Ever since I started doing kundalini yoga, I’ve associated it with Isaiah 50:7, which reads as follows: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” I never put much thought into why that phrase often ran through my head as I went through my daily practice, but this morning I felt to study it a bit more. Forgive me as I indulge in some back story; I promise I’ll get to the point eventually : )
Despite hailing from very athletic parents, I have always been somewhat challenged in the physical arena, unable or unwilling to throw or catch or really apply myself with any real grit to any athletic pursuit for most of my life. For some reason, however, kundalini woke something up in me that gave me a glimpse of what other people experience when they play sports: I was not only willing to push myself, but I felt a burning neeeeeed to do so. I had to complete the exercises, I had to hold the poses for the full times, no matter how much my body was screaming at me. Suddenly, physical exertion fulfilled a spiritual purpose in my mind, and that was all the motivation I needed. A few months in to my serious practice, I had a six-pack without ever once realizing I was “working out.” So that’s what I would think of: my face was set like a flint when I sat down on that sheepskin and tuned in. I was going to complete what I came to do.
Fast forward a couple years, and my practice is not quite so enthusiastic most days anymore. It’s not as thrilling to keep up as it is to begin. I don’t feel the burning need to wake up at 4 and to complete a set that pushes me to the edge every morning, and some days I sleep in or even skip my sadhana altogether, which would have been completely unbelievable to prior me, but there it is. And lately, I’ve been avoiding God a little bit because I know what I’ll hear is not going to be entirely palatable, so for the last couple of weeks, I’ve completely abandoned my practice. But yesterday was a yogini friend’s birthday, so we planned a virtual sadhana to celebrate. Except she missed her alarm (I’m sooooooo sorry, Siri Kirti!!), so everyone went back to bed. But I figured I should probably do it for once, so I stayed up... Wahe guru!
Before I began my kriya, I asked for some direction concerning a persistent problem I’ve been running into lately, and as I began warming up, that phrase came into my head again: “I have set my face like a flint.” Because I’m super out of shape physically and mentally, I did a fairly easy set, but it ends with frogs. I hate frogs. You squat like a frog with your heels touching up off the ground, and you repeatedly straighten your legs and bring your face to your knees, up and down. It makes my whole body shake once I get past about seven. This kriya was the first one I did for a 40-day sadhana, and I remembered how I would dread the frogs the entire time, so much so that my body would start to tremble during the last couple exercises in anticipation, because in my beginner’s zeal, I was dead set on getting through all 54 without taking a break, and because I was so weak, at the end I would sometimes be crying from sheer exhaustion and frustration that it was so difficult. But I would do it, and then I would lie down and every particle of my body would spasm for quite a while as I exulted in my achievement and marveled at how much pain I was in.
As I am no longer a zealot and tend to give myself more breaks than I should, I was only doing half times on my easy kriya, so I only had 26 frogs to do at the end (I know that’s not half, but that’s how many you do for half time!), and as I geared up to do them, I had the thought that I should channel some of that earlier me and do them all at once. This was once a very easy task, but again, I am very out of shape now, so it was a challenge, and around 19 or 20 I was definitely thinking a little break would be nice before the last few, but I remembered that I had decided to push through, so I did. Not a big deal. Except that it was, and as I lay down, feeling the rush of good tired trembles, my whole body was filled with the words, “Just decide. Then do it.” And I had my answer to my question, and I was overwhelmed with the goodness of God.
Now, I’m pretty sure every human who has ever made a goal and struggled to achieve it has berated him/herself with a variation of that phrase. It is certainly not earth-shattering originality. But this was an embodied experience of what that means and a reminder that I do have the capacity to choose in every moment how I act. I have the literal power to accomplish what I desire. When I act contrary to how I say I want to, it’s because I haven’t really decided that I will make the choice I desire no matter what. And being the person I want to be really does come down to a truth as simple as that: I decide, and then I do it.
After my meditation, I studied Isaiah 50-52 for a little while. The verse I so love is spoken Messianically, and I love that image of Christ acting as the example to follow as ever, setting his face like a flint in the face of everything he knew was coming, deciding then that he would follow through, and then it was as though it were already done in a sense. When you are filled with knowledge that God will help you (here the word is the one also translated as succor, and it means to cover or surround with protection) and that your sacrifices will not result in shame, then there is no suffering. There is only liberation. We are asked to take Christ’s name upon ourselves, and this is one example of him showing us what that means: we walk into our sacrifices knowing that we walk in light (v. 10). We trust God wholly.
Then I googled flint, because what do I actually even know about it other than it sounds strong and sharp and reminds me of childhood attempts to start fires? Turns out it’s super fascinating stuff. No one knows exactly how it’s formed, but it’s hypothesized to be formed under high pressure that causes chemical changes in various layers of sediment to become one (often complexly shaped) stone. It’s been used forever and ever (or about that) to form tools due to its sharpness and strength; it is also used to create sparks to light fires--that same sharpness and strength mean that when flint is struck by steel or pyrite, it is that which smites, not the flint, that is chipped and exposed to oxygen, and the resulting chemical reaction breeds fire. It has also long been used as a stable but beautiful building stone. Interestingly, it is also prone to violent fragmentation (read: exploding) when exposed to high heat due to impurities within that expand at inconsistent rates; to combat this tendency, it is recommended that flint be slowly heated to less extreme temperatures and allowed to marinate in them for a day or so before being cooled back down to help homogenize it--or, you know, purify it as it becomes more one with itself, shall we say? Gentler heat prepares it for greater heat, and that is neat! There is so much in these lovely verses.
To sum up, I did what I was told for once, and I had a transformative day. Listening to God tends to be the best course of action, it turns out, again. Choosing to do so is oddly difficult when it wounds our pride and cuts down the ego, but it is the only way, and I learned it again yesterday, and I am so grateful. God is always looking to heal us and more fully equip us--always. Wahe guru.
