abolished, and the moral law ceased to be a covenant of works, though it continues a rule of walk [how we live our lives] and conversation".

Some definitions, before we go on:

  • fulfilled: correct interpretation and performance of the commandments given by God. The law is "fulfilled" when it brings about the goal for which it was given, which only happens when people understand it the way God intended, and obey it so it can bear the desired fruit in their lives.
  • end: purpose, as in "for this end". That was a common usage in the early 1800's, as well.

Reading through various scriptures that talk about the law being fulfilled is eye opening when read with these definitions in mind. There are too many to all list here, but I'll share a couple.

3 Nephi 1:25:
But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, {not yet properly understood, applied and obeyed} and that it must be fulfilled in every whit; yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled; therefore in this same year were they brought to a knowledge of their error and did confess their faults.
3 Nephi 15:5:
Behold, I am He that gave the law, and I am He who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in Me is fulfilled {rightly performed so that it accomplishes its purposes}, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end {a purpose}.
And here are two talking about the end, or purpose, of the law:

2 Nephi 11:4:
4 Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.
And 2 Nephi 25:25:
25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
The purpose of the law was to teach men what sin IS. To show what God doesn't want people to do, and to set punishments for transgression, and to try to move the Israelites towards loving one another, if by no other way than preventing offenses through stiff punishments.

When Christ came, He was the fulfillment of the law because He lived it, every whit. His life showed the end, or purpose, of the Law, because through His actions, He became Righteousness.

Both the Law and Christ are halves of the same whole . . . one outlining what we shouldn't do, and the Other showing what we should, and the ultimate and ideal outcome that the law was trying to point toward.

05 November 2014

God LOVES His Daughters

23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out. (D&C 42)
This verse comes included in a list of how to handle various sins & offenses in gathered Zion, in the revelation known as The Law of the Church.

This verse stood out to me powerfully because it was cheek-by-jowl with stealing, lying, murder and adultery. Those are considered "big" sins. Sins which, if the sinner is unrepentant, make the sinner worthy of being cast out of the community. And the Lord included looking upon a woman to lust after her in the list of things which are absolutely and utterly intolerable to Him.

I LOVE this. Love it!

Why?

Because this verse shows the Almighty God declaring that a woman's body belongs to her. That a woman's body is NOT the plaything of any man. That women's bodies are not to be USED. That women are MORE than something to be lusted at. MORE than something to be looked at. That women are more than their sexuality. That women are MORE than objects to satisfy men's sexual drives. It's not just "look but don't touch". It's "Don't you dare use my daughters for your own gratification".

As one who was harassed (and often frightened) by the openly lascivious stares of various boys and men, this scripture shows that not only does my God want to protect me from physical violence, but from emotional violence as well.

God, You are wonderful! I love seeing Your love for your children--and especially for women--come through in Your Word. I love knowing that You understand humankind, and want to protect Your children from ALL abuses. Thank You, Lord. I love you so much.

What Spirit are We of?

"When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." ] And they went on to another village." (Luke 9:51-56 NASB)
James and John loved Jesus. Tremendously. If you have a mother or father in the faith, someone who helped to lead you to the Baptism of Fire, you'll have the beginning of an idea of how they felt. Like good, loyal friends, they wanted an eye for an eye when the Lord they owed everything to was turned away, the Samaritans so blatantly breaking the laws of hospitality.

I love the Son of Man's reply, the reassertion of His purpose, and of the new law He gave to those that follow Him, in John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What are my responses, when I come across someone who does not make the same choices I would make? What is in my heart: a prayer for their well-being, or an avenging desire to right what I perceive as a wrong? (Does Heaven even see the offending thing as wrong? What does scripture actually say about it?) What spirit animates and motivates me? Is it the Spirit of Christ, that lifts and liberates, unstintingly generous in the outpouring of His love, or is it a different spirit, that entices me to demand conformity, or exact payment in kind for the perceived offense?

Father in Heaven, thank You for sending Your Son. Thank You for all He did, for all He offers. Thank You so much for the mercy and grace that supports me from moment to moment, and the absolutely free and open outpouring of Love, and forgiveness!, from You and from Him, that You offer constantly, all day, every day, to those who will open their hearts to receive it. Thank You for changing lives, for drawing all unto You, and for the beauty of Your work: to save lives. In Jesus' name, amen!

