I’ll never forget, during one early morning seminary class, several years back now, when a student shocked me with a very inspired interpretation of a verse of scripture.

Often, as a teacher, you try to anticipate comments. It’s necessary in order to be prepared to answer questions, or to help students seek their own answers. Often, you feel in your preparation you’ve discovered all the most important doctrines, the most important things for your students to know, and grasp. You’ve dug up all the necessary “in the moment” information, and then you turn it over to the Lord.

But then, you have those days that no matter your preparation, no matter your own aha’s while getting ready, God has something better in store…and your students teach you. Those were always my favorite days—when my students came up with profound truths that made my mouth drop open and which set me pondering. And this is one I have never forgotten.

The scripture was Doctrine & Covenants 93:33-34. It reads:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

I asked my students, during this particular lesson, to read certain sections of scripture and pull out truths (i.e. doctrines). These two verses were simply in a large block of verses assigned and I hadn’t even focused on them by themselves. Then, one of my students got up when it was his turn to share some “truths” and he said something to the effect of:

What I learned from these verses is that suicide won’t make people happier. Suicide disconnects people from their physical body. And, if a fullness of joy only comes from them being together, or eventually reunited, then maybe if people knew that, they wouldn’t be tempted to commit suicide.

I remember sitting there (because I always sat down when I had my kids stand up and share) stunned. Such a doctrine had never before occurred to me. And certainly reading those verses had never led me to contemplate the intricate doctrines attached to suicide.

In Doctrine and Covenants 138 we find a vision by Joseph F. Smith regarding what happens to people after they die. While studying verses about Christ’s atonement and what He did in the three days His body was in the tomb, Joseph F. Smith received this incredible witness of the spirit world. In verse 11-17 Joseph F. Smith recounts:

As I pondered over these things…the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company… I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided that they might receive a fulness of joy.

Then, in verse 50, we read:

For the dead had looked upon the long absence of the spirits from their bodies as bondage.

Contemplating suicide

Now, if we are to be frank, there are a lot of reasons people contemplate suicide. I myself, during the chaos and struggle leading up to my divorce (9+ years ago now) seriously considered the idea of it. I considered it from a very lucid state of mind, though I was most certainly compromised emotionally and in consequence physically from the stress and lack of sleep and the struggle to maintain my life at the time. I remember perusing all the medications in my house and seeing if any of them could be overdosed on. I did with an acute sense of how ridiculous it was, but I did it anyway.

But, in reality, I knew why I was doing it. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t believe that happiness was out there in the future somewhere. I figured it probably was, though I couldn’t comprehend it at the time. I contemplated suicide because I wanted to get my ex-spouse’s attention. I wanted to find a way to quickly bypass all the pain that was there, at present, and that subconsciously I knew was coming. I wanted to progress through this trial faster. I wanted to shock my ex-spouse into some kind of state where he was willing to see how much I (and our marriage) should mean to him. I wanted to skip past all the unknown drama and hurt, because there seemed to be no end to the pain (both emotional and psychological).

I had never known such numbness, such emptiness, such neglect, nor such personal stagnation. My life was in a horrific limbo. I couldn’t do anything until I knew I had given everything to save the marriage and I couldn’t move forward until the other party “threw in the towel.” And, suicide, in the back of my mind, seemed like a possible way to take control—to force something to happen, because it seemed like nothing was. I was trying so hard to save the marriage and yet it was getting better and it some ways it wasn’t getting worse…it was just stagnating in the slowest possible way.

That contemplation of suicide only lasted one evening. I have the blessing and curse of being incredibly self-aware and nearly incapable of going against my own testimony, my own logic, and reason. Rebellion against common sense and practicality is nearly impossible for me. Thus, so also was suicide.

However, other people contemplate it for reasons that may include: escape, fear, depression, revenge, control, psychological collapse, or despair. Other reasons tend to be more fanatic and are rare and I’m not sure such fanatic and eccentric reasons for taking one’s own life are related to this article at all.

superhero

Bodies are a spiritual catalyst and a spiritual amplifier

However, no matter why a person may contemplate suicide, it’s important to understand that no matter how difficult life “in their body” is, that abandoning that body doesn’t necessary mean happiness. Bodies (whether mortal or immortal) are powerful. They are a power (i.e. glory, Abraham 3:26) that our spirit gains by simply coming to this life. To cast them off, no matter how much pain or suffering we may be experiencing, is to cast off the most powerful tool we have to access happiness.

The scriptures teach us that eternal happiness is achieved first and foremost by having our body and spirit together, or reunited (if we have died). A physical body (whether mortal or immortal) is a godly power. It’s something God had that we didn’t, and it is one of the primary reasons we chose to come into this mortal world.

A body grants us the power to create life, manipulate matter, and do all sorts of amazing things by the sheer act of our spiritual/mental will. In a body (D&C 138:33-35) we can gain access to ordinances and covenants that allow us to take advantage of God’s grace and by so doing seek godliness—to be like God. We can’t do that without a body!

Without a body…none of these critical, eternal things are possible unless done vicariously by proxy individuals who have bodies. And God has made it clear that this is not the best way, though it is available (Alma 34:32-36) because our bodies amplify who we are and are a catalyst to godly development. Simply separating our body from our spirit won’t make us into something we aren’t already, fundamentally. We are who we become while we are in our bodies. Our bodies have an amplifying effect upon our spirits (2010, Bednar, David. A, Things as They Really Are). Our bodies also have the power to help us change, and improve, our fundamental spiritual nature. If our spiritual nature needs improvement and refinement, a mortal body can help us accomplish that faster than eons of existence as a mere spirit.

A lot of people who don’t understand the purpose of life foolishly assume that religion is about simply being a good person. It is not. God’s plan of salvation and the fullness of His truth is about becoming like Him. We can’t do that by casting off our body simply to escape pain or trouble, to abandon fears, to avoid dealing with the very real physical struggles of depression and other psychological, to enact revenge, to seek control, or to escape despair. Our body is the very godly tool that allows us, through perseverance, to transcend pain and trouble, to overcome fears, to conquer depression and other psychological struggles, to gain peace and conquer forgiveness, and to find joy.

To cast off our body purposefully is to give up the power to gain happiness and joy. It does not create the power to gain happiness and joy.

Death comes to all

Death is a very real thing. It comes to each of us in God’s own will and time. It is the doorway to other pieces of God’s plan for us prior to our eventual resurrection. But, even to God death (separation of the body and spirit) is temporary. Through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ we will get our bodies back, perfected and immortal. His body is eternally connected with His spirit and so will ours be. Our body, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is His to take, not ours to cast off.

Martyrdom and Sacrifice

There is only one person, in all of God’s plan, who got to choose (by God’s divine decree) when to offer up His physical body and cast it away and when to take it up again and reunite it with His spirit, and that was Christ (John 10:17-18). And, He did so in a supreme act of self-sacrifice and by a vicarious ordinance to save us both physically and spiritually for eternity. He didn’t do it to escape anything. Rather, He wished that He might not have to do so (Matthew 26:39).

Throughout scripture we see that God commands people to kill in rare instances, to be the hand of justice. We also see God commanding His prophets, apostles, and people to die for His truths rather than to compromise. We also see many people giving their lives to save others. Such instances, it would seem, are the only godly ways to walk purposefully into death. And God is the judge and grants the authority to do so.

Conclusion

What’s God’s feeling about suicide? Even as mortals we understand that suicide is not a solution, ultimately. It’s not something we should choose, and even non-religious people recommend against it. But how God treats it for those that commit suicide? That’s not for us to worry about. It’s in God’s hands.

But, if you are contemplating suicide, or if you know someone who is, please share with them God’s love for them. Remind them how precious and powerful their body is. And that just as their body allows them to experience so much pain and sorrow, it is also the catalyst and godly tool which can allow them to seek ultimately joy and happiness, both in this life, and in the life to come. Remind them that their soul (spirit + body) is, by the grace of God, the tool He has given them which gives them the power to find, create, and seek happiness and joy. Love them. Encourage them to hang on. Encourage them to seek help. To find answers. To take ownership of their ability (that body) to change their lives!

BT

It’s like the game of telephone. You start on one end with the exact phrase, and by the time it gets to the other end of the telephone line, the last person says something incredibly different. How is that possible? It seems that one simple sentence, one simple phrase, should be easy enough to pass down a line of even a few people without it getting altered or changed. So, what happens?

Each person in a telephone game line hears a string of words or a phrase. Often, the phrase is spoken clearly. But, they change the wording just a bit because they think they understand what’s being said and they want to put it in their own words. Sometimes, the phrase is spoken poorly. The person listening must then piece together what they’ve heard. If what they’ve heard doesn’t make sense, their brain does whatever it has to in order to come up with something understandable to pass on (though it doesn’t often end up being understandable at all).

The truth of the phrase/statement becomes subject to personal interpretation, what a person thinks sounds right (or good), what they believe they heard, or what their limited mortal experience feels about what they believe they heard. Some people even change a phrase/statement so that it reflects their understanding and opinion of something because they think their version is better. Because they don’t understand the feelings of the person who originated the phrase (or perhaps they don’t agree with the originator’s feelings) they make minor changes to adapt it to their feelings.

Thus, over the course of time and tiny alterations, what began as a very clear, concise statement soon becomes something ridiculous and difficult to understand.

This is also the process that causes apostasy.

Apostasy is first and foremost a loss of truth

Apostasy, if you google it, is defined as:

The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.

Such abandonment and renunciation naturally takes place when truth becomes untruth. Without the big picture, without the original truth, and without an understanding of that truth apostasy logically follows. Because, without knowledge, origin (from which truth derives its power), and understanding there is no power. It’s the game of telephone on a spiritual scale.