I am more aware of the distance that separates me from God than I have ever been before. I am also more aware than ever before that God and I are One, and there is nothing separating us. My journey into the paradox of God is many years long, but it began in earnest two years ago as I began to lay down my first “sacred cow” that I’d never even thought I’d be asked to sacrifice. This post describes that sacred cow. It causes me considerable pain to write these words, because I am revisiting some of my greatest periods of darkness as I rehash these ideas, and I know that reading them will cause some to experience their own pain. I ask you to forgive me and to know that I have tried to be honest and gentle and kind. My only motivation is love, for God and for my fellow humans, and a desire to come into greater light and greater rest. If you feel my words are not for you, please allow them to drift away from your mind. And if you feel my words are for you, don’t let me be your authority; take them to God and learn for yourself what is true and what is not. Let God teach you who he is and what he wants for you.
“But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:7).
It is imperative that we stop reading the scriptures as if they’re talking to everyone else and about everyone else. They are written to us and about us. When we are warned that some doctrines and commandments are not of God, but of men, we should assume that means that some of OUR doctrines and commandments are not of God, but of men.
When we read things like this, we should assume they apply to us:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15, 20).
We talk about fruit a lot, and it usually seems to mean whether someone is nice or not, or whether they say positive or negative things; maybe they create good programs or do good service for those around them. I’ve started thinking about fruit differently, though. In the scriptural examples, it is always a question of one of two things: 1) what species of fruit is produced, or 2) is the fruit life-giving or rancid and not very useful? I’ve come to think of fruits as evidences in the sense that if apples are coming off it, it’s probably an apple tree, but if there are no apples, it’s probably not an apple tree. If there are apples, but they’re inedible, it may be an apple tree, but it’s not functioning like it should to be useful.
So to apply this to the above example, my thoughts would be that the way to find prophets is by their fruits, and the fruit of a prophet would be prophecy. The fruit of a seer would be seership, and the fruit of a revelator would be revelation, or knowledge that was hidden and is being revealed anew, or in other words, that cannot be found elsewhere.
What the scriptures don’t say is that the way to know true prophets is by their titles and positions or lack thereof in a church hierarchy. This is kind of a bummer, because that would make the task a lot easier, which is probably why we still try our darnedest to make that the way it works in our minds.
Before I continue, I would like to make something very clear: I genuinely love the leaders of the Church. I am grateful for the things I have learned from them throughout my life. Specifically, many of the addresses and books by Elder Bednar have changed my life by changing my understanding and have brought me closer to God and truth than almost anything else I’ve encountered. I could list talk after talk from the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve that were pivotal moments in my development as a God-seeker, and I will never not be grateful for these inspired messages and those who delivered them.
Inspiration is not prophecy. Touching stories are not seership. Quoting other General Authorities is not revelation. Bearing testimony of a love of Christ and of his name is not bearing apostolic witness of the life, sacrifice, and resurrection of Christ. Widespread philanthropy is not proof that the leaders speak for God. Decisions made by anonymous committees in the Church Office Building are not revelation. Policy changes are not revelation. Proclamations are not revelation.
God and God’s people follow patterns. Part of that pattern involves God’s people ever so slowly turning to their own thoughts and opinions and the learning of man instead of to God and losing essential contact with him. When this happens in scripture and in history, the volatile but life-giving power of the Spirit is replaced by principles, programs, and outward performances--the things of order and predictability and security. When God and angels stop being personally involved in the affairs of men, men fill the void with rules, customs, and trust in institutional authority. It happened to the Israelites' religion. It happened after the death of Christ in the Catholic Church. Ours is not immune to this pattern.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face. Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:23-26).
Our leaders bear testimony of the name of Christ. This is very different than bearing witness of Christ, and this scripture makes that distinction clear. To know Christ is very different than to know about him, and God wants us to know Christ. True prophets know him because they have seen him and know that he lives. Blaspheming against God is a synonym (according to the dictionary, at least) for using the Lord’s name in vain. We generally think of this as using the name of God casually in conversation when we’re not actually talking to or about him, but think about those words and what they mean: using his name in vain. When we say that our message is from God when he has not actually given us that message, we are using his name in a vain way, or for our own vanity. And if we have not had literal contact with deity, it is vanity to proclaim we speak for God.
In our General Conferences, it has been the standard practice for decades to have speakers prepare their talks weeks in advance, go through multiple edits, and read from teleprompters. There are literally scripts that are followed. The speakers are people who have paused or given up prestigious careers in law, medicine, academia, and business, and they are well-informed on the issues in the world. The things they say make a lot of sense.
“And they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance. And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men” (2 Nephi 28:4-5).
Obviously no one in Conference says, “There is no God today,” but what we do hear with what I now consider alarming frequency is, “Keep your eyes on the leaders of the Church,” “Stay in the boat and hold on,” and, “Follow the Prophet.” The concept of Christ being the keeper of the gate who employs no servant there (2 Nephi 9:41) seems to have been replaced by the belief that the Redeemer has done his Atonement and has now given his work and authority to men, instead, to speak for and represent him in our lives.
God knows each one of us intimately. He is no respecter of persons, and he wants every single one of us to know him for ourselves. The job of a prophet is to teach people what they need to know to do what the prophet has done and rend the veil of unbelief that separates men from God, to come into God’s presence and be saved by him personally and individually. When a message merely makes people feel better but brings them no closer to this essential goal, no matter how encouraging and validating it may be, it is merely a precept of men.
When we are depending on others for our instructions from God, we are unconnected ourselves. When others tell us to depend on them, that is vanity and inserting a middle man into the process of salvation, which does not and cannot work. When others proclaim that all is well with us when all is not well, and we listen, we are not relying on the Rock of our Redeemer as our foundation of safety and peace, even if we’re being told that we are. And anything built on any other foundation will eventually fall, no matter what anyone has said.
