Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters You

During our family scripture study growing up, my dad had a habit of interjecting his own personal thoughts, explanations, and anecdotes every… maybe 0.7 verses.

Okay, that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. In my and my siblings’ kid brains, we were often mildly annoyed at him for doing this, but it was a good thing he did. Today in my own personal scripture study, I do that  possibly more than even he did—and I enjoy it!

My wife caught on too and began with me to find gospel parallels in many parts of everyday life: in books, movies, shows, etc. Considering that our tastes of what constitutes a good movie make it really difficult for us to find one that we both want to watch over and over and over again, if we ever tell you of a movie that we both actually enjoyed together and want to watch again, you know it’s a must-see. It also means, however, that we have both seen a crazy amount of gospel parallels in it.

One of those is A Wrinkle In Time. There is one particularly profound, yet often feared, truth in that movie I want to discuss here. It’s when Mrs. Who says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

Rather than just diving right into my personal take on this, let’s go to the scriptures for examples of where this truth is taught.

Replacing Darkness with Light

Take a look at 3 Nephi 9 in the Book of Mormon. Chapter 8 ends by talking about the mourning, howling, weeping, wailing, and tangible darkness all over the face of the land after the catastrophic destruction of the Americas following Christ’s death. With this perspective, the timing of what happens in chapter 9 is absolutely awesome. Almost the entire chapter is the voice of Christ speaking to the hearts of everyone who was spared and inviting them to come unto Him. They literally heard the audible voice of Christ speaking to each one of them!

Notice the timing of that: it was right in the middle of the deepest darkness and their most desperate cries for help that they heard His voice. Only when they were brought face-to-face with total darkness did they hear the clear, piercing, soothing, inviting voice of the Lord.

Another thing that really caught my attention was that the moment when the darkness around them completely paralyzed them with fear and left them physically immobile was the same moment where the voice of Christ stunned them so much that all the crying and moaning immediately stopped.

It was in that moment that the voice of Christ had so much power that it turned great guilt and mental and emotional suffering into a change of heart.

If you look carefully at the scriptures and the lives of righteous saints, you will always see that the Lord establishes consistent patterns of teaching and changing us. I have seen His pattern of using these starkly contrasting opposites of darkness and light in my own life in moments when it felt like the Lord “injected” light into me. He always does this for me by first arranging for a dark hole or injury to open up—something I am perhaps afraid to expose or don’t feel ready to confront. The effect of that wound opening inside me feels something like the sound of a that egg Harry Potter opens after the first task in the Triwizard Tournament. Yet as that hole opens up and that fear, anger, hurt or loneliness is exposed, He can then displace it with His light because of His Atonement.

Exposing the Wound 

My wife and I have had multiple painful experiences like this in the last few years. If you read my article about the power of a covenant, you’ll get a short taste of the medical horrors my wife has faced. But in the last few years, through several hospital admissions lasting from a few weeks to a few months, she has faced pains and health problems that are an entirely new ballpark even for her. Learning to witness her suffering while often being unable to do a thing about it has also been its own struggle on my end as well. However, each time something new comes up—something that further complicates my wife’s pain and requires me to be more patient and creative in making her comfortable enough to get by (even when I feel like there’s absolutely nothing more I can do and the situation feels unbearable for both of us)—something divine happens. And in the last few years, those experiences have always taken place in the hospital.

In those times, the Lord uses those dark moments to speak to us in ways that do more than just make us feel better. He heals the source of the wound while it’s exposed. 

My social/communication difficulties with Asperger’s syndrome has presented quite a few hurdles for my wife and I to overcome as a couple. However, last year during my wife’s longest hospital admission, there were a few days where the nerve pain was so bad that it put her in a different mental state. She was acting as if she had just had her wisdom teeth pulled, yet you could tell her judgement wasn’t impaired at all. 

After a few days of this I realized that this mental state of hers was something spiritual. For those few days, she might as well have had one foot on each side of the veil with the spiritual gifts and abilities she had. One of those gifts was the ability to speak and listen in such a way that it was impossible for me to misunderstand her, and vice versa. During those few days, we had, among other things, conversations that totally resolved deep-seated issues in each of our hearts. These were issues that were so sensitive that speaking to each other about them was nearly impossible without creating contention, yet we were able to completely resolve them!

