Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stains of the Mind

I was struggling on what to write about and it was in my priesthood meeting that I learned the most fascinating thing; one day you will have to stand before God naked. 

Let that soak in a little. Oh sure you will not be nude. I didn’t write nude; I said naked. There will be nothing you have done that you can hide and either you will go into judgment with your head held high or wish that you could hide under a rock and disappear. And what will determine that? You!
We are asked to daily repent of our sins and rise above what we were yesterday. We are asked to correct our course and ride down a strait and narrow path riddled with trials that will truly test the skills of navigation that our Father gave us before we left our heavenly home. At times we will make mistakes that will tarnish our spiritual apparel and we need to keep it clean. 

Here’s the real kicker. Will we forgive ourselves or will we let our stains get us because we will not let it out of our minds after the Savior has removed them? When we look at ourselves are we looking at stains that do not exist? Are we bound to put the stains back because we cannot move on beyond the experience that we have repented of? Do we insist on letting out past experience define how pure we are? Have we not forgiven ourselves when we went through the repentance process?

Do you think that perhaps the noble and great ones have not also been though the experiences that we think that they have not? Think of the great names, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Brigham, Peter, Paul Alma…. The list goes on and on. All of these brethren have been through a mighty change, a crucible if you will that asked them to be better men (and that’s just the men; think of the sisters that have gone through it too). Either sin can define us or refine us. Father has taught us correct principles so that we can govern ourselves and part of that governance is repentance. 

I’m not going to dwell on the rules of the church but stick to the principles of the gospel. When we repent we are made whole. Period. It is not like having a tattoo removed or removing a piercing where there is a scar or blemish left behind. We are made whole. Sin will change us, that’s true but you must use that experience to your advantage. You have a painful teaching tool as Alma (both of them) does. You have been asked to do great things and make sacrifices so that you could be the person that you are today. Now that you know this, can you ask yourself am I ready to meet God? Will I hold my head high? Will I wonder what I could have done more? Will I say that I was prepared with what I had at the time that the conflict occurred? 

It was said of Captain Moroni that if all were like Captain Moroni that the very gates of hell would shudder. I am certain that sometimes you scream at heaven saying that you are not Moroni but really are you? He was just a man and our brother who learned just like you and I line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little and there a little. His experiences didn’t define him but he created a definition through his experience; he was a child of God and God had sent him in his time and place to be a noble and great one in his moment. 

Ours is the moment to be the noble and great ones of our time. Do not let sin define you; do not let your experiences define you. Sure you will not be all prophets, seers or revelators but great home teachers or visiting teachers are needed. Define yourself based on your experience. Were you better yesterday? No? Well get up and get to work; build the kingdom! God has a work for you today! Hold your head high! You are a child of God; the maker of heaven and earth! Show it! Be it!

Image is here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Catch the Vision

Back in my old mission days there was a great missionary named Elder Lance Warr. This visionary in the four to six months that I knew him (I can’t remember all the details; hey cut me a break it was 20 years ago) brought up a thought that was deep and impacting on my success as a missionary and now that I think of it should have been my life’s motto; have you caught the vision?

You see, Warr was a visionary man (to borrow from the scriptures description of Lehi). He saw things in a larger picture and could bring out the best in people; have them seek for something that they didn’t know needed to be seen. He wrote some inspirational stuff that I still have today (just wish it had it with me right now but Ill paraphrase).  He said things like, If you cannot see yourself with an investigator, you haven’t caught the vision; If you cannot see yourself knocking on a hundred doors a week, you have not caught the vision. Things like this inspired us all to change how we were teaching the gospel. I as a young missionary went from 0 or 1 convert a month to several a month. The excitement that we shared was contagious and exhilarating.

I have been thinking of what he taught these last few days and I wonder how such a simple teaching tool could apply to what I am doing today. I have wanted to change careers and be home more primarily so I can be a dad and husband more but I haven’t used Warr’s principal and was going about it wrong. Its similar to those that want to lose weight. See it in your mind and you can make it happen in real life. You might not know what to do to start but if you want it hard enough you will see (or God will show you) what needs to be done and you will be able to accomplish it.