Power lies in truth. There’s a cliché that “the truth will set you free.” But it can only do so if it is actually truth. Anything other than the truth creates bondage and limits our power.

Truth has power ONLY if it remains un-diluted (Doctrine & Covenants 93:24). Dilute the truth, twist it, alter it, hide it, abandon it and POOF, power gone. Freedom one.

No power equals no ability to create lasting faith within individuals. Faith, especially misplaced, is easily destroyed or crushed. Agnosticism and atheism are the direct result of faith that has been crushed or destroyed by trust in false truths. If any person places their faith in something untrue it will ultimately fail them. Then, consequentially, more apostasy.

Apostasy is secondly a loss of priesthood power and authority

When there is an individual and/or group abandonment of the source of God’s truth: God’s prophets, then apostasy is certain. While a few mistruths or alterations can be updated, set straight, or amended through seeking the source of truth (God, Holy Spirit, prophets), a rejection of God, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and/or God’s prophets leads to certain apostasy. God’s prophets are the sole dispensers and carriers of ALL priesthood authority and power (Amos 3:7). Thus, when people (individual or groups) reject prophets apostasy is imminent.

Without prophets there is no true church. This is because without prophets there is no true priesthood authority which means there are no true saving ordinances and covenants. The authority to baptize, dispense ordinances and sacraments—gone. Anything people construct or piece together, no matter how close it is to the original, if there is any alteration in the ordinance and if there is no true authority, the ordinances and covenants are invalid.

A perfectly performed ordinance without true priesthood power and authority is nothing more than “going through the motions” (Doctrine & Covenants 22:2). Our intent will still be valid as concerns the state of our soul—to some extent (Doctrine & Covenants 137:9), but such intent can only get us so far. At some point the ordinance must be performed by true power and authority to be eternally acceptable (Doctrine & Covenants 138:33).

Judges 17-18 teaches us the pattern for, or process of, apostasy

In Judges 17:6 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

In Judges 18:1 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among Israel.

In Judges 21:25 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

These three verses in Judges teach an important principle. Without an authorized king (or spiritual leader or head) religious action becomes subject to personal opinion.

In Israel, kings were originally anointed and called because Israel rejected God as their king (1 Samuel 8:7). They wanted to be like everybody else and have a visible king who would go before them in battles and “look the part.” Such kings were commanded to try to emulate God in their governance and teach the people God’s laws and uphold His righteousness (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ). But, most of them did not because they were subject to human frailty, weakness, fear of men, and pride. Israel’s eventual apostasy came about because from almost the very beginning of the restoration of the gospel through Moses, they rejected God’s kingship outright.

Jesus Christ is the King of Kings. Prophets, such as Moses, etc., speak for God as our King. When we reject prophets, we reject God’s government, His highest covenants and thus His highest blessings, powers, and ordinances (Doctrine & Covenants 84:16-27). What are we then relegated to? Monarchies, systems of judges, and other forms of man-made government (Doctrine & Covenants 58:19-22). Such forms of government are a lesser government and as such are corruptible. But once we have rejected God, these are the governments we get. Such governments, we are warned, will oppress us and bring ultimate conflict (Mosiah 19:17-18, Proverbs 29:2) until God delivers us.

Once God and His prophets have been rejected eventually kings (or other government forms) become wicked. This is because truth has been diluted, altered, and without continuing revelation and purification from God and His prophets, truth becomes untruth and people are left to make religion after their own ideas, opinions, beliefs, comforts, and their desire for public acceptance.

If we look at scripture, from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we see the clear pattern of Apostasy and Restoration.

The pattern for, or process of, apostasy

process of apostasy

In Judges, we see that though God restored His gospel and continuous guidance and heavenly kingship through Moses, the Israelites ultimately rejected all of it are in a state of complete apostasy.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:14-23 tells us why God has throughout history (and why in 1830) restored His correct church again upon the earth after apostasies. Such restorations are often referred to as dispensations (times when God “dispenses” His gospel anew).

And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people [(meaning cut off from among God’s people)].

For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish His righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol [(see Judges 17:6, 18:1, 21:25)], which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun, and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—

But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; That faith also might increase in the earth; That mine everlasting covenant might be established; That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

When people realize they are missing truth, it is then they seek God. When they do so, God begins a restoration of truth in their personal lives. Many times throughout history, this restoration takes place world-wide. Adam was the first dispensation (dispensation). He was the first prophet and he dispensed the gospel, truths, laws, ordinances, and covenants to his family. There would never have been another dispensation if there hadn’t been eventual apostasy among the inhabitants of the earth.

note: The line of the birthright (as I’ve stated many times before) was primarily about passing on the priesthood line of prophet-ship, or the keys and authority of the priesthood. Firstborn sons (if they were righteous) were given not only most of the father’s land and riches so that they might be in charge of family/church welfare, but so that they could take care of the church/family. Firstborn sons (if they were righteous) received the keys and authority of the priesthood. Think of male family heads as prophets, area authorities, stake presidents, and bishops. Each righteous male firstborn (who symbolized Christ, of course) received the truths and priesthood authority to ensure the family/church remained true and had God’s truths.

With Moses (another dispensation/restoration head) we see the beginning of a world-wide restoration. Unfortunately, the Israelites rejected God almost from the beginning and could never rise to the opportunity to spread the gospel to the rest of the world. They received only a lesser priesthood and eventually that melted away with their wickedness. They fell into apostasy and were not prepared when Christ came (another dispensation head) to restore the gospel yet again. Most of them rejected Christ.

Christ was rejected as well as His prophets, and yet another apostasy took place not long after Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5). Truth was altered or lost and priesthood authority had again been rejected and quenched. The apostles were eventually rejected and killed and again people organized God’s church after their own ideas and beliefs. We see in the Reformation many people reaching out to God yet again, seeking for truth. During this time, God begins to work among many seekers to bring about the printing of the Bible and many protestant faiths in preparation, laying the groundwork to make possible the complete restoration which began in 1830 with Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

[To learn about the beginning of the restoration, please read SAINTS: The Standard of Truth.]

The process of, or pattern for, restoration

process of restoration

Conclusion

In reading Judges this time through, these verses in chapter 17, 18, and 21 stuck out to me as never before. And I suspect people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wonder why we run around calling ourselves the “true church” of God. Such a label, I assume, appears offensive. Especially those who worship God and keep His commandments and covenants the best they can. By calling ourselves true they must feel offense because such a label defines them as false.

However, we call ourselves the “true church”, not to condemn others or devalue the truths they have and hold to. We believe that other religions have much truth. But we believe that they do not have all the truth. Thus, we do so because we are God’s true church and He has commanded us to call ourselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to teach that we are His church so that the:

…many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men…and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

may know where to find it!

God would have us have Him as our King always, continuously. God would have us want His guidance always. God would have us return to His presence and become as He is. His gospel is, at its core, a path to godliness. It is not His will that we should all run around doing that which is right “in our own eyes.” But, He would have us know, access, and receive His truths, laws, covenants, ordinances, and powers in their correct state and in their fullness without doubt.

We don’t have to be like Micah and the Danites, coming up with our own versions of how to get the promises and blessings God gives. We don’t have to make idols or go running around the land looking for our spiritual inheritance. God has the correct version available to us of how to receive His promises and blessings. He has not only a spiritual inheritance already awaiting us, but an eternal one!

Judges teaches us how apostasy takes place and what it looks like. But, it teaches us these things not so we can remain in apostasy, without a fullness of truth. It teaches us these things that we might recognize it and seek for a restoration in our own lives.

I tend to feel guilty asking God to bless me when I’ve messed up that particular day. I feel unworthy to seek His help when I’ve struggled with my temper, said something unkind, or been impatient with others around me. I will sit down to blog and I’m afraid to start knowing that my heart hasn’t been perfectly kind and loving all day. “Who am I to try and do this good when I’ve acted so poorly?” I ask myself.

Have I said my sorrys? Yes. Have I asked for forgiveness of those I’ve offended? Yes. Then, why can’t I trust God to help me despite my failings? Why do I avoid asking for His help or sitting down to share my love of His character and His words when I know that these are most certainly things He wants me to do?

Here’s the big question: Does my imperfection in one area make it impossible for God to bless me in other areas?

The answer: No.

Why? Because God is just.

The Story of Samson Illustrates God’s Just Nature

Recently, while pressing forward with my #dailydoctrines (see @theDoctrineLady on Instagram), I got to Judges 14+ where there are several chapters devoted to Samson. Samson is precisely the kind of guy I can’t stand. I’m naturally annoyed and disgusted by guys who like to show off, seem to like to prove to others their superiority (whether or not they are), and who are womanizers. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Samson. But, the reality is that when I read his story I’m supremely skeptical of him as a heroic character. I focus more on his failings than his positive attributes.

Because of my bias, I recently turned to my husband for his viewpoint. I have to do this when my own feelings cloud my ability to be taught doctrine by the Spirit. Normally, I see doctrines quite quickly. With the Samson story, I just read and read and read…

What my husband and I discussed and what I have pondered regarding Samson’s story has truly enlightened me. It has strengthened my testimony of God’s just nature. Instead of being clouded by Samson’s weaknesses, I can at last see what his story teaches me about God (which is what #dailydoctrines are…#whatgodislike). Samson’s story is one that testifies of God’s justice and trustworthiness.

Samson is a Nazarite

Even before he was born, and angel told Samson’s parents that he was to be a Nazarite. Being a Nazarite is similar to, or semi-related to, being a nun, monk, or dedicated missionary. Not only do they keep basic commandments, but they have specific rules and covenants they keep that set them apart, even among believers. Being a Nazarite can be a lifetime vow, but it wasn’t always.

Samson was raised as a Nazarite (don’t confuse it with Nazarene, or being from Nazareth) from birth and it is clear that he honored the specific rules and covenants with being a Nazarite; most especially that of not cutting his hair. These covenants and ways of living marked him as God’s. He was set apart by these rules.

