“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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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

* * *

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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Die Boek van Mormon

bofmI was searching through my books in storage a few days ago and came across a first edition of the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans. I served a mission in South African from 1971 to 1973. I had interesting and challenging experiences. But this was one of the most riveting.

I attended the special conference in Johannesburg on May 14, 1972, when the new translation of the Book of Mormon into Afrikaans (Die Boek van Mormon) was presented. It was an electric moment. People wept. Some had waited all of their lifetimes to read the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans. Many people had learned English for the sole purpose of reading this scripture. The Spirit was strong among us as we rejoiced.

Remembering back more than forty years, I can still remember Professor Felix Mijnhardt as he spoke of his experience in translating that sacred book. We also had a special zone conference a few days prior where our mission president, Harlan Clark, recounted his involvement with and experience of the translation of the Book of Mormon. I had a good friend who was an assistant to President Clark, who later shared with me his experiences of being in meetings with Professor Mijnhardt and Elder Clark several times. I can no longer remember who said what exactly, but I remember what I felt, and how it affected my newly-minted testimony as a young missionary. I will retell it as best as I can recall.

Professor Mijnhardt was invited to come to the stand and speak about his experience in translating the Book of Mormon. He recounted how he had been given a gift of languages from God from his youth. He said that he was fluent in over sixty languages. He was presently employed at Pretoria University as a language professor. He said he had been praying that the Lord would give him some task, some divinely important task, that would justify his having this gift of language from God.

He said that in about 1970 he had visited a group of Mormon leaders, including a Bishop Brummer, Mission President Harlan Clark, and others, who sought to commission him to translate the Book of Mormon from English into Afrikaans. He said that he knew of the Book of Mormon from his religions studies, and his initial reaction was that he did not want to be involved in translating it.

However, that evening as he prayed upon his knees, as was his habit, the Spirit of the Lord convicted him. The message was something on the order of, “You asked me for a great, divinely inspired task of translation, I sent it to you in the form of translating the Book of Mormon, and you declined.” Professor Mijnhardt said he could not sleep through the night because he knew that translating the Book of Mormon would get him into trouble with his university, which was owned and operated by the Dutch Reformed Church. When morning came he agreed to begin the translation immediately.

Standing at the pulpit, he described the experience. He said something like, “I never begin translating a book at the beginning. Writing style usually changes throughout a book and becomes more consistent toward the middle. Accordingly, I opened to a random place in the middle of the Book of Mormon, and began translating.”

He said, “I was startled by the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon was not authored in English. It became immediately apparent that what I was reading was a translation into English from some other language. The sentence structure was wrong for native English. The word choices were wrong, as were many phrases.”

He asked, “How many times has an Englishman said or written, ‘And it came to pass’?” We all laughed, and knew he was right, of course.

He explained that when he realized this, he knew that he had to find either the original language or a median language, and then proceed to translate it into Afrikaans. He listed a half-dozen languages he tried, all of which did not accommodate the strange sentence structure found in the Book of Mormon. He said he finally tried Egyptian, and to his complete surprise, he found that the Book of Mormon translated flawlessly into Egyptian—not modern, but ancient Egyptian. He found that some nouns were missing from Egyptian, so he used Hebrew nouns where Egyptian did not provide the word or phrase. He chose Hebrew because both languages existed in the same place anciently.

He said he had no idea at that time why the Book of Mormon was once written in Egyptian, but he said that without any doubt, the Book of Mormon had been authored in Egyptian or a language with very similar syntax. I heard him say this over and over. Then, he said, “Imagine my utter astonishment when I turned to chapter one, verse one, and began my actual translation, and came to verse two, where Nephi explains that he was writing in the language of the Egyptians, with the learning of the Jews!”

He said, “I knew by the second verse that this was no ordinary book, that it was not the writings of Joseph Smith, but that it was of ancient origin. I could have saved myself months of work if I had just begun at the beginning. Nobody but God—working through a prophet of God, in this case Nephi—would have included a statement of the language he was writing in. Consider how many documents written in English include the phrase, ‘I am writing in English’! It is unthinkable and absolute proof of the inspired origins of this book.”

