Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Lost Voice - Part III

After I was done beating myself up (see Lost Voice - Part II) and paying attention to the Spirit again, I was tutored further. This time, instances of my interactions with others while my voice was lost were recalled. I was shown a perspective, as if viewing what it was like for the Lord to communicate to us but with me as Him during the conversations. Don't misunderstand my role in this, my experience was simply to give me perspective on the voice of the Lord, and His viewpoint when interacting with us. 

My voice was so faint and quiet, it took a great deal of patience and concentration on the part of the hearer to understand me. Once, a friend and I were next to a small group of people who were speaking in normal tones. He had such difficulty hearing me that he invited me across the room, away from the others, so we could speak. 

Another time I was sitting in a large room filled with lively conversation and good cheer. A friend wanted to speak with me and specifically, had some questions he wanted to ask. He invited me to go on a walk along the road, away from the noise, so that he could hear my answers. We walked in peace and quiet in the remote mountains, surrounded by soaring white capped peaks which embraced us on either side. Occasionally, a car would drive by and I had to stop talking until it passed, so quiet was my voice against that noise. We conversed for the duration of the walk, and abode for a bit longer upon eventide on our return. 

I tried to address a small group one morning, and it took complete concentration on their part to hear my voice. Sometimes, one of them was distracted and would miss what I had said and ask me to repeat myself. 

One evening I wanted to say something to a large group, so I wrote my comments on a piece of paper and asked a friend to read it for me and be my voice. 

Occasionally I was in a van with a group as we traveled, and with the noise of the engine and tires on the road it was not possible for me to be heard. I could have summoned the ability to shout danger should an emergency have arisen, but otherwise because of the circumstances and environment I held my peace. 

One morning I hiked in the snow next to a new friend. Our snowshoes crunched by frigid, babbling streams while canopied by soaring, snow covered trees as we ascended. At the beginning of the hike I asked him to speak to me while I just listened, and he asked what I wanted him to speak about. I said, "You. I want to hear everything about you." For the next ninety minutes he shared personal treasures with me and his thoughts, feelings, and stories, and my soul was made glad. I was delighted to listen to him as he shared his heart with me.

LDS 3 Nephi 11:3-5

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Lessons from Fatherhood

My nearly-five year old son sometimes makes me upset as he intentionally or unintentionally disobeys me. 

There are a couple things I’ve learned from this. 

First, no matter how upset I get with him (and sometimes I get really upset), the last thing I would ever want is to separate myself from him or sever the lines of communication between us. Some of our best conversations and greatest teaching moments happen in the aftermath of his disobedience. He becomes malleable in his humility. 

Second, while I strive to treat him like an adult and peer, my tolerance for his four-year old antics is broad based on how small he is, how little of the world he understands, how limited his knowledge, wisdom, and vocabulary. He has not had the experiences, perspective, social interactions, opportunities, growth or education that I have had, therefore his level of accountability to me is not even close to what I would have, say, for myself. I want him to progress to be like me, I anticipate it, and tutor and discipline him as such, but am patient with his childish ways. 

Third, sometimes he is intentionally rebellious, other times he doesn’t know better. His gentle soul is such that when he gets in trouble he is very ashamed and embarrassed, and will literally hide his face. If, after doing something naughty he goes and hides from me, I stop what I am doing and go find him. We cuddle up and talk it over. If the transgression was in ignorance, it's hardly a blip in the day. 

My son has distinct physical features in his face he has inherited from me, and other features that come from my wife (which softens my heart for him such is my love for her. In fact, he has her eyes, which really isn't fair when I'm trying to be mad at him), and this child is in our image. Looking at his face reminds me of many things, including where I came from, my accountability for him as his creator (Mos. 26:23), and ultimately, how much I love him and the sacrifices I would make for him without hesitation. Sometimes I have to remove his hands from his face and ask him to look at me so he can see my eyes and what they contain for him. Then he knows everything is all right. 

There have been many times in my life that I have sinned and hidden from God. Typically this hiding takes form in lackluster, rote prayers or shallow, short scripture reading, or avoiding the divine altogether. I turn away from God and hide my face from Him. In doing this, I deprive myself of the most important relationship I have with a Savior who is quick to forgive, eager to teach and mold, and so full of love and kindness that to be with Him drives out all desire for sin. A relationship with Him, and the light and truth He brings, is the greatest tool we have to turn from sin. To conquer sin and the world, foster a relationship with Him, and when you stumble, think of Him as the exponentially better, kinder, more patient and loving Father that He is to us, small children. Odds are, if you're reading this blog, you don't sin to openly mock God, it happens because like me you're weak, proud, and foolish, but would really, really like to be better and be with Him. Don't hide, don't hinder your relationship with Him, take your broken heart and contrite spirit from your hiding place and meekly approach. He waits. He has commanded you come to Him (
3 Nephi 18:15-25 especially v. 25). 

