“Visions of Glory” Spanish and Portuguese Editions Now Available!

Visions of Glory’s Portuguese and Spanish translations are now available for purchase!  Click here for links.

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Saving Faith in Christ – Part II

Here is Part II of a blog post re: Saving Faith in Christ.

Terri

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handcartfamilyThen comes the final requirement for obtaining saving faith: an actual knowledge that the course of our life is pleasing to God.

If we are picking and choosing which promptings or which commandments we are going to obey, then this latter and greatest knowledge cannot exist in us. Only by obeying all of the commandments and all of the promptings does one come to this knowledge. HH And, it is possible to obey them all only because we correctly understand God’s unfailing love and eternal consistency in blessing the faithful.

This is where the rubber of our souls hits the road of consecration. It takes most of a lifetime to arrive at a point where we can willingly, joyfully consecrate every act, and all of our heart, might, mind and strength to flawless obedience. But when through the grace of Christ we do, imperfect as we still are, recognizing our utter dependence upon the atonement of Christ–the heavens open and the Father informs us, “Ye shall have eternal life!”

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” (2 Nephi 31:20)

We call this event “Having your calling and election made sure.”

This is the glorious fruit of saving faith in Christ.

Brother John

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Saving Faith in Christ – Part I

Here is another blog post from John that would be good to follow up on our recent discussions.  I have divided it into two parts.

Terri

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How-to-Show-Faith-in-Christ-517x268-2011-12-09Hebrews 11:6 informs us:

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Joseph Smith added to this very valid truth:

“Three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

“First, the idea that he actually exists.

“Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

“Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will.” (Lectures on Faith 3:2-5)

It seems obvious to you and me that one must believe God actually exists to have faith, but to one struggling with believing in God, it is a nearly impossible obstacle. I have a beloved relative who is very brilliant. He has a photographic memory and a very high IQ. We have at times talked about faith, and how it is impossible for him because he has been unsure much of his life that God actually exists.

He told me a few years ago that he had been studying the replication of DNA. He observed that as the double helix unwound to separate, that it tangled, just the way two spiral telephone cords being pulled apart do. Science has observed that there is a little protein machine (for lack of a better word), an intelligent, purposeful, organic device within every cell, which goes down the helix and snips it at the entanglement. The little, intelligent machine then stays with the strand, and once it is free, reconnects the strand, then goes up and down it to check for integrity. If the strand is up to specs, the little machine disappears. If the DNA is flawed, the little machine triggers a destruction sequence of that DNA strand so that it cannot create a mutation.

As a logical scientist, he knew it was an intelligent design. It was too perfect, and too genius to have come from random evolution. He told me that that evening he had gone for a long walk, and somewhere during that walk, he looked up and asked out loud, “Is there a God out there?” He said he heard an instant reply, an audible voice that said, “I am here.”

He now says, “I know without doubt that there is a God; I just don’t know what He is like, or what He wants from me.”

This is where Joseph’s second requirement for saving faith arises so powerfully.

We must have a correct understanding of His attributes and perfections. As Hebrews 11:6 states, we must know — not merely believe, but know — that God is a rewarder of them that seek Him. How will we ever know this? We learn by accepting and accessing the grace of Christ, which leads to acts of faith, which are followed by unfailing blessings from God. As we obey we come to see that God never fails us, but that He always faithfully pours down blessings every time we obey His laws. He never changes. His laws function the same yesterday, today and forever. In addition, He never asks us to serve Him or sacrifice for Him without preparing a way for us to succeed, by empowering us with His grace and atonement to achieve every task before us. And then He incredulously rewards us a hundredfold!

Without this essential understanding of God’s attributes, one would falter at the altar of sacrifice, doubting that God would follow through, thinking our sacrifice might be in vain. We might look at a covenant we are being asked to make, or to live faithful to, and doubt that God would keep His end of the contract.

