Friday, February 27, 2015


Regarding the casting out and stoning of the prophets:

Much has been written equating modern excommunication from the LDS Church with "casting out and stoning the prophets". Individuals have been "cast out" of the Church and perhaps even metaphorically "stoned". But those terms, when used in scripture, have real implications. People were actually, not figuratively, cast out (of Jerusalem, Ammonihah, Nauvoo, etc.). They were physically assaulted, stoned, burned alive and slain.

We are still a long, long way from that.

The violent destructions that overtook the wicked (at various times throughout biblical, Book of Mormon and even modern Church history) befell a people who were, themselves, violent. They killed and, by passing judgment upon others, brought like judgments upon themselves. The righteous who were cast out and slain were permitted to suffered so that a righteous judgment might befall their wicked oppressors and killers.

Latter-day Saints, by and large, are a peaceful and God-fearing people. Physical violence is far from the thoughts and intents of their hearts. While violence and mayhem rage round us and people and cultures in this vineyard now commit great atrocities -- slaughtering, casting from towers, even burning alive those they deem "unworthy" to share existence in this world -- the vast majority on this planet would never think of doing such things.

The Lord has destroyed the world in times past when it has been filled with violence. The elders with whom Laban conspired to get gain thought nothing of taking the lives of those whom they legally could accuse and condemn. Likewise many have used -- and continue to use -- religious pretext to kill or cast out those who challenge or jeopardize authority, income, status or station. (The list is so long that Stephen lamented: "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?")

The United States is a nation filled with weapons -- over 300 million firearms alone! -- but relatively little violence. (So little, in fact, we must access movies, television, or the web to see it!) I, for one, have never witnessed gunplay or a knife fight first hand -- in my 53 years, even while living in "violent" places like Guatemala and Puerto Rico -- though I've come very close. It does happen. Still, murder is rare and not the cultural norm of our society...yet.

Until it is, I trust the Lord's judgments will be stayed. He has decreed, generally, that by the wicked the wicked are punished. It is a tribute to the general goodness of a people that violence is not a common feature of their culture. We are far from the destructions of 3 Nephi, Ammonihah, or even Sodom and Gomorrah -- though you may find "a more wretched hive of scum and villainy" here and there. Brazil is a basket case. Territories controlled by ISIS, the mafia, and drug lords have approached -- and passed over -- the line separating the "wicked" from the "righteous". Many countries in Africa and even whole sectors of cities in the United States and elsewhere have done likewise. We have reassurances from the Lord that He will remove the "most bitter" of elements from His vineyard from time to time until the good fruit is fully gathered and the whole vineyard is "ready" to be burned.

But if the Book of Mormon is any indication -- with its wars, intrigues, convolutions and upheavals, its near-universal deprivations and savagery -- then we have, unfortunately, a very long way to go. There is yet much suffering to be had by this people to prepare them for the coming of the Savior.

So that when He does come, those who have survived will acknowledge that He truly has saved them.


Note: This essay does not take into account the violence, murder, and mayhem America exports through her myriad military exploits. The Nephites were condemned when, as a people, they authorized military aggression against others, venturing into foreign lands, waging wars of offense and not defense. America currently engages in unending conflict on multiple fronts, with soldiers on every continent, stationed in over 130 countries.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My testimony

A reader sent me the following:

I just came across your blog the other day and I have really enjoyed reading it. I appreciate your insight and honesty that are reflected in your posts. They have been very helpful in my journey for further truth.

In your last post you said:  
"Those of us who have met Him — who have seen His light and heard His voice and felt His love — know what it means to be filled with light and love unto the consuming of our flesh. It is akin to walking on clouds, being in love, devoid of all ill-will, contention, displeasure or desire to commit sin of any kind. It is to be filled with light. It is euphoria and clarity and peace beyond comprehension — until one experiences it. And, even then, it remains unspeakable."
From those words, I was left with the assumption that you had the opportunity to meet the Savior? If so, I would love to know everything about that experience that you are comfortable sharing. If you have shared more about this experience in a previous post, I'd love to read it. What an incredible experience that I yearn for. What path did you follow to have that experience? Did he say anything to you? What did he look like?  

