Monday, April 9, 2018

The Relationship Between Sacrifice, Knowledge, and a Broken Heart




This is a segment from the interview I was in for footage for the Zion's Return Website: https://www.zionsreturn.org

How can I know if I am doing the Lord's will? That is the question many people go through life asking. When it comes to salvation, that is the most important thing one can ask. It is the daunting dilemma many grown adults confront in a mid-life crisis. It is the haunting ache that stirs in the hearts of Millenials just entering that adult world. It was the question presented by Mormon college students to LDS leader David Bednar last November in a Q&A at a Utah Valley LDS Institute fireside. The answer he gave, in my opinion, lacked the spiritual substance to truly address that deep yearning concern. It was a precept of man and a contradiction to what Joseph Smith taught answering that exact same critical question in the Lectures on Faith. Leaders make mistakes and that is a normal flaw of being human, what is important is that we don't believe those mistakes as being an absolute truth from God.

So next Monday, back at UVU, Christopher and I will be giving a presentation and leading a group discussion directly out of the Lectures on Faith addressing that same question, and how the relationship between sacrifice and faith is key to attaining that knowledge. If this is a deep concern that you wrestle with, we encourage you to come. The link to the event is posted below. Our hope in doing this is that you will gain a greater reason to believe in Christ and a deeper resolve to know Him.
I will be presenting and leading a discussion on the relationship between sacrifice and faith from the 6th Lecture of the "Lectures on Faith" by Joseph Smith Jr at 7PM, April 16th at Utah Valley University. It will be held in the Reflection Center in the Student Life and Wellness Center. The room is directly under the gym and across from the bowling alley.

327 W 1200 S, Orem, UT 84058

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My 30 Minute Rant on the MTC Rape Room

My 30-minute rant on the former MTC president admitting to having a "rape room" in the basement of the Missionary Training Center, where he raped sister missionaries, and why faithful Mormons need to stand up to church policies that are wrong. And most importantly why we need to trust in a perfect God and not an imperfect church. Never done a video before, excuse my lack of eye contact and slowness of speech







Friday, March 16, 2018

Why Faithful Mormons Should March to Protect the LDS Children

Recently within the Mormon community, former bishop Sam Young started a movement to protect the LDS children by seeking to gain the support of others to demand that the LDS church stop sexually explicit interviews of Mormon youth that are held behind closed door, alone with an older man.  He is collecting signatures of people who support this cause which he will present, along with a record of testimonies of those abused as children by church leaders, on March 30th to the LDS Church Office building.     If you do not know about the petition and efforts underway to protect the innocent children of the LDS Church, I would suggest visiting protectldschildren.org
I will not be going into detail here about the issue of sexually explicit interviews of Mormon youth.  That has been addressed well enough by others and so for the sake of argument, we are going to assume that the practice is morally wrong.   Instead, this blog post will address why questioning policies and standing up to such issues does not make one an apostate and how as a faithful members, it is your responsibility, and not just the leaders, to see that your church is rooting out the evil so that it can become the bride of Christ - a Zion people ready for the return of the Lord.   




On Thursday, January 25th, Sam Young met with his local church leaders to discuss the book "Sacred Stories of Sacred Children" and Sam's efforts to raise awareness of the issue.    As Sam described some of the trauma and horrible accounts of sexual abuse and misconduct in bishop interviews share by victims in his book his leaders responded saying, 
“Shame on those men.” 

Sam takes it a step further is his response, 

“Shame on the system that enabled the actions of these men.”


I find Mr. Young's response to be a very profound and true statement.  I have repeatedly heard the argument from members of the LDS church that the "the church is perfect, but the members are imperfect".  This is a reaffirming argument for those who believe that church can never lead you astray because inspired leaders of God are infallible since they would be struck dead by God and removed from their place if they did try to lead the church astray.  It is comforting to believe that you can rest in the assurance that the life you pursue and the actions you take are in accordance to God's will so long as you maintain faith in the direction and authority of that perfect church.  It is easier to surrender the personal moral responsibility of following the dictates of your conscience to the idea that "if 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."

I want to explain why the institution, and not the members, is the primary cause of such abominations and wickedness.   Before you continue reading, I want to first clarify that I do not believe that the sins and abuse administered by men upon the innocent are at all justifiable.  I am seeking to shed light on how a system can enable the wicked actions of seemingly good men so that despite whatever form evil may manifest itself in, we who do seek to follow the dictates of our conscience and who are followers of Christ will have the courage to stand up against wickedness- to put an end to it before it spreads uncontrollably.  If you are Mormon, I hope that by reading this you will recognize that the obligation to see that the organization you serve protects the least among you rests upon your shoulders as members, and that that is a responsibility you can not delegate unchecked to the system.     



