Category: prayer

Reliable Information

I engage in a process that precedes what I consider having possession of any kind of reliable information. Speculation and casual comments I have made are not particularly reliable. Research I’ve done to try to understand a subject is not reliable. Conversations in emails about some topic may be nothing more than guess work or casual conversation. When information, light and truth come from God, I consider that reliable information worth writing about, talking about or teaching.

Years ago I was contemplating the subject of Christ’s original apostles. As I looked into the scriptures, the promise Christ made to the twelve was that in the resurrection they would sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Judas was among the twelve when the promise was made. Judas fell away, betrayed the Lord and committed suicide. Whatever promise Judas may have had would have required his continued faithfulness. He was not faithful. Therefore, his throne and position as a judge in the resurrection over a tribe of Israel was forfeited. This led to the question of who would fill that vacancy.

Continue reading “Reliable Information”

Prayer

I received the following email:

Denver,

I know you are used to far more profound questions, but do you have any suggestions on how to make prayer meaningful? I find it hard to pray, given that God knows whats in my head and what I will say, but I have been making an effort to pray more. Any tips?
_______________________________
I sent the following reply:
Talk like you are addressing your most intimate friend and have nothing to hide. Tell Him about your regrets, hopes, frustrations, concerns, fears, and confusion. Before long you will discover that whatever you care about God also cares about. He can give perspective that changes everything. Prayer should not recognize the distance between us and God, but should become the way we close that distance.

I Am a Mormon, Part 5

The purpose of the faith restored through Joseph Smith was not to enshrine mere men as idols. It was to proclaim that all men, every one of us, can know God. The whole of Joseph’s message can be summed up in the proclamation that God is no respecter of persons, but will give to all men liberally who ask of Him. It is James 1: 5: God does answer prayer.

This message came to me from the Mormon elders who taught me about the Restoration of the Gospel. These young men were not “slick,” but quite homespun. They used flannel boards and paper cut-outs. One of them was from Nephi, Utah. He was inarticulate, butchered grammar, and spoke with an odd accent. For several lessons, I literally thought he was saying “p-r-i-e-s-t-e-d.” A few weeks into investigating, I was a bit chagrined when I realized he was actually trying to say “priesthood.” Later, Elder Black (who baptized me) presented a better image. Some 39 years after baptizing me he is still a friend.

I did not join the church because it was powerful, rich, or slickly marketed. It appeared to me to be homely, rough and extremely unpopular when I joined. As I recall, there were less than 350,000 total priesthood holders and only a minority of them were active. What the church offered was information from, and a connection to God. I tested the process. I received an answer to my prayer about Mormonism from God.

When I joined the church I gave up everything. I lost my friends and family. I was alienated from the life I had known and lived. It required all of it to be put on the altar and set on fire. But, having heard from God in answer to prayer, there was no hesitation. Though I was realistic about my own flaws, and thought I could never be a good enough Mormon, I intended to try. I had the courage to do so because God had spoken to me in answer to prayer and I believed He wanted me to become a member.

Now, I find a nameless, distant committee in the Church Office Building questioning my faithfulness (based on Internet leaks from the COB). Though the local authorities have shown nothing but acceptance for me, and I have served honorably and without controversy in my ward and stake, these distant Strengthening the Members Committee, who know nothing of me and have never talked to me, think it their prerogative to meddle.

I left all I knew to become a member of the church because I was following God. I still follow God. I began this journey to follow God. I did not begin this journey to follow men, elders, bishops or presidents. I gave up friends and family to follow God. I will not hesitate to make that trade again. I can be cut off from fellowship with the church, but you have no power that can cut me off from God. It is His company that brought me to you, and will be His company I keep whether you stay in fellowship with me or not.

I would prefer to stay in fellowship with both God and the church. But the church is a poor trade to make in a bargain that would cost me association with God. I do not measure my standing before God by how many people think well of me. I could not care less. It is absolutely fine if you think I’m unworthy, misinformed and even a crank. The things I have written can, have and will help some come to Christ. Some of the things I have written can, have and will help some who are struggling with the church’s doctrine and history. The Gospel originates from God, is to save mankind, and cannot be safely ignored.