This gift of the Spirit, temporarily granted to us because of my wife’s pain-induced mental state, resulted in these unspeakably painful emotional wounds being cleaned, treated, and proverbially wrapped up in celestial white bandages, never to be worried about again.

“What if Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?”
As the song “Blessings” by Laura Story says:

“What if your blessings come through rain drops?
What it your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know you’re near?
What if trials of this life are you mercies in disguise?”

I certainly know this is true because I have seen it happen in so many ways firsthand. The most brilliant, holy light always shines for and in us when it can enter us via our deepest wounds. We just to stop being afraid to expose those parts of us and let in the light.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Four of the Most Amazing Promises in All Scripture

For years now I have gradually increased my focus on how certain phrases in the scriptures are worded to help me dig deeper into the spiritual layers of the words of prophets and our Savior. Having Asperger's syndrome makes it a lot easier to really dissect the phrasing and really get down to the juice caramel center of Holy Writ.

One of the key passages that I have repeatedly noticed uses some pretty awesome phrasing is Matt 5:5-8. These four verses each contain one key word that solidifies them as not only some of the most comforting promises in all scripture but also some of the most ironclad. That word is "shall".

I absolutely love any time the Lord makes a promise and says that the blessings we receive as a part of that promise "shall" come to pass.  There are no ifs, maybes, buts or unless's, etc. The promises made with the conditions spelled out are guaranteed. You don't find that kind of thing very often in this life. So many times have General Authorities taught that living the gospel does increase the chances of overall happiness but rarely guarantee when or how or even how often that will happen because of the Fall. But the promises in these verses are ironclad and guaranteed. I want to give each of them separate and deliberate attention to show what I have seen and felt as I have studied them. Let's pick 'em apart.

5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Many times, as illustrated above, the real meaning of certain verses in scripture comes out more by focusing on what it doesn't say. Let's look at the word "inherit." If you inherit something, you didn't get it by working for it or because you deserve it, but because someone else earned, bought and/or acquired it and you get to have it because you happened to be in some sort of legal will or perhaps bloodline down which said thing has been passed for generations. You get it because of who you are, not what you have done.

In the case of this verse, Jesus promises us that those who are meek will inherit the earth. Whoa, wait a minute, did you catch that? The entire earth? As in the whole physical globe, the planet we call earth, the entire planet, will become the property of the those who are meek? That's all there is to it? The answer is an incredible YES! Does that sound too simple? Did you immediately think "ummm... hold on, sir, there's more to it than that"? Well, lets look at what it means to be meek and see if we can find out if it's really as simple as the phrasing our Savior used.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, one of His apostles, said the following about meekness.
  • "Meekness is thus so much more than a passive attribute that merely deflects discourtesy. Instead, it involves spiritual and intellectual activism: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10; see also 2 Chronicles 19:3, 20:33). Meek Nephi, in fact, decried the passivity of those who “will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness” (2 Nephi 32:7). Alas, most are unsearching—quite content with a superficial understanding or a general awareness of spiritual things (see Alma 10:5–6). This condition may reflect either laziness or, in Amulek’s case, the busyness usually incident to the cares of the world.  Intellectual meekness is a persistent as well as particular challenge. Without it, we are not intellectually open to things that we “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). Alas, some have otherwise reached provincial and erroneous conclusions and do not really want to restructure their understanding of things. Some wish neither to be shaken nor expanded by new data."("Meek and Lowly”, Oct. 21, 1986 Devotional at BYU)
I think it becomes much clearer why, of all the attributes of God Jesus chose to use as the most prominent of those who would inherit the earth, He chose meekness. Elder Maxwell describes this virtue as not just one of holding back when the time is not right to speak or act, but also - in contrast - as a virtue that expands the mind and soul, emboldens and fine tunes the spiritual senses and glorifies a man or woman who can stand in quiet, yet brilliant and unyielding majesty in the presence of the prideful and benighted of the world; someone familiar with, as President Monson said, the "glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so."

Such meekness is surely a forerunner of Godliness and a one of the keystones in the marble arch of charity. No wonder only those who have it are given the unconditional promise of inheriting the earth itself.

6. And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Anyone who is more well versed in the New Testament will see slight difference in wording from the King James Version. The last phrase "with the Holy Ghost" is only found in the Lord's similar discourse to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon as the resurrected Lord.