It seems, from the account in Judges, that the blessings Samson received from keeping his Nazarite covenant included an incredible amount of physical strength, which I suspect he had genetically but was amplified by his faithfulness. It also made him an extra talented fighter. It witnesses clearly that God can give us gifts and talents, but that these talents can become even more powerful and can even be multiplied when we use them in His service.

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Samson has Weaknesses and So Do We

Right alongside his righteous Nazarite observance, Samson has two very visible weaknesses. First, he is arrogant and has a need to prove his superiority. It seems evident that he needed a reason to boast about his secret, or unknown, acts of strength by challenging his wedding party with riddles. And, he does so not only to boast (in a sense) but also to win more gifts off of them.

Samson succeeds in stumping his guests until his new wife convinces him to tell her about the riddle’s meaning. Then, in order to make good on his betting debt (since he doesn’t have the possessions) he runs off and slaughters some of the Philistines and takes their stuff. Not such a Christlike showing, is it?

Often in Judges we see phrases like “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” right before he runs off and slaughters people. While I have no way of knowing exactly Samson’s situation, I think it’s probable to consider that this may refer to the power of God as manifested through Samson’s gifts and talent of strength and fighting prowess. So, you could also word it his talents of strength and fighting prowess were activated or were amplified. Whether or not God actually guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to kill a thousand Philistines with a jawbone, or whether God honored the blessings of strength and fighting talent that came with Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow may not matter. But, I feel it’s more consistent with God’s character as displayed in all of scripture to say that God honored the blessings attached to Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow; rather than to say God guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to pay off his gamble by killing 40 people, or to slay a thousand Philistines with a jawbone because they offended him.

Was Samson’s job to deliver Israel from the Philistines? Yes. And perhaps though he never fully rose to this opportunity because of his weaknesses, these small battles were allowed or did not contribute to his condemnation because he was, in a sense, attempting to fulfill his mission.

So, Samson was full of human weakness. But, he was also an extremely faithful Nazarite until nearly the end of his reign as judge. Which makes him just like all of us. We are all full of a myriad of weaknesses and issues and yet all of us do many wonderful, righteous, and powerful things in the service of our fellow men.

God is Just

The story of Samson shows that God is just. How? Because even though Samson was sort of a mess, with many weaknesses, God still blessed him for the commandments he did keep. And, God was unable to bless Samson in the areas where he didn’t keep the commandments, thus proving Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 and 137:9 accurate.

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Samson didn’t desire to marry “in the covenant,” or, in other words, within his religion (according to the command of God, Deuteronomy 7:2-5) and people. His actions reflected that desire. He sought out Philistine women, not repenting when his parents tried to counsel him otherwise. Thus, he lost out on the blessings. His women were repeatedly a snare to him and ultimately his undoing (because he didn’t repent), as prophesied in Deuteronomy.

A God who will bless us where we are righteous even when we are wicked in some areas is just. A God who knows we will ultimately abandon Him in some aspects of our life in the future but blesses us in the present while we are faithful is just. We often forget that justice is as much about blessings earned as it is cursing or consequences earned. Consequences are not all from one end of the spectrum. Consequences are directly related to the laws of God. He must bless us when we do right, just as He must withdraw blessings (or curse us) when we don’t do what’s right (Doctrine & Covenants 82:10).

Conclusion

So, while it’s hard to approach God, say a prayer, seek for spiritual guidance, even to serve in our families and church callings on the days when we feel we’ve failed miserably; as long as we are penitent and the desires of our heart are good, we can pick ourselves up with gratitude and hope that God is just. He can and will bless us in the righteousness we do even when other aspects of our lives are still a work-in-progress.

However, in this let us be un-like Samson. Samson could have repented and received more power and blessings and fulfilled his earthly mission (and received eternal glory too), yet he did not. We don’t have to be like him. We can continue, through grace, to repent and work on the areas in which we repeatedly fail or struggle. We can seek for blessings and keep trying. And the mistakes we do make should not deter us from pressing forward in the good we seek to do.

BT

The Lord has spent much of my life, all of it really, teaching me how to be patient. I don’t remember asking for it (though I am guilty of asking His will to be done…). But, it’s certainly been a large part of every aspect of my sojourn here. Whether it was learning to be patient with my sisters (I was the youngest), or learning to be patient with my parents (as a teenager), or learning to be patient with the weaknesses and struggles of friends and leaders (at school and church), I’ve been being tutored in patience. As I got older, patience tutoring came in the lack of possessions, or a home, a car, or in the pursuit of education, or paying off debt. It seems everything about life, nearly, is about teaching us all to be patient.

Why the Need for Patience?

So, why is it we need to patient? Well, as mortals, it’s because we are always in the pursuit of stuff. We are always in the pursuit of knowledge, health, understanding, blessings, help, guidance, answers, etc. We are spiritually unfinished. We are physically unfinished. We are not yet immortal and exalted. And, a part of our soul knows this and so we have this incessant drive to achieve, get, arrive, and become.

So, from the moment we are born we are on the run asking for all the things we want and expecting them all to be handed to us. We’re here now and we want to get, receive, learn, and become as fast as possible and in the easiest possible way. We’re in a hurry to become whatever it is we’re supposed to become…

And herein lies our impatience. We are off running and we don’t even know where it is we are supposed to be running. We are in a hurry to get…we know not where. But God does, and so His plan is all about slowing down, figuring out His Plan for us and tackling it with wisdom and patience.

In my own experience, I have learned that when it comes to patience, there are only two major variables in God’s plan for us: when and how. We want stuff and we want it now. But, since we can’t have it now, the question is when. And, though for most of us our desires are good, often we don’t go about getting them in the best possible manner. We want things easy instead of in the way that will help us fulfill our purpose and God’s plan. Thus, patience requires leaving the how up to God.

When and How

When? Yes, when. And, how. When and how. But, when it really comes down to it, the how isn’t important because God’s how will always be far better than the how that you come up with.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about learning to be patient, truly patient. Patience is determined by our faith and trust in God.

When you truly have faith in God, there is never a question of if He will bless you. There is a never a question of if He will keep His promises. There is NEVER an if. The only real question is “When?” And, if you feel like the how is also a valid question, let me simply say that God’s how of blessing you will always be far more wonderful than the how(s) that you came up with.

Sometimes the “when” is a problem for a lot of us. We want our blessings now. We want God to fulfill His promises now. We want to become right now. We think we get it, that we understand, and that we’ve arrived. So, then we hold out our hand and demand the blessing we seek in our rush to continue on.

I used to feel that way. Until one day, I realized, that God’s path for me is perfect. If I ask Him to mess with that path, then I am asking Him for less than perfection; I’m asking Him to give me something less wonderful than He has planned.

This idea of getting less than God has planned simply because I’m impatient resonates horrifically with my type of personality. I’m exceedingly proactive, when it comes to seeking blessings, happiness, and peace. And, if the Lord handed me a Big Mac simply because I was too impatient to wait for a 5-star steak dinner, I would be devastated and unhappy. I would hate that Big Mac and I would not appreciate it. I’d likely take a hesitant bite, and then discovering that it was okay but certainly not the best that I could have had, I would toss it and feel angry and unhappy. I might even wonder why God didn’t make me wait for the better blessing.

But, I realize that it’s hard to patient with the Lord’s timescale for blessing us. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a celestial meal far greater than any 5-start restaurant we’ve ever eaten at, if we will only keep the commandments, be patient in afflictions and suffering, and strive to be Christ-like. It means sacrificing a whole bunch of metaphorical hamburgers and fries, a whole bunch of soft-serve cones, and plenty of quick fix snacks.

Hang on while I continue with this metaphor…

As all those snacks pass by on the mortal conveyor belt, it’s tempting to think that God’s promises are a farce. How could He possible want us to starve like this while we wait for some dinner when we can’t even actually imagine it’s fabulousness? This meal He’s asking us to wait for could be months, years, even a lifetime away. Is it worth it to wait that long? Is God really a god of love and kindness if He would ask us to wait soooo long?

Our blessings or long-awaited meal could be a job, spouse, health and strength, recognition, forgiveness, a spiritual witness or testimony, etc. When we ask, live for, and seek these amazing blessings God feeds us with metaphorical manna as we persevere toward our promised land. But, often, like the infamous Israelites in the desert, we get tired of the manna. We want the meal and we want it now and we don’t want to have to go to battle or suffer struggle to get it.

Often, in order for us to get our blessings and to appreciate them, God has to put us on a spiritual diet and training regimen to prepare us for this higher level of food. We end up dieting from worldly pleasures, leaving us quite hungry, and are asked to fill the void with spiritual ones. And, often, that spiritual food doesn’t look so appetizing. But, if we have the faith to trust in God and eat the spiritual food and the manna that He offers, we begin to find it far more satisfying than anything else we’ve ever tasted. At last, we are in preparation to hasten toward our blessings and our promised meal!

Patience, then, requires faith. We need God to be with us (Alma 38:4-5) and the Holy Ghost (Alma 13:28) in order to cultivate and maintain patience. The presence of God in our lives grants us the ability to see past the conveyor belt, to see forward to a far better meal worth waiting for. When they are with us, we can have peace as that mortal conveyor belt continues to roll on with all manner of “less than perfect” blessings and meals. God reminds us through His spirit all that He has in store and that it’s worth the wait. Such heavenly help strengthens our faith, our resolve, our confidence, our gratitude, and our patience.

Patience is cultivated as we go through this process time and again throughout our mortal life. Each time the conveyor belt gets longer. Each time the promised meal seems to be further and further away. And, according to our spiritual ability (1 Corinthians 10:13) God increases our capacity for godliness and patience. And, in proportion our blessings are deeper, more powerful, and more spiritually fulfilling.