Anything less than God leaves us dissatisfied and unfilled. When we feel empty, it is because we are attempting to fill our “God-sized hole” with platitudes and precepts that do not save. There are saving messages available to us. Heaven itself is available to us, and if you are not experiencing heaven, please consider that your methods of knocking at its door might be the barrier. Believe that God is willing to talk to you directly. There may be more available to you than you have supposed.
I love my Savior. A line from the Book of Mormon that is enjoyed somewhat tongue-in-cheek in my family is, “I glory in my Jesus.” I have grown to love this statement so much. He is my Jesus, and he is your Jesus. Claim him. Don’t let anyone convince you he or she is more qualified than you to know what he would say to you. He is yours.
When I was asked to lay down my belief that those who lead our Church are prophets, seers, and revelators, my heart broke into a million pieces. All my securities vanished. After I tantrumed and fumed and fought for a year, I moved from plain brokenness to contrition. And then God was able to teach me, because I was finally willing to let him be my only security. And I am learning that he really is mighty to save.
Today Utahns celebrate Brigham Young's entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, so I figured a look into the events preceding this day was in order.
In March of 1836, Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple. Building this temple had been an intense labor of love for the Ohio Saints, and the dedication was one of Those Events that true sacrifice and devotion make possible: every person present and many who weren't were granted glorious glimpses into heaven. People were spontaneously animated by the Spirit, angels were everywhere, and several people saw the Savior. These were not unexpected events, because when God commanded the building of this temple, he said that if they did all he was asking, “Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself” (D&C 88:126).
There needed to be a temple built so that God himself could come to instruct his people. The point of the Kirtland Temple was to endow those present with the additional power they needed to go forth with his message to the world. This happened. There were mass exoduses by missionaries following this event, and miracles ensued. God’s promises were fulfilled due to their faithfulness. Which is cool.
Several years later, things were a bit of a mess. We sometimes make a point to emphasize the persecution the early saints suffered, and it was very real, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge that God warned his people that such scourgings would occur if they did not cease from various weaknesses. Even way back in 1832, he declared that “vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all” (D&C 84:55-56). Various renditions of this message dot the pages of the Doctrine and Covenants as we follow the Saints from Kirtland to Far West to Independence. Despite the faithfulness of so many of the Saints, it is clear there was enough mischief going on to prevent them from building up any permanent earthly home for their Lord in each place they tried.
But once again, God offered another opportunity to establish Zion, this time in Nauvoo. In order to do that, another temple was required, “For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28). The fulness had been taken away due to wickedness, and no earthly place is able to safely contain the presence of God, which he just told us is necessary to restore necessary elements for a people who desire to build Zion. So he commanded them to build another temple so he could come to it.
Here's what he told them would happen if they did all they could to build this temple: “If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place” (D&C 124:44-45). There's more talk throughout the revelation about this being an opportunity to establish the physical Zion of the last days. Nauvoo could be The Place, if they so chose.
Knowing there had been multiple failures already, however (P.S. NO JUDGMENT HERE, these people amaze me), this time a warning accompanied his wonderful promises: “But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. For instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord” (D&C 124:46-48).
A couple years ago, these verses suddenly stuck out to me in a way they hadn't before. God said that if they did as he asked, the saints would be protected from their enemies in a land they'd helped make holy, never to be moved out of their place again. If they didn't, no such protection was promised, and in fact, they were told they'd be driven out in judgment. This didn't make sense to me, because the saints WERE driven out of Nauvoo, when the scriptures say right there they wouldn't be moved out of their place. Why did God lie to them after everything they'd been through?
I remembered all the stories I knew of the Saints’ despair when they discovered Joseph and Hyrum had been killed, how they went into overdrive to finish the temple before their enemies ran them out of town, how they didn't have time to finish due to the violence and instead rigged up the attic for makeshift initiatories and endowments and did temple work through the night for weeks on end, how Brigham Young watched lightning strike as he fled with the rest of the Saints and rejoiced to know the temple wouldn't survive to be profaned, how thousands of Saints sacrificed property and life in the exodus across the plains… And for the first time, I wondered if perhaps the narrative I'd cherished my whole life might not be the only interpretation of events.
I started digging into Nauvoo history. And what I found was a whole lot of Joseph Smith begging people to take the Lord seriously and get to work on the temple and, apparently, not getting much of a response. When he was killed, the temple walls were not even built to the second floor yet, despite being situated in what was now a flourishing city that rivaled Chicago.
I also started to notice a lot more scriptures like this one: “Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them… And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them” (3 Nephi 16:7,10).
The Book of Mormon tells a story about WHEN, not if, the latter-day Gentiles reject the fullness that's offered. It's a story that doesn't end well for them, but it is full of redemption for the House of Israel, as in the scattered remnants the Gentiles all but destroyed upon our arrival in these lands. And it's a story that uses language remarkably similar to what we find in Section 124.
I'm not here to tell people how to interpret scripture or history. But I am saying that there are things in here that require some sort of reckoning.
Did the Saints finish the temple? No. Were they driven out of their place? Most assuredly--they had to flee the United States entirely to acquire any sort of safety. More importantly, did Christ ever appear in and accept the Nauvoo Temple? Nope. There are a handful of apocryphal records of angels making an appearance on the roof at one point, but these are hard to verify in any way, and in any case, angels are not the Savior. And there are no claims whatsoever that he ever accepted this house, which is odd when you consider the dramatic outpourings of the Spirit at Kirtland, which was supposedly a preparatory temple. If the temple was required so Christ could come to restore the fullness that was taken away, but it was never finished, and he never came, was the fullness ever actually restored to the Latter-day Saints? Were the events that followed more indicative of divine favor or judgment? Was Zion established in Nauvoo, never to be removed, or was it not? Does God mean what he says or not?