I hope I am not being too nosy in inquiring more information and I respect your privacy. I am trying to find as many first hand experiences from people that have been in the presence of God and I'd love to hear yours.

Thanks you again and I hope you have a great day.

I responded:

Thanks for your inquiry. I'm happy to share my experiences with you. Bearing witness of Christ is almost never "too sacred"!

I've written about my experiences in my blog. (Forgive me, I don't know where and don't care to look.) I was at BYU, doing my best to keep His commandments, slogging along, trying to be "true" to the Church, etc. I was a convert to Christ at 14, the LDS Church at 15. Loved the Lord before I ever heard of "Mormonism". Took Brother Avraham Gileadi's Book of Mormon class at BYU my first semester as a freshman. Loved it. Immersed myself in the scriptures. Tried to live the gospel with all my heart. Bore witness of Him and His words at all times and in all places (though I had never seen Him) -- and was persecuted for it. (I guess I mentioned some of that here in a post written shortly after my excommunication.)

This was the "crisis" that precipitated my supernal, life-changing event. My BYU roommate (and EQP), Eric Anderson, asked me at dinner "Don't you just love the Savior?"

I had to confess I didn't.

"What?! You, of all people! I would have thought you loved Him more than anyone else!"

"I did love Him. I used to love Him. But now I don't know Him anymore. I don't know what's happened to me. I've tried and tried to get closer to Him, but nothing's working. I feel so alone, so sad."

That night I bawled my eyes out in distress. I confessed I didn't know Him anymore, even though I was trying to do everything in my power to come unto Him. I got off my knees that night after prayer and went to sleep, wetting my pillow with my tears.

In the visions of the night, in a dream, He appeared to me. I saw Him sitting on a rock, along a path outside the walls of Jerusalem. (I just realized He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, there being a smallish valley separating us from the city beyond.) He was facing me, almost directly, as he taught a gathering of people -- old and young, "religious" types and common folk (like me). I was in the middle, some on my right and some on my left. I heard Him tell a story that made the "religious" types angry, the children laugh, and me cry. 

He was so good. He was so mild. He was so kind and clever and good-natured and funny! And down-to-earth and just plain peaceful.

But He was not "handsome" to look upon. There was nothing about Him that would cause you to say "Hey! Now there's a 'born leader'!" No, quite the opposite. He was not attractive at all. Just a man. And not a "good looking" man at that. (NOTHING like the pictures the LDS Church now paints of Him.)

A tattered, sickly, filthy, smelly boy of about eight years old, dressed in gray, stood near that rock upon which the Man sat. The boy listened to the Man and watched Him intently. A beautiful young girl, dressed in pink, stood a few meters away from the boy, farther from the Man.

As the Man spoke, I saw this boy climb up on that rock and put his arms around that Man's neck! The boy practically hung on the Man and bent upward and kissed Him on His cheek! The Man did not move a muscle or say another word.

But I saw golden undulating beams of light come out of that Man and fill the immensity of space! I saw that light pierce the body of that boy! I saw that light go into me and I was FILLED with overwhelming, unimaginable love! I HAVE NEVER FELT ITS LIKE BEFORE. (I am weeping even now as I type these words. My son is asking: "Daddy, what's wrong?" Absolutely NOTHING is wrong.)

I saw the God of heaven and earth that day. I heard His voice. I heard His accent. I saw His mannerisms. I felt His love. (He looked to me a lot like the man pictured in the Harry Anderson paintings you see at Church.) 