The Fruits of a Church are the People Produced by that Church


When we hear the word “church”, we often think of a building with steeples and containing a large congregational hall lined with benches and the echo of bells and organ pipes.  Our minds go back to Sunday school rooms with whiteboards where we were taught from church-issued manuals as we sat, rocked-back on hind legs of metal chairs (or, if you were lucky enough, a comfy, cushioned chair which was smuggled from the Relief Society room).  Images of general authorities in formal business attire, the Conference Center, and temples may also flash across your mind.  

None of these things, however, actually constitutes a church. The words church comes from the Greek word ekklésia, simply means an assembly or collective body of Christians, or of those who profess to believe in Christ.

The Lord defines church in the Doctrine and Covenants, declaring his statement as doctrine with a warning:

Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.(Doctrine and Covenants 10:67–68)
This is the church I am part of.  If you have repented and come unto Christ, despite whatever denomination you affiliate with, I consider you my brother or sister in Christ.  


The church is the people, specifically those who repent and come unto Christ.  Everything else a church may require or produce is more or less.  So the fruits of a religious organization are the people.  If the people are doing bad things, if they are engaging in sexual misconduct, that is the fruit of something amiss in that organization.  That church is, therefore, an imperfect church.  

For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.(Moroni 7:11)


In our personal progression, we are commanded by Jesus to "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."  (Matt 5:48) This is the goal and mark for which we must be aiming, but as fallen mortals, we recognize that although this is a commandment, it is an impossible task.   For those who have faith in Christ, however, they realize that with God nothing is impossible and it is Christ's role as our Lord to perfect them.  When we understand the power of the atonement and blood of Jesus, we can reach for the utmost heavens while not to spiraling into self-pity when we fall short because of our weakness.  For our weakness WILL be made manifest as we work on our relationship with Christ.  Ask anyone who has been married for a long enough time and they will agree that being in a serious, committed relationship long enough will bring out all the ugly issues not noticed during dating/honeymoon phase.   Our relationship with God is no different, for He says, 

"...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."(Ether 12:27; emphasis mine)
If we humbly acknowledge our weaknesses when they are shown unto us and we take them to Christ in penitence, he will make weak things strong.  This is a true principle on the individual level of a believer.  Why would this be any different on the scale of a collective body of believers - a church?  The church is referred to in the Bible as the bride of Christ. (Eph 5:22-23)  In the ancient Jewish marriage process, the bride had to go through serious preparation and ritual cleansing before the wedding day.  As a body of believers, we are not yet married to Christ and still have serious preparation and cleansing to go through before we can become that "perfect" church. The ugly truth will be brought to light as we strive for Zion, for perfection.  This is the natural effect of coming unto Christ so that we can recognize evil exists and have it uprooted.  

As long as the root of evil is hidden, it is strong. When it is recognized, it is undone, and if it is brought to light, it dies. For this reason the word says, “Already the ax is laid at the root of the trees.” It will not merely cut them down, for what is cut down sprouts up again. Rather, the ax will dig down until it cuts out the root. Jesus pulled out the root of the whole place, but others did so only in part.  
Let each of us also dig down after the root of evil within us and pull it out of our hearts from the root. It will be uprooted if we recognize it. But if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces fruit in our hearts. It dominates us. We are its slaves, and it takes us captive so that we do what we do [not] want and do [not] do what we want. It is powerful because we do not recognize it. As long as [it] exists, it stays active.(Hidden Parts, The Root of Evil - Gospel of Philip) 


What fruit are you? 
If the church is producing bad fruit is it not our duty as members of a body of believers to address the issue and uproot the evil?  Could the efforts of people like Sam Young, who points out flaws in church policies that enable wickedness to abound, be God's way bringing to light such wickedness?  If we choose to ignore such criticism, dismissing the proponents of such arguments as apostates or false-prophets because they shed light on the weaknesses of our church, are we not refusing to humble ourselves before the Lord to receive His sufficient grace to make weak things become strong?  Not all material that sheds light on the imperfect state of the Mormon church is anti-Mormon; some of it may be God's efforts to call his people unto repentance to sanctify his bride before the great wedding day!  We ought to humble ourselves, acknowledge our sins, and repent.  If we choose to remain ignorant or support the legislation of bills that undertake to cover our sins, we allow the evil to take root within us as a church.  That wickedness will grow and as Philip states, it will dominate us.  Jesus said, "Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted." We need to allow our God, the Lord of the vineyard, to do that necessary gardening and weeding within our souls and throughout our church.  



Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? 

“Shame on the system that enabled the actions of these men.”

Throughout recorded history, and most especially in the 20th century, humanity has suffered some the most horrendous and evil acts ever committed on a large scale that a new word, genocide, had to be invented in the last 100 years to describe such massive, wicked acts.  We must never forget how such evil became a justifiable act in the eyes of a society, or it will unfold again in our lifetime.  Now you are probably thinking, "This is escalating fast, I thought this was a post about a church policy!"  