There is a poem by one of the apostles that says if you dream about, if all you do is scheme about it, if you fight for it, work day and night for it, you’ll get it. Now I can’t remember the whole poem (again that was in my notes from Warr). The point I am attempting to make here is, there is a intense need for vision. It is not enough to put pictures of the temple on your walls or read words from a holy book; even attending church means nothing if you don’t have a vision of what you want and where you want to be. I realize that it might not apply to children but to us adult it must mean everything! You want the job, body, kingdom? You need to do the daily work. It will not be handed to you. You have witnessed though life how music, movie and tv stars work their whole lives to be where they are? That same type of vision needs to be part of us too. If we want to be part of a growing kingdom of saints, if we want to be in the Kingdom of God with those that we love, we must be part of it and make that our vision.

I am certain that I could not convey the message as much as the Savior or as Elder Warr but I am attempting to do it with all the muster I can (perhaps I could do better with his notes). Glenn Beck once said once that he was not a historian but a story teller; I am not a prophet nor have any keys to say anything that could be thought of prophetic but I do want to at least say that I am waking up. I am seeing a vision and as cloudy and opaque as it is I am reaching for it because I hear the voice of the Lord in it sometimes and it says you are almost there some days. That vision drives me, it feeds a hunger that I have for truth and direction. What I am going to do with my life, I don’t know but I am working on being a listener and not just a hearer, a seer and not just an onlooker. I believe that we all have that potential to either hide that talent that the Master has given us or make it into two. 

It can be done.

Image is located here

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our personal Phantom Menace

During our own personal tempering there are moments where the heat of temptation becomes unbearable (so we think) we can at times believe that we cannot endure the power of addiction or seduction. During these times is when we are truly being tested to show our true strength. I recall where there were moments where I was told by others (and perhaps myself too) that if the Lord asked for our lives we would give it but when the powers of hell rise against us and we are asked to live for Christ we falter.


There is an old Indian parable. In it, it talks about two wolves that are constantly wrestling inside us all. One is evil (natural man) and the other is good (our truly spiritual selves) and it was up to us to decide who was in charge; who was going to win. I am brought back to my earlier days of struggle and repentance. I was there when I sinned. I was there when I repented. I will be there when I have to choose the course that I am going to take daily to do good or evil; to serve God or manna (my hunger and desires).

For some of us we are on a clear and direct course of righteousness. We check with our compass every morning, during the day and every night. We avoid the rocks that would dash our lives to pieces and insure that we are in tip top shape for our journey. Some of us would say that this is only the example of prophets and apostles. Not so, brothers and sisters, we all have endured much and hope to endure all things so why not allow our personal example be our own Northern star. The prophet taught that ‘man are, that they might have joy’. If you are not having joy in your struggles in the name of Christ, you’re doing it wrong. We all have our personal devils that are constantly banging at our door but we must be strong against the winds and waves that beat at us and not let them beat us up.

I think sometimes of the movie Star Wars: Phantom Menace (personal feelings aside of the movie).  Here was a story where good men and women let their pride get to them that they ignored prophecy, were blinded by their own ‘righteousness’ to miss a building threat within and without their world of peace and (within the span of two more films) watch as their lives become destroyed and friends die because they were not watchful of evil. I know that for my personal experience I think of my own government here in the States but also in a microcosm I should reflect on my own life. The Prophets have said that if the watchmen failed to watch that thieves would come into the town at night and lay ruin the town and its people. Likewise if we do not keep our guard in check and are ever mindful of the slings and arrows (of sin) thrown at us daily we will succumb to the temptations of the adversary. 