Jesus has spoken to me on other occasions. I have heard Him as clearly as you would hear any man speak to you. I was not asleep but awake when He spoke to me. He sang for me a song...a song, apparently, which is sung by all righteous priesthood holders foreordained to come to this world. (See Alma 13.) He showed me what I -- I assume it was me -- accomplished before I was born. I was blown away! I had created worlds. (This all happened in my dorm room at BYU.)

I jumped up off my bed and tried to write down the notes of the music I heard Him sing! I wanted to keep it forever! It was marvelous! But when I took my pencil in hand, I said to myself: "Hey! I don't know how to write music! I don't know a single note!" And immediately the music stopped. (Until then, I was "in the Spirit" and still hearing it! I was "Peter", actually walking on water!) I started whistling the tune, trying to "capture" it, trying to keep it! But within 10 or 15 minutes I couldn't remember but a few combinations of notes and it had lost all its power and persuasiveness.

I was sorely persecuted for my teachings at BYU and was never allowed to serve in the Church thereafter in any "significant" (as the Church sees it) leadership or teaching capacity. I was a "nut job", I think they thought.

It didn't help that I was pulled to and fro by "every wind of doctrine" -- the LDS Church has plenty of them! -- leading me astray from Christ, who introduced Himself to me. (All along He was ministering to me. This time He was more personal, more direct.) I walked on clouds for weeks thereafter, sobbing and sorrowing (with gratitude!) for the love I had felt and known...and lost. I wanted to be with Him again! To feel that love! To see His face! To be with Him!

That love -- or the memory of it -- has been with me ever since. Oh, I have been "tried"...and I've failed...many, many times. I have fallen repeatedly. But I have gotten back up because of Him! My love for Him! Or, rather, His love for me. He brought me back. He showed me what was at stake. He showed me what I could have...and who I could be...if I followed Him.

And I loved Him more than anything else!

That's why I'm here. That's what has brought me to this point. That's what I know and have experienced.

There's more to the story, but that's not important. What is important is doing all you can to come unto Christ. Cast away all sin. And cry unto Him with all your heart. When you do so, He hears and answers prayers. I know. He has ministered to me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

O God, the Internal Father

Now my battles are within.

I realize now — perhaps for the first time — that nothing I can do can ever “save” me. No amount of ordinances. No service. No sacrifice. No prayers or supplications. No words or secret handshakes. No works.

God saves us. He saves us. By His grace, His efforts, His sacrifice. It’s what He does.

All we do — all we can do — is ask and receive with gratitude, comply in faith, and respond with love. And even the power to do all that comes from Him.

Knowing God, we become loving, like Him. We cannot help it. If we do not love, we know not God. We only kid ourselves. 

How do I know?

I knew Him once — really, more than once! — and I tasted of His love. His manifest love was His gift to me. And I can never forget it! And I will always love Him for it!

Have you ever been in love? God’s love surpasses all that.

What can we do if we know not God, are not loving, and consequently have not been saved?

All we can do.

But we must realize — we have to realize — that, in the end, it depends on Him. He provides the healing, the light, the love, the resurrection. He is God, not we.

Those of us who have met Him — who have seen His light and heard His voice and felt His love — know what it means to be filled with light and love unto the consuming of our flesh. It is akin to walking on clouds, being in love, devoid of all ill-will, contention, displeasure or desire to commit sin of any kind. It is to be filled with light. It is euphoria and clarity and peace beyond comprehension — until one experiences it. And, even then, it remains unspeakable.

To be baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost is to know that God exists, to know the truth for one’s self. To know, not just “believe” anymore. It is to be “born again”. And one who has experienced this “mighty change of heart” knows, indeed, that a transformation has taken place — though he or she might find the whole thing utterly inexplicable, even incomprehensible.

It is the Spirit of God that does His mighty work, not the will or works of men. “God with Us” — God in Us, Emmanuel — is the Mighty One, the only one, who saves.

After all we can do.