A few years back, I had wondered and discussed with my wife the idea of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with us every second of every single day and wondered if it was truly possible. I mean, we all sin and render ourselves unworthy of the full presence of the Holy Ghost many times a day with things we do wrong that we don't often think twice about, so is it really possible? Even the Lord tells us "my Spirit shall not always strive with man" (D&C 1). But then I realized that the only reason the Holy Ghost doesn't always strive with us is because we are not following the counsel of King Benjamin, which, if we do, we are promised constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. King Benjamin says this:
  • And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4
Wow! Did you see that!? Yes, we CAN be filled with the Holy Ghost, according to the Lord's promise in Matthew, if we are constantly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. That's obviously more easily said than done. There are seemingly innumerable means the devil uses to distract, deceive and discourage us, but I find comfort in President Nelson's words, "It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee." And we've been given an incredible promise when we do, being filled with the Holy Ghost. Just as an additional incentive for you and I to narrow our focus on righteousness and thereby receive such an amazing gift, here's a small description, limited by mortal words, that paints a picture of what it's like to be filled with the Holy Ghost by Parley P Pratt:
  • "The gift of the Holy Ghost...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

7. And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

This goes along well with Helaman's discourse to his son Corianton about the law of restoration. He teaches that "the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."

The interesting thing I noticed right away with this is that if we look again at what verse 7 isn't saying. In this case what this verse isn't saying actually reveals more about the doctrine taught here by the Lord. The agreement in this promise is strict and straight to the point and further explained by Jesus in Matt 7:2, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." He can be as merciful to us as we are to are to each other. If we can come to completely forgive every wrong ever committed against us and let the Lord deal with justice, His atoning sacrifice becomes fully efficacious in our lives and we are thus forgiven completely for every sin we fully repent of.

That's the other reason Matt 5:7 is so powerful. It teaches us the often disregarded aspect of forgiveness from the Lord. We are so often taught that to be forgiven of sins we must fully repent and this is unequivocally true, but ultimately, there are technically two things that we must do in order to have complete forgiveness from the Lord. Repent fully of all our sins and forgive everyone for every wrong committed against us or anyone else. Both are required according to the Son of God. If we compartmentalize others and use our insufficient, weak, out-of-context judgement skills as the standard by which we measure the worth of others and how we should feel and think about them, why on earth would we have the right to expect that the Lord should just wipe our slate clean and bring us to Celestial Glory if we can't come to love everyone - yes, everyone - the same way He does? (even if not to the same intensity)

I can imagine many who just read that and thought right away, "do you realize how tall of an order that is? That is... huge! I completely agree, but then again, as Elder Holland put it, "...salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?"

This single short verse is loaded with what it says and what it doesn't say.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

I think this one has to be my favorite out of all of them. I personally know a few people aside from those publicly taught about in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have seen our Savior in person. They have each confirmed what Joseph Smith said about being in His presence, that "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters" (D&C 110:3).

We know of so few who have seen either the Father or the Son and yet, in His mortal ministry, the Son gives us the very formula in just eleven words to have that very same thing happen to us. It stands to reason, of course, that this must mean being pure in heart is quite hard to achieve, given that those who saw Him because they were pure in heart - as opposed to the wicked who saw Him because of the prayers of the righteous and the justice of God - seem to be so few and far between in the annals of recorded history. Still, our Savior doesn't make us any promises or tell us how to do something or give us commandments without making any of it possible. I wonder if some of you are already thinking, "Yeah, but there are a lot of hard things to do in the restored gospel that we have been promised are possible that are still ridiculously difficult."

My only response to that is to echo Elder Holland again when he said the following. And keep in mind that since repentance is synonymous with positive change, you can substitute almost every instance of the word "repentance" with "change" below, as I already have,
  • "You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to [change]. It takes exactly as long to [change] as it takes you to say “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed, you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your [change] by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah. Do not misunderstand. [Change] is not easy or painless or convenient. It can be a bitter cup from hell. But only Satan would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgement of sin is more distasteful than permanent residence in it. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it." (emphasis added) ("How To Change" Liahona, Feb 2017)

I still haven't seen Him, but I know it's possible to do so because I know people who have and I aspire to reach the point where I'm "D&C 4:6" enough to see Him. I know that as I pray for God to purify my intentions and my desires that He will dispel my fears and make me into someone who can see Him in person, and I want you to see Him, too. Lets purify our hearts along side our Savior together, shall we?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Show Me Your Dash and I'll Show You Mine

This morning I saw an article on my facebook feed that I'm sure was put there at the time by divine design. Just yesterday I had read an article that focused heavily on making sure everything we teach in the church is related to the One after whom our faith in named and upon whom it is based, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Then, as if God was trying to put icing on that spiritual cake - well more like a huge pallet loaded with bags of icing - I read this article today by Stake President and District of Columbia US Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B Griffith.