He noted that he was one of the few people in the world with any knowledge of old Egyptian writing. He was certainly the only person who was also fluent in Afrikaans and English. He indicated that when a verse would not translate directly into English, he used Egyptian as a tool to arrive at a correct translation into Afrikaans.

Professor Mijnhardt spoke of many other things regarding the translation of this book and then said, “I do not know what Joseph Smith was before he translated this book, and I do not know what he was afterward, but while he translated this book, he was a prophet of God! I know he was a prophet! I testify to you that he was a prophet while he brought forth this book! He could have been nothing else! No person in 1827 could have done what he did. The science did not exist. The knowledge of ancient Egyptian did not exist. The knowledge of these ancient times and ancient peoples did not exist. The Book of Mormon is scripture. I hope you realize this.”

“I have since been asked to translate the book you call the Doctrine and Covenants. I got part way through and set it down. It is not like the Book of Mormon. Anyone could translate it into Afrikaans. It is not scripture in the same sense that the Book of Mormon is scripture. I declare that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin, and is scripture of the same caliber as the Old Testament, or for that matter, the New Testament.”

“I have taken this book of scripture, this Book of Mormon, and presented it to my Board of Regents, and urged them to embrace it as scripture. They declined, of course. I took it to the head of our Dutch Reformed Church and demonstrated why the Book of Mormon is scripture, and urged them to at least study it, even if they did not canonize it or even share it with the people of the church. I urged them to just think what having a new and profound book of scripture could mean to the church–to my church, the Dutch Reformed Church. I pointed out that they need not become Mormons, in the same way that they did not need to become Jews to embrace the Old Testament. They considered my presentation for a very few seconds and then rejected it. They next threatened me regarding my belief in the Book of Mormon, threatened my employment, and ejected me from their presence. I am deeply disappointed, but I am not deterred. I will keep promoting this book as scripture for the remainder of my life–simply because it is scripture, and I know it.”

He paused, then added, “I am not a member of your church, and do not expect to become one. I have been asked many times why I have not joined your church, and my answer is because God has not directed me to join you. If He had, I would be standing here as a fellow Mormon. Perhaps my mission in life is better served outside of your church. I haven’t studied your doctrine or your history since Joseph Smith. The only thing I know about you is that you have authentic, ancient scripture in the Book of Mormon, and that all of the world should embrace the Book of Mormon as scripture. It simply can’t be denied. I believe every religion could embrace the Book of Mormon without becoming a Mormon. You probably disagree with that, but it is my present belief, and my message to anyone who will listen.”

I have pondered that experience for half of a century now. I do not know whether Professor Mijnhardt ever joined the Church. I know my memory of his exact words is wanting, but my memory of what I felt and what I knew and how potent it was to hear his testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is one of those things that I will never forget.

–Brother John

 

For more accounts from John Pontius’ life, please read “Journey to the Veil”, located here.

* Terri’s note: For anyone interested, the current location of the transcript for the May 14, 1972 Transvaal Stake meeting in Johannesburg is in the Church History Library, call number LR 9256 24, Folder 1.

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Weakness

The Power of SurrenderBy Rob Bolick

One of the favorite scriptures in our Church that some people misunderstand is Ether 12:27. Why is that? They misquote it–in essence, rewrite it–to suit their lack of understanding.

I’m not really trying to be critical of us as Saints. It just saddens me that some of us, with all the light and truth available to us, still seem to miss the main message of the gospel, of who we are, what our state is here, and how to return to Father.

I believe that the confusion in Ether 12:27 stems from a fundamental misconception of our very nature and being. We shouldn’t really blame our good brothers and sisters, however, because even the headnote misquotes the verse: “The Lord gives men weaknesses that they may be humble—”.

Here’s what the verse really says:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. 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.”

