Through the previously recorded selection of sacred stories I have begun to share the essence of my journey coming to know God. It is so simple yet in our Heavenly Parent’s brilliant plan it weeds out those who are not sincere. All blessings and gifts of God require obedience, and sacrificing our will to heaven’s.
I have learned by experience how God speaks to me. I know His voice as well as I know my mother’s (Alma 32:26-43). My relationship with God and with my Savior has become sweet and desirable above all other fruit (1 Ne 8:12, 15, 1 Ne 15:36 and Alma 32:42). However, His ways are not always our ways and don’t always make sense to us until after the trial of our faith.
Even last week I thought I understood where my path was finally taking me. I had learned the doctrine of Christ, come to understand the meaning of the temple ordinances and had climbed Jacob’s ladder to what I thought was the next to last rung or step. I had learned to, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Ne 4:34). I petitioned Him for confirmation in everything I learned and did and I was prepared to do whatever He asked.
In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith said, “… the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone to our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” Why? Because it was compiled by God, handpicked by prophets from 1000 years of history; specific stories teaching of Christ, Christ’s doctrine, and Christ’s prophecies. The Book of Mormon prophesies of many things about the gentile church in our day. I felt that many were now begin to be fulfilled.
Why was the story of Abinadi, King Noah and Alma included in the book? Would the Lord ever call a faithful saint from outside of the ecclesiastical organization of the church to warn the church leaders? Are church leaders, because of some ecclesiastical superiority, powerless to lead the saints astray? Would the Lord ever wrest the authority away from the ecclesiastical leaders if they rejected truth and righteousness? If so could the authority fall to another, and could the church remain on the earth without a falling away or apostasy? It had happened in the Book of Mormon.
I posed these questions to God with fear and trembling. Desiring to know the truth, but fearful of being deceived and becoming one of the elect in the last days who would be led away by the lies of satan (Matt 24:24, JSH 1:22). But what side of the coin was correct? I received an answer in the affirmative to the above questions and about the human nature of all men, but again and again out of fear I pled for a stronger witness of the truth. Again and again a patient, long suffering Father, who intended to qualify and teach a lesson, answered my prayers the same each time.
In retrospect I had jumped to conclusions. I hadn’t asked all the questions to clarify my concerns, but I’m getting ahead of this story.
What would Jodi Do?
A year ago I had a nightmare. In the dream my wife (and the center of my life) of 34 years chose another path without me. I awoke from this most horrifying dream in a panic and could not find peace for hours as I lay awake, tossing in mental anguish. Finally I turned to the Lord in prayer, asking for peace and for sleep to overtake me and rid me of the pain I was feeling. Christ did bring peace and I was able to return to my slumber, but in future days, despite my efforts to push this thought deep into the seat cushions of my mind it occasionally surfaced.
Now as I contemplated what my answers to my recent prayer meant, and the assumptions I had drawn, I changed my questioning. I approached the Lord filled with the resurfacing dread of the dream and with concern for how my wife that I loved would respond to my concerns. I pled with Father, “Show me how I can explain all this to Jodi! Fill Jodi with Thy spirit and an understanding and accepting heart! Send an extra measure of personal revelation that we may know and accept Thy will”. He answered, and said in effect, “Write this all down, your blogging effort has been to this end, to convince My children that these things can and do happen. This is not the first and this will not be the last. Put your trust in Me and don’t fear the arm of flesh. I will sustain you no matter the outcome.” My decision was made. My mind was firm. There were many things I did not understand but I assumed and was allowed to believe, for a short period of time, that the doctrine, precepts, teaching and intent of the church were still true, but the leadership were making decisions that might necessitate lead my family in another direction. I knew what this decision would mean. I could loose my wife, we could estrange ourselves from family, friends and church. In effect all that we had counted precious could be forfeited. This was a painful sacrifice that I was willing to make if it was asked of me.
Sunday was the Ogden temple re-dedication and I desired to go. I needed to feel after the spirit seeking revelation, communication with my God, to finalize my decision. I had confirmed that I was willing to place everything I had or would ever have on God’s alter if this was what Father wanted me to do.
Regaining My Balance
Jodi and I attended the dedication together. Initially I was uncomfortable because I assumed Father would tell to me that the brethren were stumbling. However, as we sat in the meeting a wonderful spirit began to distill in my heart. I listened to every word of the proceeding without forcing any emotion, feeling after every nuance of the spirit as it settled in my heart. The spirit bore testimony that the brethren and each participant were sincere in their efforts and it was pleasing to the Lord. He also spoke to me that all men including the 1st presidency and quorum of the 12 were men as was I, subject to mortal miscues and mistakes, doing the best they could despite the influences of the world and of the flesh. When president Monson finally stood and proceeded to pronounce the dedicatory prayer I felt the spirit say clearly, “This is my imperfect servant, but he is the man holding the keys and authority to administer the affairs of the church.” As President Monson was seated and we prepared to join in the hosanna shout I felt a surge of emotion and an excitement to participate in worshipping Jesus Christ and demonstrating my witness to sustain His church on the earth. I had received my answer. It was entirely opposite to my expectation, but it was powerful and easily discernible.