There's a part in it on which I am basing my comments here. It's this section:
  • "In the last revelation Joseph Smith received before he was permitted to organize Christ’s Church on the earth—in what was the capstone of Joseph Smith’s preparation to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord gave the only first-person detailed account of the suffering He endured so that we would not need to suffer the full effects of our disobedience: behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— [D&C 19:16, 18] There is something curious about this narrative. Verse 18 ends with a dash. The Savior did not complete His thought. Why? I don’t know, but I am persuaded by the explanation that the Savior might have cut short His description of what He suffered because it was too painful for Him—some 1,800 years after the event—to complete the description[]." (emphasis added)

He proposes this idea of course as his opinion, but I believe it for the following reason. Why does the Lord withhold information from us? Usually it's because it would be more detrimental than helpful to our spiritual growth, but with Joseph Smith, I don't think that would have been the case. Here was a man about whom Truman Madsen recalled the following:

  • "Early in his life, he said, [Sydney B. Sperry, a man who was perhaps the Church's most knowledgeable Hebraist] had aspired to know more about the scriptures than any man living. He told me, and this is the point, that he had become aware that no man in this generation could possibly know as much about the scriptures as did the Prophet Joseph Smith. I begin with that because a feeling constantly recurs as one studies the life of Joseph Smith. You never quite get to the bottom. There is always more. You can be so impressed and overcome with glimpses that you say, "Nothing good that I could learn of him would be surprising." And then you become surprised. There is always more. It takes deep to comprehend deep, and I often wonder if any of us have the depth to fully comprehend this man."
No, I believe that Joseph's capacity to receive or not receive what the Lord would have said next was not because of His own limitations, especially coming from a man who said, "I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have, of the glories of the Kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive it."

I think the reason is as brother Griffith deduced. And that begs the question, just how loaded is that dash?

Obviously, the answer is not something the world needs to know right now - and likely something the world is spiritual light-years from handling well - or else we would have such knowledge revealed to us via President Nelson. However, what I want to suggest here and that we use this thought as an example for our own lives. One of the most profound differences between us and our Lord is the fact that nothing He holds back from us is because of what He wants to reveal to us. According to President Nelson, "One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will." The Lord has His own reasons for not explaining that loaded dash, but - and consider this carefully - is there any good reason for us to be trying to hide our "dash" from Him, or... even at all?

Our unsaid dash could be a lot of things. Perhaps it is our hidden brokenness, complex emotions, addictions, worries, internal (or external) battle wounds incident to life's trials or even our deepest dreams, hopes, joys and love that we believe are to crazy to expose for fear of backlash or dismissal. It may be everything we really want to express to others but don't have the courage to do so. Maybe it's the "Oh, and one more thing"s that often results from our afterthoughts that come to us too late and stem from deep emotional crevasses that take work to dig out and display. Either way our dashes are never going to be as loaded as his, so why should we be so hesitant to expose ours?

I saw a meme on facebook today that said "Don't judge people for the choices they make when you don't know the options they had to choose from." I could discourse on how to apply that phrase properly, but for now, the point I want to make from it is that - while I acknowledge it is wrong to judge another person's level of spiritual health (if you aren't a Bishop, Stake Pres, etc.) - maybe, just maybe, we would no longer even falsely perceive a need to judge at all if we did know the options others had to choose from in the moments where they had to make their hardest choices. Whether those choices are good or evil, if we can bring ourselves to a) be brave and open with each other while staying kind and b) properly show each other our dashes, it would be easier for us to have the needed context and motivation to be kinder to each other. This would also serve as an effect means for us to receive direction from the Holy Ghost about how to bear and, when possible, lighten each others burdens instead of exacerbating them by making uninformed decisions about what we think others need. 