There are accusations made in scripture, like those listed above, that sound extraordinarily harsh if you apply them to our pioneer ancestors. I couldn't even stomach the thought for months and pushed it out of my mind. Then I couldn't take it anymore and started researching, and I discovered that there is fodder there for making the case that these accusations were not altogether unwarranted. I won't go into any of it here, because I'm not interested in raising cries of attempting to destroy faith or anything like that. I revere the vast majority of the early Saints and entertain no notions that I could've made the sacrifices they made nor kept my faith in the face of the atrocities they encountered. I have no confidence I could've done better. But establishing Zion is hard. It's only been done twice that we know of, in the history of the world. And I am inclined to believe, when I look around me and in the annals of our history, that they did not succeed. When I study our heritage, I am reminded much more forcefully of the Israelites who refused to come up into the mountain with Moses to behold the face of God and were therefore cursed with a lesser law of performances and ordinances than I am of a Zion society where none need ask, “know ye the Lord?” for all know him for themselves, where all are of one heart and one mind and there are no poor among them.
And as much as it breaks my heart, I am inclined to trust God keeps his word--which means we might not be as favored as we've always assumed. We might not possess all the blessings or eternal security we think we do. There might be a great deal more expected of us than we realized.
We’ve established that God is intimately knowable and desires to be known by us, that no group is immune to apostasy, and that there are many markers given in scripture we can look for to identify apostasy in the world. But what exactly is apostasy? I will admit that I am a total Nibley fangirl, and one quotation from him that I love is, “Apostasy never came by renouncing the gospel but always by corrupting it” (Temple and Cosmos, p. 395). It is the (often gradual) changing of what God has said into what men think he should’ve said, or what they think he might’ve meant when he said one thing that he clearly couldn’t have really meant. It is losing truth that God has given, not necessarily through open hostility to that truth, but through forgetting, downplaying, and explaining away.
People in apostasy do not realize they are in it. When you look through the Bible and Book of Mormon, you encounter story after story of people who were very religious, very devoted, and very sure of their privileged standing before God. They thought they had something the people around them didn’t have that would lead to greater blessings in this life and in what came after. It would not be unreasonable to assert that they even had good intentions, strong social behaviors, positive experiences, and real contact with aspects of the Divine. God meets us where we’re at, always. His Spirit is available to anyone willing to seek it, to the absolute greatest degree they do so. That’s why we send missionaries out to share the gospel with people: we believe they can access that Spirit, which will confirm the truth they’re hearing and urge them to accept it. It works. No one has a corner on the Spirit market.
So how does a person know whether he’s in an incorrect tradition or not? We looked at several examples in the last post, but as we can also see in scripture, nobody ever recognizes that those things are describing their own people. Why not?
There’s something called unbelief that’s referenced a lot in the Book of Mormon. In pretty much every reference to it that I’ve found, unbelief is not just lack of belief. It is almost always directly tied to something like “the traditions of their fathers,” or in other words, strongly held inherited beliefs that hide what is true. When we cling desperately to what we already believe to be true and do not open ourselves to the constant reality that our current perspective is by definition not completely true (unless you are God, but then you wouldn’t be here right now, would you?), we are susceptible to unbelief. We are closing doors God would like to open to broaden our perspective. But it is so scary to open those doors. They give us the illusion of security, and in this crazy place, all we crave is security.
Often, God has to put us through the wringer in some way until we’re broken down enough to let go of whatever belief we wouldn’t surrender because of the pain that uncertainty would cause. Once we do, however, he invariably shows us a truer one that fills us with light to a greater degree. The more we go through that process, the more we begin to trust him when he tells us it’s time to open another door, and the speed and depth of learning can increase exponentially. But trusting is so hard for us, so we all have different areas where we have unbelief. If that weren’t true, we would know heaven, and would have no areas of uncertainty, because we would be with God. It’s called the “veil of unbelief” for a reason: unbelief is literally the only thing that keeps us from being in his presence.
Unbelief seems to be one of the principle reasons God sends prophets. When you follow the scriptural narratives, it becomes clear that God desires people to have a working relationship with him (also HUGE DISCLAIMER, God is a Them to me, 100%, but that can be jarring to people, so that’s why I always use the traditional him, so I apologize if that rubs wrong) while in mortality, and not just spiritually, but physically. That is a real relationship. It’s why Christ appeared to the brother of Jared physically, as well as Moses (face to face, yeah?), Adam, Abraham, Joseph Smith, and all of them. It is why God went through the trouble to clarify John 14:23 in Doctrine and Covenants 130:3 as follows: “The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.” As a refresher, John 14:23 says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” This is a promise. If you love Christ, and you do what he tells you personally to do, Christ and his Father will come to you, as a physical appearance. This can happen to you. He wants this to happen to you. It is The Point, if you will.
Back to prophets. What is a prophet? Well, according to what happens to those we label prophets in the scriptures, it’s someone who has received a message from God, usually in the John 14:23 manner, to give to a group of people. And that message is invariably repentance. And how do they preach repentance? By referring to the scriptures to explain to people how they have strayed from what they say. I’ve written about all this before, but it bears repeating. Joseph Smith (as well as the scriptures, look it up, y’all) taught that the way to determine who is a true prophet and who is a false one is by whether or not what they teach agrees with or contradicts scripture, because no true prophet will teach something that contradicts what came before. God is unchanging, and so is his message; if we would all give perfect heed to that message, we wouldn’t need prophets at all, because we’d all BE prophets for ourselves. But we don’t, so he sends them.
My favorite rendering of The Message is probably in Ether.
“And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you. Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters… [insert editorial, go!] And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him” (Ether 3:11-14, 19-20, italics mine because DID YOU SEE THAT???).
And that’s it. Demonstrate faith by acting on your beliefs and rend the veil of unbelief. If your actions of faith are not rending any veils, consider the possibility that those actions might be rooted in unbelief instead of in what is true. Search for where your blind spots are that are keeping you out of God’s presence; ask God, and he will undoubtedly show them to you.
The record continues:
“Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared. Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord. For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord. And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are” (Ether 4:3-7, italics mine again because AGAIN, did you see that???).