No, I am not comparing the LDS church to Nazi Germany, but wickedness always starts in small doses and can escalate, can dominate us, if we derive our source of mortality in a system and not in values that transcend dogma.  Morality is something we think is fixed and impermeable with us on the good side.  This is false.  Our sense of morality is as changing and skewed as much as we are blind in our devotion to authority and shallow in the dictates of our conscience.  If you are not watchful, you can cross that line without even knowing it. We believe that if we had lived in the countries of the mass genocides we would be good people and choose the right if we were placed in a bad circumstance.  History and psychological and anthropological studies show otherwise.    

The following video is Ted Talk on titled "Psychology of Evil" presented by psychologist Philip Zimbardo.  He discusses what he calls the "Lucifer Effect" which explains how good people will do really evil things if placed in a bad system that enables such behavior.  Now I must warn you, this video is a bit discomforting, but it reveals something terrifying about the natural man we must forsake, and so I invite you to listen and watch.  I believe it is worth your time.  
Warning: The video does contain graphic and disturbing images meant to educate the audience of how evil of acts men are capable of committing.   The images are shown from 5:00 to 6:45.  If this is too disturbing then skip this portion of the video.  






Satan understands the psychology of evil very well. He is the father of lies. He works through deception and secrecy.  He understands that if he can overtake an institution and puppet it, he will lead every soul devoted to such an organization to the gulf of misery and endless wo. The LDS church has been blessed with more scripture then other Christian churches.  They have fewer excuses for not obtaining and comprehending deep truth than others.   Satan knows this and this is why they are targeted and more susceptible to fall.  This is why we must be watchful when presented with opportunities to repent.  This especially why we as Mormons should be on guard against devotion, faith, and confidence in a hierarchy because when the deceptive temptation to engage and allow wickedness come, when we are justified to unknowingly cross that skewed line of morality, the gates of hell are ready and open to receive such.   Please consider the following: 



Lucifer and his followers damn mankind by employing the following strategies. 

Imitate: Lucifer makes what he does resemble what the Savior does. He teaches as closely as possible what the Savior teaches. He claims what the Savior claims. He promises what the Savior promises. But in every case, he does so falsely so that it cannot save anyone. 

Appropriate: He gains control over whatever the Savior establishes. The very best way to insure no one is saved is to take the actual House of God and make it Lucifer’s house.
The weak-minded are easily fooled into believing they have salvation when they only have a powerless imitation. Hence the Lord’s prophesy that many will claim at the last day they did many wonderful things in His name. To them He will say: “I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:21-23.)

It may seem challenging, but making the right choices is not difficult. As long as we take this concept seriously (our salvation depends on it) and we study carefully using the scriptures as our guide, it is easy to tell imitation from the real thing. It is also easy to see when the order established by Christ has been misappropriated. The scriptures tell us the test for priestcraft. Do men seek the welfare of Zion, or their own benefit? 
  


Protecting the Good Name of the Church 


In Sam Young’s interview, he was accused as an apostate by his local church leaders, his stake president left Sam with this warning:

You can’t continue speaking in public about this.  We will have to protect the good name of the church. 
Here is Mr. Young's public response: 

I agree that we need to protect the good name of the church.  How about that?  The Church’s reputation is being trashed by a dreadful policy that is doing severe harm to our children.  My fellow Mormons…join with 13,000 of us to protect the good name of the Church.  If this policy is not eliminated, those who didn’t speak up for change will be responsible for the bad name the Church is now accruing.
Here is my response and thoughts: 

I agree with Sam Young.  We need to protect the good name of the church (that is, the collective body of believers).  However, from the eyes of the church leaders, I do not believe this is their real concern...  

This is the definition of apostasy from the Church Handbook of Instructions:

"Apostasy refers to members who repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”

These grounds presented for accusing members of apostasy are not based on morality or doctrine, but rather upon the failure to submit to, obey, and fall in line with those in power.  In a religious organization that puts so much emphasis upon and equates salvation to "keys" and authority, it can become a greater priority to safeguard the authority and the reputation of the system instead of the moral obligation to protect those the system is designed to serve.  It is difficult for such an organization to have the humility to admit their weaknesses and repent.  Leaders are still mortal men who make mistakes.  Often their belief in their divine calling and institution can blind them and make them ignorant of the root of evil forming in the organization they preside over.  This was the case of King Noah when he had Abinidi excommunicated.   


What Constitutes Apostasy?
“And he said unto him: Abinadi, we have found an accusation against thee, and thou art worthy of death. or thou hast said that God himself should come down among the children of men; and now, for this cause thou shalt be put to death unless thou wilt recall all the words which thou hast spoken evil concerning me and my people.”(Mosiah 17:7–8)

In a sense King Noah is also telling Abinadi, “You can't speak out against your church leaders, stop speaking evil concerning my people, we need to protect the good name of the church, stop this or be excommunicated"

Sam Young is being faced with a similar dilemma as his leaders dangle his membership over the fire, implying excommunication if he does not stop speaking evil concerning institutional policies.




