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

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Update: “I Was In Prison”

prison_visitationDear UnBlog Family,

You met Darin Perkins from a post on April 6, 2014 entitled, “I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” You were all so kind and gracious in your response! I have since received a few more letters from him, and they have each been greatly inspiring to me. I thought you might enjoy an update from Darin, and again share in his beautiful spirit and unique perspective. After all, every one of us are prisoners, until liberated by our Savior.  We are all beggars at the feast of Christ. –Terri

Dear Terri,

Thank you so much for your letter and book. In a place there’s so much negativity, your kind and inspiring words were like a breath of fresh air. As I now read John’s inspired words, I want to shout from the rooftops the truthfulness of the message. The light shines brightly in his words, which causes me to second your sentiment, “All glory to God” for blessing us!

I’ve thought a lot about my life in the pre-mortal world. The doctrine of “election” is so powerful and inspiring. The doctrine fills me with hope for the future and courage to make the promises made there a reality. I feel in my heart that I did covenant with God to go through this prison experience. I can’t tell you how many times in the past 4-1/2 years, that the Lord placed men in my path who needed help. These stories are quite faith-building and will one day be brought to light. Anyway, as hard as it has been to be locked up, I’m so grateful that He has made me an instrument in His hands to help rescue His fallen sons–for in the process, I, too, have been rescued.

To a small degree, I can relate to the suffering you and John have been through. I’m grateful for your example and for what you’ve taught all of us. How you’ve dealt with your trials has helped me with my difficulties. My afflictions have tested me to the limit. I’ve been through a lot, but I’ve never given up, I’ve never lost hope. I’ve battled through the pain, the embarrassments, the loss, the depression, and the anguish of losing my family. As unbearable as it was, I humbled myself, became more disciplined, more prayerful, and more trusting in a just God who knows exactly what I needed. These experiences have empowered me to grow spiritually and to intimately get to know my Savior. His grace has lifted me from the ashes. Despite my circumstances, I’m really happy, I lead a full life, I’m healthy and strong and want for nothing. I’ve discovered that my needs are spiritual, and can only be met by looking within and by listening and obeying the Voice of Christ. That being said, it would be nice to be free from bondage. 🙂 Thankfully, in a few short months, that will be a reality.

I’m anxious to restart my life. My three children can’t wait to have me back in their lives again. I’ve dug myself a deep hole, but with the Lord’s help I can make it.

In answer to your question – yes, you can publish my letter and any future letters you feel would be appropriate. I don’t mind if you use my name. I’m living proof that the atonement is real and that the Savior’s mercy is available to all who desire it. I want all to know that despite a person’s past, they can be redeemed and brought into the Savior’s marvelous light. He has done this for me, and in gratitude He has my loyalty and devoted service the rest of my days.

Have a great week!

Love,

Darin Perkins

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments