Tag Archives: Repent

I Know Nothing

Every so often I hear myself communicating with some measure of implied or assumed authority.  I apologize for the times I do.  The truth is I really don’t “know” anything or at least I know very little.

Even as a bishop I did not like to say in my testimony that “I know God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true.”  I prefer to say that I believe, perhaps even with all my heart, that such things are true.  But I don’t like to say “I know.”  The truth is, I only believe most things.

I don’t mean to criticize anyone who believes they do know things.  Some of you may “know” much.  For me though, I believe, and I want to believe more and receive more and don’t want God to think I have all that I want.  I love the example of Abraham who “sought Him earnestly.”  This seeking seems to suggest that he did not stop searching.  That he was inquisitive and unassuming before meeting the Lord.  His reward?  “My name is Jehovah…” and the incredible knowledge that followed, not the least of which was the knowledge of God and the receipt of his Exaltation.  Or the example of Moses who said:

I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

Too often I think we beat each other over the heads with our testimonies.  As a missionary we were instructed at times to dust our feet, so to speak, in leaving our testimonies with someone who disagreed with us.  What a mistake that is in my view.

I think the end result for most of us still in the “belief” stage who share our testimonies in this way, or our perceived “knowledge” is to offend the receiver of our words, rather than to convert them.

Sadly, I think we Mormons tend to be very passive aggressive although we may not realize it.  I believe one of the chief reasons that we can’t discuss anything in church is due to this tendency we have.  I see the same in many comments online, including on this blog.

For many years I found myself arguing with others in gospel discussions, which in looking back I think we can all agree, goes counter to all that the gospel actually is.  I think part of my problem was that I often felt threatened by the ideas or decisions of others, especially those I loved.  Now I see that I was insecure and full of pride, not full of love, as I had thought.  I want to be better at discussing ideas with others and in loving people despite differences of opinion.

I also no longer like it when someone says “The Lord told me to do or say such and such…”   Again, I don’t mean to be critical.  Most of us have done this to one degree or another.  I certainly have.  But, again, I think the effect of this practice generally shuts down communication and ends what could be healthy conversations and relationships.

I would so much prefer to hear someone say, “I think the Lord is trying to tell me to do such and such…”  Or “I feel very strongly that I’m being guided, but I simply don’t know… I’m acting on faith…”

One of my best friends in life is so good at this.  Ironically, I believe he is closer to the Lord than anyone I know.  And yet he rarely uses the Lord’s name in such a way.  When we discuss gospel ideas, and I know he knows what he’s talking about, he is still very careful to not force his ideas on me with such statements as “the Lord revealed to me that this idea is true… etc.”  I love this trait in my friend.  He reminds me that anyone’s ideas may have merit and to be careful to not simply dismiss them, even if they are just free lancing as most of us are.

As I look back upon certain statements I’ve made over the years, I’m embarrassed.  Perhaps I’ve informed a congregation that the Lord or the Spirit has just revealed something to me.  Or that the Lord has told me to call them or that the Spirit told me to go somewhere.  Am I doing this to set myself up as a light?  To elicit an effect?  To make myself look good?  To appear more in tune than others?  Do I speak with assumed-authority and throw scriptures at people to beat them down instead of lift them up?  I’ve been there and still repeat such mistakes.  I seek forgiveness.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we aren’t ever guided.  It’s not that the Lord can’t or doesn’t speak to us.  But, perhaps often we think He is speaking where He may not be.  Or perhaps He is communicating something with us that we simply misunderstand.  Or worse, some other force may actually be inspiring us and we think and claim it is the Lord.  Why not simply err on the side of complete humility unless the Lord commands otherwise, literally (not maybe).

I seek to engage with others in a way that is more kind and patient and unassuming.  Less authoritative.  After all, what do most of us really know?  We are less than the dust of the earth are we not?  We are nothing, which thing perhaps we should begin to suppose.

Now, some of you may be saying “Well, AB what about you and your criticisms of the church and some of its leaders?  Isn’t that unkind?”  I think that’s a very fair question.

It’s a challenge for me because like many of you, I’ve learned some things about the Church that have been hard to digest.  I have experienced something akin to what I’d call the mourning of the loss of something very dear to me.  Like most of you, the Church was my identity for almost my entire life.