I took Joseph’s teachings to heart. I also asked God. He has given liberally to me. Therefore, I testify of this process and invite others to have faith and to seek Him. Not me. Not men. Not some intermediary. Seek for God. There is none who can save you but God. If the Strengthening the Members Committee determines to  pressure the local authorities to make a decision they would never have made on their own, then you are casting away a friend, not an enemy. To my knowledge this would be the first time you decide to impose discipline from inside the Church Office Building against someone who:
-Does not challenge your right to preside.
-Sustains the leaders.
-Has written about the scriptures and doctrine from a faithful view.
-Has defended the restoration and Joseph Smith.
-Has attempted to conform our history to the scriptures.
-And who will be weighed against your vanity and injured pride rather than the tenants of the underlying religion.

For my fellow Latter-day Saint (and the Central Command) who choose to condemn me, there is something about this moment you ought to pause to consider. This intersection is not one you want to be in, really. What if I am telling the truth? What if I’m right? In the final analysis, I am a Mormon. I am converted to this faith and will remain converted to it whether you decide to withdraw fellowship or not. My religion will remain whether you let me remain a member of this church or not. Were I in your shoes, I’d welcome someone as committed to the faith as I am, and never adopt the role of an accuser of any Saint. I claim to belong to God, not to you. If you decide to pressure local authorities to cast me off, there is another law decreed before the foundation of the world you will perhaps inadvertently invoke against yourself. This is not the intersection you want to be in, and I mean that in all seriousness and with all my heart; for your sake, not for mine. I know my standing before God, and nothing you can do will alter or affect that, but how you treat me may alter your standing before Him. For your own sake, I would ask you not to do something you will later very much regret.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true, authentic and holds the means for redeeming mankind. Whether the church’s history is an unmitigated series of correct choices and flawless performance by leaders and members alike, it does not change one whit the obligation each of us has to come to Christ for redemption. Whether the church has everything it claims or not, doesn’t change our obligation to God. So where does any of this matter? We all still must repent and obtain hope in Christ. I focus and write to further that. I have no other agenda.

3 Nephi 14: 1-2

 
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
 
This reiterates the doctrine in the Lord’s instruction on prayer. Your judgment of others will become the basis for your own judgment by the Father. Apply mercy to receive mercy. Apply forgiveness to merit forgiveness. Act harshly to receive harsh treatment. Show strict judgment, and receive it in return. It is the perfect balance. What you send out returns to you. It is karma. The words are right out of Christ’s own mouth.
 
More importantly, notice how He transitions from speaking to His twelve about their new, spontaneous ministry into the public judgment of what was to follow? In other words, if these thoughts are related, (and I think they are) then He is saying His twelve disciples may take a while to get to the needs of those assembled. Therefore, be patient. This new lifestyle for the disciples will be difficult on them. In order to receive a reward, those who are being ministered to need to bear patiently with the ensuing efforts of the twelve.
 
This was to be a new community formed among these people. In it, there will be servants called to minister (the twelve), who will be limited in what they are able to do. They will be needy, dependent, and vulnerable. They will have needs. Supply the needs without being put off by what they are not able to do. View them with compassion as they seek to do as they have been told. Don’t withhold substance, food, raiment, or housing from them because you are unhappy with what little they have been able to do. Show them kindness.
 
The statement is broader than that, of course. It implies similar patience with everyone. But the point that this practice should begin with these twelve ministers ought not be lost.
 
The context of “judge not that ye be not judged” is framed by the statement that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” We do “judge” one another because we must. But the judgment should err on the side of forgiving. It should err in favor of trusting motives to be pure, and intent to be good. We should be generous with our gratitude, evaluations and suppositions. When we know someone is misbehaving, we should make allowances for their shortcomings, forgive them before they ask, and impute no retribution because of their offensive conduct.

This does not make us better than another, it makes us whole. It allows the Lord to forgive us for our own, much greater offenses against Him. For when we are generous, we merit His Divine generosity. It is how we are healed. It is the means for our own salvation. Instead of thinking ourselves better than an offender, we should look upon them with gratitude for they provide the means to obtain salvation– provided we give them forgiveness from all their offenses. This is why we should rejoice and be exceedingly glad. (3 Nephi 12: 10-12.) They enable us to obtain salvation by despitefully using us, as long as we measure them by the same standard that allows God to forgive us.