A few years back I recorded a video for my mother for a class she was teaching on Job. Job is often thought of as a story of suffering. But, ultimately, it’s a story about patience and Job’s deeper discovering and understanding of grace. Without this seemingly horrific struggle in his life he may never have graduated to a greater understanding of grace. His relationship with God sustained him until far greater blessings were bestowed.

I’m younger here. But, my testimony is still the same. I’ve been through this process a few times now, and though it keeps happening, my patience and understanding of grace and God’s love for us is increasing exponentially. I wouldn’t ask for an easier life or trade away any of my metaphorical deserts. Each has taught me, increased my faith, and my patience.

It’s never a question of if God will bless you. It’s only ever a question of when. The how will ALWAYS be far better than you could ever come up with on your own. I promise each of you that you can trust God. If you are true to Him. If you live to have His Holy Spirit with you. If you remember to follow His advice (commandments) for receiving your blessings and desires, He WILL fulfill all His promises and you will receive blessings that are far better than you could imagine (Doctrine & Covenants 1:37, 1 Corinthians 2:9).

Patience with Others

With others, the principle is the same. We often try to hurry along their learning, their growth, and their understanding, and we want it to match ours (because we think ours is always better). We have duties to teach and instruct and invite others to learn truth and to come unto God. But, too often we feel that duty requires manipulation, micromanagement, belaboring, and coercion, none of which are of God (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-43). We use these tactics, feeling justified by our good intentions. Yet, no intentions, no matter how good, ever justify using impatient means.

With those around us, the questions are the same: when and how. When…the answer is always eventually. Isaiah taught us that eventually “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ and that God is real and His ways are just (Isaiah 45:23-24). We don’t have to micromanage other’s journey to Christ’s greatest blessings or their repentance. We can love, serve, invite with charity, and entice with example. Then, we can leave the WHEN up to God. How…the answer is always between them and God. We can only pray to know when and if God would have us play a part.

Conclusion

It has been my experience that the sooner we stop panicking, fearing that God has failed us, and thinking we have to control everything and everyone and to rush it along, the sooner our blessings, our own growth, and the growth of others comes. It’s when we let go and have patience that things take their proper and necessary course. We have to get out of our own way, other’s way, and God’s way. We can’t force our own spiritual progression and blessings any more than we can force others. We must patiently submit to God’s will (Mosiah 3:19), cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still and see the salvation of God and for His hand to be revealed (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17).

BT

I suspect God can seem pretty changeable if you don’t know Him. If you haven’t gotten to know how He works with His children; if you haven’t prayed to Him or tried out His commandments or tested His ability to bless, it would be easy for you to come to the incorrect assumption that He is changeable. That sometimes He provides miracles and sometimes He doesn’t. That sometimes He is merciful and sometimes He isn’t.

If all your education is through the opinions of others, through heresay, it would be easy to make the incorrect assumption that God either doesn’t exist or that He can’t be depended upon, or simply that He isn’t worth following. You might assume He loves men more than women or that some people aren’t as preferred. All false assumptions because you don’t know Him personally.

In St. John 7:17 Christ teaches us:

If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

In Alma 32:26-27 we are encouraged to “awake and arouse our faculties” to do an “experiment upon the word.”

If we really want to know what God is like and cultivate the faith to follow Him, to even know He exists, we’ve got to study Him out for ourselves.

I know a lot of good people who feel that God is limited in His attributes. Some will say He can’t be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time. Because somehow they assume that all-loving means no rules or commandments, no consequences, and no sorrow or suffering, period. Some religions teach that God once had prophets but that now such things are done away; as though people in the past needed prophets but we don’t. Some teach that miracles like those in the scriptures don’t take place any more.

1 Nephi 10:18, 2 Nephi 27:23 & 29:9, Mormon 9:9, Moroni 10:19, Doctrine & Covenants 20:12

These scriptures teach emphatically that God doesn’t change. And, if these scriptures are true and God doesn’t change, then a lot of mysteries about life and religion can be immediately solved by a study of God’s character and the ways in which He works in our lives. Such a study will reveal, as I have discovered for myself, that much about God and His plan for us feels a bit uncomfortable. But, it’s the type of discomfort we all feel when we have a sore that needs healing or a cavity that needs to be filled. The discomfort ends when we seek out the often uncomfortable process of getting healed. That healing requires effort but in ends in peace, relief, joy, and comfort. It doesn’t start in comfort, but it ends in comfort (I credit C.S. Lewis for this wording which he provides in Mere Christianity).

God’s nature and His plan for us is uncomfortable in the best way. It makes us feel uncomfortable until we become more godly, which His plan for us facilitates. He doesn’t allow us to take comfort in things that aren’t godly. His ultimate goal for us isn’t mortal bliss, it’s eternal bliss. Thus, all the things we would plan out on paper to lead us to a peaceful mortal life are often the things God allows to be taken away from us or which He asks us to sacrifice at the first possible opportunity (Mark 10:17-22).

And, this pattern is clear in every book of scripture we have currently available to us. The Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine & Covenants, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price all have this pattern running clearly, obviously, and repetitively through them.

SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I

Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with the first volume of their new saints2history of the church. It’s titled: SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, volume I. You can read it online (that’s where the link takes you) for FREE, for FREE on the Gospel Library app (look it up on your phone). You can listen to it FREE (through these same avenues), or you can buy it for $5.75 through brick and mortar or other distributors.

As I’ve been reading this history, I have been repeatedly impressed that the pattern of the Restoration of the Gospel from 1830 until now mimics directly each and every other time God has had to re-establish His true church. Such times are called dispensations because the Gospel has to be re-dispensed. It began with Adam and Eve, and we see the patterns there in the Pearl of Great Price. We see Moses re-dispensing the Gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, yet again, had to re-dispense, fix, update, and teach His Gospel. The New Testament shows this. The Doctrine and Covenants, of course, which is about the final dispensation began by the prophet Joseph Smith is quoted directly by the history SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I. A close study of these scripturally recorded dispensations, where God has had to re-establish His church through prophets and re-dispense priesthood authority, ordinances, and commandments reaffirms that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Here are some of the commonalities that I find among all of these dispensations and scriptural/historical accounts and which are historically illustrated for us in SAINTS:

  • The first and most critical piece of any new dispensation is that God calls a prophet.
  • The prophet is someone who is seeking for God’s truths and is humble and open to be taught.
  • The prophet God calls is never perfect.
  • God doesn’t give the prophet all the knowledge at one time.
  • The prophet is required to ask, seek, and knock, the basic formula for personal revelation.
  • The prophet is subject to mistakes and follies but retains His office as long as he is repentant.
  • God doesn’t prevent the prophets, or apostles, from human error; He teaches them line upon line, precept upon precept and they slowly rise to the pinnacle of their potential and calling.
  • We gain faith in prophets as we sustain them, support them, and follow them.
  • God expects us/His people to follow the prophet and sustain Him regardless of imperfection or a lack of talents.
  • God asks His people to do very, very hard things more than once in their lives.
  • God isn’t afraid to reveal things that are uncomfortable simply to build up numbers. He is interested in the quality of His followers, not the quantity.
  • God reveals things that are hard and uncomfortable specifically to build faith and weed out lukewarm followers.
  • God gives promises to His people that can only be fulfilled if they are obedient.
  • If we/God’s people fall short of living up to the promises God gives, we/God’s people can repent and keep trying.
  • God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical/mortal comfort. If our mortal suffering will bring about spiritual growth then He loves us enough to let us suffer.
  • God gives peace and comfort to His people/us even when all else seems to be temporarily denied.
  • The church, comprised of us/God’s people, can’t move forward without unity; which unity is often obtained by the excommunication of blatantly unrepentant members or members rebelling against and/or leaving the church of their own will.
  • The number of members in the church, joining the church, or leaving the church, has nothing to do with its veracity. It’s truth is independent of numbers.
  • God recognizes that we need community to help us live the gospel. He gathers us together, where possible, to provide the strength we need to press forward in doing His will.
  • God often asks us to do hard things when it feels as if we can’t handle any more; such sacrifice, once given, is immediately rewarded by blessings, peace, comfort, and an ability to transcend struggle and trial…even to not even feel it.
  • The first step to apostasy from God’s gospel is criticism and distrust of God’s prophet.
  • Personal revelation is for all. Revelation for the guiding and directing of the church comes to the prophet.
  • Sacrifice is the greatest builder of faith and spiritual power.
  • Ultimately we have to trust in God or abandon Him. Middle ground doesn’t actually exist.

I could go on and on here. But, I recommend that any person who knows very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read this first volume of its history (and those that follow as they are published). I feel it should be obligatory that any person proposing to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read this history. The patterns I have mentioned above reveal themselves and are reaffirmed to the pure seeker of truth.

One thing it has reaffirmed for me is that God is, without a doubt, the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust Him. He is worth following no matter what is asked of us. His character and His power is reaffirmed in this book.

BT

It’s hard to figure out how to be a part of the world, but not. How to be a mortal person in a mortal world, but somehow not of the world; to transcend it somehow even though we’re in a mortal body. To have to work each day, take care of mundane issues, and still somehow not be defined by the mundane.

It also seems to be that we measure our in-ness or of-ness by simply being a certain distance from the world. As long as we seem to be a reasonable distance above it, we consider ourselves safe from its deceptions and wiles. We label ourselves of God when all we really are is simply a little better than the world.

intheworldbutnotoftheworld5

We all are what the scriptures describe as natural men and women (Mosiah 3:19). Our natural, mortal, human bodies are a large portion of what we are. We have been given the gift of mortality, a weakness that is at the heart of each of us (Ether 12:27). And, mortality is purposeful. God put us here, as mortal, on purpose.