I spent a few years very angry when I began to realize the Church wasn’t as true as I had thought.  Not true to the restoration at least.  Not true to Joseph Smith or to the Book of Mormon.  Or to the Savior.  Or to the truth.  And frankly, not true to the poor or to the sick or to those struggling in so many ways.

This discovery for me of truth that had been withheld or perverted inspired some anger, I admit.  I don’t feel that way so much anymore.  But the mourning stages for me were real and were painful.

An important distinction I make though is that the Brethren AND any other man or woman who claims to be a prophet places a burden upon those in their midst to discern if their message is true or false.  Beware of false prophets we are taught!  That goes for Thomas or Denver or any human who makes claims of open veils and revelations.  It becomes our duty to expose or to believe.  It is my understanding that choosing wrongly, leads us to unbelief and misjudgment, things we will held accountable for.

I’m always reminded of how hard it must have been to believe Joseph was a true messenger.  Even many of those who first believed, ended up betraying him in the end.  Are we any different or better?  And then what about John the Baptist?  Or Jesus?  Even the Son of God came in such a way that most did not believe His message.  It must have been even worse for Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lehi and Nephi and all the other holy prophets.

So if I am critical and am sinning, I ask for your forgiveness.  For God’s forgiveness.  But for now, I believe it is my duty to discern and expose and/or believe and share.  I don’t do so with any authority and I attempt to only do so in an unassuming way — in a way that hopefully helps others seek the Lord, and not men.  Certainly to not follow men in an idolatrous way as we are so prone to do.

I am hopeful that this year God will bless us to love better and to grow in greater light and knowledge.  Especially those of us who claim or think we are awake.  Who are here reading these blogs.  I hope that as we discuss these things together it can be in a way that is thoughtful and profound.  So much is at stake in discovering the truth and in being redeemed.

God bless us all in 2017,

AB

The Last Demon

I’ve always thought it interesting that in Mosiah he states that Jesus will come and “shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.”  This teaching seems to suggest that most of us have evil spirits which possess us.  Notice it does not say “evil spirits which may dwell, or who dwell in some or in many….”  It simply and plainly suggests that evil spirits dwell in our hearts.

Perhaps the Temple depiction is most correct where Satan promises that the spirits which follow after him shall possess the bodies that God creates for Adam and Eve.

I think many of us will agree that it seems odd that there is such an emphasis on “evil spirits” during Christ’s ministry, but nearly no emphasis on the subject today save but for the few Catholics who are seen as less than emotionally stable for their exorcisms.

And yet even Mary Magdalene was possessed with devils.  Seven of them to be exact.

What if all of us have demons which possess us?  And what if this is why and how we sin?

I love the story found in Mark chapter 5:2-20:

And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.  And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.  And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.  And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.  And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.  And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.  And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.  And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.  And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

This story seems to suggest that some people have more than one evil spirit.  Can you imagine, that perhaps this man had 2,000 devils or evil spirits that dwelt with him?  One for each of the swine?  I wonder what influence each evil spirit had in this man’s life.

There are so many great stories in the New Testament that can instruct us on how to deal with evil spirits.  For example, Jesus scolds his disciples when they failed to cast out an evil spirit from a small child:

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.  (Mark 9:29)

I’ve wondered lately if evil spirits aren’t not only more common than we think, but that rather they are the reason we feel tendencies towards certain sins.

What if when I am quick to anger, it is a rogue unredeemed spirit that may even be a deceased ancestor of mine, who seeks to “help” me or influence me?  Would my deceased ancestor not qualify potentially for a spirit who has chosen to follow after the devil and who is in his power in his current state?

What if I am feeling especially carnal?  Worldly?  Judgmental?  Dishonest?  Depressed?  Arrogant?  Sexual?  Could these not be evil spirits trying to influence me?

It’s funny how we assume so much.  We’d rather assume that such vices are due to our own fallen nature than to contemplate that such influences may be coming from the devils sworn to inhabit and control our bodies.

It is my current opinion that we, as mortals, are subject to being possessed.  And that the only remedy is that we fast and pray that Christ casts out the evil spirits that dwell in each of us.  I do not recommend paying for some person or for some conference that “teaches you” how to cast them out.  I invite you to turn to the Master in fasting and in prayer.  He and only He can assist you in overcoming these evil spirits.