This is a cool promise. When we Gentiles finally repent of our iniquity, we get to have the brother of Jared’s record, meaning all of Jesus Christ’s revelations unfolded to us. If we don’t have that, we haven’t yet repented of our iniquity, which should maybe raise some questions. Are we iniquitous, as a people? Surely not; we have so many indicators that we are God’s favored people, like our strong families (like the Lamanites in Jacob 3), our many temples (like in Ammonihah), and our prosperity (like pretty much every wicked population ever).
Is it enough to look and feel good? Is it enough to have had experiences with the Spirit? What if our ways really are different than God’s ways, and what we call good is not really good and what we call evil is not really evil? Do we know we are right? Or is it possible that we might be laboring under some cultural unbelief in any way? Would that explain why we haven’t received things that are promised to the Gentiles once they finally repent and come unto Christ? When you look deep into your heart of hearts, are you willing to be told by God that something you believe to be true is wrong? Have you set any bounds for the Lord?
The job of a prophet is to preach repentance. When we hear messages that show us our inadequacy before God and teach us how to to reconcile with him, or that bring greater understanding of God’s mysteries into our hearts, or that give us necessary information about how to come to Christ in reality so that we can get our teaching directly from him, that is preaching repentance. When a message makes us feel great about doing what we’re already doing and assures us that we’re in the right way, we should be giving that messenger some major side-eye, because the only people who delivered those kinds of messages in the Book of Mormon were people like Korihor, and he was a little stinker, by all accounts.
True messages agree with scripture, and that doesn’t mean they agree with what you think the scriptures say. Know your scriptures so you can know which messages are true and which are false. Equally necessary, learn how God talks to you so you can hear his voice confirming that truth to you and teaching you beyond what the words say. If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. We came here to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, did we not?
My son just asked who I was writing to, and I said anybody who wants to read it. And he said I should write, “I love you,” so people reading it could think, “Wow! That person loves me!” I think he’s right. So if you’re reading this, I love you. That is why I write. God has poured love into me so that I would write these things, despite how uncomfortable it makes me. I love you and, much more importantly, God loves you more. Go to him and let him show you. Rend that veil of unbelief!
I’m going to go scripture-heavy today, because on this subject I think it best if the scriptures do most of the talking. Moving along!
So if there is no such thing as immunity to apostasy (Mosiah 27:13; D&C 20:32-34), what are the symptoms one could watch for to avoid succumbing to such a disease, as it were, as a people? Here are some ideas from the scriptures:
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5).
“Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Nephi 28:11-14).
"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell…Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!…Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:21-29)
“If a prophet come among you and and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him…yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer;…ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him…How long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?” (Helaman 13:26-29)
There’s a small sampling, but it offers an introduction to things we were warned to look for in the last days. We have a hard time reading scripture, even the Book of Mormon, as if it’s talking to us as Mormons. There are so many verses (as in the majority of the Book of Mormon in particular) that talk about the sins of the world and of the Gentiles. We read those verses as if we, as Members Of The Lord’s Church, are not part of that group, and are therefore not the people God is ever displeased with. But I’d like to ask you to do a small experiment right now and read the following verses with the assumption that God is talking to you, a Mormon (or heck, if you’re not Mormon and reading this anyway, then yes! Assume God might be talking to YOU, too!), or in other words, one of the few people he knew would ever actually read this book he provided. Maybe, as we can read in the book’s title page and in the Kirtland Temple’s dedicatory prayer that is preserved as Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Church IS identified with the Gentiles, and this book is written specifically for us. Maybe we would be well served to take it and its warnings seriously and personally. Let’s try it out:
"And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them" (3 Nephi 16:10).
“O ye wicked and perverse and stiffnecked people, why have ye built up churches unto yourselves to get gain? Why have ye transfigured the holy word of God, that ye might bring damnation upon your souls? Behold, look ye unto the revelations of God…Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not? Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads? Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer” (Mormon 8:33, 35-41).
If that one raised any objections, I’d like to remind you that Elder Stevenson quoted the same scripture last October and affirmed that Moroni was, in fact, talking about US when he said that, even if we may differ in opinion about what exactly Moroni thought when he saw us (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/look-to-the-book-look-to-the-lord?lang=eng).
“And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them” (Mormon 9:7-8).
From the Old Testament, but likened unto ourselves, perhaps:
“For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered…Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Isaiah 29:10, 13-15)
“All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isaiah 56:9-12).
“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).
What people besides Mormons even claims to be led by prophets and watchmen? Not many churches exist that take authority claims of priesthood seriously, either. Understandably, however, we argue that Old Testament prophets were necessarily talking about Old Testament people. So here are a couple from our modern scriptures:
“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84:54-57).
“Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord” (D&C 112:24-26).
These offer the most cursory overview of some of the things we find in our scriptures that are very possibly written to us. If reading these verses and imagining that they described you and your people made you feel defensive or even bemused at the suggestion, I would ask you why. God has told us that he will chasten those he loves, that we should welcome any opportunity to receive correction. So why do we bristle at the thought that these things could describe us? Are we so proud as to be certain none of these failings are among us? Is it worth the risk to make that comforting assumption? What does the Book of Mormon actually say is going to happen prior to the Second Coming of Christ? Are we sufficiently prepared with the knowledge we need? Is it possible that we might not understand all things as they really are? Could we be misunderstanding things that seem obvious to us now?
I know most of my posts focus on God’s unconditional and soul-smashing love for each and every one of us and other things that make us feel rosy in our hearts. I prefer writing about those truths, because who wants to contend them? And I know that those things are truer than true. But the time has come to ask if there is only one side to God and only one side to his words. Do we limit what we’re willing to accept as truth to only those things that leave us feeling like we’re pretty awesome? Is there a chance he has other things he’s trying to tell us?
In Joseph Smith’s translation of Psalm 12, verse 6 says, “Therefore the Lord shall sit in judgment upon all those who say in their hearts, We all sit in safety; and puffeth at him.” Why does God sit in judgment for those who consider themselves saved?