I recently read this in a book.  It's fitting:
When the culture of any organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of the individuals who serve that system or who are served by that system you can be certain that shame is systemic, money is driving ethics, and that accountability is all but dead.   
This is true in corporations, non-profits, universities, governments, faith communities, schools, families, and sports programs. If you think back on any major scandal, fueled by cover ups you’ll see the same pattern, and the restitution and resolution of cover ups almost always happen in the wilderness when one person steps outside their bunker and speaks the truth.  
- Brené Brown, "Braving the Wilderness"

No institution or its leaders, despite how divine it may believe itself to be, is exempt from becoming blinded by pride or having wickedness creep in and take root.  When those roots of evil are made known, it does not make you an apostate to stand up, question, and seek to make better the organization you are a part of.  In fact, it makes you a true Latter-Day Saint because you are fulfilling your responsibility as a member of the body in purifying the church to be the bride of Christ.  As Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 would say, All parts of the body of Christ are needed and if one part suffers, if the children are abused, the entire well-being of the body is held back.  Zion will not come unless we are one heart, one mind, with no poor among us.  
The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.  (1st Corinthians 12:21)
Every individual believer makes up the bride of Christ.  Everyone is needed.  As a member of the body, this is your church.  It doesn't belong to a prophet, or the brethren, or any office or policy.  It belongs to the people.  It is the people.  And as a people, we are preparing to be joined in union with Jesus on that great wedding day and so the responsibility to prepare and be one as a whole belongs to each and every member.  If you are a foot, or a hand, or any other part of the body, and you are hurting or witnessing wrongdoings, you must make it known to the head so that we can become Zion- One heart, one mind, with NO poor among us.   No poor means a system that does not create an environment that perpetuates abuse.   Wickedness will not cease unless it is first brought to the light.         


Sam Young is a warrior and a defender of the children, fighting to protect your kids from a system that enables the wicked actions of men. He is a man speaking out against wickedness in high places to serve the least of these.  He is a what Philip Zimbardo describes as a hero, and is doing what Brené Brown describes as "braving the wilderness".  He is a faithful Latter-Day Saint because he striving to make the body of Christ whole and well.   He is daring to stand alone, even if it means choosing the harder right.  That is courage, that is living the gospel, that is fighting against powers of darkness and rooting out the evil before it escalates into something worse.  He is doing this because he cares about the church and the people its system serves.  I care about the church and the people its system serves.  As a faithful Mormon, these are your people, this is your church. You should care, too.   





Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fruit






When the harvest arrives and the angels of the Lord come to gather the wheat, or when the husbandman and his servants tend to the vineyard to find the natural and good fruit, they will not be searching for a perfect system, nor will they desire the wealth, property, and influence of an institution.  It is the immortality and eternal life of man that is God's glory, and so the angels will be looking for those individuals who have been perfected through the blood of Jesus Christ, who can see God face to face because they are like Him.  Or in other words, whose bodies are made celestial, (the same stuff God is made up of) who can, as a result, dwell in the presence of God and entertain angels because they won't spontaneously combust from simply being in their just and holy presence.  In short, the good and natural fruit is those who actually know Christ.  The programs, ordinances, and resources of a church are meant to help produce that good fruit, but more often than not, they distract from the what is important, drawing too much energy from the tree, and they become lofty branches which only produce deprived and bitter fruit.  We all know what the Lord of the Vineyard does with the lofty branches.   Individuals who can go can go about life engaged in religious duty proclaiming "Lord, Lord have we not given priesthood blessings in thy name, served missions wearing your name badge, and in thy name have performed many temple ordinances for ourselves and our ancestors?"  but do not know God as He is meant to be known are the bitter fruit- the tares that will burn in the presence of God and his angels.

Vineyard, harvest- Jacob 5, Doctrine and Covenants 86
work and glory- Moses 1:39
perfected through the blood of Jesus- Moroni 10:32-33
See God face to face because you are like Him- Moroni 7:48, 1 John 4:17, Philip 57,61,78
body made celestial- Doctrine and Covenants 76:70
dwell in God's presence- Doctrine and Covenants 76:51-67
spontaneous combustion- Moses 6:57, Mormon 9:3-5, TPJS 367, Thomas 70,82, Revelations 14:10
knowing God- John 17:3, JST John 6:44, Lectures on Faith 7:21
lofty branches- Jacob 5
engaged in religious duty- JST Matthew 7:21-23

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Angels Have Knowledge but so do Demons


"There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It's not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels."
-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

It may be true that a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. (TPJS 217)
I guarantee that if we feign ignorance when deeper knowledge is presented to us if we fear the mysteries of God instead of seeking them out, we will be brought into captivity by an entity with more knowledge.