30 October 2014

His Word Does Not Return Void

39 For it shall come to pass, that which I spake by the mouths of my prophets shall be fulfilled; for I will consecrate of the riches of those who embrace my gospel among the Gentiles unto the poor of my people who are of the house of Israel. (D&C 42)
What true prophets have spoken and written, before this passage was given in 1831, WILL be fulfilled. No one now, regardless of the claims they make, can contradict what God has declared in scripture.

We can also know by this passage that those who contradict, wrest, or transform the Holy Word of God, no matter how kind-hearted, well-intentioned, earnestly lovable, or seemingly harmless, are by God's own statement not true prophets.

Any questions?

26 October 2014

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

A friend of mine recently wrote this, in answer to his dad's concerned question: "Which wolf are you feeding?" These two wolves are present in each and every one of us, and I loved the way he explained them both, and the opportunity to examine, in my own heart, which wolf I feed.

The first wolf in me wants the safety and comfort of belonging to the right club, the right social set, the right religion, and the right profession. It wants to believe that following the mainstream is the only safe path, and safety is most important. It prizes appearance over substance. It wants me to identify and follow great men, accepting their beliefs as authoritative and trustworthy. It wants to believe that there are men on the earth who would never be allowed to lead me astray. It wants me to pity people who don't follow those men, and who don't adhere to that true religion, and it wants me to be unable to fully empathize with their experiences. 
In that way, the first wolf wants me to see those people as less than me, or alien to me. It becomes threatened when people stop conforming to the standards of dress and behavior that serve as a shorthand for "in the group." Because it doesn't accept their full humanity, the first wolf won't let me fully love people who aren't like me. If it can apply a repulsive label to someone, it knows it will be that much easier for me to reject their ideas. Because it prizes the sense of security and safety it finds in following the right leader and belonging to the right institution, it wants me to shut my ears to truth which contradicts the false notions under-girding that sense of security. It trembles and rages if I listen to them, and doesn't like being contradicted. The same wolf wants me to rely on the security and comfort of man-made objects, buildings, economies, governments, and religions institutions. 
The second wolf knows there is only security in truth, and that ultimately it can only get that truth from God. When evaluating other's opinions, it values experience and sound reasoning over position and office. This wolf is more likely to make tentative conclusions based on ongoing learning than to take dogmatic positions based on tradition. It is never too proud to admit when it is wrong, and gratefully accepts correction. When it possesses pure knowledge, it lovingly attempts to persuade others. When it doesn't know, it doesn't need to be heard. 
This wolf is insatiably curious. It wants ugly and uncomfortable truth no less than beautiful and encouraging truth. It knows that both kinds of truth are faith-promoting. It is eager to identify and discard false traditions masquerading as truth. It is allergic to them, because they destroy faith before it can begin. It resists judging and condemning others for their perceived failings, because it knows that we all need forgiveness and grace equally. If someone says something false, it is not afraid to acknowledge that falsehood just because everyone else thinks that person couldn't be wrong. It knows the difference between speaking evil of someone and pointing out when they are mistaken. It thinks men are almost always self-important, silly, self-righteous, and vain, and he always reminds me that I am one of those men. 
I can confirm that both of those wolves are alive and well. I shared this blog post because it feeds the second and enrages the first. Of course, I could read the same article in a way that feeds the first wolf: confirming what I already believe to be true and allowing me to judge other people as ignorant and blinded by tradition. I am grateful for the reminder to always question my own motives.
Thank you, my friend, for your wisdom--and experience.

22 October 2014

How ya doin'?

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (Romans 12:1-3 NLT)
I love love love this passage of Paul's to the Romans. It contains keys of knowledge to understand how to come unto Christ (as a living and holy sacrifice), how to allow God to transform us (by listening to Him, and not following the world), and that God transforms us by changing the way we think. And lastly, I love that we can measure ourselves by our faith.

"Wait," you say. "How do we measure ourselves by our faith?"