But we need not worry, because we obtain an understanding of the attributes of God through our experience. We turn fully to Christ, who enables us to choose obedience to some law or prompting; and then year after year we observe how He always blesses us, how He is faithful and anxious to prosper and uplift us. We pray year after year, and receive answers year after year, until we no longer just believe, but we are sure witnesses that God has faithfully blessed us when we sought and obeyed Him.

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UnBlog Reader Submissions on Judgment

judging“I remember clearly the exact moment I realized that God did not want me to judge His children.

I was driving through Las Vegas, NV and I saw a man sitting on the curb of the street. He had not bathed in many days, his clothes were so dirty, and he held a paper bag with what appeared to be a bottle in it. My initial reaction was not one of unconditional love, but instantly, I felt my heart swell as the thought entered my mind that that man was my brother.

I began to cry for his situation. How blessed I was to have the life I had been given! Instead of judging him, I prayed for him, right then. In that moment that I turned my heart to prayer for this man I did not know, I became a better person. This man I would never see again gave me a great gift that day. He was right where I needed Him to be — no, he was right where God needed him to be so that I could become more the person He needs me to be.

Now, when I see someone doing something I don’t agree with, I try very hard to watch my thoughts. If a negative thought begins to enter my mind, I think “cancel”, and I replace it with either a prayer for them or I change my focus. It also helps me to remember that I am not perfect and that I don’t know what is in another person’s heart. We are all children of our Heavenly Father and He loves us all! He is no respecter of persons.

No matter what a person does, I have learned that I can judge the thing they did as good or bad, but I cannot judge them. It is a lesson I get to learn all the time.”

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“There is a freedom that comes with not judging. Your spirit feels lighter. It’s about avoiding negativity, and attracting positive energy and light. I believe that as we ascend the ladder to higher levels, not judging becomes easier, because we have knowledge and experience.”

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“‘Judgment’ is always connected to ‘structures’ or ‘forms’ and comes with a host of emotions. It has ruined more relationships, individuals, families, homes, tribes, cultures, business, governments, religions, nations, countries, races, friendships with broken hearts, despair, lies, greed, separation, lust, war, anger, worry, stress and hate than any other characteristic or attribute of the human character! It is poison to the soul! It cunningly damns any individual who embraces it! The only way to get rid of it; is not to use it or engage in it; it is that simple! To be aware of it is the first step of healing, but to give it our energy and obedience is damming.”

 

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My Sheep Hear My Voice

This UnBlog from December 9, 2010 is one of John’s that illustrates a time that he heard and obeyed the Holy Spirit, which saved his life. It builds on basically the same topic we addressed in our previous Unblog posting.

– Terri

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vwbugI was about seventeen when my dad gave us kids a 1964 VW Beetle. It was the ugliest car on earth at that time, and only became “cute” to later generations–which I admit I’m still not a part of. He gave the three older kids the VW as our teenage car. We paid for gas and oil, and he maintained it. It was a sweet deal.

One of the huge drawbacks of the early VW Beetles was that they had virtually no heaters or defrosters. It was very difficult to get one warm inside, and almost impossible to defrost the windows. I’m told Germans still don’t heat their homes, so maybe it seemed fine to them! To me it was always a frozen, miserable trip. I appreciated having transportation, but it really seemed like a bug, a cold metal insect to me. Did I mention that it had very poor headlights? I mean, light a candle and hold it out the window if you really want to see where you’re going! But the little thing started every single time, had great traction in the snow, and almost never left you stranded.

It was late one snowy afternoon with heavy fog when I was heading home late from Roy High School. The VW windows were predictably frosted over, of course. It was dark, and I could just barely identify the road enough to drive on it. I used to like to follow other vehicles, because I could see better from the reflected light of their headlights than from my own; but there didn’t seem to be any other cars venturing out into the weather at that time, so I was making my way through the fog alone.

Between the school and our home was a long hill. There were train tracks at two places on the hill. The upper one was a single track. The rails were rusty, and I had never seen a train there. The lower track was a double set, and trains crossed daily on that one. The crossing was marked by a big white X. There were no lights, or arms or bells. Just that white X.

I was coming down the long hill, shivering and anxious to get home. I could see the crossing sign up ahead and decided it was safe to cross.