But knowledge alone cannot save. Evil spirits have great knowledge and yet they are not saved but are damned and seek to destroy others. Knowledge or power is not inherently evil or good. It simply exists. As we progress we will obtain greater knowledge, but that does not rob our agency. How we choose to use that knowledge will determine if we are good or evil. The more truth one obtains, the larger their world becomes- a greater degree of discernment is required hence the need for more light to comprehend the truth. When one makes that journey they will battle bigger giants, but greater are their allies they have to call upon if they remain in the strait and narrow path.

In the pursuit of truth, we have to balance charity and knowledge because Charity is the greatest of them all. (1Cor 13:13, Mor 7:46) I have learned that charity, the pure love of Christ, is not something you do, its something you must possess, its something you become. (Mor 7:47) Just as God is love, as you are filled with his love you become, Love. (1st John 4:8, Mor8:48)

You can’t study your way into Heaven by being a scriptorian and so it is not enough to be intellectual about the Gospel. The analytical mind uses only 5% in comparison to the subconscious, so we must not merely entertain truth with our intellect, we have to let it take seed and grow in our hearts. Just as the heart pumps blood to the whole body, we must allow truth to go through the same process within us so that we can embody the Word with that 95% subconscious. This is how you possess Charity, by embodying that pure love Christ with your entire being. Loving God with all your heart, mind, and will.
Angles have knowledge but so do demons. You can’t judge them based on the mysteries they can reveal. The difference between a Son of God and a son the Satan is not what they know, but what they have become. One possesses charity while the other does not.




Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A White Elephant Gift, a Broken Drive-Shaft, and a Hero in My Eyes

How does a seemingly horrible day become an absolutely wonderful day?  You recognize God's witty hand through it all.



I've come to cherish the Sabbath, it is my absolute favorite day of the week because I’ve come to understand its deeper design.  In the creation, God placed a garden in Eden.  A garden has great significance to a kingdom palace because the palace garden is where the king goes when he is not busy dealing with kingly matters of the throne.  He goes to the garden to get away, relax, and enjoy beauty.  He goes there to find rest unto his soul.

In the garden in Eden God placed man. He does this on the 7th day, a day which He sanctifies as a day of rest. (see Genesis 2: 1-9)  If a king goes to his garden to find rest, what does this tell you about God and how he views us by placing Adam and Eve in His garden?  He finds pleasure and rest unto His soul in being with us, and has a sanctified day for that  very thing.  The sabbath day is not designed to simply be observed as a day to abstain from work and fulfill mundane religious obligations.  It’s a day designed to enjoy sweet communion with Jesus, to experience the benefits that come from engaging in an intimate relationship with Him.  It’s a day where we are to slow down and enjoy a walk in the cool of day with the God who finds joy in us. 

And so this last Sunday was a day of sweet communion for me.  I spent the day fasting and worshipping and it turned out to be a very, very good sabbath.  The week had five finals in store for me and I had hope that the ecstasy and love I had would carry through the week, but fate immediately took a sharp turn.  

As I was driving to my graveyard shift that night my Jeep began to act very “sick”.  Every time I hit the gas while going over 30mph the whole frame would start convulsing into a mass seizure on four wheels.  I would not have time to repair it until finals were over in a couple days.  I pick up shifts in a group home for adults with mental disabilities, and the graveyards allow me to study and sleep while the clients are in bed.  However that night I was unable to get any studying or sleep done because one of my clients was acting very aggressively and causing property damage.  This was not a common occurrence at this house, and so I did not anticipate it.  Nonetheless, I was forced to pull an all-nighter and began to feel furious because I had a huge engineering exam at 9:00am.  I went straight from work to school with nothing in my system except for a bowl of cereal, Maverick coffee, and a prayer. 

During the exam, I discovered that the programs I had created on my graphing calculator had been erased and I was, therefore, unable to solve all the problems on the test- a test that equates to 30 percent of my grade in a very important and detrimental class.  My entire degree was actually hinging on this class and I couldn't help but feel that I was being thwarted in my efforts to pursue an Engineering career.   When I got home a received a complaint text message from my office job.  I wasn’t in the mood for criticism at this point.

I told a friend all that had happened in the past twelve hours.  I asked her if the kind of stuff I was experiencing ever happened to her, where one day is perfect, then the next one completely crappy.  She told me: 

“You betcha, but once you realize what’s going on, it almost becomes comical and like a game… but the heat of the moment is the portal to the freedom part…”
I decided that the day was not over yet and that I would still make it a good one by finishing the killer white-elephant gift I was working on for a church Christmas party I was attending that evening.  I prayed to God that if one thing could go right this day, that it would be the white elephant gift exchange party.  For some odd reason, it was placed in my heart to give a more thoughtful effort into my white-elephant gift.  So with the 5 dollar limit criteria, I bought gift-wrapping paper, a snowman themed oven-mitt, an Avengers super-hero Santa hat, hot-coco mix, and a holiday card in which I wrote the following in my nicest cursive: 


Because you're on the Nice List,

Some oven-mitts becasue you are too hot to handle,

An Avengers Santa hat becasue in my eyes you're a hero, 

And some hot-coco for keeping that warm heart of yours burning. 