 
What perfect symmetry: You measure to others using instrument that will be used by God to measure back to you. So your ready forgiveness is how God will treat you. All those grudges can be replaced with petitions to God to forgive those who abused you. As you lay aside all those sins against you, committed by others, it will purge from you all your own sins.
 
Straight and narrow indeed…. But oddly appropriate and altogether within your control.

3 Nephi 13: 7-8

3 Nephi 13: 7-8: 

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.” 

Here is wisdom indeed. There is no magic formula for communicating with God. No list of what is to be said or repeated. No vain –meaning ineffective– repetitions. He “gets it” even before you speak. So the act of prayer is a formal way of showing:

-Respect (by doing what He has asked)

-Devotion (by showing submission to Him)
-Obedience (by keeping a commandment to pray always)
-and Companionship (by taking the time alone with Him).

He knows what you need before you ask. Indeed, sometimes the needs we think we have are not what He knows we need even before we pray.

We think we need to get a solution to interior lighting for 8 barges. We come to Him in prayer expecting to receive help for that. He knows what we really need is redemption from the Fall, instruction in the history of mankind, and knowledge of Him. He solves the lighting problem with a touch of His finger, but then goes on to reveal all things.

We think we need to know what church to join. So Joseph comes asking that one question in sincerity. He knows, however, the world needs a prophet to re-establish the long absent Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

We think we need to understand how to baptize. So Joseph and Oliver ask. He knows, however, the Aaronic Priesthood must be restored, and sends an angel to return it to the earth.

We think we need to know what our standing is before God. So Joseph asks, fully expecting to learn if his life has been acceptable. God knows, however, the time has come to send an angel having the everlasting Gospel to declare. So Mororni comes to declare the restoration of the book.

You take thought about what your cares are, but they are not what the Lord knows you need. Your cares are merely the tiniest of obstacles given you to remind you to pray. The Father operates on a much grander scale, dealing with the salvation of souls. He will use the man or woman of prayer as the means of accomplishing a great deal more then they imagined.

Pray. Ask simply. It is not necessary to be elaborate or long winded. State clearly what you believe you need.  Accept what then comes in His answer. Trust He knows more than you. Trust He can give you what you need, even if you hadn’t even thought about it as a need.

3 Nephi 13: 5-6

 3 Nephi 13: 5-6:

“And when thou prayest thou shalt not do as the hypocrites, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
 
Like the previous verses, this verse is saying prayer ought to be private, not public. It should be between you and God. Others do not need to know of, see, or participate in your prayers. Most importantly, your prayers ought not be put on display for others to notice and admire.
 
There are public prayer occasions, of course. Those come every time a meeting opens and closes with a prayer. For such opportunities there will always be a prayer offered by one person, acting as the voice for those assembled. But the prayer is not the individual’s. It is the prayer of all those assembled. This warning is about personal prayer, not group prayer.
 
These verses are confirming the principle that prayer should be kept private between you and God. It should not be put on public display to call attention to yourself. Those whose prayers are offered “for to be seen” are really not praying to God anyway. They are using the pretense of prayer to call attention to themselves. They want recognition. When they get recognition they have their reward. They got what they wanted: public notice.
 
As a result of this teaching I have some hesitation about praying at a public restaurant before a meal. If I do, it is private, unspoken, and only thought. I have always thought this teaching proscribed public prayer whenever it attracted notice.
 
This counsel, and the counsel immediately before, show just how solitary a journey it is back to the Lord’s presence. It is not a group event. It is done in the privacy of your own heart, your own intent, and your own private conduct. It is your personal devotions which show the Lord who and what you are. By keeping these things secret between you and Him, you gain a power of familiarity with Him which will permit Him to comfort you.
 
