Repentance (from the book “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”)

Repentance is the act of turning away from sin, and is finally complete when we are no longer natural, but spiritual, in nature. When we transcend the natural man through the rebirth, the desire for sin simply goes away. Repentance is complete when we no longer even desire sin, when it becomes repulsive and repugnant. The natural man is not at all like that, but the spiritual man is in every way.

Don’t let this concept become license to throw up your hands, embrace your sins, and wait for the change to occur. It is an invitation to throw aside your sins totally, rather than one at a time. It is an invitation to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and to be reborn into a new creature who is spiritual, and who no longer desires sin. It is an invitation to come unto Christ and become clean every whit.

The way to Perfection
is not through the
disciplining and Reshaping of the Soul by the will of Man,
But
through the Discipline of Obedience
and reshaping of the Soul
by God.

In fact, this is an invitation to increased effort, to increased diligence and obedience. It is an invitation to experience life-giving success; to finally conquer your errant behavior and restore your soul. You have never had a greater invitation, because it comes from the Lord, and His grace is sufficient for all who yield unto him.

The result of true repentance is not just an absence of immoral actions, but a purity of spirit which can only be attained through guidance by the Holy Spirit, and sanctification through the atonement of Christ.

Allowing time to elapse is not repentance. Payment must be made for all sins committed any time during your life. The justice of God demands it. Because something happened thirty years ago does not mean it has been forgiven. Every sin must be dealt with as the Spirit directs in order for us to be forgiven and the atonement applied in our behalf. Unresolved sin is a blight upon the soul. It cankers and sickens the inner man. It limits our contact with the divine and damns our progression.

Payment is made whether the sinner is repentant or not. The most exacting and demanding payment for sin is to ignore it and let our souls pay the price through suffering. Rest assured the price will be paid. It may be paid in earthly suffering, sometimes it is paid in the hereafter – or both. Unwilling payment for sin does not exalt, and does not constitute repentance. Even after the price has been paid in this way, we may not actually be forgiven, because we have not repented, we have not changed our obedience and come unto Christ. We have just paid the price which justice demands. It may be that all we need to do is allow the Holy Spirit to guide us through the steps of repentance. It may well be that we overcame that weakness long ago, yet by a failure to repent, have not yet obtained the sweet relief of forgiveness.

Repentance is a change of heart, not just a change of actions. The actions change forever after the heart changes. There are two powerful virtues of the atonement that assist us in repentance.

One is that through obedience and ordinances we can be forgiven of our sins. The other, less understood, blessing is that as we yield our will to Christ, He empowers us to change. He takes away our desire for the very transgressions that we wish to repent of. All who pay the price of obedience will experience this powerful change. After the divinely wrought changes you will be truly repentant, and worthy of the remission of sins promised by the ordinance of baptism.

Brother John

Please click here if you’d like to purchase the book, “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence”.

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A Goddess in Embryo (from the book “Journey to the Veil”)

I would like to tell you about a friend of mine. I will call her Lynne. I first met Lynne about 25 years ago while teaching adult Institute classes in Alaska.

We met in the High Council room and sat around the big table. It was a lovely setting, each student had a place for books and scriptures, and I had a wide whiteboard behind me. We were studying the Book of Mormon part one. It was nearly Christmastime, and a time of partaking of the processes of spiritual growth with special people. We soared and rejoiced as we searched the scriptures together. The Holy Spirit was often strong in our classes.

About the fourth Sunday evening we met, a young woman walked into the room and sat away from the table, in a corner of the room. Her hair was unkept, her clothing was heavy and worn. I walked around the room and introduced myself. She smelled of wood smoke and burned meat. She said her name was Lynne. She smiled shyly through yellowed and missing teeth, and sat abruptly, looking away.

During the next few months Lynne said absolutely nothing. She declined to participate, she would not comment, she would not read scriptural passages, and would not look up. She often arrived late, and left early to avoid the need to interact. But, she always came, and she always followed along in her manual, making copious notes on a spiral-bound notebook. The only time I heard sounds come from her lips was if I stumbled on a scripture reference. I would say something like, “I don’t know the verse, but there is a verse in Moroni that says,” and she would whisper the exact reference I was looking for. She knew them all, and she was never mistaken.

I found out as the class progressed that Lynn had a checkered past. She had been on a mission, then had lost her membership in the church. She married a guy who abused her kids. He ended up in prison and she ended up penniless. Her two boys were in perpetual legal trouble, and one of them spent time in prison as well.