Now, I'm not talking about just spewing out verbal diarrhea, of course. That would just result in a bunch of "TMI" looks from a lot of people. What I am saying is that learning to express ourselves to each other the way I mentioned in the first section of this article would make it much easier for us to minister to each other so that all of us feel safe showing our dash, to display all those "other options" I mentioned in the previous paragraph and really give proper context. This also means we need to seek to understand other's dashes as well.

The first verse and chorus to one of my recent favorite songs goes:
  • Truth is harder than a lie
    the dark seems safer than the light
    and everyone has a heart that loves to hide
    I'm a mess and so are you
    We've build walls nobody can get through
    Yeah, it may be hard but the best thing we could ever do, ever do:

    Bring your brokenness and I'll bring mine
    'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
    and mercy's waiting on the other side
    If we're honest, If we're honest

Showing our dashes also often means coming from behind the proverbial bedroom door we slammed behind ourselves and laying our problems before the Lord and, as we learn to do it properly, before each other. This also helps in effective ministering because part of the church's ministering program means being good listeners. Giving our ministering brothers and sisters something to listen to is one of the best ways to meet each others needs. It also gives us context the Holy Ghost can use to guide us in our ministering. We have to take the step to reach out sometimes when others can't see the invisible pain we often seem so willing to hide. I remember reading an article in a New Era magazine in 2007 while I was serving as a full time missionary where Nathan Richardson noticed this about hiding the truth:

  • "What we find is that when we try to fix ourselves, we don’t have the needed equipment. So we might try to approximate the repentance process. But the medicine hurts too much, so we don’t apply it; and the bandage is impossible to put on by ourselves, so we try to cover it with a few little Band-Aids. Then the Father comes in and sees our raw sore, which we had tried to hide from Him. He helps us clean it out. He applies the Atonement to our wounds, which begins the healing process. If it doesn’t burn at first, we’re not repenting. Then He helps us tape on a bandage that we could never have gotten on by ourselves. With our red wound now dressed in white, we are left to wonder why we were ever afraid to ask our Heavenly Father for help. I think that if we really came to know Heavenly Father, we wouldn’t be so scared to repent."

The same applies not just to repentance but becoming unified as Saints and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we become willing to come together and show our dashes with mercy, understanding and forgiveness, and see each others "other options", I am convinced that judgement would cease to fester in our minds and, with proper honesty and context, showing our dashes would become something we want to do. It would become a way to heal, to become completely free from the cares of this world and choose happiness (different from finding happiness).

So what do you say? Show me your dash and I'll show you mine. Let's heal and be perfected along side our Savior together.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Overcoming Pornography - 5 More Virtues That Will Help You Beat It

Back April 2017, I wrote about 5 virtues that will help you beat porn addiction. Everything I said came from my own personal experience battling it at different times in my life. However, there are five more virtues that I feel a need to outline which I feel are critical in walking the path to freedom from such evils.

1. Humility

One of my eye opening chapters in the Book of Mormon (and one of the hardest pills to swallow) is in King Benjamin's speech in Mosiah 2:

  • "23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? 25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you. 26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth."
This attitude is something that will serve you well if you are trying to overcome a porn addiction. The happy part of humility (as weird as that may sound to some) is that the Lord has promised us that the it is the humble seeker of happiness who qualifies the most for the divine power and grace of God. As Malachi teaches us, He is a "purifier of silver" (Malachi 3:3) and refines, as does someone like a blacksmith, the impurities or dross from us until all our impure desires and impulses are gone.

Being humble enough to remain thankful to God while suffering the feeling of ignominy in addiction recovery is one of the best ways for God to cause within us a permanent change of heart. I sometimes pray "with all the energy of heart" (Moroni 7:48) begging Heavenly Father to cause me to be forever and instinctively repulsed by things of the natural man, in all areas of life. If we be humble enough to truly understand how many of our desires are - when we are really honest with ourselves - unholy and impure, the road to healing and having a "mighty change of heart" (Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:14) can be traveled much faster. Until that change is complete - and you'll know when it is - humbly remembering that we still have lots of work to do is a great way to combat the evil one and his relentless temptations.

2. Charity

One of the greatest reassurances of having charity is mentioned in Moroni 7:47, that for all who posses this greatest of all spiritual gifts "at the last day, it shall be well with him." One of the reasons for this is illustrated well by a recently quote I saw from one of our modern day prophets (I wish I could remember for sure which one) where he said - and I'm paraphrasing - "if we could really remember who we are as children of God, we would try a lot harder to do what's right." This ties well into charity because when we have it, we love God, our brothers and sisters throughout the world and ourselves enough to act like who we really are.