Love,

Secret Santa

I felt silly, almost childish, writing such a cheesy message, but I felt like someone would need to read these words tonight- that perhaps God would answer someone's aching question through the anonymity of a Secret Santa.  Deep down we all have warm yet warrior hearts, maybe it would awake the hero in waiting within.   As I completed wrapping the present I found myself excited and giddy, becoming emotionally invested about the possibility of this cony gift putting a smile on someone's face.   I prayed over it that it would be lead to the right person.

At the party, there was a total of 28 gifts.  Out of all of them, mine was the first one chosen by a young guy I had never seen at church or any activity. (for the 2 or 3 months I have been attending)  He was with his wife and their young toddler and he seemed very shy and quiet.  I watch intently as he unwrapped the gift.  He didn't seem excited, in fact, he didn't even open the card.  His wife had to point out that there was a message in it, and when he did read it silently to himself his face was expressionless.  My emotional investment down the drain!

As the party came to an end two guys asked me for a ride home, both living in completely opposite directions.  Although I asked others to help, no one else seemed to be able to give one of these guys a ride so I agreed, warning them that my Jeep was having issues and would be a bumpy ride.   Shortly after dropping off my first passenger I was making a turn at an intersection, downshifting when I heard the nasty and horrific snap from the rear of my Jeep.  No power was being delivered to the axles no matter how much I pressed the gas.  My Jeep was broken.


I pulled over, but before I could take a look, I had to walk alone off into the trees to pray and collect myself.  The day was already absolutely crazy, and couldn't imagine it getting even more out of hand,  I couldn't handle it.  I was scared to look and assess the source of the snap and asked God to make it not-so-bad, even though I knew the damage was already done.  I discovered my rear-shaft had broke.



I didn't think my Jeep would be driving away from that spot that night.  I put an SOS on the GroupMe app that our CollegeCore Chruch group uses requesting that someone come pick up my passenger and give him a ride home while I deal with finding a way to get the Jeep towed.  I posted this request with a picture of the problem.  Almost immediately someone replied saying they were on their way.  In the group message, the person told me that he owns an 89 blazer and had broken four drive shafts in the past and that if I put my Jeep into 4H I could get it home.  I was stressed, and all I could not see past the broken drive-shaft.  So it did not cross my mind that 4-wheel drive would not require that the front and rear axle be connected. It worked! There was, however, an extended shaft protruding from underneath my Jeep hanging just a few inches off the ground.  I would have to drive very slow.  Giving my friend a ride the rest of the way to his house was out of the picture.   While we waiting for the answer to our SOS to arrive I used rachet-straps to anchor the drive-shaft to the bottom of my Jeep, up and away from the ground.

When the man who responded to my GroupMe message arrived he was with his wife and his toddler.  I was shocked to discover that he was the same guy who had previously received my white elephant gift.  He was precisely what I had intended and written on the Christmas card: in my eyes, a hero.  He followed behind me as I drove slowly in 4H to make sure I made it home, but before he left to finish giving my friend a ride, he offered to come back to help me in find and install a new drive-shaft.
I was undone when I got inside my house, filled with hysterical laughter. I exclaimed to my Lord,

"Jesus...you witty God!  You are hilarious!  Your humor, it never ceases to amuse me! You never cease to amaze me!"

All the stress, frustration, and disappointment fled from me and in its place I was filled with praise, humility, and laughter.  I remember what my friend had told me earlier about bad days seeming comical once you realize what is really going on.  Her wisdom proved to be prophetic to me and I had to call her and relay the entire story.  God had been fathering me, and although I believed that I was being overcome with trials and struggles, He was holding me in the palm of His hand the entire time.  He made his presence know to me in the most unexpected, humorous, and comical way possible.  The realization that came through the heat of the moment was the portal to the freedom.




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Remembering C.S. Lewis



This last weekend while making the 12-hour drive from our family property in northern Idaho to my apartment in Provo, Utah, I was able to listen to The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis on audible.  It's a book that parallels the end times of the earth and the state of humanity before the Second Coming of Christ.  It has to be one of the deepest and most thought-provoking novels I have ever come across, and although it is the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, it can be read and comprehended without having to read the other books in the series. I would highly recommend it! (And you if get it on audible, you will be blessed to hear it narrated by Professor Xavier aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard aka Patrick Stewart himself!)   As I was compiling my thoughts about the book, I discovered that C.S. Lewis' birthday was in just a couple days.  So I decided to publish this post on the 29th to commemorate and show my appreciation to him and the beautiful and deep truth he has conveyed to the world through his literature...    