I distinctly heard the Spirit whisper, “Stop.”

I came to a stop and looked closely. There was no train, and I was concerned that a car behind me might rear-end the VW as I was stopped. I put the bug back into first gear and started to move over the tracks.

The Spirit again said “Stop!” a little louder. I stopped again, rubbed a glove over the inside of my frosted windshield to see better, and again decided it was safe to proceed.

I had gone a couple of feet when the Spirit plainly said, “STOP! Roll down the window!” I was startled, and stopped again because the prompting was almost audible this time. I rolled down the window, and through the muffled effect of softly falling snow heard the distinct “clickity-clack-clickity-clack” of a train. I switched my lights on bright, which made a little difference, and was utterly terrified to see train wheels. Not a train–train wheels, going past my bumper no more than a few feet away. I was literally inches from driving under the train.

Time and again, I suspect for millennia before I was born, and through my few years of mortality, this one lesson has been taught to me over and over.

“My sheep hear my voice.”

Brother John

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What have you done to thin (or part) the veil in your life?

This is from an anonymous Unblog reader…

prayer for angelsAn Unseen Angel and Unexpected Answer to Prayer

I love reading about angels and how they actively work in the lives of so many still today. I can’t seem to read enough books about near-death experiences and the accounts of the influence of angels in early church history.

Ever since I came to know how truly close and actively involved the spirit world is with our mortal world, I’ve had a desire to thin the veil that separates the two worlds so that I could better see and understand things “as they really are.” Despite this desire, I have not seen or been ministered to by angels directly or had any profound heavenly manifestation that involves hearing and seeing. In fact, more often than not, I’ve felt I could relate to Lorenzo Snow’s lament once during prayer, that the “heavens seemed like brass over my head.”

But I have felt the powerfully transcending change of the baptism of fire, moments of divine warning and protection, the miracle of having a child preserved by the aid of angels and healed through the power of God, the unmistakable influence of loved ones who have passed on in my greatest times of need, and so many quiet affirmations of peace, truth, and answers through that still small voice that assure me that indeed, “miracles have not ceased,” nor have angels (seen and unseen) “ceased to minister unto the children of men.” (Moroni 7:29).

As our Savior assured, “All things are possible to him that believeth.” And with all humble followers we plead, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24)

unbeliefFrom Unbelief to Belief

Early last year I was re-reading brother John’s wonderful post on the damaging nature of unbelief, and how to overcome it. It caused me to consider the level of faith I had in Jesus Christ as my Savior, as well as the accompanying belief in life after death, angels, and proximity of the spirit world. I realized that though I felt I had strong faith in Jesus Christ and a belief in this spiritual reality, John’s post also helped me identify an erroneous “belief” I harbored that I may never be fit for that great promise of D&C 93:1, nor the direct ministry of angels that can serve to prepare an individual for sacred blessings that turn faith and belief to sure knowledge.

I determined that day that I would try harder to cast away my unbelief, and take John’s challenge to simply believe more fully, taking heart in these words of encouragement from his post:

“The scriptures promise us that these same blessings are ours to claim, so believe in your right to claim them. Tell yourself you believe them. Tell God in prayer that you believe them. Remind yourself hourly if necessary, that you believe these promises apply to you personally. Herein lies a key: If you do this something astonishing will happen – you will find that once you believe, nothing doubting, that the heavens do not have the ability to withhold them from your sight.”

baby in diapersCatching the Drift

For the next several days I did just that. I told myself regularly that I believed, and told God in prayer that I believed. Feeling wholly inadequate and ill-prepared to seek out some of the greatest blessings promised in the scriptures–but still having a desire to work on dissipating unbelief as a starting point–I focused the exercise on simply believing that thinning the veil was even possible. I soon felt the prompting to be more specific in what I was asking. So I began praying specifically to know whether I was indeed in the company of angels daily, and if so, that I would be more sensitive to recognizing their influence or presence. I’m not sure how I expected the Lord to answer my question, but anticipated something akin to the way I receive the majority of my answers, which has been to guide me to reading material in the scriptures, good books, or online that teach or confirm a truth through the Spirit.