Let’s go back to Lehi and Nephi in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Guess who they and all the other “prophets who came” were preaching at? Well, the people in Jerusalem, which was the seat of religious power in Judah (Israel had already been ransacked and carried off by this point). For some examples of what prophets in this time period were saying, we can check out Jeremiah, who said a lot of things like, “What hath my beloved to do in mine house, seeing she hath wrought lewdness with many and the holy flesh is passed from thee? When thou doest evil, then thou rejoicest. The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it and the branches of it are broken.”
These prophets were condemning the Lord’s chosen people who had turned away from the God they claimed to worship and polluted his house. Lehi and Nephi were condemning the Lord’s chosen people. You can hear the incredulity in Laman and Lemuel’s voices as they recoil from their brother’s accusations, even years later: “And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him” (1 Nephi 17:22). These prophets didn’t come from among the leaders of the church, but instead came to explain God’s displeasure with those leaders and the people they led. And most of the people reacted like Laman and Lemuel, because they were God’s chosen people! They were righteous! They did ALL THE THINGS!
This is a pattern repeated over and over, not just in the Book of Mormon, but in all of scripture. People are offered blessings from the Lord, contingent upon obedience to his words, and eventually those people fall into a collective forgetting and altering and abandoning of those words and covenants. And every time, they don’t realize it, so God sends people who actually are connected to and approved of by him to shake them up a bit and remind them of their promises so they don’t get destroyed. And usually, those prophets are largely ignored, because they’re annoying and ridiculous.
People fall into apostasy. As far as I’m aware, there are actually zero scriptural examples of a people who managed to escape apostatizing indefinitely (minus the groups that were taken from the earth, but I’m not counting extraterrestrials here). Nowhere in scripture is anything said congratulating people collectively on their assured eternal faithfulness; in fact, almost every single thing considered important enough for holy writ is either a warning or a condemnation. We are just so darn intent on doing things our own way with our blessed little egos, and God spends a hefty amount of time trying to get us to understand that that’s a terrible idea. But people after people ignore him. This is the pattern.
Lehi was a nobody.
Nephi was a nobody.
Abinadi was a nobody.
Samuel the Lamanite was a nobody AND an enemy of the blessed bloodline, as commemorated by his title.
Again, it’s not just the Book of Mormon. Amos 3:7 says that the Lord won’t do anything without first warning his prophets, and guess who Amos was? A shepherd, a nobody, preaching repentance to Jerusalem, again. The whole Bible is full of weirdos popping up to yell at the chosen ones. When I finally read the Old Testament all the way through a few years ago, I was super shocked to discover that Israel was almost always the bad guy in the stories, and people from heathen nations kept having to remind them that they weren’t following God and were in danger of being roasted. It seems that being a chosen people is more often a risk factor than a safeguard. When you’re given preferential treatment, you get less leniency. You are supposed to pay attention.
Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, came as a nobody to the chosen people, a people who had drifted so completely from truth that they killed their God because of how he offended them when he asked them to return. They failed to find God because they were certain they already knew him and were pleasing to him. This is why he sits in judgment of those who say they sit in safety--because they give him no other choice. Our God wants us to come to him, but if we insist that we’re already where we need to be and refuse to listen, he can’t guide us. If we think we already have the truth, we’re not seeking, and we won’t find. In the end, we receive judgment because we failed to find the One who can give mercy.
There is a belief among Mormons that the Church can never go astray, that this is the final dispensation, so we’re able to breathe a sigh of relief and just trust that we’re on the right path. There is absolutely nothing scriptural about this belief; if anything, it contradicts scripture. Joseph Smith warned the Church many times that if they failed to be diligent and watchful, they would fall, and not just as individuals. He showed great anxiety about their ability to rise up to the challenges they faced. Why would we be so lucky as to be assured success when the rest of humanity was not? How is that just?
We have agency, and God honors our agency. Where much is given, much is required. He warns us repeatedly to watch carefully. He does not say that we are guaranteed anything, but instead warns, “wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!” (2 Nephi 28:24-25).
It matters to him and it should matter to us. If you are trusting someone else to do the heavy lifting when it comes to discerning spiritual things and telling you where safety and joy are, you will not find comfort in the scriptures. This is the job you came here to do, so it’s important to look alive ; ) Sitting back on your laurels isn't an option!
Sat nam, y'all.
As I said in the first post I wrote, I started this blog with the intention to write to my fellow Mormons, first and foremost, proclaiming peace to my people. For the next little while, that will be what I do. I’d like to examine Mormon thought through Mormon scripture, so my apologies to those for whom this might not be very interesting : )
One day, as I read the first several chapters of the Book of Mormon, I realized something I’d never noticed before: Lehi, the prophet, and his son, Nephi, the prophet, were no such thing in the beginning of their record. They were Lehi, the regular Joe, and Nephi, his son. They were living in Jerusalem and going about their business when “there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent” (1 Nephi 1:3). Lehi heard and was concerned and prayed to God with all his heart, and in response, he received a theophany. Because of what he saw and heard, he, too, began to sound the alarm among his people. Nephi was troubled by his father’s words, because he knew and loved his father and trusted that he was good, so he also prayed to know for himself if these things were true. It occurred to me for the first time that his unease suggests that this message of repentance was difficult to accept as truth, that perhaps he had been assuming that he and his city were living in ways pleasing to God. But he entertained the possibility enough to ask God, and God answered him, too. He received comfort, visions, and instructions for himself. He became a prophet, also.
This basic epiphany completely changed my life. If Nephi was just a normal person, a kid even!, and God showed such wonderful visions and power and glory to him, maybe he would do the same for me? And maybe things I’d always assumed to be one way were actually another. Maybe I didn’t understand everything to the extent that I thought I did. Maybe there was more God wanted to tell me. Maybe it was okay to ask!