I know now, better than ever, my own nothingness, my own powerlessness, my own inability to save myself. Like the man in the temple, beating his chest with regret, I say “Forgive me, Lord, for I am a sinner”. There are no works I can do or look to to comfort me, no “accomplishments” I can take pride in and say “See! That’s why He loves me! That’s why He saved me!”

If I am to be saved at all, it will be by His grace.

As Paul said, I glory in my weakness — not that I might continue in sin, but — that His strength might be made manifest to His glory.

All the glory by Thine, Lord. It certainly isn’t mine.

He must do His work. I can only invite. I can only clear out the refuse, the dreck, the scum, the clutter and distractions. I can repent. But even my “cleanest” isn’t His clean. My “holiest” isn’t His holy. Even in repentance I cannot lay claim to the promises…until He comes, until He grants me His Spirit, until He anoints me and purges me with fire. Until He seals me His.

Until then, I am lost. Without Him, I am lost.

I know this now.

I know He lives, because He has ministered to me before. But I turned away from following Him, from loving Him, unto idols.

I have cast my idols aside now, or rather, I have learned that in them there is no life. 

I turn back to God, knowing that all my battles, struggles, impediments and stumbling blocks are not without, but within.

I offer to Him now not just the cleanest hands I can muster, but a contrite heart as well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Parables and Prophets

Not being a "follower" of Denver Snuffer, I haven't read all his books (yet). I recently coughed up enough pocket change to purchase Kindle versions of Beloved Enos and Ten Parables. I wasn't disappointed.

With Beloved Enos, Denver explicates how a prophet employs symbolism and understatement to describe experiences with Deity and transcendent eternal truths using minimal resources. Ten Parables does likewise. However, both of these books are more about Denver's experiences than anyone else's. They are his way of telling us what happened to him. To me they are nothing short of thrilling and inspiring.

They give me hope. They compel me to keep praying, keep seeking, keep searching, keep repenting.

I believe he is telling the truth.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vain imagination

The recent immolation of a Jordanian fighter pilot by ISIS [warning: extremely graphic video here, beginning at 17:30] brought to mind the horrific torture of others, some delivered from the flames (Melchizedek, Daniel’s faithful compatriots) and some delivered to them (Abinadi, Alma and Amulek’s converts in Ammonihah). Contemplating their sufferings and those of our Lord, I sometimes imagine I would endure just as valiantly, with the same noble stoicism and resolve, bearing it patiently. As a prisoner of war, I would greet my abusive, flesh-tearing, joint-dislocating, bone-cracking captors with courtesy and without malice, cheerfully receiving my half-cup ration of rat-fouled rice, “seasoned” with dirt and the occasional maggot, with gratitude and good nature, remembering I am bound for a better world. I would awaken from tortured half-consciousness, naked, sore-covered and cramped, on the cold cement floor of my dark, dank cell or emerge from the tattered cardboard box I called “home” and not long with jealousy or covetousness for the mansions, pleasures and possessions of those having so much more. Nay, I would be like Jesus, without a care in the world, even though He had not wherewith to lay His head.

But experiences like those of last night convince me I would do nothing of the sort and be nothing of the kind.

Yesterday was nearly a “perfect” day for me. It was the best of circumstances. As is our wont, my family had prayer and scripture study before dawn. We were primed with the latest teachings of “Log”, who reminded us to practice The Golden Rule and be The Perfect Servant, giving everyone (within our power to do so) what they ask for, without sin. (What may not work in this world can work within families -- the only institution to extend and endure beyond this realm.) We were blessed throughout the day as each of us, remarkably, made the effort to be more like Jesus. 

After my wife and I knelt at bedtime, offering our prayers to heaven, I kissed her goodnight and readied myself for bed. 

Then all hell broke lose.

I discovered my toothbrush was wet!

Flashback: My wife has repeatedly allowed our one-year-old to play in the toilet with my toothbrush! I’ve asked her, repeatedly, to stop it! I’ve argued my case. I’ve even gone bat-ejectus crazy, just to make the point. I’ve demanded: “Don’t EVER let ANYONE use my toothbrush! Not even you! Is that clear?”