We are good and for those that are ‘hoping’ to be good, you’re on the right path. Siblings, this life is hard but remember we chose it. We shouted from the rafters in heaven how excited that we were to be here in this moment. I know that for some of us spirits who were told of what was to come there was a question will it be harder than when we kicked Satan from heaven and the answer was 'yea'. We then smiled and said 'bring it on; I am ready'. Now that we are here we have come to realize how tough it is.

 For some our tempering is really tough and our spirits have screamed from the heat. Our cries have gone straight to our Father and like the teacher who is silent during the test, He only pats us on the shoulder and whispers that we can do it. When we do accomplish it, we thank our teacher for teaching us the way to go so that we could keep our course straight and our spirits strong. Sure there are things that are ahead that will be hard but we are the children of the God of heaven. We can do it and we have great parents and brother who are with us all the way. We were taught in heaven, reminded here on Earth and we can return home. We just need faith and endurance (2 Timothy 2:10; 13th Article of Faith). 

Image is provided by and Lucus Films (now owned by Disney)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Trail Blazer, Morris

Last week I gave an insight to blooming where you were planted. I dont think I was done with the topic because I didn't show a great example to me, my great-grandfather Morris Johnson. Morris grew up in Sweden; had ten brothers and sisters and some great inspirational parents. I would have to say that Morris was born to goodly parents. He and his family were all deeply religious God fearing people. Do you want to know what changed his life? The gospel of Jesus Christ's message brought by two missionaries (one of which would be Thomas S. Monson's ancestor).

The story of Morris is one that was forged in courage, strength of character and faith. When he and his brother Frank arrived in America, as new members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, they went to work quickly and attempted to get money so that they could help get their sisters and brothers (11 in total; including themselves) and their parents to America and that meant getting and working a trade. The biggest hold back was that they spoke one language Swedish but they were determined to be part of the American dream and be part of the tapestry that is America. These two devoted brothers became roof gutter cleaners and worked on their English from their fellow workers. As a 'joke' the others taught these two brothers to greet people with the phrase, "Good morning you son of a...' you know the rest. These two brothers when they learned how offensive they were, they quit their job and started working for themselves and earned new friends. They raised the money to help their siblings and parents get to America.

It's a simple story but one that I cherish because Morris was an average person who did extraordinary things. His son was no different; a poor boy who wanted to be a rebel and rebel he was. While his father and mother were in California, his son Gaylen built a motorcycle and left home. He was going to see the world. He didn't want anything to do with his father's religion... until he met a girl in Salt Lake City. Some years later, he served a mission and came home to Salt Lake City and married that girl.

The point I am attempting to make is first the gospel changes people and second rooting where you are planted you can change the world. Morris found roots in America. Gaylen found roots in Utah. It wasn't about acquiring wealth or power, it was about changing lives for the better.

My biggest regret is that I didn't know these guys better. Morris died before I was born and Gaylen died after the turn of the century. I was so busy with my life that I didn't get to know theirs. Luckily I have their record that was published and can read it. My luck is that Morris and Gaylen were avid journal writers and kept a history of what happened in their 'mundane' lives.

Perhaps you are the trail blazer. Your testimony is simple and your story too but I would beg to differ. While you may think that you get up day to day, read your scriptures daily, go to work, come home and play games on the weekend with your wife and kids; to your grand kids and great grand kids, hearing stories of how you were born in a world that had only three channels on TV that was black and white because you could not afford a color tv is astounding. Your trail might have stories that could never be read unless they were written by you; your childhood, mission (if you served one) your service in the military (if you served one) your boss, your first time meeting with your wife/husband; you could hold an audience with those stories. its just your responsibility to make sure that that story is told because when you are gone, it might not be as well told as when it was done by you.

Take some time and challenge yourself to write your journal for forty days. See if that indeed changes the way you look at yourself. See if you have been the person that you wanted to be and the example that you wanted your children, grandchildren etc... to read about. If you are not that person, you are alive! Change your course. Let your mistakes be a reminder of what you were and then set a new course adjust your compass to the new direction.

The image is of Morris Claus Johnson in his younger years.