Friday, December 26, 2008

Reverence Invites Revelation

“The world grows increasingly noisy...This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless.

“The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.

“Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit...

“...Reverence invites revelation.”

(Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 27–28)

I've realized lately that I've been letting my communication lines get jammed. I've been feeling like the heavens are silent, but really, it's just that I've been being too noisy to hear its gentle invitations. It isn't that God hasn't been speaking, or that I haven't been wanting to hear Him, but that I've been letting other things get in the way. I've been making other priorities, and neglecting my relationship with my Creator.

In the words of Joseph Smith, "In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature" (Joseph Smith-History 1:28). I guess it's just that I've felt the Spirit's presence so strongly and constantly in times past, and so the lessening of its influence concerns me so much. I am reminded of the words of President Kimball:

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 135).

I need the strength and closeness to God that comes from constant communion with His Spirit. I need the love for others that comes from reverence for God and His creations. I need time for quiet meditation and peaceful reflection. If I am to be able to hear the gentle whisperings of a loving God, I need to spend time away from the noise that fills the world, time with the One who made the world. I think there is a reason He said, simply, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

They That Have Not Seen

This month we celebrate the birth of a child in a place where the cattle fed, in an ancient world far removed from our own. But that child’s birth would not be an occasion for such universal rejoicing were it not for that child’s miraculous gift to all God’s children. So at Christmas, we are really celebrating the Atonement and Resurrection of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely His birth. We celebrate His life, His mission, His example, and His victory over sin and death. I bear testimony that He lived and died and lives today, that He stands as King of kings and Lord of lords, and that one day He will again return to rule and reign, that “the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,” (Isaiah 40:5) that He will “stand to judge the world,” (3 Ne. 27:16) that we “shall see him as he is,” (D&C 130:1).

The scriptures testify of the premortal role, mortal mission, and eternal Godhood of Jesus Christ. From the beginning He was “the Only Begotten of the Father, [and] by him, and through him, and of him the worlds are and were created” (D&C 76:23-24). John testified that He is the light that “shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth [or overcometh] it not… He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:3-5, 11). They teach that when Christ comes again it will be in His glory, “and he shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). “For the Lord shall be in their midst, and his glory shall be upon them, and he will be their king and their lawgiver” (D&C 45:59).

The scriptures continually urge us to be joyful and to praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy. Joseph Smith, writing from Nauvoo, proclaimed:
“Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel… Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!” (D&C 128:22-23).

The Lord’s mission was a mission of healing and joy. It was a mission worthy of our greatest praise. As we celebrate His birth, His life, and His victory over death, I echo the words of Ammon: “Blessed be the name of our God; let us sing to his praise, yea, let us give thanks to his holy name, for he doth work righteousness forever” (Alma 26:8).

The Lord, while in mortality, walked the dusty roads of Galilee. He ministered to a captive people, healing their sick and bidding them to come unto Him. He taught his people the higher law, the way to return to their heavenly home. He taught them to love one another, to be merciful and pure in heart, to be peacemakers, and to be filled with--and show forth--His light. He beckoned to those who were burdened with sorrow, care, and sin, saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my toke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

We live two millennia after the Lord was “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Ne. 11:33). I have not seen Jesus Christ, and yet I proclaim His name and call myself His disciple. I have covenanted to stand as a witness of Him to a world in need of the light of Christ and “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” (Mosiah 18:9, Phillipians 4:7) I count myself among those of whom Christ prophesied when He told His disciple, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

In doing so, I echo the words of President Hinckley:
“I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal, Living God. None so great has ever walked the earth. None other has made a comparable sacrifice or granted a comparable blessing. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. I believe in Him. I declare His divinity without equivocation or compromise. I love Him. I speak His name in reverence and wonder. I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth. I thank Him and kneel before His Beloved Son who reached out long ago and said to each of us, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’”
(“The Wondrous and True Story of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec. 2000, 2)

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crossing the Raging Deep

Faced with scattering because of the wickedness of their people, the ancient Jaredites were led by the hand of the Lord "into that quarter [of the land] where there never had man been" (Ether 2:5). They built barges and crossed to another land, "being directed continually by the hand of the Lord" (Ether 2:6). But when they got to that land, the Lord still wasn't done leading them, for "the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people" (v. 7). Much like the Lehites, reaching the land Bountiful after traveling for many years in the wilderness wasn't good enough for the Lord, for almost immediately, Nephi records, "the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship...that I may carry thy people across these great waters" (1 Nephi 17:8). The Lord intended both the Jaredites and the Lehites to reach their promised land, and He wouldn't be satisfied with helping them reach an "acceptable land," or even a "good land," for the land He had prepared for them was "the best lands," even a " land of promise...choice above all other lands."

In order to reach that land, the Lord instructed the brother of Jared to build barges in which to carry his people. Faced with the daunting challenge of crossing a great ocean without modern technology, the brother of Jared asked the Lord for assistance. His greatest challenge was providing light in the barges, which were sealed with pitch and would be just as black. Fire wasn't an option, and windows would be shattered under the stormy conditions they would face. The brother of Jared prayed about his dillemma, asking, "O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?" (Ether 2:22). He later pleaded with the Lord, saying, "O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness" (Ether 3:3).

The Lord then touched the sixteen small stones that the brother of Jared had brought, and they shone brightly, filled with the light of the Lord. The brother of Jared placed at stone at each end of each barge, and, equipped with food and provisions, "they got aboard...their vessels...and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God" (Ether 6:4). Immediately after they had prayed, "the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land: and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind" (v. 5).

So immediately after they had been obedient and exercised faith in the Lord unto prayer, life got rough. The seas were choppy. The storms raged. The winds blew. But through it all, "there was no water that could hurt them...and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water" (Ether 6:7,10). Their voyage was not smooth sailing, for "the wind did never cease to clow towards the promise land...and thus they were driven forth before the wind" (Ether 6:8). But they had light, and air, and the eye of the Lord was upon them, and His hand was steering them toward the promised land, "and they did sing prases unto the Lord...all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord" (Ether 6:9). After almost a year aboard the barges, a long time to be perpetually seasick, "they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land...and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because the multitude of his tender mercies over them" (Ether 6:12).

The Lord intends to bring us to our own promised land, to bring us back into His presence to dwell with Him forever. His work and glory is to bring us to live with Him and to live like Him (see Moses 1:39). He doesn't intend us to be mediocre for eternity. The mission of His Son was not to condemn the world for its sins, but to save all who would repent of their sins (see John 3:17). In order to reach our promised land, sometimes we have to be driven by fierce winds. Sometimes we'll be swallowed up in the sea. But when we dedicate our lives to the Lord, His eye will always be on us, and He will lead us, as He promised Nephi, "I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you...and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led" (1 Nephi 17:13). The winds that are so frightening are what will drive us toward our promised land, if we exercise faith in God.

The Lord may require us to pass through trials to get to the promised land, but we will not pass through our trials alone. We must cross the raging deep, but He will not suffer us to cross it in darkness, for He will be our light. And when we enter His presence, we will bow ourselves down and shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of His tender mercies over us. We will know that it is by the Lord that we are led.

I bear witness of the light and peace that comes only from the hand of the Lord. I bear witness of His tender mercy and love. I know that He will guide us through our raging deep, no matter how dark or long. "And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God...may be and abide in you forever. Amen" (Ether 12:41).

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