The answer I did receive during this exercise on belief was entirely unexpected.

After a couple of weeks of praying for an answer, one evening, I knelt in prayer by my bedside as I did every night, facing my nightstand with the bed on my left. My two-year old daughter lay asleep on my bed, where she often ends up before we move her to her own bed. I began my prayer just like I had in past nights, thanking the Lord, repenting, and then repeating the question I had on my mind concerning the company of angels, and asking the Lord to help increase my belief and sensitivity to their presence.

This particular evening, while still in prayer, in mid-sentence, and with my eyes closed, I suddenly felt my hands spontaneously move from their clasped position in front of me to be separated at my left side, now parallel to the bed, with my palms up. Before I had a chance to mutter a “What in the world?” or “Um…why did my hands just move?”, I felt a familiar head of hair fall neatly into my right hand and diapered baby bum fall into my left. I quickly opened my eyes and saw my young daughter, still sound asleep, nestled perfectly within the palms of my hands. Apparently she had fallen off the bed during my prayer, and I unknowingly caught her just in time with my eyes closed!

I admit my first reaction to the incident was to let out a laugh of shock, and the thought amusingly crossed my mind that this must be what having super powers feels like! The abruptness of the experience and incredulity of the surprising “catch” with my own hands when I didn’t know she was falling was really kind of comical. I knew very well that it wasn’t really me who caught her, as no signal from my brain told my hands to move!

Then the realization hit that I was just given the most direct answer to prayer that I had ever received — ironically while in mid-prayer — and the first uniquely physical answer I’d ever received, not one given by thought or spiritual feeling, but the actual involuntary movement of my physical hands by an unseen force. Given that the specific question I had been asking the Lord to answer concerned the presence of angels, I knew without a doubt that the force that moved my hands came from an unseen angel who was indeed in my company. In humble gratitude and awe, I thanked the Lord for the unequivocal answer to prayer, and thanked the angel beside me for helping save my daughter from the painful fall, and simultaneously escalating my belief.

lessons learnedLessons Learned

To the few friends and family I’ve shared this small miracle with, the response has understandably been an underwhelmed, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” I don’t expect anyone else to be profoundly affected by this modest and very personal manifestation from the spirit world.

However, for me, the answer to prayer has changed my life in several ways:

1. My once tenuous belief has now turned to undeniable knowledge that the spirit world exists, and that angels do watch over us.

2. I know that the Lord hears our prayers, and is willing to acknowledge and readily answer even the most trivial questions and attempts to increase our faith and belief. The Lord could have easily let my daughter fall off the bed and bump her head, as she had once in the past. He could have sent divine help to just keep her on the bed rather than fall. But instead, He enlisted an angel, perhaps a loved one I have known, to be on His errand and use the opportunity to help increase the faith of one of his mortal children. What a tender mercy.

3. The Lord has a sense of humor. :) The improbable incident put a smile on my face and I bet that angel got quite the kick out of my shocked reaction. It was rather cool to catch my daughter with my eyes closed, after all.

4. I know that this small manifestation from the other side is an important stepping stone in the uphill climb toward obtaining the faith required to rend that veil of unbelief that conceals the revelation of all things that the brother of Jared saw. Experiencing a direct physical encounter with the spirit world has given me renewed hope that claiming great blessings in accordance with our obedience and faith is indeed possible for all His mortal children.

5. Last, to the many who continue to feel that the heavens are as “brass” over your head, I want to testify that if a profound answer can come to this very ordinary Latter-day Saint mom in direct response to a sincere exercise of faith, great blessings and answers can also come to you!

As our Savior assured, “All things are “possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)

All my love,

A fellow UnBlog reader

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Toddling Steps into Spiritual Greatness

There is a truttoddling stepsh about spiritual growth that few people understand even after they experience it. This truth is that all blessings are equally and oppositely opposed. When God grants a blessing great or small, He is also triggering some mechanism in the eternal gears of heaven that allow evil to rise to that same degree.