So, how do we answer the command to be in the world, but not of the world?

A Discussion on Salt

This is a topic I recently pondered for a lesson I had to teach to the YW in my ward. As I pondered how to help them to learn from the Spirit how to be in the world but not of the world, I had to consider the definition of both in and of.

In = being present in a place, being enclosed or surrounded by something, being inside a period of time, expressing movement within an event, place, or situation

Of = belonging to, related to, or connected with; used to indicate a belonging to a group of people or country

So, fundamentally, God is asking us to be present in the world, enclosed by it, surrounded by it during a period of mortal time, to move around in the world, and yet to not belong to the world. It seems a rather difficult request. Why are we here at all if God doesn’t want us to be of the world?

In Matthew 5:13 we read the answer to our purpose in this world though we are not to be of the world:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

So, we are in the world to salt it. That is our purpose. We are not to conform to the world, or to ever be of the world. We are to do for the world that which salt does for food.

What does salt do for food?

  • Preserves, inhibits the growth of bacteria by drawing out moisture
  • Amplifies flavor, making flavors more powerful and good
  • Salt makes the texture of foods better by helping to retain water after being cooked, slowing the rate of yeast growth in bread, and it adds crispness or crunch on certain foods when used to top it
  • Adds nutrition
  • It helps to bind foods together because it helps that food to form certain critical binding proteins
  • Maintains and enhances the color of food, and can increase caramelization

salt on black wood

So, spiritually, those who follow Christ are supposed to be the salt of the earth. To be in the world to preserve it (Helaman 13:12, 3 Nephi 9:11, Alma 62:40), to inhibit the growth of evil by drawing out the goodness. We are to amplify the good that is in the world, highlighting it. We are to improve the lives of those around us by easing struggles, serving them, guiding them, so that life is more full. We are to spread the gospel that families might be bound together for eternity and individuals can be bound to God through covenant, and become like Him. We are to live and contribute in such a way that the propensity and frequency of spiritual experiences increases impacting all those around us.

Lighting and Uplifting Instead of Adopting and Conforming

If you read about salt, most studies will confirm that it is very difficult for salt to lose its savor, or saltiness. But, it can happen. Salt loses its savor, more or less, if gets exposed to too much moisture when stored, if it gets contaminated or stored with foul substances, or if it takes on the properties of other molecules or ingredients.

Different kinds of flavored salts are all the rage these days and can be bought or made. The salt itself can take on the flavor of any flavoring it is mixed with or stored with. The pure salt begins to adopt the flavor, or savor, of other things.

In a spiritual sense, we become useless and have lost our savor if we contaminate our lives with worldly stuff. We lose our savor when we begin to adopt the beliefs, practices, traditions, philosophies, and ways of the world, rather than staying true to the ways of God. Even if we don’t adopt everything, impurities ruin our power to “salt the earth.” As we conform, we fail to fulfill our function as spiritual salt. We adopt and conform rather than light and uplift. As we follow and conform to the world we become useless as spiritual salt.

Savor Requires a Continual Infusion of Light

It is the mistake of many a good person to believe that spiritual savor and light is the result of only an absence of evil in our lives. We suppose that as long as we simply aren’t purposefully sinning (rebellion) that this is sufficient to maintain our spiritual saltiness. However anyone familiar with even a simple light switch knows that the light in the room will only go on if there is power coming into the house. Having only a light bulb that works means nothing if there is no infusion of power to turn on that light. As well, we must actively turn on the switch and leave it on.

As children of God who have entered into “the way” we are like light bulbs. We must pay the power bill and turn on the switch in order for our light to shine. We do this by seeking not only to not sin, but by actively pursuing God’s will for our lives. We do this by coming to know God through studying His words, emulating Him, responding to the promptings and warnings of the Holy Spirit, and actively seeking to “feed His sheep.” We do this by cultivating integrity and honesty with ourselves and with God. We do this by owning our mistakes, wrongs, and weaknesses and repenting (changing/turning toward God).

Elder Mark A. Bragg, of the Seventy said:

We are children of God. Receiving light, continuing in God, and receiving more light are what we are created to do. From the very beginning, we followed our Heavenly Father and His plan. Seeking the light is in our spiritual DNA.

In Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 we read:

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

To maintain our spiritual savor and light, to be in the world but not of the world, to uplift and to light the world, we must not conform or ride a downward parallel course. We must seek light and truth and cling to it. We must seek to be light and truth and to lift others through our Christlike traits. We must leave our homes, our friends, our families, our schools, our places of work better than when we first entered them.

One hanging light bulb glowing different and standing out from unlit incandescent bulbs with reflection on green background , leadership and different business creative idea concept. 3D rendering.

Conclusion

Notice that anything which is of God is light! If we are of God and not of the world, we will light the world. We will preserve, protect, and highlight the world.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:

Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define and eternity. Bruce D. Porter said, ‘Our challenge…is to come to know [the Savior]…and, through faith in him, to overcome the trials and temptations of this world.’

To be in the world but not of the world, we must seek to uplift and light the pieces of the world that we have influence in. As the salt of the earth, though “fitting in” and conforming to the world around us is what the natural man/woman wants to do; we must “submit to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man, and become a saint,” a piece of pure, spiritual salt. Though we are mortal, our spirit is immortal and is capable of subduing the natural man and aiding us in our challenge to be of God and not of the world.

We can truly be in the world but not of the world. Be salt.

BT

Let’s first clarify what separation of Church and State means. It means that:

  • Those running for office do not have to be of a certain religion in order to qualify (nor should they be disqualified if they are of a certain religion)
  • The government cannot force its people to adhere to a certain religion (national or state religion) or prohibit the free exercise of religious beliefs
  • The government does not have the power to alter the beliefs of a religion

(Note: Obviously if a professed religion (we sometimes call them cults) interferes with inalienable rights and its practices go against reasonable law, the government is empowered to stop its illegal practices and ensure justice on the behalf of anyone wronged by its illegal practices.)

A lot of people think that separation of Church and State means that religions (whichever they may be) should not counsel their members on how to act politically, and should not openly take a stand on any political issue.

How anyone came to believe that this is what separation of Church and State means I don’t know. But, doctrinally, scripturally, and historically, God is very involved in both making law, commanding revolutions, aiding in the overthrow of wicked nations, setting up nations, and in commanding His prophets to tell the people when to take a stand on moral and political issues that will impact the spreading of His gospel.

The Old Testament alone (and it is not alone, as the other Standard Works support it) provides sufficient evidence that God is as interested in politics as He is in souls. Why? Because the governing of nations directly impacts souls. Wicked kings tend to create wicked, idolatrous nations. Wicked systems of judges tend to empower secret combinations. And so forth. God always has quite a strong opinion on who should be in power. Whether elected, born to power, or dictator, God always offers to any leader a covenant: follow Me and you’ll prosper, spurn Me and you and your line will be destroyed. Every book of scripture is replete with such spiritual ultimatums to rulers of nations.

In Amos 3:7 we learn that God won’t do anything without telling it to His prophets. In the Doctrine in Covenants 1:38 and 21:4-6 we learn that God speaks and gives counsel through His prophets and that their words are God’s words—literally. God upholds His prophets and their words are His words. Their counsel is godly counsel whether it is about morality, charity, or political issues. All worldly issues are issues of the soul with God. There is no issue that isn’t about your soul or my soul, everyone’s souls!

God is Our King

In Doctrine & Covenants 58:19-21 God says very specifically regarding the United States of America:

For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land. Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.

He goes on to say that the only right to reign belongs to God (or Christ) and that we are subject unto the current governments only until Christ comes again. Therefore, all the laws that we can uphold that are God’s laws should be upheld for as long as possible. Only when the majority overrules God’s laws are we to “submit to the powers that be” until God commands otherwise, or comes to reign Himself.

If God is our true king, how could we imagine that in His perfect, just, merciful, and loving nature that He would not attempt to guide the politics of the nations in which we live? How could we imagine that He wouldn’t ask His prophets, His mouthpieces on the earth, to counsel us in the ways in which God would have us vote that He might bring about His great and eternal purposes?

What benefit is there to our prophets to counsel regarding political issues if the revelation to do so didn’t come from God? None. For the prophets nearly always counsel “against the grain” of society. They almost always counsel us to stand for issues that are not popular, which are ridiculed, and which bring persecution (to them and to us).

In Helaman 13:24-28 we read:

Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.

And now, when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.

Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord…ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil…

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no inquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up…because he speaketh flattering words unto you…

We need only to read the scriptures and educate ourselves to recognize that God always speaks through His prophets. He always asks them to preach things which aren’t popular. He always asks us to follow them. And rejecting prophets has always led to destruction.

We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet

The blessing and gift of a prophet of God on the earth is priceless. Yet, we take it daily, hourly, minute-by-minute for granted. For us they have always spoken. We have never known a world without a living prophet. We have never known a world without apostles and priesthood keys and authority. We have never known a world without saving ordinances.

In our comfort with having First Presidency messages in every monthly Ensign magazine; with having bi-annual General Conferences, we sometimes forget that they are not on our errand, or the nation’s errand, or on the mainstream of society’s errand, but on God’s errand. They will always speak what God tells them to speak.

In general, the Church often stays out of political issues as our doctrines and stated beliefs should be sufficient for members to work with. We are counseled to vote our conscience and to be swayed strongly by our Christian beliefs. Thus, when our prophet does speak out and asks us to vote a certain way or to stand against a certain issue in a specific way, we can be certain the direction came from God and that this issue is important not only for the judgment of our nation, but for us. Whether we will follow the prophet in faith, as God has commanded, is the bigger issue…not so much the issue the prophet has given counsel and instruction on. If we doubt that any political counsel is from the Lord we can do two things:

  1. We can pray to know if the current prophet is the prophet and if God upholds him. Or,
  2. We can pray to know if the counsel the prophet has given regarding a political issues is the stance the Lord would have us take.