As we arose to return home I was conflicted. Why had I received such a strong assurance to my preceding prayers concerning what I thought was a confirmation of the mistakes of the leadership in certain things and why had I received such a sure testimony now of God’s sustaining approval of President Monson and the council of the twelve?
My Spiritual Eyes Were Opened
I needed time and space to pray and ponder, so when Jodi laid down for a nap I took Nel out for a long walk. Before we rounded the first corner I was deep in thought and mighty prayer. To the best of my recollection I asked why I had felt what I had felt and why I had received such a strong answer from Him over the past week filled with turmoil, tears and trials.
The first answer that I was led to understand was that we worship and adore Jesus Christ and we sustain our church leaders, after personal spiritual confirmation. We need to make a distinction between listening to their council but following only the Lord. Always seeking our leader’s council but confirming all our decisions based on personal revelation.
A moment later the next response came to my mind followed by an incredibly powerful and emotional witness. “You needed to be tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up all that he had, even his only son. I needed to tug at your heart strings for you to confirm to yourself your of commitment. All of my faithful servants who have sought the blessings that you seek have been required to offer up to Me a sacrifice that would try them and prove their commitment to Me. For this it was counted as righteousness unto them.”
As I continued to walk, peace and joy began to flood my heart. This had been my test, a qualification of sorts. It was counted as righteousness to me. The Lord already knew, but wanted me to know that I would respond when asked to lay every precious thing I had in life: my wife, my children, my family, my community, on the alter for Him. The realization began to sweep over me that this had all been a test of my commitment and faithfulness to the Lord. I began walking with more of a spring in my step. Silently I exclaiming praises, shouting in my mind of my love of the Lord! My mind was opened to the entirety of the situation; I recalled my early baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, I had served as faithfully as I could in every capacity requested, I had been embraced through the veil by the Lord Himself, been given promises and asked to do certain things, and now after a week of struggling and pleading, then accepting and acting, I had passed my test, willing to have my heart wrenched, and do the spiritually and emotionally hardest thing I had ever been asked to do.
I reached the turn at the top of block and while enjoying the peace of the moment it was recalled to my mind the words of Joseph Smith that I had read not long before: “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses….
Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; …when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions-Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born” [TPJS, pp. 150-51].
As this thought entered my mind a surge of pure energy went through my body. I was filled with a sweet and euphoric feeling, but also one of gratitude and love for my Savior. Tears came unashamed as I walked. I wanted to embrace Him, now, to fall at His feet and wash them with my tear! I wanted to express my love and gratitude. I wanted to hear Him call my name and confirm that I was accepted of Him. I thrilled at Joseph Smith’s implication that I was in the process of making my calling and election sure and the realization that it might actually be possible to accomplish all my desires to truly embrace and express all that I felt to my Savior and friend, in this life, in the flesh. All my earlier pains of the previous week were washed away and swallowed up in my joy and by the assurance of the only one who could. After another block, slowly the euphoric buzz wore to a peaceful warmth.
The remainder of the walk was nice. There was a spirit of peace but nothing to compare with what I had experience earlier in my walk. I was left to ponder the meaning of what had transpired in the previous 15 minutes. What an amazing plan. Amazing, confusing and inexplicable, wonderful that He should care for me, enough to die and then live again for me, wonderful to me! Now as I walked home I asked, I pleaded, when may I receive Thee? What more must I do to be qualified?
I have learned that each step comes, one at a time. The next step can’t be rushed. It will come in Christ’s own time and in His way. Until then, I have plenty more to do. For now I need to work on my relationship with Jodi. Father has taught me that I need her. She is essential to my progress. Without my wife as truly my best friend I can never become as God is. I also have plenty to do to strengthen the bonds with my children and their families. I must have them with us or all that we have done to raise them is pointless! I can’t be happy without my parents, siblings and their families. I must share what I have learned with them. And then there are all of my other brothers and sisters who are down here on earth with me, trying to figure this temporal existence out. I have work enough to do.
This is my testimony of what I know. The precepts of The Book of Mormon will put us on the path to know God. Baptism, both of water and of fire are the gate. The temple ordinances are the keys that unlock the spiritual endowment and open the doors to receive our calling and election, and ultimately the assurance of such, and the second comforter.
I want to share this testimony with you, with my family, with the world, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Brother, my Exemplar, my Savior, and my Friend.
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)
My Invitation by Way of Moroni
“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Moroni 10:32-33)