See also:
Ez 34:12; Luke 15:4; Matt 7:7-11 (3 Nephi 7-11); Teaching of St John Ch 10:8-9 (John 13:36 - 14:1); Matt 18:4; 1 Sam 12:20-24; 2 Nephi 32:8-9; Mosiah 3:19; D&C 136:31-33; Psalm 28 (143:7); Isa 55:8-9; 3 Ne 27:27; Jer 23:24; 2 Chron 7:14; Psalm 27:8; D&C 84: 23; and then finish with D&C 93:1

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Reflections

Reflections in relation to my earlier post "Traveling on the Road" which needs to be read before this one. 

My experience occurred while on the road. The Sabbath had just ended, it was very early morning and completely dark outside. The first hour of this new day had commenced, and I was driving my truck and concentrating on the road, my mind completely lucid, for the long trip back to my house. I was certainly not expecting what took place.

The experience of conversing with the Lord was so casual and personal. There was no title/rank being held over me requiring my deference and subjugation. I've been in the military my entire adult life and know that environment very well. Being with Him was the complete opposite experience. It felt more like being with a peer than a superior, which is a remarkable thing to say about being in the presence of God, but nonetheless true. As much love, kindness, and respect as I felt for Him, He returned to me more. Sometimes when it was my turn to speak it took a moment for me to gather the words, and He patiently waited and then listened. 

He treated me like one who belonged in His company, and when instructing treated me as a peer. Again, even as I type this, it astounds me. To speak to Him as one speaks to another is more than just using the same language, it is intimate, with familiar vocabulary and expressions. As a result, conversing with Him is natural and easy with no miscommunications, misunderstandings or awkwardness. The conversation flows delightfully and is pleasing. 

The Lord has a wonderful sense of humor. I laughed several times. I've debated whether to share this. I hesitate because I don't want it to sound irreverent or paint the wrong picture. His use of humor to create joy and be instructive at the same time displayed to me just how intelligent He is in every facet. It is important to know that He has a personality, as unique and individual to Him, just as you have a personality, with all your -isms that define who you are. He is not an abstraction of perfect attributes drifting about in banality. He is a real person, He is an individual. He has mannerisms and expressions. Now that I have encountered His personality and individuality, my perspective on life itself has changed. I'll write more about that in the future. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Lost Voice - Part II

I had an opportunity the weekend I lost my voice to reflect on ways in which I use my words. The Spirit guided these reflections and exhorted change in some instances. I have a big ego and can be boastful. Having a big ego and being a fighter pilot is recipe for disaster. Here are a couple of jokes, which I find funny because they are true. How do you know a fighter pilot is in the room? ... He will tell you. How do you know your date with a fighter pilot is half over? ... When he says, "enough about me, let's talk about my jet." 

When boasting, you use pretentious words to create a false image upon which you (and others) may put their trust. It is false because it cannot save at the last day and the strength will ultimately fail. When I boast, I distract attention from God to me. I let "What-I-Do" become "Who-I-Am," fashioning an idol in my own image, for me and others to worship. Idols can be more than just the work of men's hands (Psalm 135), they can be fashioned using men's words as well. 

When a man puts himself in between you and the Lord, he becomes (in Hebrew) al pana, or "before me" or "before my face/in my presence", the definition of idolatry. An idolater cannot behold the face of God, for their view is blocked by idols. The idol cannot behold God for they are facing the wrong way. The idol stands directly between you and the Lord, facing the man with his back to God as he boasts to the man of his powers and priesthoods. 

Boasting in strengths and achievements, whatever they may be, puts trust in the false image of man's strength, which is fickle indeed (LDS 2 Nephi 4:34). Read the post "Defending Zion" if in doubt of that (2 Kings 18:20-21 for thoughts on trusting in a superpower). 

"Who-I-Am" is your true identity. To the Egyptians, this was Ka, as represented by two upraised arms, showing the duality of your Being (soul), a physical body and a spiritual body intertwined together. The physical body was Khat, an essential part of your soul (which is incomplete without it). When people see you they recognize your physical features and call you by your given name (or nickname if you have one). Ka is your spiritual body and it too has a name, a new name, and this name represents who you really are. The Egyptians believed that knowing this true name gave power over the person (see also Judges 13:18 and Gen 32:39. Another reading of this states: "Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful"). The new name was an understanding of who the person really is, their role in the cosmos, and so much more. It reveals the wonders they can or do perform (Isa 9:6). 

With our words we can create false images (idols) or we can use our words to call attention to the Lord. By calling attention to idols, we may lead people to depend on mortal strengths based on our worldly achievements or the titles we hold. 

When we speak of the Lord, we can encourage each other to turn and face Him.

Too often, and too recently, I have used words to be mean, low, condescending, boastful, and used my words to create false images and idols. I was grateful to the Spirit which recalled specific memories, words, and instances to view these shortcomings and ponder change. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Lord's Voice

Blogs like mine should be the amuse-bouche to your feast in the scriptures. 