I’ve tried to avoid ever speaking of personal matters, choosing instead to only focus on the Lord’s teachings.  Some people have expressed frustrations at the absence of personal details in what I’ve written or said. Those complaints reaffirm to me that I’ve weighed the matter correctly. It is not, and never has been about me or any man. It is about the Lord and His teachings. I have testified to His teachings and that they are both true and applicable to everyone. I’ve testified that high office and notoriety are not required, but the least are invited. When Zion finally comes, I doubt there will be many notable people there. It will be the man from Tennessee who is handy with mechanical repairs, whose calloused hands show dedication to labor for others  It will be the patient Temple worker-couple who, despite the regimentation seen all around them, have pursued the Lord’s will and found Him. It will be the patient and obscure people whose private devotion to the Lord is known to Him, acknowledged by His voice. The invitation to gather will come to them directly from Him.
 
It is in these teachings that I will be justified and required to end my public efforts. As they end, you will need to do as He has taught, and as I have endeavored to do. I will soon be ending this blog. I will be finishing up this phase of what I’ve been asked to do for the last several years, and hopefully be shown the courtesy of being allowed to return to my family and ward. The things I have written require a real person to stand behind them, to testify of them, and to take responsibility for what is said. I have allowed you to know who it is. But enough has been done. I look forward to returning to my own closet and laying down this more public effort. 
 
Christ would have us all know the Father in the privacy of our individual lives. That is as true of Him as it is meant to be for us. How often He spent the night in private prayer. How often he separated Himself from His followers and prayed in secret to His Father. That is what we should accomplish more often. That is how we draw closest to Him.
 
You can as readily gratify your vain ambition by praying to be noticed as you can by aspiring and receiving a church position or rank. It is all vanity. There really is none who are good, except God alone.

3 Nephi 12: 6

“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”

This is not about hunger or poverty. This is about fasting and seeking after righteousness.

You qualify for this blessing by hungering “after righteousness.” You qualify by thirsting “after righteousness.” In other words, you receive the Holy Ghost in proportion to the hunger and thirst you display to receiving it.

Fasting is a promised means for increasing the Holy Ghost in your life. We read this about Alma when he served as High Priest over the church: “And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?  Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.  And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God.” (Alma 5: 45-47.)

Fasting and praying opens the Spirit. It allows you to know a matter through the power of the Holy Ghost. Again, we read this about the Sons of Mosiah who were completing their service as missionaries: “…Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.  But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” (Alma 17: 2-3) They not only searched the scriptures, but they also spent time praying and fasting, that they might show God their earnest commitment to know the truth. The result was the “spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation.” Or, in other words, they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

The Lord speaks in simple formulas. They work; when tried in sincerity, acting no hypocrisy, with real intent, they work. Half-hearted efforts are not so effective. But when a soul, any soul, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, they are filled with the Holy  Ghost.

This sometimes presents a problem for those who have medical conditions which prevent them from fasting. In The Second Comforter, I’ve suggested there are other ways to subordinate the desires of the flesh as a way to “hunger and thirst” while keeping medical needs satisfied. Reducing calories, or doing without some other thing as a form of “fasting” can be substituted. The decision would be between you and the Lord, but there are always ways provided for meeting what the Lord asks, including fasting by those who are medically unable. (1 Nephi 3: 7.)

This sermon is a blue-print of the Lord’s new charter for mankind. It is the new, higher way of living. It is intended to result in a new spiritual life for those willing to live it. Therefore you should not dismiss “hunger and thirst for righteousness” as something trivial. If you are among those who does not believe the Lord speaks with them, take these invitations from the Lord seriously. They are designed to reconnect you with God. They have the power to accomplish it.
Also, in the case of the Sons of Mosiah, there was actual “power” which came through this means. These missionaries could teach “with power and authority of God” because of their fasting, prayer and study of scripture.

2 Nephi 32: 9

 
“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”
 
Another significant reminder by a prophet of what is needed.
 
The great passage from Alma on prayer is an echo of Nephi. (Alma 34: 17-27.) Nephi said it first.
 
What is involved with “performing anything unto the Lord?” How much of what we do in our daily responsibilities ought to be performed “unto the Lord?” (Rom. 12: 1.)
 
Do not “perform any thing” for the Lord until you have “in the first place” prayed to consecrate your performance. Here Nephi teaches you how to live the law of consecration. You don’t need others to join you. You don’t need a city to live where all things are held in common. You only need your own pure intent, acting no hypocrisy, consecrating your performance to the Lord for the welfare of your soul.

