When Jesus was 12 years old, He was already about his Father’s business. (See Luke 2:49.) Nevertheless, He submitted Himself to the will of his mortal mother and step-father and, as the scriptures report, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:52.)
I have done none of that. In my relentless pursuit to find (and fight) for, what I understood to be, both truth and right (and even to “be” right), I’ve burned nearly every bridge I’ve crossed and ruined nearly every relationship I’ve had. My closest, dearest friends live far away from me and my closest family wants little or nothing to do with me.
I’ve been married three times. And each time I’ve married, I’ve succeeded in turning someone who loved me dearly and chose to be with me into someone who would rather not. I managed to get a church which scours the world seeking new converts to cast me out and banish me as “the twofold more child of hell” I’ve become.
When Jesus appeared to me in a dream (36 years ago), I was a reeking, sickly, mute and filthy “child.” I threw my arms around His neck and kissed Him! And His love, as undulating beams of light, emanated from His body and pierced my soul, filling me with His love and light. I thereby learned He was and is the Light and the Life of the world.
But first I had to learn that I was broken, sickly, powerless, faithless, a creature of this fallen world, in darkness and irredeemable without Him. I had to learn that I was hopeless, powerless and unable to make the world as I would have it be — perfect — unless I embraced Him and His perfection, unless I ate His body and drank His blood, unless I became even as He is.
And His ways were not my ways. He is not “the natural man” (see Mosiah 3:19). Just the opposite. He is the personification of godliness, the Man of Holiness, the Everlasting Father (see Hebrews 1:2-3; Moses 7:35; Isaiah 9:6.) His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), but His are the right ways. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6.)
All my life I have walked in darkness, stumbling in the wilderness, as it were, following a “man dressed in white” through a “dark and dreary waste” (see 1 Nephi 8:5-8). I have learned that holy men cannot save me. Trying to follow them is a fool’s game.
Nine years ago I had a dream. In this dream I stumbled and faltered spiritually, unsuccessfully navigating an “obstacle” course of sorts around my neighborhood and home. I encountered pitfalls and roadblocks at every turn. I could not complete the course successfully. Then I saw a small child on a tricycle and recognized her as my daughter (a daughter whom my wife and I had not yet had). I called to her, but she would not come to me.
“Why won’t my daughter come to me?” I asked the man beside me, dressed in white. (He happened to be a black man.)
“When you were in trouble, she stayed behind to help you. But when it was her chance to be born, you cut off the stream of life and she was given to another family.”
“You mean she is not my daughter anymore?”
In that dream, I saw my daughter ride off into the sunset.
That dream has had several meanings to me. At the time, my wife was pregnant with our third daughter. We wanted another boy (giving us four children in all, so that we could “call it quits” and be done with childbearing). But that was not to be. This girl (in my dream) had golden, curly hair. She was full of light and love. I was awestruck at her beauty and enraptured by the glorious prospect of raising her as my own.
When I awoke from that dream, I found my wife asleep in another room, nursing our son. I told her of the glorious daughter we were about to receive. We cried together with joy. That girl has been everything I envisioned. Her golden curly locks have long been recognized as one of her most distinguishing features! And she is filled with light and love.
But time marches on. We had two more sons after that, giving us six in all — three boys and three girls — an even half dozen! We were done. Our “quiver” (and, more importantly, our minivan) was full. Then the Lord, by happenstance, reminded me of the dream I had of the young girl on a bicycle with training wheels (or a tricycle) and, by the voice of His Spirit, He told me that another child, another daughter, awaited coming to our family.
I told my wife of my revelation and, having it confirmed to her own soul, she submitted to the will of the Lord and brought forth another daughter, our fourth girl and seventh wonder of the world.
This child is the personification of love and light. She often hugs me and gives me love I surely don't deserve. She is the kindest, sweetest little thing. She is yet untainted by the world.
But recall that I asked the man in white why my daughter would not come to me.
Because of my hard heartedness, stiff neckedness, impatience, self-will, unkindness, and “my way or the highway” approach to leading my family these past 16 years, my latest wife has put me on notice that she is prepared to divorce me now. I am about to lose my precious children and they will be given to another.
Several months ago I heard a voice. It came to me even as a whisper. It came to me in the stillness of a quiet afternoon as I sat pondering my life. “You will lose your job and your house and your wife and your children" was all it said. I did not recognize the voice at first. I did not know if it was of God or of the devil (or perhaps even myself!). I immediately began to doubt the voice and wondered if it was my own imagination.
But it was too much like the Lord's voice, His way of doing things, to be ignored. It was too much like the test given to Job (see Job 1) or the judgment of God upon king Belteshazzar (see Daniel 5) to dismiss. After all, I had heard the Lord's voice before...but that was a very, very long time ago.
I was aghast at the thought! I was incredulous! I was filled with dread! These were the things I had sought and worked for my whole life! They were what the Lord had given me, or rather, they were what the Lord had allowed me to have.
Would I be led to proclaim: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”? (See Job 1:21.)
My whole world has now become unraveled. I am currently “employed,” but I’ve "lost" my job (being placed on paid administrative leave). I’ve "lost" my home. (My wife has invited me to move out.) My older children despise me and will not speak with me. (I've "lost" them, too.)