For this reason, when you receive a testimony of the church, someone shortly thereafter hands you anti-literature and things arise in your life to prevent you from attending and serving. Sometimes family and friends militate against your decision.

For the same reason, when you get married in the temple, there are specific trials and oppositions that try to destroy our homes. If someone were to see an angel, or to speak with Jesus Christ Himself, the opposition would rise up in equal and opposite power to challenge, oppose, and thereby prove we are worthy of that blessing. This is the reason that many of the greats from Cain to Judas to Oliver Cowdery have fallen. They couldn’t understand or endure the equal and opposite clause of eternity.

There is an important reason why this opposition must arise. It is necessary for us to prove ourselves “true and faithful” on each new spiritual plane in order to turn an earthly blessing into an eternal reward. That means everything is tested. Even something as glorious as having one’s calling and election made sure will be opposed. We must not only be prepared, but we must expect the opposition.

If Christmas morning worked like this, you would open a present and after enjoying it for about 60 seconds, someone would jump on you and try to wrestle the gift away. After the fight, if you successfully defended the present, then you could keep it and open another. But, if you didn’t fight hard enough, or gave up, or didn’t value the gift enough to fight for it, then you not only lost that gift but the others under the tree as well. The larger the present, the harder the fight must be.

If you knew this was going to happen, you should either skip Christmas altogether (apostatize, in spiritual terms), or come to Christmas morning with a baseball bat and padded clothing planning to fight and prepared to conquer.

Some mere mortals have a tendency to be ignorant of the laws of opposition, and then judge other people who are pressing through the flames of refinement as unrighteous. They wonder what the true seekers are doing wrong to be thus oppressed, rather than seeing what they are doing right. We doubt the validity of their blessings because we doubt the validity of our own. Yet, there is no instance in the scriptures or written history of someone actually achieving spiritual greatness who was not refined by fire following their toddling steps into spiritual greatness.

Brother John

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O Wretched Man

O Wretched ManI believe Nephi spoke for all humanity when he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of my iniquities. I am encompassed about because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins.” (2 Nephi 4: 16-18)

Which of us upon a path of yearning and seeking for righteousness has not said equivalent words, and mourned that we are so weak, so prone to return to the same old sins, to hear the same old temptations, and to be attracted to the same old sins and addictions? Who among us has not promised in prayer to never again—and then faltered again?

The truth is—we all have. I can say this with great certainty, not because I have also walked this marshy path, but because it is the human condition.

Let me back up a few billion years and try to make sense of what we are now experiencing.

We do not know how long we lived as spirit children in the pre-mortal world, but it was most likely billions of years. The earth itself is millions of years old, and no matter how recently Adam was placed upon it, the creation of the earth was a very ancient event, and we as spirit children existed prior to the creation of the earth. With Joseph’s permission Sidney Rigdon wrote and taught that Christ began his ministry as our Savior 1.9 billion years prior to the creation of the Earth.

It is my belief that during all of those billions of years we were learning and growing in ways far too magnificent for us to comprehend now. I believe we participated in the creation of the earth and everything appertaining to this earth, the sun and system in which it revolves. We learned how to create worlds, plant life, animals and to sustain them upon the earth. We learned how to ignite a sun and keep it burning for millions of years. We did this because it was our heritage.

We talk about someday becoming like God over a long process of experience, obedience, and partaking in the infinite grace of Christ’s atonement. But, that process began long before our birth as mortals. We saw God, our Father do these things, and we inherited from Him the desire and capacity to do the same. We learned from Him, and participated in those labors. We were those who said, “We will go down.”