If we receive a witness, or a reminder, from the Holy Spirit that the prophet is the prophet than that solves the issue. If he’s the prophet then his counsel comes from God. Or, whether we like the counsel or not, or believe the prophet is inspired or not, if we receive a witness that it is still God’s will, then that solves both issues (because we know God is in agreement with the prophet).

Conclusion

As the world veers further and further away from God and His covenants and commandments we will see the prophets become more and more involved in offering political counsel. Not so much, I would say, to change the overall outcome of where our country is headed, but much more so that God might know who is with Him, or who is against Him. For, when it all comes down to it, the issues of today were the issues of histories past. And the issues yet to come will only repeatedly test our faith in God. And that faith will be shown by the answer we give to this question: “Do I listen to and follow the prophet?

We thank thee oh God for a prophet

To guide us in these latter days

We thank thee for sending the gospel

To lighten our minds with its rays

We thank thee for every blessing

Bestowed by Thy bounteous hand

We feel it a pleasure to serve Thee

And love to obey Thy command

BT

I think every God fearing person has asked themselves this question multiple times throughout their lives. It’s one a dear friend and I discussed some months back. And, while pondering the #dailydoctrine for today in Joshua 6, the memory of this conversation came back to me. Now, it may seem at first that I’m not addressing the question, but stay with me and I’ll bring it around.

In Joshua 6 we see the Lord telling Joshua and the Israelites how to conquer Jericho. It’s an extremely unconventional battle tactic. Jericho, who is already shaking with fear from hearing about the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Jordan River, is cowering behind its walls. Big walls, if all the ideals are true. And what does God say? He says, march around it a bunch, don’t speak a word. Just blow trumpets. Then, on the seventh day, march around it seven times and on the last time blow the trumpets and everybody yell and shout.

If I had been an Israelite during that time, I might have said,

Seriously? With all the known ways of conquering a city, this is what God is asking me to do? I know He just parted the Jordan for us and all, but now I’m confused. Why aren’t we taking ladders to the walls, throwing ropes up, or breaking a hole through with some pick axes? I know all sorts of ways God could get us in. I don’t see how stomping around the city and shouting like crazy people is going to make a difference. Seems silly. I think I could come up with some political peace talks with the rulers… Maybe it’s not God, maybe it’s the prophet? How can I be sure that Joshua hasn’t just lost his marbles? He is getting older, you know.

It’s quite easy in retrospect to see the ridiculous nature of all these questions. We know stomping, and shouting, and marching, and blowing trumpets worked. But, these questions are similar to the ones we ask when considering choices in our lives.

God’s commands and answers are, as this example teaches us, often unconventional. But the question is, why? What do we gain, as His children, from receiving and acting in faith upon such unconventional commands?

  1. First, we gain a clear witness that God is behind us and behind our path in life. If we do it His way, the unconventional way, and it works, we know whose power hath guided and blessed our lives. It gives us a memorial, a firm hook in our memories that we can look back on when other trials of faith are before us. We can look back and say, “that was of God and I can trust Him to lead me again” (Proverbs 3:1-2,5-10).
  2. Second, others watching us gain a witness of the God we follow, and that though His ways seem unconventional, or “the long way around,” or other things, they work. God instructs all of us to follow Him, and for those who have yet to hear His call to come follow me, the seeds are planted as they watch us follow Him (1 Nephi 18:11-22).
  3. Third, it teaches us just how much God knows that we do not. When we draw a straight line between two points, it looks straight to us, but in reality it’s winding or the ending point we have drawn to is not actually leading us where our heart really wants to be (Isaiah 55:8-9).

It is clear from the Jericho example, that God knew that the walls were unstable. Sure, God can knock anything down anytime He wants, but He doesn’t ever extend His hand to such measures if less will do. God is powerful but He is also efficient. Whether it was a sink hole deep in the earth, or a weakness in the foundation of those walls, God knew about it. No one else did. And, marching around the walls, stomping on that ground, and then using a great deal of vibration was sufficient to bring those walls down.

And, who looking on would see any less than a miracle? Who looking on might not for a moment wonder if the God of Israel was The God? An unconventional battle tactic, that appeared a bit interesting and odd, suddenly turned into the best possible idea to destroy the walls of the city rather than other methods. Genius! God’s hand was plainly evident! It was the right path, though it didn’t make sense at the time. It was the best path. It was the most direct course between the two points that God had drawn and which Joshua and the Israelites were willing to submit to.

InstagramQuotes522

So, now we come back to is, “How do we know if a choice before us is one that God wants us to take?”

While discussing with my dear friend, we came up with the following points about the paths that God leads us in and how to know if we are making choices that follow that path.

  • God’s path is always a path of resistance, the aim of which is to develop or increase godly attributes within us and strengthen our relationship with Him. He never connects the dots the way we do, and He often chooses an end dot/point that hasn’t even entered our wildest dreams.
  • God’s path rarely coincides with worldly or conventional wisdom. While we may be encouraged by the Spirit to use worldly resources wisely in our search for information and services, what the Lord eventually has us do with that information and those service tools is never exactly what we would have chosen or come up to do with on our own.
  • God’s path is not about our arriving at some future stasis or comfort. It is about providing us the resources we need to learn about Him, become like Him, and help others to learn about Him and become like Him.
  • God speaks through His prophets. We may be tempted to think they are out of touch or misled, but if we follow their counsel we will be shown that it is God’s counsel and will for us (Amos 3:7, Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38).

Ultimately peace is the one thing the world, and Satan, cannot duplicate
(John 14:27).

We can do what seems to sound right to other people, what makes the most sense to us, what the world agrees with, and even with what we can imagine is possible. But, ultimately, though these ways may be exciting, or even fulfilling for a moment, they won’t grant us peace.

On the other hand, we can do what God’s prophets counsel us to do even though it doesn’t make sense with worldly wisdom, we can choose to trust the feelings or promptings we’ve had that sit well in our gut; though they take us down a path we can’t completely see the end of or even imagine how it ends. And despite the unknown in these paths, the trials, the struggles, and even the ups and downs, we will have peace that we are on the right track.

Everyone gets answers from God differently. But, I do believe that peace means that something sits well in your gut. It’s not a pillar of light or an earthquake. It’s a center of spiritual gravity that keeps all the rest of life’s turmoil and persuasions from pulling you off firm, godly ground…if you trust it. And, we each learn to identify that deep, small, part of our gut that simply says, “Trust me on this.” And, we don’t like to trust it. It’s scary to trust that feeling sometimes. But, trusting it leads to peace.

On our journey to learning to identify that gut feeling and to trust in that peace, this example from Joshua 6 can teach us so much about how to see how God works with us, what He’s like, and how to know if our path, our choice, is that which He would have us follow.

BT

The word mainstream means: the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.

Now, let’s put this sentence together and see how it makes you feel.

God conforms to the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional, and He submits to the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, and the arts.

How did this sentence make you feel? If it didn’t feel right, why? If it felt uncomfortable to you, why?

I find it interesting that some Christians, even Latter-day Saints, are starting to entertain or adopt the idea that God’s gospel and church should, or eventually will, join the mainstream beliefs of the world. Simply because the knowledge of man has changed course and it seems to make sense to them, they automatically assume that somehow it hasn’t made sense to God and now suddenly God, Himself, will come around and make a change (Isaiah 55:8-9). “The Brethren will come around,” they say, “Policies will eventually catch up with reality,” they say.

Such Christians, I suggest, have not studied the scriptures, or if they have, they ignore the portions they don’t like and only adopt or preach the pieces they do like. As well, a study of the scriptures would also reveal that many societies have become as we are now, adopting and condoning all that we are currently adopting and condoning—in the name of enlightenment—and those societies eventually fell. Eventually God’s justice was served after such societies were unrepentant.

Such Christians, I suggest, are being “lulled carefully away” (2 Nephi 28:21). They have forgotten the doctrine, or never completely understood it, and thus, bereft of truth they are easily persuaded by others and led away—carefully—into other paths.

Come Follow Me—Literally

Many Christians misunderstand Christ’s invitation to “come follow me.” Though He invites all to come unto Him, and none are rejected (2 Nephi 26:33), He has specific conditions for following Him. To be a follower of Christ is to emulate Him in every way, not just in most ways, or in a few ways. To “come follow Him” means far more than saying we like Christ and giving His works in one section of scripture a thumbs up. It means far more than agreeing with much of what He taught. To “come follow Him” is to accept the call to “be like Him.” It is not a partial call, something that sounds nice or looks good on our wall. It’s not a piece of us that we give, it’s all of us.

Many Christians also misunderstand that God’s church is not a club. While all can join, they must join (or the act of joining is) based upon the God’s conditions; and only if they wish to embrace the process to become like God are they truly joining. Otherwise no matter what they may say, they are not God’s people (Matthew 7:21-22).

God’s church and kingdom is not for sale, it cannot be manipulated or altered to fit our few disagreeing points; it is not for everyone, even though all are invited. And simply because God has conditions that are hard for us to meet does not mean that He is excluding us. It means that He is teaching us that “His way” is available to us, but if it is not “our way,” then we can’t change it to be our way simply because we still want the label: Christian. If we want the label it comes only by meeting the conditions Christ has given. If we alter or ignore some or all of those conditions, we are something else than we profess to be. Our God is us or the person’s opinions to which we cling to as our personal mores.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about faith, repentance, and baptism, which baptism signifies our intent, indeed our desire to follow Him, emulate Him, and become like Him. Baptism is about taking upon us the name of Christ, literally. To become part of His family is to seek His grace in the process of learning to emulate Him. Baptism is a gate that is as much a responsibility as it is a privilege. Baptism is not something we enter into just to be included, or to not feel excluded.