I am humbled by the idea that even when our house is clean, then and especially then, are evil spirits most desirous to possess our house.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.  And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.  Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Christ is our healer.  He can cast out the evil spirits that dwell in us and prevent us from redemption.  That is master mayhem’s goal after all, to keep us from Christ’s redemptive powers.  If he can do so through deceiving even the very elect, by inspiring the teachings of the precepts of men, as inspired by his false priests whom he has raised up on the other side of the veil, then he will find happiness in his victory for a season and we shall lose our souls.

Perhaps many of our ills are inspired by his evil forces who find the chinks in our armor. Perhaps the goal is to overcome every demon until they are all cast out.  And we become new creatures?  To go no more out?  Maybe that’s what it means to receive the Holy Ghost?  Maybe our spirits become awakened and unencumbered in that state?   With no more disposition to do evil?

God help us as we strive to have Satan overcome in our lives and as we seek to receive the Holy Ghost.

The Spirit of Prophecy

IsaiahThe scriptures warn us that in the last days there will be prophets who do not prophesy and seers who do not see (Isaiah 30:10).  Jesus also warned that there would be false prophets and an abundance of men teaching their own precepts to get gain, so that even the very elect will be deceived (2 Nephi 26:29; JS Matthew 1:22).

As Latter-day Saints we must learn what a true prophet is and we must learn to discern between true and false prophets lest we also be deceived.

The scriptures provide a standard by which we can all judge.  Simply put, a prophet must have the spirit of prophecy in order to be a true prophet.  This is the sign.

As we watch General Conference we should look for the spirit of prophecy.  We should measure carefully what is being said.  We should pray that those who we sustain as prophets will prophesy and speak prophetically because when prophets and seers, prophesy and see, they become a great benefit to their fellow man (Mosiah 8:18).  This is the means whereby we can receive salvation.

If men who are called prophets do not have the spirit of prophecy we can know they are false prophets.  Nephi gives us an important bar by which we can measure:

Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy (2 Nephi 25:4).

All prophets will understand the words of Isaiah.  They will also share the testimony of the Savior and of Nephi and others that the words of Isaiah are great!  (3 Nephi 23:1).

When’s the last time you heard an LDS prophet give a talk on the words of Isaiah in General Conference?  When Jesus came to the Nephites, He gave them the “commandment to search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”  Do the servants of the Lord today emphasize this same commandment?

Deseret Book

In a cursory search on DeseretBook.com, I found 21 books on the topic of Isaiah:

Atonement

Holy SpiritAs we approach the Day of Atonement, which happens to coincide this year with Fall Equinox, I am reminded of my many sins and of my need to be redeemed.

It has been said that if a man can learn to do two things; repent and forgive, he will become a perfect man.  Surely this is easier said than done.

I am an especially weak man.  I am a not so great husband, father, son, brother, and friend.  Perhaps my intentions are good, but the reality is I fall eternally short.  I seek forgiveness from those I constantly hurt and disappoint.

The truth is we are all broken.  We all have our weaknesses, our quirks, our temptations and tendencies.  For one, it may be arrogance.  For another selfishness.  For another false beliefs.  For another idolatry.  For yet another laziness or ignorance.  For most of us, all of these things.

Why are we so flawed?  Why are we, who are LDS, and who have the fullness of the Gospel, so prone to sin and to offend?

I believe it’s because we lack a sufficient portion of God’s Spirit, which comes as we repent and receive a mighty change of heart.

I love the story of King Benjamin.  He had been preaching to his people for many years.  Eventually the message began to resonate.  The culmination of which was when the King asked if anyone believed the words of his final mortal message:

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2).

We can know if a message comes from God or not IF and when we find our hearts have been changed by it.  This is what I seek, especially today.  I pray for forgiveness.  I pray I may forgive those who have offended me.  I pray for continued patience from both God and those around me.

I praise our God who condescended to be with mortals.  Praise be to Him for making His whole soul an offering on that fateful day so many years ago.

I love the song below, which captures for me the beautiful spirit of worshiping our Lord and of seeking His Spirit.