I'm glad you asked. :o)

In order to measure ourselves by our faith, we take a good, hard look at our faith. Is it dormant? Is it expressed in the way we live and in the choices we make? Does it produce good fruit? And, most of all, do actual signs follow our belief? If there is no evidence in our behavior, no signs, no miracles, then faith is not.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? (James 2:14-19)
James isn't saying we prove our belief by what we do. He's saying that we show what we believe by what we do. So, for example, if you actually believe in Christ, your actions will commonly include loving kindness and provision for those in need. If you deny those in need, it shows you believe in something else, for God surely has said (many, many times) that we are to care for the poor. Not just give them a handout every now and then, but to actually care for and support them. In the Doctrine and Covenants it specifically mentions the fatherless and the widow (I believe "widow" includes single mothers). And the Book of Mormon uses the phrase "no poor among them" when describing the most righteous state of followers of Christ.
And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” (Mark 16:15-18)
I love that Jesus made it simple for us to know who actually believes in Him, and who doesn't. Along with their actions showing clearly what they believe, those that believe will have signs follow them. And in true Jesus-fashion, every one of the signs is for blessing others.

If these signs don't yet follow you, don't give up. They will.
This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
 We are all, spiritually, coming out of Babylon. When we pray, in these days, the Lord will listen. He will be found!
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:7-11)
I love Luke's expanded version of Matthew's commonly-quoted verses:
Then, teaching them more about prayer, [Jesus] used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:5-13)
Our God IS the God of All Good Things. He is the God of All Supply, the God Who Heals, and the Lover of Our Souls. Trust Him. Love Him. And BELIEVE that He will do what He has said. Because He will. As soon as He possibly can, without His fiery presence consuming us entirely.

18 October 2014

Jesus' Victory: Tool or Gift?

There is, among Latter-day Saints, an ubiquitous phrase: "apply the atonement". It is used thusly:
"If we work hard to do what's right, keep the commandments, apply the atonement in our lives and endure to the end, we can be saved."
This phrase has begun to stick out like a sore thumb to me . . . I get a bit twitchy when I hear it. Not because I take issue with the idea that Jesus Christ can help us, but because of the way His Work is handled in that language. Christ won the victory.  The prize is His. It's not something that can be divorced from His existence. It is what makes Him Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. His victory is something so supernal, so limitless, so astoundingly, overpoweringly, overwhelmingly HUGE, that to me the idea of "applying" it, as one does sunscreen, or one might apply a hammer to a nail, is like saying, "Yeah, that Milky Way has a few stars in it". Or, "Let's be sure to add a little breathing into our day today, shall we?"

Jesus Christ makes our lives possible. He lends us breath, He is the very energy that sustains our lives from moment to moment.
 6 [Christ is] He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
 7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
 And so, when someone says, "apply the atonement", I want to cry out that Jesus' Victory--His GLORIOUS atoning sacrifice, death and resurrection, that which caused Enoch to cry "The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world," is not a tool for us to handle, nor a cosmetic to apply when our own virtues run short. Jesus's completed work, His absolute dominion and the fullness of love He offers, are not amelioratives to spruce us up that last little bit so we are saved.

No.

We receive the gift He offers, and it works upon us as we submit ourselves to Him. We do not "use" the atoning blood of the Lamb of God, as one tool amongst others. We open ourselves to it, let it wash into and through and over us, and we are born again, totally new creatures in Christ.

Jesus SAVES. His gift to us, when truly received, leaves nothing the same. No part of us untouched, no dark corner undisturbed. When you receive Christ into your soul, you know He has seen it all, every last thing you have been ashamed of, every last sin and foolishness. And He loves you anyway. It is the firsthand witness, the knowledge of that love, that full and complete acceptance, that makes us new. That is what changes us, and what allows us to receive the Holy Ghost, to be one with the mind of God, as Jesus is one with the Father.

And that's just the beginning.

06 October 2014

From Psalm 94

LORD, how long will the wicked, 
How long will the wicked triumph? 
They utter speech, and speak insolent things; 
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. 
They break in pieces Your people, O LORD, 
And afflict Your heritage. 
They slay the widow and the stranger, 
And murder the fatherless.

He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, 
He who teaches man knowledge?

In the multitude of my anxieties within me, 
Your comforts delight my soul. 
Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, 
Have fellowship with You? 
They gather together against the life of the righteous, 
And condemn innocent blood. 
But the LORD has been my defense, And my God the rock of my refuge. (Psalms 94:3-6, 10, 19-22 NKJV)

Amen

05 October 2014

Wonderful Counselor

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."(Isaiah 9:6 NLT)

Christ IS wonderful. He is my Counselor--not just in the archaic sense of one who governs, but as the best-ever therapist, too. He knows not only the end from the beginning, but my end from my beginning. For He is my God, my everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace. 