Once I realized that Lehi and Nephi were not privy to the presence of God due to any institutional position or affiliation, but instead due to their status as human beings who cared, the floodgates burst open. I devoured the Book of Mormon in thrilled shock as story after story after story followed of people--just ordinary people who loved God and wanted to know him--parted the veil of mortality and came to know the mysteries of God and heaven in intimate, tangible ways. They knew God as his friends.They wanted others to know him, too. The crazy wonderful story of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” became more than just a crazy wonderful story, but instead THE story, the point of all scripture and prophetic record and action. God wants us to know him.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Do we understand what that scripture promises? In case we don’t, we have an epic narrative describing one man’s response to it and his testimony of its truth. We are promised answers. From God.
There’s always a catch, though, isn’t there?
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (v. 6-7). Or, as my son puts it, “But you better not waver, because if you think God won’t answer you… You’re right!” And that little caveat explains the majority of my failures to retrieve the things I desire from my God. Believing that he has the answer is easy; believing I deserve or am authorized to receive can be a doozy.
Throughout my life, but particularly in the past four years, God has given me so many specific stepping stones to be able to accept this simple, profound truth. He loves us and wants us to come to him so much more fully than we think we’re allowed to come. There are no parameters set around things that are lawful for us to ask to know and experience for ourselves. As Mormons, we gladly proclaim the truth that God is a living, knowable Being who is intimately invested in our lives. We talk about the nature of God and the power he extends to us as his children. We claim to understand God in a manner superior to any other religion. But when it comes to us as individuals, is this really true? For so many, many years, I hesitated to claim that power. I accepted my relationship with deity as a gentle whispering of the Spirit and never thought it could be more. If ever I pondered on those who knew Christ in the flesh and felt a twinge of jealousy, I felt ashamed to be grasping at things beyond my station.
The Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion, as we say, denounces this belief on its first page. The primary gift of this book is the promise it gives us that God is knowable and desires to be known. No matter who we are or what our past holds, we can come to know him. We can peer into heaven for ourselves. That is a promise from God, and it cannot and does not fail.
Several weeks ago, I heard something a person I don't know said about me that I've been pondering on since. She said that I seemed like a teacher who taught for myself rather than for other people, in a negative way. I’m glad, because it confirmed something I've been wrestling with since the beginning of this blog.
First of all, this woman was in many ways correct, and I'm not embarrassed about that. Teaching is the best thing ever, and it gives me tons of satisfaction to watch people experiencing what I know to be awesome. She was wrong about why, but she was right about one thing, which is nicely summed up in the Book of Mormon:
“He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.” (2 Nephi 26:29)
It was never my intention to set myself up as a light, but I’ll admit there’s always been room for confusion there. The purpose was to “proclaim peace,” which, if you check out what that means in context, is proclaiming repentance. I thought it meant saying things that made people feel good… which repentance does, assuredly--but usually not at first. At first it often kinda burns. Repentance is recognizing the error in your understanding and actions and remedying it, allowing you to turn more fully to God. It’s getting back on the path that takes you there.
So I’ll start. First, I’m taking down all pages linked to anything commercial I’m doing. There is no reason for the things I write to be attached in any way to income generation. If you would like to know when and where I’m teaching or having sessions, etc., feel free to contact me via email or Facebook.
It is essential to me that everyone understands that I love kundalini yoga and meditation for the primary reason that it brought me more fully to Christ. If it doesn’t do that for you, then I don’t recommend it. Kundalini is not The Truth, but it’s an excellent aid for many people in coming to The Truth. My enthusiasm for it is born from the specific awakenings it has wrought upon me, but I have always recognized that it in and of itself is incomplete, as are all practices and systems that organize understanding. What’s essential in this life is that each of us comes to God and makes a personal abiding connection with heaven, and this yoga and meditation strengthened so much in me that needed strengthening and tore down so much that needed tearing down before that could happen. It helped me believe possible the things that seemed too good or too fantastical to be real, and God is all about asking us to believe what our earthly senses veil. We must turn from Illusion to Reality.
I am on a never-ending quest to come more fully into Reality. There is still so much I can’t see that I might as well be sitting in a dark room with my eyes closed, but there are some few things I have learned that cannot be taken away from me. The most important among these is that Jesus Christ is my Savior and the Savior of the whole world. He loves me and all the world with love we cannot comprehend or reciprocate. He wants so desperately for us to know him and has shown us how we can do that.
Anything I write, I write because I love God. Because I’m a pridefully weak wee mortal, I often do so in a flawed way that massages my ego. For this, I apologize. If ever you read something here that is not ratified by heaven to you, please chuck it away and think no more of it. My hope is that we can all grow together in our understandings and forgive each other when we err.
Sat Nam and Wahe Guru!
I will admit I thought I was done with this blog. It just felt like there was nothing else I needed to say; my insights are my own again. But after finishing this morning’s sadhana (YOU GUYS MY BABY SLEPT FROM 9-7! She’s perfect and got me back into an early practice by waking up at 3:45 for several weeks, and now she’s letting me wake up first. We will keep her), I received clear instructions to write this one, so I guess I’m not the boss of my blog. May someone benefit from my navel-gazing.
In talking with a friend about parenthood and struggles with self-fulfillment and pure love and all the works, I came to appreciate a change of heart, if you will, I’ve experienced without fully realizing it. Early on in my life, I started grappling with the very millennial dilemma of, “Who AM i? What am I supposed to DO with my life???” and could get pretty dang depressed and frantically anxious about it regularly. What was my PURPOSE? Because I certainly hadn’t found it yet, and time was a-wastin’.
This drive to find my Purpose led me to do and experience a lot of really cool things; I have been all over the world learning all kinds of interesting things and meeting all kinds of interesting people and working all kinds of interesting jobs, many of the do-gooder variety. For many years, I couldn’t sit still for all the bleeding my heart was doing for the acute suffering my eyes beheld, because I needed to FIX IT. That would be my Purpose.