In fact, God’s church and kingdom are about sanctification and exaltation—to become as God is.

And, if we are to be frank, godhood is not for everyone. Not because they aren’t invited to pursue it, but because they don’t desire it. Other things are more important to them. Thus, to protect and preserve godhood (Doctrine and Covenants 88:34-39), God has established ordinances and covenants which separate out those who want to become godly and those who don’t.

The Path to Godhood is Not Exclusive, it’s Divisive

Many people get angry these days and condemn God’s church and leadership for being exclusionary. The policies, commandments and restrictions on ordinances, they say, are prejudiced, influenced by antiquated ideals, and hateful. Everyone, they say, if they really love each other, should be able to get a temple marriage. Everyone should be able to get baptized without restriction of any kind (lessening the sacred nature of Baptism, by the way, and making it a commodity to be purchased with ease). Everyone should be able to do all of the same things, etc.

However, what these people (many Latter-day Saints included) fail to remember or learn is that God’s commandments and policies for His church are in no way exclusionary. They are divisive—something that divides and separates. Think wheat and tares. Those who truly desire to become like God choose to meet the conditions for membership and the reception of specific ordinances and covenants. Those who don’t truly desire to become like God don’t meet the conditions for membership and/or the reception of specific ordinances and covenants.

Who God is and what He is like is the great dividing factor. We join only if we wish to be as He is. And to be like Him we are asked to sacrifice not only a few things, but everything. We are asked to lose our life that we might gain it (Matthew 16:25). We are asked to even choose God over family, if it comes down to it (Matthew 10:34-39). Abraham was asked, and had to be willing, to give his only son by Sarah to God (Genesis 22:12). God had to come first, even to someone as righteous as Abraham. No one is excluded from this condition to “have no other gods before [God]” (Exodus 20:3).

God gave His Only Begotten Son for us (John 3:16) to give us this mortal opportunity to attend godhood school (as I like to call it). We attend class every day whether we realize it or not. Ultimately, to pass has little to do with the success of our efforts. It has everything to do with our inner self, our inner desires, our intent in our efforts, and our heart.

We are asked to give everything up for Him: our temper, our possessions, our entertainment, our weaknesses, our addictions, our monetary resources, our genetic struggles, our infirmities, our psychological issues and needs, our relationships, our anger, our need for revenge, our hurts, our love, our heart, our mind, our soul…everything. We are asked to give it all because only God can matter; only being like Him can matter to us—above all else—before we can conquer all.

Have a struggle, weakness, problem, sin, or issue that you want to conquer? The first step is making God and His plan for you more important; to desire Him and His will more than you want anything else. Learn to find that and you will begin to find power to transcend anything.

When God comes first, all else finds its proper place in our lives…naturally.

Christ’s Atonement Allows Us to Become, Not to Conform

A serious study of the scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price) reveals very clearly that God has always been a god of law, consequence, ordinances, commandments, covenants, justice, and mercy. He has never conformed to the practices of any society merely to be accepted or liked or even wanted. God doesn’t worry about everybody liking Him. What He does worry about is all of His children learning what He is like and how they can become like Him. Everything…everything He does is to that end. That He works with our cultures as He slowly helps us to rise above them is not the same as making cultural and mainstream norms acceptable.

All that God does, ALL, is to help us learn about Him, what He is like, and how to become as He is.

Against The Mainstream

The plan of salvation is not about making us merely good. With very few exceptions, every person ever to walk this earth was comprised of more good traits than evil, more weaknesses and struggles than a desire to be truly wicked or evil. The plan of salvation is in place primarily to help us achieve godhood. If we choose not to embrace this path, there are other paths and kingdoms of glory. But ultimately, grace (the atonement of Jesus Christ) is about granting us a spiritual scholarship and a temporary physical home in which to prove to ourselves if we ultimately want godhood or not.

That’s what this life is about. That’s what ultimately matters.

Could we truly suppose that Christ suffered in an infinite and eternal way simply to let us run around and have a good time down here on the earth; to enjoy a mortal vacation? Would God have given His only begotten Son (John 3:16) merely so we could succumb to our weaknesses, give in to temptations, give a half-hearted effort, even make a mock of the gifts of our physical bodies and lives, just so we could do things our way? I don’t believe so. The atonement of Jesus Christ is about God showing His love for us that we may believe in Him and embark upon the path to become like Him.

For me the atonement of Jesus Christ is so incredibly powerful, so immensely full of love and mercy, so priceless and eternal, that to offer such perfection for anything less than our potential to become like God would have been sacrilege, and indeed worthless. And so it is if we refuse to any extent the fullness of its capability to change, perfect, and sanctify us.

To say God should make us like Him with any mortal caveats or demands is ridiculous. Because what we are asking is for God not to be God. We are asking Him to alter His nature so that we might perpetuate ours.

To say that God should change His own nature that we might feel more comfortable in His presence is laughable. To ask God, indeed to expect God to give up His own celestial glory and become “mainstream” that we might not have to work so hard, or sacrifice so much, or endure so much, or have what we want now is pride and selfishness at its most satanic level. For that is what Lucifer demanded of God (Moses 4:1-4). Lucifer (i.e. Satan) wanted God would give him His power and glory without having to become godly himself. He wanted God to become “mainstream.”

Summing Up the Issue

  • Learning to love people where they’re at spiritually, despite their addictions and weaknesses and struggles and sins…that is Christlike.
  • Letting people believe how they wish and letting agency and consequences teach them…that is Christlike.
  • Supporting those we associate with and love to the best of our ability without altering our own testimonies and standards…that is Christlike.
  • Not manipulating or attempting to micromanage a person’s spirituality…that is Christlike.

However, assuming that all these spiritual advances in ourselves (and in the church) now means that God is suddenly going to change the conditions of godhood…that is foolish (2 Nephi 9:28).

We can’t make God or use God as a means to get what we want. We must learn to want God more than we want anything else.

C.S. Lewis states it best in his book, The Great Divorce, when the brother of Pam (who lost her son Michael to premature death when he was a boy), who has been sent to lead her God if she will but let go of an unrighteous and unhealthy love, says:

“Don’t you see you are not beginning at all as long as you are in that state of mind? You’re treating God only as a means to Michael. But the whole thickening treatment consists in learning to want God for His own sake.”

“You wouldn’t talk like that if you were a Mother,” says Pam.

“You mean, if I were only a mother. But there is no such thing as being only a mother. You exist as Michael’s mother only because you first exist as God’s creature. That relation is older and closer. No, listen, Pam! He also loves. He also has suffered. He also has waited a long time.”

“If He loved me He’d let me see my boy. If He loved me why did He take away Michael from me? I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But it’s pretty hard to forgive, you know.”

“But He had to take Michael away. Partly for Michael’s sake. . . .”

“I’m sure I did my best to make Michael happy. I gave up my whole life….” says Pam.

“Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. And secondly, for your sake. He wanted your merely instinctive love for your child (tigresses share that, you know!) to turn into something better. He wanted you to love Michael as He understands love. You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. Sometimes this conversion can be done while the instinctive love is still gratified. But there was, it seems, no chance of that in your case. The instinct was uncontrolled and fierce and monomaniac. (Ask your daughter, or your husband. Ask your own mother. You haven’t once thought of her.) The only remedy was to take away its object. It was a case for surgery. When that first kind of love was thwarted, then there was just a chance that in the loneliness, in the silence, something else might begin to grow.”

What C.S. Lewis is teaching in this fictional account is that all that we are, all that we love, is in place to lead us to a love for God. Every challenge, every weakness, every trial, every bane, every struggle, every blessings, every talent, every gift… That love for God will lead to obedience and covenant-keeping, and that covenant-keeping meets the conditions for a fullness of grace—the kind of grace that doesn’t simply cleanse sin or resurrect our body, but the kind of grace that goes beyond that and makes us into a godly creature (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually). The atonement of Jesus Christ can overcome any weakness, any tendency, any deformity, any psychology or feeling that is not godly.

Thus, God is never mainstream, because He’s not asking us for conformity to our mortal issues and short-sighted ideas. He’s asking us to transcend them, to see beyond them, through His gospel and His grace.

If we want to be mainstream…we can. Our agency is paramount to God. But, we can never expect God to become mainstream, or assume that His gospel will eventually become mainstream; nor should we demand it of Him or those that follow Him. We should only measure our own desires and decide if we would become like God, if we would invite others to do so, or if we would prefer to be mainstream.

God doesn’t change. It is only us who change…for the better, or the worse. God has never been mainstream and He never will be.

BT

When I was younger I was pretty good at basketball. When I was in seventh grade I started on the eighth grade team. When I was a freshman I played varsity.

For some reason, this talent led many of the girls on my team to dislike me. Because of this dislike, I was often left to myself on bus rides, picked on once in a while at practice, and sometimes other subtle forms of dislike were exercised against me. I nearly always felt awkward, embarrassed, and  alone even though basketball was one of my favorite things. Sometimes this dislike even affected game play.

One night on a late bus ride home, I was sitting by myself in the back of the bus feeling miserable. I was tired. It was after the game and was the end of a long day that began with early morning seminary. I felt so alone and I fought back tears.

In my mind, the words of a hymn suddenly appeared:

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee

E’en though it be a cross, that raiseth me

…angels to beckon me, Nearer my God to Thee

Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee

Random words from the hymn answered what my heart was really feeling. I was wishing that I was away from that bus, somewhere closer to God. I knew in that moment that God was my friend. He cared about me. I wanted so much to be “near to Him.”

This moment to me was what I like to call a “golden moment.” I felt God’s love and I knew even if no one else cared about me, He did.