So often I feel utterly unequipped for this life. I have a good education, come from a good family, have a husband who loves me faithfully and children who are so much more than I deserve. And, like everyone else throughout all of time, I'm still such a rookie in so much of life. And it feels like God has blessed me so abundantly with family that I'll never be equal to the task before me.

And so, I will lean on My Counselor, My Mighty God, My Everlasting Father, My Prince of Peace.

Jesus, I trust You. I am so often totally dumbfounded by Your trust in me, and am in awe of the blessings You've given, and all that lies before me. Lord, show me how to do all things that are required at Your hand. I trust and believe that I can do ALL things through You, for You are the One Who Gives Strength, The Lord God Almighty. Thank You for Who You Are, and all You continually offer to help and sustain me. And lead me, Lord, in the strait path, in the narrow way, and increase my faith as I follow You. In Your Blessed Name, Amen. 

04 October 2014

We Choose. Always.

The story of the 116 pages is not a prototype of the Lord not allowing bad things to happen because of our weaknesses. The 116 pages could have been kept, had Joseph chosen differently, and we would have had twice as much scripture as we do now in the Book of Mormon. 

God gave Joseph a choice between 1000+ pages of the Book of Mormon, or 500+ pages. Joseph chose the latter, not realizing at the time what his choice really was.  That said, God doesn't tuck a set of "small plates" into every situation in our lives. We must be able to choose darkness and damnation, and reap the consequences, else this whole world, this whole life, is a farce. Yes, we each have our small plates situations . . . but they are the exception, not the rule, and they never contradict our agency.

Agency means nothing if we cannot chose evil, and actually receive evil in return. God doesn't "give people what they want". People CHOOSE what they want. He is, as a result, either constrained or enabled in people's lives. He gives no man or woman, or group of people, anything that they do not choose. Ever. Agency is supreme. God does not coerce, compel, or anything like unto it. He offers, entreats, persuades, instructs, gives commandments . . . but in all things, we choose.

Not keeping that truth at the forefront of our minds in all things, in all of this, is one of the most damning mistakes of all. What we receive from God really IS up to us. Each one of us, all the time.

Heaven help us.

03 October 2014

Praise: Proclaiming the Obvious

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" Isa 52:7

Why on earth would Zion--those of one heart and one mind, who know the Lord already--need someone to tell her "Thy God reigneth"?

Good question.

Why say the obvious? Why repeat what has been said before in scripture so many times? Why do what is foolish in our culture, but encouraged in scripture?

All throughout scripture, people who definitely "knew better" repeat themselves at key points. (Please forgive me for not quoting them here . . . this post is being eked out in just a few spare moments today. But that gives you a chance to notice these as you study further in all of scripture.) The practice of praise (i.e. telling God what He already knows about Himself, and proclaiming it to others who mostly already know it, too) is a lost art in the LDS tradition. And yet, as I have begun to learn how to praise--how to confess God's glory, strength, majesty, mercy, grace, love, justice, abundant generosity, and a thousand other things--I have been blessed in rich ways. There is power in praise, in speaking into life within your own mind the truth that exists elsewhere, that shifts the spiritual atmosphere and opens our hearts and minds to the glory and mind of God.

So, go ahead and try it sometime. Try telling God what He already knows about Himself, and see what happens to your own heart, your own spirit. And if you have the Holy Spirit with you in power, then watch out . . . you'll feel like you can go on forever, and there are few things as beautiful or sweet to the soul.

Father in Heaven, I glory in You! For You are faithful, always; Your Son leads me through my life, teaches me Your ways, and blesses and protect me as soon as I'm willing to let Him. You work in mysterious ways, that are made plain to those who love and follow You. You are generous and kind, eager to receive us into Your presence. I praise you for Jesus, and His willing sacrifice. Jesus, you are Good, You are Love, You are Light, You are Truth! You bless me beyond all measure and understanding, and You never leave me desolate when I cry out to You. You are the God who heals, the God of Restoration, the Finder of all that is Lost, the God of All Supply. You are my hope, my strength, my joy, my forgiveness. You are Mercy, You are Joy, and You are Mine, as I am Yours. I love you, Jesus, and I love you, Father in Heaven. In Jesus' beloved name, amen!