Often people rewrite this verse to say that the Lord gives us weaknesses that we may be humble. What this presupposes is that we are essentially OK and that all that stands between us and Godhood is to get rid of those annoying little irritants (our weaknesses). When we have ditched these faults (typically through our own sheer determination, self-discipline and pure will power), viola! we will have earned our right to return to the Father and we’re well on our way to Godhood. Wrong. Very wrong. Totally, completely, irrefutably wrong. This misses the point completely. Yet the concept pervades our LDS culture and thinking.

I love Benjamin Franklin. He was and is a wonderful man, an inspired man. A humble, prayerful, thinking man. We are all familiar with his approach of contemplating his weaknesses–writing them down and then each week trying his best to eliminate one particular imperfection from his being. My, but how the world (and Church) would be a better place if we each strove so diligently to try to improve ourselves!

Regrettably, some of us, I believe, tend to see ourselves in the Ben Franklin mode of perfecting ourselves: If we just work hard enough, long enough, faithfully enough, did more and more and more and more, then we’ll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and in a matter of time, we’ve perfected ourselves. The problem, of course, is that this will never work, eternities without end. Why? It’s fairly obvious, really. The Fall.

As King Benjamin aptly and succinctly taught, we are “less than the dust of the earth”. So much for our self-esteem. Why is that? Dirt is 100% obedient to God. We’re not.

I also don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the scriptures use the same phrase to refer to Adam as being formed from the “dust of the earth”. The very elements which comprise our beings seek to obey God. Our spirits yearn to go “home” to Father. As William Wordsworth correctly and succinctly stated, “God is our home.”

The problem, of course, is the Fall. These same dusty bodies inhabited by our spirits, in our fallen state, paradoxically become an enemy to God. (Fortunately for us He loves His enemies.) He to whom our spirits yearn is unattainable in our fallen and lost state. Enter, Jesus. He is The Way. The only way.

So what’s the difference between “weaknesses” and “weakness”? Lots. “Weakness”, in my opinion, simply denotes us in our lost and fallen state. Our problem is not the accumulation of various imperfections, i.e. weaknesses, for which we should strive diligently to eliminate from our lives in order to merit eternal life. Our problem is that in our fallen state, i.e. our weakness, we will never go home but for the intervention of our Savior and Redeemer.

So what is our task as described by Moroni, one who truly knew and understood? We come to Christ. Then He will show us our weakness. We really only know our weakness as revealed by Christ. We will never know our weakness but by revelation. Implicit in Moroni’s directive is that if we don’t come to Christ, we will never know our weakness.

What next? Per Moroni, our weakness, paradoxically, is a gift from Christ. We need it to be humble. We need to be humble to access Christ’s grace. Without Christ’s grace we’re DOA, literally.

I remember attending an Education Week class at BYU and the instructor asked for a show of hands of how many brothers would like to receive a revelation. We all raised our hands. He then stated that he could guarantee that we would all receive a revelation that very day. He certainly had our attention. He then said, “Go home and ask your wives how you can be better husbands.” Ouch.

This seems to me to be similar to the kind of revelation we can receive when we ask Father to show us our weakness. It’s not a pretty sight, but it’s absolutely worth knowing that we are in fact less than the dust of the earth. It’s much better for us to know of our state and standing before God than to wander in the dark, which is precisely where we, as fallen man, happen to be.

But we need to ask. God has many blessings that He’s anxious to bestow upon us, but we need to ask, seek, knock. I love the quote from the Bible Dictionary on Prayer:

“The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” Amen.

I mentioned “self-esteem” earlier. The entire concept of “self-esteem” is misplaced, I believe. The only self-esteem we should have, in my opinion, is being less than dirt. What we need is God-esteem. If we have the correct perspective of ourselves in our fallen state, our only frame of reference should be as Ammon said, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak”. (This from the guy that single-handedly “disarmed” the mob at the waters of Sebus.)

May we each ask, seek, knock for further light and truth. May we each learn from Christ our weakness, to be given the gift to see ourselves as He sees us, to exercise faith in Him, and to let His grace sanctify us that we may through His power, be remade in His glorious image.

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