“Clear,” I was reassured.

In a house full of kids and chaos, the bathroom is the one place — the only place — I can have any reasonable expectation of privacy. Is it asking too much to be able to take a shower without a parade of people marching through the lavatory to brush (or straighten or curl) their hair, to tell something to mom, or just to “hang out”? Is it asking too much that my bathroom drawers not be rifled through? That my “private” things not be pillaged, pilfered, and molested?

Every time I grab my toothbrush and find it already wet, I ask myself “Who has been using this?! Where has it been?!”

It makes me sick. Sometimes, literally. I’ve gone to great lengths to get a new tooth brush (or boil the old one!) just to make sure it’s “clean” — offering concomitant remonstrations to the “offending” parties and getting reassurances from them that “it will NEVER happen again”. 

But it always does.

As it did last night.

And I threw another fit!

I won’t tell you what I said. I’m too ashamed to reveal it. It was unbecoming of any man wishing to practice The Golden Rule or be The Perfect Servant. With a plethora of relatively mild, but utterly scornful epithets, I got dressed, marched down to the local Walmart, bought four new toothbrushes, labeled each with a Sharpie marker — two for me and two for my wife — and, when I saw her, I laid into her again. (She had actually texted me a sweet apology while I was out, but because my phone had been silenced — we having gone to a movie that evening — I didn’t “get” her text until this morning.) We ultimately spent the night apart.

We came “to terms” this morning. I somewhat more calmly made my case. I gave her all the same reasons I wanted my stuff left alone, but added this threat: “If this ever happens again, I will take one of your toothbrushes -- every day -- and wipe my [nether regions] with it. Then I’ll wet all your toothbrushes so you’ll never know which one I used and you will always be guessing. Then maybe you’ll understand why I don’t want my toothbrush used by others and you’ll put a stop to it!”

I got her to pledge (once again) to keep her hands off my toothbrush and to not let our kids play with it.

But I didn't feel loving and I didn't feel she loved me anymore.

Thus ended "the perfect day".

Circumstances last night caused me to think about divorce for the first time. “Am I really going to let this relationship potentially dissolve over a toothbrush? Isn’t she bone of my bone? Flesh of my flesh? Haven’t we shared everything together? Are we not yet 'one'? How, then, can I let myself get so upset over this?” [Just imagine that dirty toilet bowl and my young daughter happily scrubbing away with gusto!]

I would not do so well in a prisoner-of-war camp. I would not suffer injustice and unkindness meekly. I would not go “as a lamb to the slaughter” nor would I be serene and stoic and noble as Jesus was. 

I would probably fight like hell.

Or perhaps I would be a basket case of self-pity, self-justification, self-righteousness and self-absorption. 

Or I would be a ranting, raving lunatic.

Or all of the above

Either way, when I imagine I would be otherwise, I’m just kidding myself. It didn't take a whip, a rack or a cage doused in gasoline to prove my weakness.

A simple toothbrush proved I have a long, long way yet to go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Keeping the Faith

It is a curious thing when Mormons reject "the faith". They tend to reject all faith. Ardent love (faith, confidence, trust) becomes its opposite.

While one religion is not just as good as any other -- some are better, some are worse -- religion itself is a substitute for interaction with God. It occupies our time while we have nothing better to do. And what would be better? 

To associate with God.

Pure religion is to do good -- to visit the widows and orphans in their affliction and to keep one's self unspotted from the world (as one who knew Christ put it). But religion is no substitute for knowing God. Eternal life comes by no other means. If we abide in religion, thinking it an adequate substitute for coming unto Christ, we fall short.

Both Mormons and Catholics are remiss when they conclude that rites, relics and religion save us. They miss the point. Even thinking one's good works "save" us is erroneous.

Christ gives salvation to those who seek Him out, find Him and ask for it.

I understand that nothing less (and nothing else) will do.