29 September 2014

Nothing Can Separate Us

"What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? 

No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."                     ~(Romans 8:31-39 NLT)
Others may try to do all of the things listed above--to condemn, to be against, to accuse--but in keeping with God's promises, when we are His, when we walk in His Will according to the Holy Spirit, the flesh has no power over us. More than that, fleshy causes cannot injure the peace our Lord Jesus offers if we trust in Him. We may still mourn loss, or ache inside for those who are hurting . . . but the Lord our God will be with us, will not leave us comfortless.

Father, I rest in Your Son. I trust You, and Jesus, to do as You have promised me. I trust in Your words, that when You said You will send a comforter, that You will, every time it's needed. You have done so faithfully in the past, and I trust in You completely to continue. You showed us the way to eternal life, through Your Son . . . and I TRUST that You will not change the terms on me. That what You have said, stands. That what You have decreed for my good, You will not revoke. That my faith in the Living God will not be returned void, but will reap love, hope, and joy as I continue faithful in what You have told me. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Father. I will rest in, rely on, trust in, and walk with You. I will NOT fear, I will NOT doubt. I will REJOICE in my King, and shout His praise from the tops of the mountains! In Jesus' saving name. Amen.

28 September 2014

My Testimony

Today was Fast and Testimony meeting in our ward. Vern went and bore his testimony. I was unable to attend, and so I wanted to bear my testimony here, to stand as a record both in this earth and in heaven.

Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe he saw the Father and the Son, was called by them to bring forth the Book of Mormon, and gave us a tremendous amount of truth in his short life and ministry. God has called many men and women to work in various parts of His vineyard. Joseph Smith was one, and laid the foundation of a tremendous work and wonder that has only just begun.

The Book of Mormon is the word of God, as are the Pearl of Great Price, the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, and the precious contents of the Bible.

Jesus Christ lives. I have felt His presence. He has forgiven me of my sins, and I have received the Holy Ghost. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man approaches the Father but by, and through, and because of, Him. He is the Savior of the World, who died and rose on the third day to ascend to His Father in glory and be exalted upon high, to sit upon His Father's throne, and be an advocate with the Father for each and every one of us. He has subdued the world under his feet, has cast satan out of Heaven, and awaits us with open arms. I know that, unless and until we each accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, and admit no one else in that place in our hearts, that we are denying ourselves blessings and favor and healing and peace that passes understanding. I plead with everyone who reads this to seek Him, and to receive Him, and all He offers.

I have grown closer to Jesus Christ through the last year and a half than I ever have been before; have come to know Him in more facets of His character than ever before. He is my God, seated in Heaven with Father. He is also one of my dearest and most intimate friends, Whose love is as the ocean, someone Whose spiritual presence has come to comfort me more times than I can count, and Who is not only willing to fill me with His love and comfort, but is eager to do so the instant I turn my mind and heart to Him. I have found Him in scripture as I have studied and then journaled here, and He has led and prompted me through so many things. He has snatched me from death and hell, and calls me Friend. The generosity of His love and grace never ceases to amaze me--and He continues to outdo Himself in the healing and teaching He generously gives. The love I have for Him is geologic in scale, and the idea of admitting any mortal, regardless of office or calling, into the place that is His would be a deep betrayal of everything He has done, everything He has given, everything He has made of me. I have a personal witness of the spiritual glory and power of Jehovah, Lord of Heaven and Earth, the One to Whom Nephi wrote his psalm, and Who Ammon rejoiced in when he boasted in his God.

I also bear witness that God is moving, today. He is setting captives free, He is calling new workers into the vineyard, and He loves and works in the hearts of ALL who seek Him earnestly. He pours out His Spirit upon all flesh that will receive it, and calls all who will come, to come and labor in His vineyard now, today. He still works through miracles, through prophecy, through the manifold Gifts of the Spirit, and these works are evidenced by the Fruits of the Spirit. As Mormon wrote:
"[F]or it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made. (~Moroni 7:37-38)
 Jesus Christ saves. He lives! He has spoken to me, and I bear witness of His love, His forgiveness, and the Life He offers to every one of us. And, as Alma said, I say these things, not because I know "of myself", but because I am born again, and I know these things through revelation from the Living God. In His holy, beloved, marvelous name: Jesus Christ. Amen.