I am reminded of the story of Daniel in the Old Testament. In Daniel chapter 1 he refused to defile himself with the wine brought to him by order of King Nebuchadnezzar. This king had commanded to be brought to him "certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;  Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."

Daniel knew of both his temporal standing as a prince and divine standing as a child of the Almighty God. He refused to do anything that would contradict his identity and thereby stain his pattern of living up to those birthrights. If we really love God, our families, our friends and remember who we really are in moments of temptation, we won't even allow ourselves to be in situation where we even might slip a little. I suggest meditation to accomplish this.

King Benjamin also gave some wise counsel to help us consistently maintain our worthiness in Mosiah 4:11-12
  • "And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel."
and there's the effect he promises:
  • "And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true."
That's a pretty amazing promise. So learn to love and remember who you really are and use that as motivation to live up to it.

3. Courage

This is a big one and it ties in well with accountability from the previous entry about this. I know from experience that one of the scariest things in addiction recovery is forming a rigid habit of confessing - candidly, completely and immediately - when setbacks happen in your journey to permanent sobriety. I have felt horrible about the hurt I caused to many at different times in my life when addiction reared it's ugly head, so horrible that I would sometimes lose the courage to confront the problem soon enough with those most affected by it. One of the worst things you can do when fighting an addiction is procrastinating courage, the courage to confront the problem head on before the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution.

Another part of courage I have seen be very effective in overcoming addictions like this is finding something out of your comfort zone just to break up your normal routine. Whether that means you take a different route to work or church, deliberately introduce yourself to a complete stranger and strike up a conversation with them or maybe do your morning routine in a completely different order, having the courage to go out of your comfort zone will do wonders for you. Not only will it help you practice replacing evil habits with good ones, but also just get out of your own head, re-calibrate and help shift your focus to what matters most.

4. Meekness

I believe this virtue to be the most misunderstood and, therefore, one of the most difficult to master. Neal A. Maxwell had the following to say about meekness.
  • "There is, of course, much accumulated stereotyping surrounding this virtue. We even make nervous jokes about meekness, such as, “If the meek intend to inherit the earth, they are going to have to be more aggressive about it!” We even tend to think of a meek individual as being used and abused—as being a doormat for others. However, Moses was once described as being the most meek man on the face of the earth (see Num. 12:3), yet we recall his impressive boldness in the courts of Pharaoh and his scalding indignation following his descent from Sinai."
Meekness isn't just about being silent and submissive or assertive and aggressive, although there are times when those things are applied in proper balance in someone who is truly meek. It's more about becoming willing to be totally transparent, teachable and firm in the resolve to utterly expose the darkest and most well hidden parts of our emotions, motives, rationalizations, preferences, and actions for the sake of allowing the Lord to wipe us completely clean from such evil. Meekness means standing firm and unyielding in our faith in Christ and His truth with the understanding that the only way to really become like Him is to expose and allow Him to purify and clean all of our spiritual "wounds and infections", self-inflicted and otherwise. I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie A Wrinkle In Time, "the wound is the place where the light enters you."

Elder Maxwell further clarified,
  • "Granted, none of us likes, or should like, to be disregarded, to be silenced, to see a flawed argument prevail, or to endure a gratuitous discourtesy. But such circumstances seldom constitute that field of action from which meekness calls upon us to retire gracefully. Unfortunately, we usually do battle, unmeekly, over far less justifiable things, such as “turf.”

    Just what is this “turf” we insist on defending almost at the slightest provocation? If it is real estate, this will not rise with us in the resurrection. If it is concern over the opinions of us held by others, there is only One opinion of us that really matters. Besides, the opinions of others will only be lowered if we go on an ego tantrum. If “turf” is status, we should not be overly concerned with today’s organizational charts. Who cares now about the pecking order in the Sanhedrin in 31 A.D., though so many cared so much at the time? Where are those now who worried so much over losing their places in the synagogues? (See John 12:42.)

    Granted, there are some things worth being aroused about, as the Book of Mormon says, such as our families, our homes, our liberties, and our sacred religion. (See Alma 43:45.) But if all our anxiety amounts to is our so-called image, it’s an image that needs to be displaced anyway, so that we can receive His image in our countenances."
'Nuff said.