And yet. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like there was always something there to hedge up the way. I never felt like I was getting it right. What I was doing wasn’t selfless enough or dangerous enough or effective enough, ever. I was always failing. I was always unfulfilled, knowing I simply wasn’t enough. People were still hurting horribly all around me. Why was God keeping me from fulfilling my Purpose???
Then I had a baby. And guess what? That wasn’t my Purpose, either, but motherhood did change me deeply. It gave me an excuse to sit and sit for hours every day just staring at my tiny human, simply loving, and it was the first time I’d experienced the joy of that kind of, well, mindfulness. I’ve always been slower-paced, but this was the first time I didn’t feel guilty about it. Someone needed me! For his SURVIVAL!
But after the novelty of being needed wore off, I started to get anxious again. What was I going to do with the time I’d been given? How could I, now, with this needy human infringing on all that time? How would I become worthwhile? Did I even know myself? You know--all the angsty questions.
Many many years ago, on a manic midnight drive up the mountains with a friend, I frantically yelled, “I just want to know who I am!!!” My friend sat there for a minute, possibly weighing the pros and cons of verbalizing his thoughts when I was so volatile, and finally said quietly, “Whenever I start to panic about not knowing who I am, that’s usually a pretty good sign I need to spend more time remembering whose I am.”
I realized in the moment that this was profound, but it wasn’t until I finished sadhana this morning that I understood that I am finally doing this. As I talked with my friend yesterday about finding acceptance for where we are, I realized I haven’t felt that oh-so-familiar restriction and unease in a very long time. Even in the depths of prenatal depression, for the first time, my crazy raging sadness wasn’t about my inability to perform life adequately--it was simply being sick in my brain for a season. It was terrible, but it wasn’t me.
That is why this yoga is a gift to me. It has changed my brain and allowed me to experience God, not necessarily in a new way, but in a much more consistently present way. It has illuminated my beliefs and brought them more fully into my core. If you are still searching for a way to achieve your peace and your knowingness of God, please consider giving this a try. Kundalini yoga and meditation are a beautiful companion to any spiritual practice and have radically deepened my devotion to finding capital-T Truth. This has led to similar desires to alleviate suffering around me that I have experienced most of my life, but my motives are different, because I don’t need people to need me in order to feel necessary.
My heart has been changed; I no longer feel frantic about finding my Purpose. I am not worried about what I do, because I’ve finally realized that I Am. And that is enough.
This baby is coming any day now. And my other babies can sense it; they’ve been so excited since the moment my husband shared the news with them (EIGHT. MONTHS. AGO. No, I obviously did not authorize that event, and he obviously didn’t think about it beforehand. We are all very ready for mommy not to be pregnant anymore!), and they still are. But in the past month or so, it has become clear that their little subconsciouses are starting to realize that things are about to change in big ways for them. They’re freaking out a little bit, and I haven’t dealt with it very well.
The biggest manifestation of their internal freakouts is what I’ll call the Eternal Deafness to Instruction and the Incessant Explaining Why Listening Isn’t Necessary. This phase is making me lose my mind. There is almost literally nothing I say that doesn’t meet a rebuttal that goes on, and on, and on, and on. Aside from how this triggers my oldest-child control issues, sometimes I feel like I’m descending into madness from sheer invisibility in my home.
Last week, I had reached the end of my rope. I felt like I had tried everything: positive reinforcement, distraction, turning things into a game, yelling (whoops)--you know, all the things. Nothing worked in the slightest. Finally, I had the genius idea to ask God what to do because these children JUST WOULD NOT LISTEN TO ME.
The answer was immediate and simple: “Start listening to them. I listen to you so much more than you listen to me.”
Those were the actual words, but the sense I got was that the ratio of my listening to God’s listening was so incredibly lopsided that I can’t even fathom it, which is undeniably true but something I hadn’t framed in that way before. And it made sense. I actually listen to my kids a fair amount, I thought, especially considering how much they talk. Most kids are chatty; my kids are unstoppable. My 4-year-old regularly runs outside in a panic because he’s spotted an approaching pedestrian who doesn’t know yet to pass our house on the other side of the street, and they are ripe for the accosting. If people haven’t escaped after ten minutes, I’ll usually go out and tell them they’re free to ignore him and continue on their way, because he literally will not stop talking, ever, and they eventually peel themselves away, only to be chased down until he reaches his border limits at the street corner, yelling after them until they’re out of earshot. I have never heard a kid talk so much or ask so many questions.
So I feeeeeel like I listen a lot, and I answer a lot of questions. Most of the time I even enjoy it, for the most part. It’s fun having curious kids. But what this answer pointed out to me was that most of what I listen to is storytelling, babbling, feelings, observations--when the talking turns into disagreeing with me or telling me I’m wrong, I shut it down. I’ve had zero patience for it and, until that moment, had seen zero value in allowing it to continue. I didn’t realize that’s what I’d been doing, but it was suddenly very clear.
My husband and kids left for a family reunion right after this, so I haven’t actually applied it very well yet (the two days I had to practice were still hard, because this kind of listening is NO FUN and I am no good at it). But I’m certain God’s telling me the truth on this one, and it is an answer I desperately need. I need to learn to take time for hearing my little ones’ arguments. I need to detach myself from my obsessive need for dominion. I need to stop trying to control how they think and behave. I need to consider the world from their vantage point and from their experience if I’m ever going to have any influence for good over them.
This principle is easily applicable to pretty much everything in my life right now. In fact, I spent an hour writing a 3-page treatise on the hows and whys, but now I’m deleting it and just leaving it at that. There’s no point talking about how great listening is and how other people should listen (I know, it’s hilarious how much I need this) when I could just start listening more.
Listening to God is hard sometimes. Listening to people can be hard, too. Hearing with our hearts means laying aside our own thoughts for a moment in order to give new thoughts space. I know several people who are really good at this, and those people are healers in their souls, because simply being heard fixes so many hurts. Let's all endeavor to be hearing healers as we go about our days, shall we?
And that’s all I have to say about that. Sat nam : )
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.