Everyone has a unique voice. The shape and size of a person's vocal cords, as well as numerous other uniquely shaped body parts including mouth, lungs, throat, nose (to name a few), create a distinct sound. Even before caller ID, a person familiar to you could call and never need introduce themselves because you'd recognize their voice.   

Not only does a voice help you recognize the person, you can use their voice to authenticate them. This is more than just a sound; it is speech patterns, words, and values. Someone may be able to imitate a voice very well, and at a shallow level imitate the personality, but how they speak will give away the fraud. 

In order to recognize a voice and authenticate it, you have to spend time listening to the voice and getting to know the person. The more you do this, the more readily identifiable they become. 

The Lord has a unique voice. 
    The more time we spend listening to His voice, the easier it is to discern Him when He speaks.  
        How do we listen to His voice? 
                His voice is contained in the scriptures. 
                The scriptures are not only His voice, but His patterns, words, and values. 
        The scriptures are how you hear His voice. 
    The more time spent in the scriptures, the easier it will be to discern Him when He speaks.
His voice is distinct from all others. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Becoming One

A true servant will always point you to Christ. In order to accurately point to Him, the scriptures will be used. Servants in these last days who desire Zion will labor to get everyone closer to the Savior. They know that to draw closer to God is to draw closer with each other. Becoming one with Christ inevitably leads to becoming one with each other. The word of Christ will point a straight course to eternal bliss. Zion is that promised land. As Alma taught his son Helaman, "the words of Christ, if we follow their course, [will] carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise" (LDS Alma 37:45).

I've seen a triangle used to illustrate this point. 



As we move towards Christ, we also move towards each other.


Though a chasm may separate us now, as we move closer to Him that gulf between us gets smaller, as illustrated by the dashed line compared to our previous starting points:
With this in mind, I recommend reading T&C 171 Chapter 10 of The Testimony of St. John, and in particular the Lord's prayer at the end of the chapter, starting in verse 30. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lost Voice

I recently, for the first time in my life, lost my voice. I was only able to whisper or speak quietly for a brief period. Economy of words became critical. I was gathered in an informal setting with a group of like-minded men, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. I was excited to get to know them, but losing my voice greatly hindered that and proved a real disappointment many times when I had something to say.

The Lord saw fit for me to spend the majority of the time in silence. While frustrating, it proved a blessing and the Spirit taught me many lessons. I desire to share one of them.

Speech and words are how we shape the world around us, including the people we interact with. Our words impact and mold the people who hear us and lives are changed. In the first lecture on faith, v. 22, it says that "God spoke, chaos heard, and worlds came into order ... so with man also- He spake by faith in the name of God, and the sun stood still, the moon obeyed, mountains removed, prisons fell, lion's mouths were closed, the human heart lost its enmity, fire its violence, armies their power, the sword its terror, and death its dominion." 

The Egyptians originally used the word Heka to describe divine power, as held by the gods and sometimes given to man to assist in maintaining the cosmic order. Interestingly, the hieroglyph for this word is two arms raised to the square. Hu is "authoritative utterance," or, using the correct words according to the will of God. When Hu is given to man he becomes, literally translated, "true-of-voice" often translated as "vindicated," as in, God will vindicate the words of that man. 

When Nephi was given the sealing power he was told by God, "all things shall be done according to thy word ... if ye shall say unto this temple be rent in twain, it shall be done. And if ye shall say unto this mountain, be thou cast down and become smooth it shall be done. If ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass" (see LDS Helaman 10). Moroni tells us that the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin "remove" and it was removed (see LDS Ether 12 for many more examples). 

As a people, we must understand that "when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force: it is by words instead of exerting his physical powers, with which every being works when he works by faith - God said let there be light, and there was light- Joshua spake and the great light God had created stood still- Elijah commanded and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months so that it did not rain- all this was done by faith and the Savior says if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, say to this mountain remove and it will remove or say to that sycamore tree Be ye plucked up and planted in the midst of the sea and it shall obey you. Faith then works by words and with these its mightiest works have been and will be performed" (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 7:3). 

We need to have this language and these words. Words, the Word, is how God became creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. With our words, we can create a precious people around us, by how we speak to each other, what we say, how we share our hearts in words.  

At the end of this weekend of silence, on my drive home, the Lord conversed with me for the duration of the journey and everything He said made me feel precious to Him. Even when He admonished me His love was so great, His intent so pure, I could only rejoice in gratitude. It was impossible to take offense. When course correcting me He spoke kindly; He never demeaned, derided, mocked, ridiculed, or belittled me. There were no sarcastic, passive aggressive jabs. He spoke plainly to my understanding. His voice was charity and my heart burned within me. He only spoke the truth, and rooted His words in the scriptures. 

By how He spoke to me, I felt like the most precious creation ever made by His hands. Yet I know this is His love for all mankind (see T&C 161). 

With our words, we can make (create) precious people. 

There are many lessons to learn from His example. 

Lost Voice - Part III

After I was done beating myself up (see Lost Voice - Part II ) and paying attention to the Spirit again, I was tutored further. This time, i...