All of us have golden spiritual moments in our lives. Moments where our testimony is sure. Moments of immense gratitude. Moments of peace and comfort. Moments where we feel the Lord’s love and know He is aware of us. Moments when we have received an answer to prayer. Moments where we are granted the power to forgive, or to heal from a past wrong.

In Alma 5:26 we read:

And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Alma is asking us, in this verse, to look back on these golden spiritual moments. And he asks us, “Do we feel the same right now? Do we feel the impact and the power of those golden moments? Have we have a golden moment lately that we can think on?”

A Spiritual Maillard Reaction

One of my favorite things to eat in the world is golden-brown toast. And I like to toast bread that browns, or gets golden. It’s sort of disappointing to me if I put toast in and it comes up hot and dry but without that beautiful browning. Why is that so disappointing? Because all the flavor is in the browning. It’s the browning that makes eating the toast so wonderful.

This browning is actually caused by a chemical reaction called a Maillard (my-yard) Reaction. This is the same reaction that causes the browning on a marshmallow, in caramel, on a pie crust, and many other roasted, toasted, or baked foods. The Maillard Reaction is what makes them golden. And tasty.

This browning reaction is more likely to take place on non-acidic surfaces. Acidic foods, with a pH of 1-6 don’t brown, or at least not without a catalyst. Alkaline foods, with a pH of 7 or more brown. And in fact, we use alkaline substances as catalysts to help food get brown. We put egg washes on pie crusts and milk washes on breads before baking. If you want to caramelize onions quickly, you can sprinkle them with a little bit of baking soda.

Non-acidic, or alkaline/basic, substances act as catalysts. They increase the speed of the browning reaction. They can also cause a browning reaction where there wasn’t one before.

Sacred music, especially the hymns of the church, are the spiritual equivalent of a Maillard, or browning, reaction catalyst. Sacred music increases the speed at which a golden moment comes to us, or creates the possibility of a golden moment where there wasn’t one before. Sacred music is a spiritual catalyst for golden, testimony building moments.

In his 1994 conference address, Worship Through Music, Elder Oaks shared the following:

Last spring, some of our children and fourteen grandchildren had a family outing in the mountains. One of our activities was a meeting to share experiences. We gathered at the appointed time, but the little people were only gathered in body. The large spirits in those little bodies were clamoring for more of the exciting outdoor activities they had been enjoying.

The cabin where we met was too small to contain them, and it seemed as if a dozen restless children and their cries were ricocheting off the walls in every direction. I felt apprehension in trying to sponsor something serious in that setting. Suddenly, the instinctive wisdom of young mothers rescued our efforts. Two mothers began to sing a song familiar to the children. Others joined in, and within a few minutes the mood had changed and all spirits were subdued and receptive to spiritual things.

In this experience, we see that sacred music hastened the spiritual receptiveness of the children, and all in the cabin. It was a spiritual catalyst, increasing the speed with which a golden, spiritual moment became possible.

Catalysts, however, also have an opposite. They are called inhibitors. An inhibitor slows down or prevents a chemical reaction or process. It can reduce the activity of a catalyst, or even suppress it completely.

In food browning, the inhibitor is acid. Acidic foods don’t brown. And, when we attempt to brown them they often go from not brown at all to burnt, or minimally they become exceedingly dry, especially meat. The acid inhibits the browning, or golden reaction.

Though sacred music is all around on us a Sunday, and is available to us 24/7 in these modern days of ipods, mp3’s, online radio, etc., there are spiritually acidic behaviors, attitudes, and actions that can prevent the golden spiritual moments we all seek. Elder Oaks, in his address, suggests the following are spiritually acidic:

  • If a hymn is sung too slow at church it can inhibit the golden reaction
  • If a hymn is sung too fast at church it can inhibit the golden reaction
  • A lack of participation in hymn-singing, a lack of listening to a hymn, or not even mouthing the words, can suppress the possibility of a spiritually golden reaction
  • As a performer, if we become too caught up in entertaining or projecting our own talent rather than facilitating the Holy Spirit, we can inhibit a golden reaction
  • If the words of a song are doctrinally incorrect it can inhibit a golden reaction

It goes without saying that a great deal of the music we listen to outside of church, even if it has no purposefully evil intent, can and does inhibit our ability to have spiritually golden moments. Even a tiny bit of acidity (6.5 pH) can stop the golden, browning reaction.

Golden Spiritual Moments at Church

At church, our lack of participation in singing (or at least reading along or mouthing the words of the hymns) is perhaps the greatest inhibitor to our ability to have spiritually golden moments. In America (with some exceptions) we seem to lack heart and gusto in our singing. We often sing as if the hymns are a side-thought, like a plate of mediocre food that we have to swallow down. Or perhaps the hymns have become a tradition to us rather than a sacred privilege.

Elder Oaks related:

I stopped at a convenient ward meeting house and slipped unnoticed into the overflow area just as the congregation was beginning to sing these sacred words of the sacrament song:

Tis sweet to sing the matchless love

Of Him who left his home above,

And came to earth—oh wondrous plan—

To suffer bleed and die for man

My heart swelled as we sang this worshipful hymn and contemplated renewing our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. Our voices raised the concluding strains:

For Jesus died on Calvary

That all thru Him might ransomed be

Then sing hosannas to His name

Let heav’n and earth his love proclaim

As we sang these words I glanced around at members of the congregation and was stunned to observe that about a third were not singing. How could this be? Were those who did not even mouth the words suggesting that for them it was not “sweet to sing the matchless love” or to “sing hosannas to His name?” What are we saying, what are we thinking, when we fail to join in singing in our worship services?

When I have asked people why they don’t sing in choir, even when I have heard them sing and they can clearly carry a tune, I nearly always hear the response, “because I can’t sing.” And I always sorrow for the loss. Little do they realize the golden moments missed because they are focused on their performance, or their own talents. And the same applies to congregational singing. If our attitude is that we can’t worship because we don’t sound as good as someone else, we are placing the focus of our worship on ourselves, instead of on God.

Golden Spiritual Moments During the Week

In our day-to-day lives, during the week, there are many times when sacred music would much better bless our lives than even the best songs on the radio with good words. If we are seeking comfort, peace, answers to prayers, help to forgive, an uplift before dealing with a tough day at work or school; there is nothing more powerful than inviting the Holy Ghost into our mind and hearts through the catalyst of sacred music. Our whole day can be transformed as we are transformed (made golden) by sacred music. Our power to resist temptation and choose the right will be increased exponentially.

The Holy Spirit is powerful, but it’s presence in our lives is delicate. The “sweet spot” for the Holy Ghost falls in the golden area. We have to create an environment where He can comfortably dwell. We can upset the spiritual pH, or entirely suppress it without actively being evil. The Spirit is a personage of spirit, an actual being. His presence is conditional on us inviting Him to be with us by our thoughts and actions. We have to invite Him in. We do that quickly, and powerfully, with sacred music.

I see a lot of people who jam to iTunes while working out. And, there is nothing wrong with this. But, I can’t tell you how many revelations I have received while I have been working out, walking, and running. Some of the most powerful revelations and guidance I have received for my life in the last ten years have come during a long run or a long walk.

I tend to exercise in silence and ponder. My biggest hurts have been softened or silenced during these times. Sure, “rocking out” gives me a rhythm and sidetracks my mind from the annoyance and sometimes pain of trying to get healthy or stay in shape. But, I suggest that it’s something worth sacrificing since it can be replaced with something infinitely better—a golden spiritual moment.

Most recently in my life, sacred music has again saved me on some very desperately down spiritual, emotional, and mental days. It was counter to my feelings at the time to turn the sacred music on. I didn’t believe it would help. But, within moments it quieted my brain and set my thoughts down avenues where the Spirit could reach me. Sacred music is incredibly, and wonderfully, powerful.

Seek Out Golden Moments

The purpose of the hymns, music with a clear Christian focus, and all sacred music is to provide a spiritual catalyst that we might tune into the Holy Ghost and receive answers to prayers, comfort, a renewed shine on our deep testimonies, peace, messages of love from our Father in Heaven, and a number of other things we pray for daily. It’s not about us, it’s about God granting us those golden moments we seek. But first, we have to remove the acid of our attitude, thoughts, environment, or actions.

Elder Oaks also said:

Many have difficulty expressing worshipful feelings in words… Sacred music has a unique capacity to communicate our feelings of love for the Lord.

In Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 we read:

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.

When we refuse to participate in the singing of hymns, we create an acid barrier inhibiting our ability to worship the Lord, our God. We refuse to offer Him one of His favorite avenues of prayer, praise, and worship. We refuse to make use of one of the most powerful ways to express our gratitude and love to God.

Sacred music is not only a powerful catalyst to the golden spiritual moments we crave, it has the power to draw us closer to God. Perhaps that is why when it works the moments feel so golden, because in that moment we are close, both mind and heart, to our Father in Heaven.

Elder Oaks concluded with this. He said:

We who have felt to sing the song of redeeming love need to keep singing that we may draw ever closer to Him who has inspired sacred music and commanded [not requested] that it be used to worship Him.

I don’t know about each of you, but I crave golden spiritual moments far more than I crave a good piece of buttered, golden toast. If you are hungry for such golden spiritual moments, as I am, then I hope you will renew your interest in participating in singing at church. I hope you will make more use of sacred music in your homes and in your cars and in your lives. I hope you will remove the acidic inhibitors and desire to worship and come closer to the Lord far more than you worry about the quality or talent in your singing voice.

I hope that if you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love in your hearts at any time in your lives, that you will remember those times and renew that feeling often.

Sacred music has saved my soul on countless occasions. It has kept me from sinking too deep into despair. It has reminded me of God’s love. The words have come to me when I needed comfort or needed a prayer but didn’t know exactly what words to offer. Sacred music has helped in the process of trying to make me more golden, more Christ-like. It can do the same for you.

BT