5. Diligence

I quote here from my most viewed entry this blog (this one). "I think of Harry Potter and his occlumency lessons when Harry asks if he can rest for a moment and Snape responds "The dark lord isn't resting!!"  The same applies here.  If you think that there is room to slip up a little when somewhere in your mind or heart the Holy Ghost is saying "are you sure that's a good idea?", get ready for a harsh wake up call when Jesus comes again."

What I have learned from experience that even one microsecond of pulling a Lehonti can be more deadly to your spiritual and even physical health than you have any idea. Even after years of freedom from addiction, the fight against it must be a continual pursuit.  The devil doesn't just know who you are, he knows who you were before you were born. He isn't going to quit trying to make you fall to old habits, even after years, just because you have been clean for so long. He's like the paranoid kid who is immovably convinced that he has to look behind his shoulder to check for the boogie man every five seconds for his entire life, always asking "how about now? how about now? how about now? Hey, look! look! look! Look at that! Look at it! Look at it now! Nowww! NOOOWWW!" He is relentless and his biggest victories are to make the very most stalwart, faithful saints fall to old habits, even in isolated events for a brief moment.

Diligence is unspeakably vital in the battle against pornography addiction. Even once is too much.


Pornography addiction is one of the most pernicious evils to ever spread across the earth. Anyone who has not overcome it be the time they pass from this life is going to be in a world of hurt and I hope more people overcome it than who don't. As Amulek said, "that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." Any addictions you haven't overcome by then will stick with you when you die, so take care of it now. Don't be one of those people who dies with regrets.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Real Power of A Covenant

If you’ve read The Infinite Atonement by Brother Tad R. Callister even once all the way through, you’ve seen how incredible an author he is. There is one quote in that book that, among over 180 others I collected while I read it the first two times through, sticks out to me more than most of the rest and it illustrates the principle that has guided almost all of my most important decisions in my marriage. Here is what it says:

It may have been that such a covenant [to atone] helped sustain the Savior in the Garden when all his apparent spiritual and physical energies had been exhausted, when there was “nothing left” to combat the Evil One and sin itself but the pure covenant to atone.  How many such covenants have lifted men to loftier heights, conferred upon them added strength, and generated newfound reservoirs of resistance when all else seemed to collapse around them?  So it may have been that, in some way, this covenant satisfied the laws of justice for those who lived before the Atonement was performed, and, in addition, helped to sustain the Savior in his hour of greatest need.

In the book, Brother Callister says a lot more about Christ’s Atonement in regards to being infinite in its scope of time. For now, I just want to focus on how he speaks of the weight of a covenant. The sole fact that Jesus made a promise to the Father and to us was enough for Him to confront and conquer, head on, all the demonic powers of the evil one, unleashed in all their hellish hue. That was the power of a covenant for Him. So why not for us?

My wife and I were told extensively before we were married about the importance of the marriage covenant—that it is the highest covenant in the Church and the only one we make with two people (God and our spouse). What I really wanted to do with this is illustrate how the power of a covenant has helped me in my marriage.

Buckle up, this might make you cry—happy and sad tears.

Before I even knew my wife, she had lived the lives of ten people. The amount of abuse she endured, in every form you can imagine, even before she was born, took me a few years to even process—and I have Asperger’s syndrome, so my mind and heart run a billion miles a minute. Thankfully for me, when I was first learning about her life, I was not quite 2000 miles away and couldn’t act on what I’d heard, so I had plenty of time to think about the people she’d forgiven: what they had done to her, and the meekness, patience, and faith she showed in her responses.

My wife has long list of health problems including, but not limited to, PTSD, misophonia, spina bifida, recurring Crohn’s disease, Charcot arthropathy, severe lymphedema, hydrocephalus, and anemia of chronic disease. To make things even more interesting, my wife is way more introverted than I am, and therefore naturally doesn’t like to bring a lot of attention to herself—even for the sake of medical attention—to avoid people thinking “Oh, you poor thing.” The complications of these conditions being concurrent as well as all the medications she has to take to even make her tolerably comfortable from day to day make for quite the unpredictable daily routine. Many doctors and specialists have asked her how she is in so much pain from moment to moment every day and yet still puts on a good attitude, smiles, and sometimes even apologizes because she feels like she is the inconvenience for others. Pretty mind-blowing, I know.

