Note: I have held this draft off since Aug 20-23, hoping to complete more of Part I…. Time to rethink what is included in the various parts, as additional insights are being layered on….
This last two weeks I have found myself focused on begging the Lord to purify and sanctify me, to complete my faith, teach me love and virtue, prepare me to receive: baptism by fire, the second comforter, spiritual gifts, etc. I’ve asked how to show my love and devotion in a more perfect manner (see: 2 Cor 6:1, Heb 13:21). Big stuff. Going for gold in the Spiritual Olympics. In each case, I have asked what I need to do to prepare myself for a particular blessing/gift/ordinance/empowerment/endowment. The response, every time, is some form of:
“Obey my law.”
“…keep his commandments which he hath given them…. (Moroni 4:3)”
“…by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord…. (Deuteronomy 8:3)”
“…if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant…. (Exodus 19:5)”
“…as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…. (Ephesians 6:6)”
“If ye love me, keep my commandments…. (John 14:15)”
“But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected…. (1 John 2:5)”
“…obey my voice, and I will be your God…. (Jeremiah 7:23)”
“…first seek to obtain my word…. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21)”
“…ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses. (2 Nephi 25:30)”
…and the list goes on (and on, and on…)…. Isn’t chiasmus fun? :- )
Please bear with me, I would first like to explain why this question is so important to me. Then in Part 2, I would like to explain why the answer is not so very simple.
Why So Serious?
Why Not: I hope and pray that I am not trying to ask this question as some pretense for avoiding obedience. If so, reference to these interactions between Jesus and students of the law should be sufficient to put me in my place.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (Luke 10:25–29)
[presuming that the following is a similar response to a different question, and not just a conflict in story telling]
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36–40)
But, what if I am truly sincere about knowing this, not because I want to be legalistic or rationalize or justify, but because I want to be obedient in all things, obedient to all that is implied by these two commandments?
Point 1/4: Looking Back at the Road
With 20/20 hindsight, it is pretty clear that Heavenly Father has been guiding us down this path for a quite a while now.
Several years ago, I felt nudged to begin having a monthly lunch conversation with a pastor from a local Presbyterian congregation. This was somewhat a wasted opportunity. I learned a fair amount about his theology as we compared core doctrines, but I was very unprepared given the confirmation bias resultant from my TBM attitude. At that point in time I had a degree of awareness of how distant the LDS culture was from my understanding of the doctrine of the LDS church. I did not yet know just how much of that understanding was fundamentally wrong. If I had known the latter, I might have had a different ear. These conversations ended when Doug wrote something I found offensive (and rightfully so, though he was probably writing out of frustration and has long since been forgiven). He has since moved out of the area.
More recently, it was planted into my heart to learn of the things of the Jews. After several attempts, this finally came together a little over a year ago when I found and began studying with and learning at one of the local Messianic Jewish synagogues. Now I recognize that I might have learned something entirely different from a more traditional synagogue and I’m quite sure that a Hasidic Jew would believe that I learned nothing of the Jews at all, but only some tortured blasphemy. Well, I tried. Initially I rejected the very idea of a Messianic group in my arrogant thinking that I already knew the Christian stuff; every alternative was blocked, for the which I am now grateful. I ended up in the right place.
I’ve learned much from Rabbi Dillon’s perspective, including:
- I really don’t know the gospel nearly as well as I should.
- Much of what I knew (know?) is wrong and strongly biased by “Christian” culture and tradition. Odd that. More about this in Part II.
- In many ways, they live the gospel of Christ as taught in the Book of Mormon & Doctrine and Covenants better than I do.
- They enjoyed (enjoy) more spiritual experiences and gifts than I did.
- They enjoy greater joy in the gospel than I did (do?).
Now, layer on this my being on the mountain two years ago and hearing the Spirit quite clearly say:
- “The church will not save you.”
- “The [LDS] church is true [pause for effect], but not all of it.”
Add a little bit of spice brought from my daughter’s family living with us for a year after feeling inspired to flee from the (LDS) culture of Silicon Valley. They had been doing significant study of their own. Much of what they were learning blended well with our own efforts.
And finally add Joy’s bakers touch: intently opening the scriptures, commentaries, and history to prove it all out. It would be ludicrous to attempt to document all this includes. Nevertheless, substantial value was added by reading the scriptures with the blinders off, having new materials available (e.g., Joseph Smith papers; unfiltered church history), and interacting with others traveling parallel paths (it is shocking how much some have endured for their love of the Savior and their desire for truth).
Bake for several years under the heat of intense prayer.
The bottom line? We’ve received Heavenly direction and prodding in ways that were obscure then, but obvious now. It is actually pretty amazing. It is, in fact, brilliant.