If you “must not perform any thing unto the Lord” before praying and consecrating it “for the welfare of thy soul,” then how should you proceed? How much thought should you take about the Lord and your relationship with Him daily? How careful should you be about your words, thoughts and works? (Alma 12: 14.) It is again, a reminder that we should always remember Him, and keep His commandments which He has given us, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. (D&C 20: 77.)

 
What does it mean to “pray always, and not faint?” What does “praying” have to do with “fainting?” What does it mean to “faint?” Can you “faint” in your spiritual life? Is a physical “faint” merely an example of what happens to us in the spirit? If so, what must you do to avoid becoming “faint” in your prayers?
 
How many of your prayers have ended by your mind drifting away? No certain conclusion to the prayer, just a distracted mind becoming occupied by something other than the prayer being offered? Is that to “faint?”
 
What does “fainting” tell you about your vulnerability? What precautions do you need to take to be able to “pray always” and not be vulnerable to “fainting?”
 
Is the primary difference between the outcome of the lives of Nephi and Jacob on the one hand, and Laman and Lemuel on the other, how they regarded prayer?
 
What does having prayer as a priority say about an individual?

Alma 13: 28


“But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;”

Alma’s formula is quite direct and clear:

“Humble yourselves:” Without humility you are not teachable.  Humility and the capacity to accept new truth are directly related.  This is the character flaw that prevents the Lord from teaching the Nephites when He appeared to them. They THOUGHT they already knew things.  Therefore nothing that contradicted their false notions would be accepted.  Christ advised the Nephites who saw Him descend from heaven to go prepare themselves for His teaching. “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”  (3 Ne. 17: 3.)  This was the Lord telling these witnesses that they were not humble enought to be taught–even by Him!  So the first requirement is no small matter. Are you really humble?  Can you accept truth if it is taught to you?  Even if it contradicts your traditions?  Even if it alienates you from family, friends, comfortable social associations, your neighbors?  (Matt. 19: 29.)  See, humbling yourself is not just some droop-faced, hang-dog expression to wear on your countenance.  Rather it is opening your heart up to higher things.

“Call upon God:”  Not just prayer. Call upon Him. To call is to invite Him to come. How do you call Him?  By devoting yourself, in humility, to living every principle He has taught to you through His messengers and in His scriptures.  It’s not a laundry list of “to-do’s.”  It is meekness and prayerful watching; humbling yourself and accepting what His spirit will advise you to do.  When He testifies to you that you are hearing a true principle, accept it.  No matter the effect it may have upon your life. Change your life, but never abandon His truths. Call, listen, and obey what you are told.  Never close that line of communication.  Don’t trust a message which does not come from Him.

“Watch and pray:”  Answers may come in many ways. Be watchful so you don’t miss them when they are given to you. Pray that you might be seeking, preparing your mind to behold what He sends. Stay tuned, and stay attuned.  Without such diligence you will miss His messages, that come sometimes frequently, but from unexpected sources.

“That ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear:” Implicit in this is that you may be tempted beyond what you can bear. So how do you avoid falling? Does humility and calling upon God and watching and praying insure that you can avoid an excess of temptation?  How would they all go together?  In particular, how would being “humble” be a protection against this kind of temptation?

Alma connects all this together with the word: “thus.” Meaning as a consequence of the foregoing. As a result of what he’s just told you. As a product of this approach, you will then “be led by the Holy Spirit.” You can’t do what comes next without being so led.  It isn’t in you. Not without help from within through the Holy Spirit.

So, if you do all the above, and then acquire the Holy Spirit to be your guide, then it follows that you will “become humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering.” You won’t be imitating humility, but you will be humble with the Holy Spirit’s assistance. You won’t feign meekness, but you will acquire the power to be meek (in the sense it is explained in Beloved Enos). You won’t pretend to submission, patience, love and long suffering, but you will be these things as a result of the Spirit within you.  This will be your character.  Not as the world understands such things, but through the power of the Spirit to lay hold upon such things.

Formulas like this one are inspired statements, providing a road map to the Lord’s methods of changing lives. Alma is making such a declaration and invitation in this sermon. It is amazing, really.  How succinctly he cuts to the core of the matter.