As you can probably imagine, the emotional complications of all that creates some… complex situations, especially considering my primary love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation. Some of the complications the Lord has allowed us to face have left many of our emotional needs within our respective love languages unmet until many of the blessings God has promised us when my wife is eventually healed are fulfilled. I’m a touchy-feely person so this has proved quite difficult.

Another side effect of her health problems is that we never know when some problem is going to flare up suddenly and require immediate attention from me, so I literally can’t leave her alone for more than an hour or two on any given day. This has meant we’ve had to be very creative and find ways to communicate that don’t drive each other nuts. Our 10-year anniversary is coming up this year and we’re still learning, but we have come up with plenty of ways to not get on each other’s nerves and keep the peace in our home.

The reason I mention any of this is because the physical, mental, and emotional rigors of this kind of lifestyle for this many years has had some pretty drastic effects. My wife’s health has progressively become worse with each year and such circumstances also naturally require the exercise of faith on a level I never dreamed would be necessary in my lifetime. Having Asperger’s, I feel everything exponentially stronger and for longer than most. Therefore, learning to process the hurt I feel, the frustration at the gross injustices my wife has suffered, the monumental (even starstruck) love I have for her, and all the while trying to figure out how to express the depth of my love for her without being overwhelming, has been an adventure all on its own.

As weird as this may sound, the blessings that have resulted in all these difficulties have been just as intense, if not more so.

My wife and I have received some pretty amazing promises from God in priesthood blessings, a few of which I have permission to share here. First, she was promised that she would be completely healed of absolutely every physical, mental, or emotional problem—and in this life. We have both received some very personal promises about what the future holds for us as a couple if we remain faithful to our covenants. I have personally felt the physical presence of Jesus Christ in our home and I know with absolute confidence that He has personally attended to my wife and me on multiple occasions. Believe it or not, these are some of the more minor blessings God has, in His mercy, given us. I have felt His forgiveness, His enabling power, His peace, and His love in ways no mortal words can describe.

I know—I really know—that He lives and that He will, with absolutely perfect timing, do exactly what He said in Isaiah 54:11-12: 

“I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”

Another scripture that I believe illustrates this principle is in 2 Nephi 2:2:

“…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

I know this is true now more than I ever did. The reason I know it is because of the commitment the Lord has helped me gain to make my covenants with Him and my wife the first priority over anything else, including (and especially) my trials. If the power of Christ’s covenant to atone for us was enough for Him to descend willingly into such depths, why should a covenant with God on my end not be enough for me to descend into whatever depths He sees fit for me to go to and still respond with faithful, even joyful obedience?

There is a reason the Lord says He is bound when we do what He says. The power of a covenant is so strong for Him that He cannot break it on His end, not because He is unable to make such a choice (He obviously has the ability to choose), but because there is not even the smallest imaginable trace of such an inclination in His nature. I have a long ways to go to say that I’m keeping all of my covenants perfectly, but one thing I know I will never stop doing is to at least keep trying to do so until I am perfect at it.

In his March 2006 BYU Talk, “The Very Root of Christian Doctrine,” Thomas B. Griffin said the following: 

“In the temple recommend interview, we are asked, “Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?” In my experience as a bishop and a stake president, I can happily report that I have never had anyone answer that question other than yes; yet I have long had a concern that we don’t fully appreciate that question. I think it significant that of the many roles of Christ, we are asked about only two: His role as Savior and His role as Redeemer. There must be something about these roles that is particularly important to the temple—a place where He binds us to Himself through covenants.”

I find it interesting that Brother Griffin mentions this, because it emphasizes the fact the Christ’s primary roles as our Savior and Redeemer are only accomplished—or in other words, we are only saved from sin and death, redeemed from the mortal condition and bound to Him and each other—upon receipt and observance of covenants.

I once answered one of those “Did You Know?” Facebook profile questions that said, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” The question got me thinking, what is really my biggest reason for getting up each day? Amid all the horrific things I’ve seen my wife go through—all the moments where I felt utterly helpless in her hours of greatest need, all the unmet needs we’ve both suffered over the years, the unrequited love we’ve felt for others and inexpressible love we’ve felt for each other—I thought briefly of all the blessings that resulted from those moments and the only fool proof answer I could think of was “my covenants.”

That is power of the covenant for me.