The earth and everything about it was created to be flawed. Opposition was ordained by God. Every good thing would be balanced with an evil thing, every element of life balanced with looming death. Every act of love was to be balanced by hate, good by evil, and right by wrong. All of these things we had to experience were opposed so that we could have agency and thereby demonstrate our willingness to submit and obey. (2 Nephi 2)

Father Himself described the purpose of the earth thus: “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these {meaning, you and I} may dwell; and we will prove them herewith {via mortality}, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God {Jesus Christ} shall command them.” (Abraham 3:24-25)

Because our bodies are made from the earth, they are subject to the laws of mortal opposition. In fact, I believe that our mortal bodies are the veil we experience in mortality. The spirit within us, that eternal part of us which learned vast things, commanded great knowledge and possessed sweeping truths and righteous accomplishment, was completely hidden by the flesh at birth. In other words, everything which Nephi was lamenting as “wretched” was that part of him which was mortal.

His words were, “Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of my iniquities. I am encompassed about {because the flesh is all-encompassing} because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.”

With all of his prophetic strengths and experiences and righteous desires, he could not stop the mortal part of him from acting its ordained role. He could not stop his mind from evil thoughts, nor his flesh from desiring sin.

As long as we are mortal, these pollutions inherent to mortality and to our flesh will not cease. But, by yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit we may “put off” the natural man, (Mosiah 3:19). The flesh still connects us to opposition, but through obedience to Christ and by partaking of His grace, we are innocent even though the stench of opposition still surrounds us.

Consider someone who quite accidentally falls into a septic tank. They struggle to the surface gagging and hating everything about it. Floating in sewage, desiring a much better circumstance, yearning for deliverance and crying for help does not make them evil. Floating in sewage does not make one into sewage; it makes them in a sewage condition.

Yet most mortals look at their bodies and say, “This is me.” They look at their temptations and thoughts and think, “This is how I am.” They feel the constant tide of temptation and think, This is who I have become,” and then assume guilt where there is none. They berate themselves and shrink in shame for the mortal condition. And yet it is not true.

You are in fact a great and powerful being with billions of years of righteous growth, wisdom and knowledge. You are an eternal son or daughter of God who assisted in the creation of many worlds, and who as a condition of becoming like Father, accepted the necessity of this very temporary mortal condition. Your body is a covering for your spirit. It is so perfectly concealing of your premortal greatness that even you cannot detect who you are unless you have at some point had it revealed to you by direct and powerful revelation.

So, here we are on earth, unavoidably mortal, swilling in evil, and we look to Christ to deliver us. He speaks to us via the still small voice, and when we set a course for our lives of obedience to Him and repentance through His name, then He covers our mortal condition with His grace. He counts us worthy even while the mortal condition continues. We become “perfect in Christ” because in Him, we can remain in the mortal condition, yet be counted clean.

But here’s the thing we are prone to overlook. Even when He applies the atoning blood and washes us clean, He does not deliver us from the mortal condition. He forgives us of our sins, but He usually does not silence the temptations or abate the addictions. He counts us worthy and blesses us with great and glorious views, miracles and majestic love, but He usually does not lift us from the sewer of temptations.  The mortal condition continues as long as we draw mortal breath. There is a renewing process of rebirth and rejuvenation whereby the consequence as well as the accountability for past sins is wiped away. But, it is not arrived at quickly, and the pull of mortality never lessens.

Too many people stop themselves in their journey because they judge themselves unworthy to proceed. Their natural man screams profane things too loudly, they think, to be clean. The adversary helps them think “If I were really forgiven, or born again, or if I were really a disciple, or if I were really a Latter-day Saint, or a righteous father, mother, daughter or son, I would not still be tempted by these old sins. O wretched man that I am!

Let us stop judging ourselves by our mortal condition, and rather by our relationship with Christ. Let us believe that His grace is sufficient when we humble ourselves in obedience to His voice—even though the war rages on.

Christ said, “I give unto men weakness.” In other words, it comes from Him, from the mortal condition, and it is not an intrinsic part of our eternal nature. Weakness, passion, temptation, lust, selfishness, greed, moral weakness, demands of the flesh, even hunger, fatigue, and desire are all weaknesses mortality overlays upon our being.

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

The strength He gives us occurs while the weakness rages on. When we do not partake, when through obedience to His voice we turn our faces and hands away from evil, the fact that the war rages on around us does not soil the spotless white of who we really are.

Brother John

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