I'm the type of person who keeps at least 20 tabs open in any given internet browser at all times. It drives my husband crazy. But I've had an excerpt from a book by Bruce R. McConkie up for months, waiting for the right time to write about it, and I think today is the day.
Several months ago, I was asked to give a talk on obedience in sacrament meeting, which made me laugh. But I had an awesome, inspired idea come to mind as an answer to prayers about how I should address the topic, and I spent more energy and time prepping that talk than I ever had before, and I learned so many cool things. I was super stoked to give my talk. When I woke up Sunday morning, I just knew--the talk I had typed up, word for word, which I've never done before, was the not the talk I was going to give. I didn't have a clue what I'd talk about, and continued to be clueless for the couple hours before church, but I knew it wasn't what I'd prepared. As I got the kids ready and left to meet up with my husband, the only thing that came to my mind was this excerpt, entitled, "Spiritual Gifts." It made no sense, but I pulled up the tab and headed into sacrament meeting. I was pretty nervous.
I have no idea if the talk I gave made any sense, but as I stood up at the pulpit and pulled out my phone (ha), my eyes fell on the first two paragraphs, and I at last understood how spiritual gifts made sense for the topic of obedience:
"Why do signs and miracles cease in certain ages? Why are they not found at all times and among all peoples? Were those of old entitled to greater blessings than those of us who now dwell on the same earth that once was theirs? Moroni answers: 'The reason why' a God of gifts and miracles 'ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men,' and to pour out his gifts upon them, 'is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.' ...
It is men who have changed, not God; he is the same everlastingly. All men who have the same faith and live the same law will reap the same blessings. ... Moroni then quotes the promise of the Lord Jesus about signs following those who believe, which promise concludes with these wondrous words: 'And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.' (Mormon 9:20-25.)" (emphasis mine)
Obedience to God's laws brings miracles. Period. Do we understand how incredible these promises are? Do we understand what this means? Do we see evidences of obedience to divine principles in our everyday lives?
A couple years ago, I got into researching early Church history, and I got a little boggled in the mind. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on. Some of it was just plain crazy, and it took a while for people to gain an understanding of what came from the Spirit and what didn't, and some excellent common sense rules were put in place via the Doctrine and Covenants and other prophetic mandates. But the early Saints were people who expected miracles. They expected evidence of God's power behind the Church they'd decided to sacrifice everything to follow, and they were a people who believed in gifts of the Spirit. They were people with exquisite faith. And they made me curious.
Sometimes I think Mormons like to feel special because we believe in the undying God who still talks to people on earth, unlike so many who say that he wrote the Bible (or whatever scripture) and called it a day. I agree that the belief that God still talks to us is essential, but I wonder if we miss the ball sometimes with the rest of it--if he still talks to us, isn't he the same in other ways, too? I remember being taught by a Book of Mormon teacher once that the casting out of devils in the New Testament was either figurative, a misunderstanding of mental illness, or something that happened only in the time of Christ's actual sojourn on earth to demonstrate his power. People are not possessed by devils and evil spirits here and now. And I thought, WHAT? Casting out evil spirits is real. Spiritual gifts are real. Spiritual evils are real. We are literally at war right now on both sides of the veil, and this physical world is the setting of both battles. That's Plan of Salvation 101, and having an understanding of what we're dealing with every day is essential to our success. The scriptures teach us that the way we learn to discern what is real and of God vs. what is false and from Satan is through seeking and receiving spiritual gifts.
We're okay with some spiritual gifts, like faith, and hope, and charity. Healing's okay in certain settings, and teaching and receiving testimony are great. But others, like prophecy and revelation and raising the dead and speaking with angels and casting out devils and controlling the elements start to sound a little science-fictiony and, well, superfluous. We have the internet now, after all, and science.
I want to be a witness that God is the same today as he has always been, and he pours out his gifts on those who ask for them in faith and then continue in obedience to his laws. I used to feel weird and guilty about praying for certain spiritual gifts, like I was dabbling in the occult or something or trying to become a wizard-magician, but greater study confirmed for me that this is exactly what God wants us to do. There's a right way and a wrong way to go about it, for sure, and like in all things, Satan has excellent counterfeits for every single gift God offers, so care is to be taken to ensure we're following the Spirit in all things. But the scriptures and modern prophets are clear in their messages: we are to seek to become a people greatly in tune with and gifted in the Spirit.
This quotation from the same excerpt is enormously enlightening to me, and even thought it's huge, power through, because it's SO GOOD:
"Is it proper to seek for spiritual gifts? Should we plead with the Lord for the gift of prophecy, or of revelation, or of tongues? Is it fitting and right to pray for the soul-sanctifying privilege of seeing the face of the Lord Jesus while we yet dwell as mortals in a sin-filled world? Does the Lord expect us to desire and seek for spiritual experiences, or do the divine proprieties call for us simply to love the Lord and keep his commandments, knowing that if and when he deems it proper he will grant special gifts and privileges to us?
By way of answer, it almost suffices to ask such questions as these: Are we not expected to seek salvation, the greatest of all the gifts of God? Why, then, should we not prepare ourselves for this greatest of all boons by seeking the enjoyment of the lesser ones? If we are to see his face in that eternal realm where the same sociality that exists among us here, then coupled with eternal glory, shall endure everlastingly, can we go amiss by seeking to establish that sociality here and now? Are we not commanded: Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened? Why, then, should we smother a desire to heal the sick or raise the dead or commune with friends beyond the veil?
Also by way of answer to the queries at hand, we might with propriety reason along this line: If spiritual gifts are interwoven with and form part of the very gospel of salvation itself can we enjoy the fulness of that gospel without possessing the gifts that are part of it? If gifts and miracles shall-inevitably, always, and everlastingly-follow those who believe, how can we be true believers without them? And if we are to seek the gospel, if we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness, if our whole souls must cry out for the goodness of God and his everlasting association how can we exempt ourselves from seeking the gifts of the Spirit that come from and prepare us for his presence?"
Boom! I know a lot of people give Brother Bruce a hard time for laying it down whenever he talks, but you just have to love it sometimes. The man says what he means. I see no need for further commentary from me on that point.
As I was about to close my talk that day, I felt impressed to turn to the hymnal, where I read the first two verses of "The Spirit of God," which are as follows:
The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!
The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.
The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst.
And even though it felt really weird to do so, I testified that the veil is, in fact, beginning to burst, and if it's not bursting for you, it might be because you're not participating. I repeat that testimony here. Participation in God's kingdom through obedience to God's laws, regardless of your denomination, will bring down the powers of heaven into your life. Let go of whatever is holding you back from obedience to and love of God's laws, and test his words. Study the methods set forth for seeking these gifts, and apply them! Let's not live beneath our privileges, but let us instead claim heaven and share it ; )
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.