I have witnessed the bitter fruit of my own failure to lead my wife and children to Christ. I toyed with the idea of writing a blog post entitled “Failed Zion,” but I do not know enough of Zion to know what I need to do to achieve it or even how I might measure how badly I’ve failed at it.
I guess I know now. I have not “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” My older children now despise reading the scriptures (as they despise following me). They do not have confidence in the efficacy of prayer but are enthralled in all the toys and gimmicks and distractions common to our culture and time. They have hardened their hearts against the word of the Lord and against the God of heaven.
And so have I. While not weary of well-doing, I have grown faint in offering my prayers and feasting on the scriptures as I ought. "Does the Lord listen to me?" I wonder. "Will He answer my prayer? Will He give me my heart's desire, even as I am striving (and horribly failing) to achieve it?"
And what is it I want? I WANT MY WIFE! I WANT MY CHILDREN! I WANT OUR FAMILY TO BE TOGETHER AND HAPPY! I WANT US ALL TO PARTAKE OF THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF LIFE TOGETHER!
A few days ago, when none of my clan would raise his or her voice to offer prayer on our behalf, I undertook (as is my wont) to do so, but this time I departed from the “standard” offering of thanks to God for our “many blessings," asking that His providence continue. (We have had our fill of material blessings. Our cup literally overfloweth!)
Yet we are spiritually and physically dying as a family.
So, knowing how deprivations and want can often inspire one to become humble — and knowing that humility and true gratitude, even love for each other and all that we have were in short supply — I offered this prayer instead:
“God, please curse us. Remove Your blessings from us that we might learn to appreciate all that we have. Cause roadblocks and stumbling stones to be placed before us, hedging up our way, that we might learn to rely upon You and be grateful for all You do for us! Place burdens on our backs. Make us humble, so that we will repent of our sins, our hardness of heart and blindness of mind. Cause us to have broken hearts and contrite spirits. In Jesus' name, amen.”
My wife told me afterward: “That was the last straw! I cannot be married to a man who asks God to curse us!”
I understand her fears and misgivings about being married to me. Who could rely upon such a man as I am?
I want us all to rely upon and follow Christ! (I’m having difficulty enough just doing that myself!) Even if I were a “man in white” to my family, it would, eventually, be futile for them to follow me. I don't know the way. He does! I should only be "followed" inasmuch as I am following the Lord! (And, truth be told, I’m doing a piss-poor job of that.)
How do I know? Well, for one, my wife and children are abandoning me. I have led them (as I left the LDS Church) to “wander in the wilderness,” as it were. My own sins (which have been many, some grievous) are another “testimony” of my unreliability and fallen nature. I am not “flesh” in which anyone ought to place his or her trust. (At least my wife and children are “wise” enough to see that now!)
But soon I will be alone (I fear). ALL that I have worked for my whole life, it seems, is soon to be undone.
Yesterday morning I went to my closet and offered a prayer to God (on my knees, out loud, for the first time in many days). My prayer was simple and direct: “God, help me!”
I rose from my knees, went to my room, laid down on my bed, emotionally and physically drained…then the phone rang.
A holy man (coincidentally, a black man I’ve known for many years, a man with a great marriage and seven children of his own) was on the line. He told me he felt inspired to call me. (He later told me his daughter had had a dream the night before in which she was prompted to “reach out” to the Carter family. His wife had prompted him to do the same. He first considered putting it off for a week, but, then, after further consideration, felt moved to call me just then. Just now. Just after I had prayed.)
We agreed to meet. And this morning, as yesterday morning, we met and discussed my situation. It is exactly as the “man in white” — even as that black man — laid out to me in vision 9 years ago. I am failing, badly. I am about to lose everything, surely. I am about to lose my job, my house, my wife and my children. They are about to be given to another.
This man told me: “I am here as a direct result of your prayer. From here on out, everything that happens will be in fulfillment of that prayer. The Lord intends to honor your request.”
My little girl, the light of love, is turning three next month. She is ready to ride a tricycle. Whether she rides into the sunset — as she did in my dream, and is lost to me forever! — or she comes into my arms, I do not know.
I only know that my will has not worked. My version of Zion has failed. My will ought not be done. It doesn’t work. It’s a failure.
I have lost the love and devotion of my wife and older children. I confess my sin to her, to my children, to you and to the Lord. I pray the Lord will be merciful and that my “bondage” will not last forever. I pray the Lord delivers me and my family. I love them with my whole soul! I love the Lord. But I must be "broken" in order for this "seed" to crack and bring forth real fruit. (The dry, sterile kind which I produce, apparently, is unfit for consumption.)
The Lord’s fruit is found in keeping His commandments. Those commandments, as found in the Sermon on the Mount, are so radically different than anything you will be taught in church that you may not learn or heed them if you focus on practicing your particular “religion.” Christ was not religious. (And that irked the “religious types” of His day.) His manner of “worship” was so private, so personal, so hidden from the world that even His disciples had to plead with Him to teach them how to pray. (See Luke 11:1.)
Our “religion” ought to bless and not curse, do good and not evil, pray for and not against our brethren. The black man, symbolically arrayed in white, told me my prayer of “cursing” was a “bold” prayer. God would have us be "hot" or "cold," not lukewarm. I took a stand and made a commitment. I was prepared to call down the very fire of heaven on both me and my family, if it would save us all.
I pray it will. I pray I have the fortitude to endure it. I pray I have the courage to ensure that “not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42.)
Blessed be the name of the Lord.