23 September 2014

About that path . . .

"I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble." -Proverbs 4:11-12 ESV

David taught Solomon that his steps would be sure and strong, that he would find solid solid footholds where he went. I had always assumed the path along which God would grant that travel looked a lot like this:




But reading this morning, I realized that there was no guarantee of level ground or mild weather in those verses . . . that sometimes the path our Lord leads us over looks like this:


Father of Heaven and Earth, I trust You. When You speak, I choose to BELIEVE what You have said above ALL ELSE. Above the wisdom of men, above traditions, above what my own eyes and flesh and intellect may assert. When You say my steps will not be hampered and I will not stumble, I will step out boldly, in full confidence in Your Word! You ARE the God Who Provides, the God Who Heals, the God Who is Faithful. You are Truth, Love and Light! I rejoice that faith is such an unconditional thing, that I need not second-guess or labor long and hard to decide whether or not You are Trustworthy. When I seek You, You ARE found. When I dive into Your Word, You feed my soul. When I turn my heart and mind to You, You do not leave me with deception and emptiness, but fill me with pure knowledge that enlarges my soul and fills it with faith, hope, and love. Lord, lead me today, I pray with all earnestness of heart. Whatever You have in Your heart for me, I will accept, for You are the Lord God Almighty . . . the One who desires nothing more than true closeness with me, with each of Your children. You long to care for us, to bless and strengthen us; and Lord, I accept whatever You have before me, today. I choose to lay my life down for those You have placed in my care, for those I am called to love, and to lead to freedom in Christ, in the name of Him Who I love every bit as much as You, my wonderful Jesus. Amen!

02 September 2014

God's Words Are Not Perishable

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." ~Matthew 24:35 NKJV

I have often heard, throughout the last five years or so, that modern revelation trumps ancient revelation. That, in the case of contradiction, current leaders' words carry a greater weight of God's authority. A phrase commonly taken out of context to support that teaching is from Doctrine and Covenants 1:38: 

". .  . whether by my own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." 

That fragment has long since passed the point of cliché in its use to imbue men's words with God's power.

The verse in Matthew gives us an important key: God's words are not perishable. They have no expiration date. 

The commonly-omitted bulk of D&C 1:38 agrees:

"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

In this verse God refers to what He has already spoken; what His servants had already proclaimed which the early saints had in scripture. The Lord's words not only won't expire--a date after which they suddenly are no longer good, after which we are no longer required to obey them, after which they are no longer Truth--but they "shall all be fulfilled". ALL. 

The declarations of the Living God are eternal--and we must handle them with care, for our very salvation hangs upon them. 

"And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them "standard"—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it."

(Apostle Harold B. Lee, "The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator," Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Faculty, BYU, 8 July 1964)

Up until five years ago, that is what I was taught. That is one of the recurring themes of the Old Testament, as well. 

I have heard some jaw-dropping interpretations of scripture offered in order to wrest from them agreement to modern statements. I'm not a silver-headed gospel scholar, but I most certainly can read, and have read, the scriptures for myself, and am capable of understanding what they say in plain language. English has been my study for more than two decades now, and the interpretations currently presented simply do not have the grammatical support of the language in which they are written. 

"Nevertheless, through you [Joseph Smith] shall the oracles [scriptures] be given to another, yea, even unto the church.

And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house." ~D&C 90:4-5

Today is the day of descendant storm. The wind howls, rain beats, and the violence thereof has made itself amply manifest in my life. Our God is not a God of storms, but of shelter. He is the God Who Hears, and the God Who Heals. It is not He who sends the tempest, but the enemy of our souls. And it is in agreement with the Word of the Living God that we find rest. That I have found rest, when the words of men--earnest and well-intentioned though they were--failed me.

Don't repeat my damning mistake. Take God at His Word. 

His unchanging, eternal, and sure-foundationed Word. 

Father in Heaven, thank You. Thank You for Your constancy, Your faithfulness, Your patience and Your unending mercy, grace, and forgiving love. I rejoice in Your unchanging nature, and that You look upon all flesh equally--that every one of Your children have the same opportunity to approach You, to receive the bounty You offer ALL who come unto You in repentant humility. God, You are WONDERFUL! And I will rest my soul in the shelter of Your Truth, and stand unshaken upon Your Rock. In Jesus' name, amen!