Blindness of Mind


In The Last Battle. a cunning ape and a stupid donkey come across the carcass of a lion. Using the fur and mane, the monkey sews a suit for the donkey to wear so that the donkey, too stupid to stand his ground and refuse the ape, can pretend to be Aslan, the Great Lion, guardian, and savior of Narnia.  With this scheme and some additional trickery, the Narnians mistake the donkey as the real Aslan, and havoc spreads about the land as they submit to the false-Aslan.  Because the false-Aslan has a form a godliness but lacks the power thereof, the ape becomes the sole spokesman and mouthpiece for Aslan, thus preventing others from discovering the lie.  To keep the creatures from questioning why they cannot speak directly with Aslan, the ape then strikes fear in their hearts by making the Narnians believe that Aslan is angry with them and therefore can not speak with them face to face, lest in his rage he would devour whoever comes into his presence.  The ape uses his authority to compel obedience and obtain riches and wealth.  In order to maintain authority and control over the people, he perpetuates this lie by twisting the scriptures to mean something they do not in order to maintain his power, and in the process completely twists and alters the Narian's perception of their once beloved Aslan.

Over time the Dwarves became observant enough to finally recognize the imitation of the pretend Aslan and his false-spokesman the Ape. However, when Jill and Eustace, a Daughter of Eve and Son of Adam, are sent by Aslan to help the Narnians, the dwarves dismiss them- refusing to believe they are who they say they are, and instead reject their authentic testimony of the true Aslan.  The dwarves hearts have become so hardened by the lies of the Ape that they no longer believe there is such thing as Aslan.  When the time comes to fight against the corrupt Ape, they refuse to help.  Instead, out of the hardness of their hearts, they become self-serving and betray the Narnians.

This is a perfect analogy of what is happening in today's world. The hearts of men are hardened to the true Christ because of false doctrine taught and enforced by false prophets and false teachers. I have written a much more expansive blog post as to why the precepts of men are the poisoning of religion, and why is it that most people who leave a ridged correlated religious organization will completely abandon their faith in God altogether to become Atheist. You can access that blog post by clicking here.



In this book, there are portals in which the Narians and humans use to travel between dimensional realities. The entrance to one of these dimensional realms is through an old stable. The dwarves unknowingly pass through this portal into a paradisiacal land full of fruit trees, sunlight, fresh breezy air, and the scent of wild violets, however, they are unable to perceive with their senses where they truly are. Instead, they think they are in an enclosed a small, pitch-black, dirty, and smelly stable-prison. They can not see, feel, or smell the beauty that is all around them. Fresh flowers are even brought right under the nose of one of the dwarves, yet he is unable to perceive what is directly in front of his face, believing it to be stable-litter.

Even the Great Aslan is unable to heal them from their own blindness when he tries to help them: 

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs' knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn't much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn't taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had a bit of an old turnip and a third said he'd found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said "Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey's been at! Never thought we'd come to this." But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarrelling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:
"Well, at any rate there's no Humbug here. We haven't let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs."
"You see, " said Aslan. "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come, children. I have other work to do."

Jesus says, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed" (Gospel of Thomas verse 5)

The dwarves were unable to recognize what was right before their faces.  The Pharisees during the mortal ministry of Christ also experienced this similar dilemma, Jesus describes it like this:   

The light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not; The same which came in the meridian of time unto mine own, and mine own received me not(Doctrine and Covenants 39:2–3)

Why is this?

Because what separates us from God is a veil.  That veil is our unbelief, and that unbelief is what causes us to remain in an awful state of wickedness, hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. (see Ether 4:15)  The dwarves were fed unbelief by what the false-prophet Ape taught concerning Aslan.  That unbelief caused the dwarves to remain in an awful state of wickedness.  You see this come to full fruition when they betray their fellow Narnians. 

A hard heart is what prevents us from receiving what God offers:
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning the mysteries of God.  (Alma 12:11)
Because the dwarves were hard-hearted, they were unable to recognize and receive the help Aslan was offering. This caused them to remain trapped by the blindness of mind, or as Aslan puts it, the prison of their own mind.  Are we too unable to perceive the light that shines right before our faces?




Separating the Sheep From the Goats



While Aslan is the King, Lord, and God of the Narnians, there is another group of people in this story who worship a different God.  These are the people of Clamormen, who serve a four-armed, bird-head, demonic deity named Tash.  At the end of the book, one of the Clomorinien finds himself in the heavenly realm in the presence of the Great Aslan.  He gives an account of his experience in chapter 15:


"Then I looked about me and saw the sky and the wide lands, and smelled the sweetness. And I said, By the Gods, this is a pleasant place: it may be that I am come into the country of Tash. And I began to journey into the strange country and to seek him."So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant's; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.  

"Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.  

"And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog -"


After listening to the Clomorinien's story my mind was brought to the parable of the sheep and goats found in the Matthew chapter 25


¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 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:

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: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?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 25:31–40)


We often presume that we are sheep and not goats because of our affiliation with a particular religion, or because we believe that since we have accepted Jesus and can call ourselves Christians we are automatically "saved".  It is true that there is none other name given under heaven whereby men are saved, save it be the name of Jesus Christ.  (Acts 4:12, 2Ne 21:31)  However, taking Christ's name upon us may have a much deeper meaning than simply calling ourselves Christian.   Consider the Hebrew roots of the word "name":



When we see a name, such as "King David" we see the word "King" as a title, and the word "David" as a name. In our western mind, a title describes a character trait while a name is simply an identifier. In the Hebrew language, there is no such distinction between names and titles. Both words, King and David, are descriptions of character traits. The Hebrew word melekh (king) is "one who reigns," while daviyd (David) is "one who is loved". Both of these words are titles, describing the character of David. It is also common to identify the word "Elohiym" (Elohiym) as a title and “YHWH” (Yahweh) as a name. What we do not realize is that both of these are character traits. YHWH is both a word and title meaning "one who exists" and Elohiym is a word and a title meaning "one who has power and authority". The Hebrew word "shem" more literally means "character". When the Bible speaks of taking Elohiym's name to the nations, he is not speaking about the name itself but his character. When we are commanded to not take Elohiym's name in vain, this literally means not to represent his character in a false manner. This is similar to our expression, "have a good name," which is not about the name itself, but the character of the one with that name.  (Ancient Hebrew Research Center)


Because name in Hebrew more fully means characteristics and attributes and is not simply used as an identifier, to take upon Christ's name is to take upon his characteristics and attributes- to become as He is.  Perhaps this why before Christ instituted the sacrament to the Nephites in America (an ordinance where believers witness to "take Christ's name upon them"), He spent a whole day giving a discourse very similar to the “Sermon on the Mount” (Beatitudes) – a discourse that expounds upon His name, His character, His attributes.  Perhaps this is why before communion was instituted to the apostles at the last supper, God needed to send His son, Jesus Christ, down to earth to show the world who God is- to show the world all of what the Father’s name consists of, manifested and embodied in the perfect son.


The true name of God is not something you can pronounce in any human language.  It's a name that can only be expressed by what you become, and communicated to others through the life you live.  This is why someone who has never been taught by a church about Christianity can have a much deeper relationship with Jesus than the self-proclaimed Christian if that person embodies the character and attributes of God.   This why the Clomorinien was accepted by Aslan even though he operated under a different religious tradition - because he stilled lived what James described as the pure religion: to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. In fact, in that same chapter in the book of James it states:


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights (James 1:17, emphasis mine)

There is only one name under heaven whereby men are saved, but that name transcends all human languages, cultures, and religions.  



Further Up and Further In!



In the closing chapters, CS Lewis gives a vivid description as the redeemed Narnians embark on an inter-dimensional journey through portals, ascending into higher and deeper realms, all the while abiding by the mantra, "Further up and further in!".  They enter through these gateways showing that whole worlds without end can be contained in, or accessed through, a seemingly small and simple thing.  As they explored the deeper realms, they discovered that each higher dimension of "New Narnia" was like the previous one they ascended from, but deeper and purer. C.S Lewis explains it like this:


It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a lookingglass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different - deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.

This world, Old Narnia - the world in which we live, is simply a reflection, or type and shadow, of something far greater.  I had the privilege of spending a weekend this last October hammocking and "Jeeping for Jesus" in the St. George desert with a couple of my dear brothers in Christ.  While sitting around the campfire during one of those starlit evenings, we were discussing the change in our outlook on life since the beginning of our spiritual awakening.   It was apparent that the three of us could describe our new perspective in a similar way.  That despite the vastness and depth that comes with a more heightened spiritual sensitivity, that depth and wonder could be unveiled in the simple things that typify of Christ.  Because of our new outlook, the people and things given to us by God in this world had become more real, more beautiful, and more precious to us.   Yet we have only received a minute inkling, a mere breadcrumb, of the immense light and truth God desires to bestow upon us.   We can only wonder in awe at how much deeper, richer, and purer things will become as we ascend further up and further in - drawing ever nearer to Christ.   As I was listening to the narration of the awe and wonder of  New Narnia, this scripture came to my mind:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

If you understand the language in which the Gospel of John was written in, Greek, this scripture can also be rendered as follows:


In the journey through my Father's realms are many stages with temporary abodes.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare an abode for your upward journey.  (The Testimony of St. John 14:2-3)


As the characters journeyed through the realms, going “further up and further in”, the thought entered my heart that I was not merely listening to a fictional story, but that I was hearing a testimony of an actual experience conveyed through a mythical tale of magical lands and talking animals.