It was near the end of the semester when we were discussing how the scriptures had blessed out lives. I knew Lynne loved the scriptures, and hoped she would have a few words to say. I asked every member of the class in turn to say just one or two sentences of testimony. I saw Lynne look up at me in fear. I smiled at her and nodded assurance.

I forgot about Lynn and was listening to the sweet testimonies. Suddenly it was Lynne’s turn. She was not sitting at the table, but on a back row of chairs, her head bowed. I looked at Lynne, who was struggling to find words to say, and to my great astonishment, I saw a vision.

Instantly I found myself standing in a beautiful sunken garden. There were four beautiful pathways rising up a few marble steps out of the small formal garden I was in. Beautiful flowers and sculpted bushes filled the space with beauty and sweet perfume. The pathways led away from the center of the garden, where I was standing. The light was more yellow, or golden than normal, and the flowers were more pinks, mauves and pastels than the bright colors one normally associates with flowers. Each flower seemed to be singing in their souls, rejoicing and radiating love and faith. I found myself completely enthralled by the experience.

I saw a figure walking toward me, and looked up. A short distance away a beautiful woman was walking toward me. She looked to me like a goddess in a long, white, gossimer dress. She literally glowed with righteousness, and was so stunningly beautiful that I could scarcely look at her. I felt like a bashful little boy, out of place and at a loss for words. She radiated love and joy. She walked down the steps and toward me with such grace and confidence that I did not know how to address her, or even if I was worthy to talk to her.

She stopped and smiled broadly, as if she knew a secret. I was astonished to feel that she loved me. She waited a moment, then asked, “You don’t recognize me, do you?”

“I’m so sorry, but I really don’t,” was my reply.

She smiled so happily that I felt my soul overflowing with joy. She took both of my hands in hers and said, “I’m Lynne, from your Institute class.”

The vision closed up and I found myself looking at the mortal version of this glorious, celestial being. No time had elapsed and our mortal Lynne was still struggling. Finally, she just shook her head and leaned back into her chair. I nodded at the next class member, and the discussion progressed around the room.

Now, this was astonishing enough, and the message was clear enough, but it is not the end of the story. I went home and wrote about this in my journal, but I never spoke to any other person about it. This sudden vision of a lowly and self-abused human’s true worth has deeply affected me, and has shown up in my novels a time or two, but the event is real, and I saw what I saw.

Nearly ten years later I was serving in a bishopric, and was walking through the Stake Center late one Sunday afternoon. By sheer chance I happened upon Lynn in the hallway. She was pacing back and forth. She still looked worn and tattered. Her hair and clothing were still the same, and she still smelled of wood smoke. The only thing I could see different was that she was older, and she was very angry.

I greeted her. “How are you Lynne?”

She shook my hand one pump and yanked her hand back. “I’m here to get my name taken off of the records of the church,” she said. It was practically the first time I had ever heard her speak a complete sentence, and it was not the one I had expected.

“Why is that?” I asked.

She explained how someone had deeply offended her, and embarrassed her so badly that now she couldn’t even come to church anymore because everyone looked at her differently now. She had the signed letter in her hand ready to hand to the Stake President. Her appointment was in a few minutes.

The same vision I had seen many years ago came forcefully to mind, the memory of it was as fresh and astonishing as when I had first seen it. I asked her to give me a few minutes. She looked at her watch and nodded.

I told her of that day, sitting there hoping she would say something in class, and then suddenly seeing her in vision, so full of light and righteousness, glowing so gloriously that I deemed her to be a goddess then. I told her about how I knew that of all the people on earth, she, herself, did not understand her own worth, her own glorious soul, and how deeply she is beloved of God. Why else would God show me that vision, than for His love of her, so that at this critical moment, someone could tell her who she really was?

Lynne wept. I wept. She pulled the letter from her coat pocket, ripped it up and dropped it in a garbage can. She shook my hand warmly, forced her chin up where it belongs, and walked from the church.

I have seen Lynne many times since over the years, and her hair and clothing are still worn and tattered. But, still holds her chin up, and her face glows as she smiles and speaks, because she finally knows who she is.

It was a loving and tender mercy that filled my heart and senses with her true worth. I have often wondered at Father’s love for Lynne, at the goddess she inwardly is, and am ever grateful for the privilege it was to be there for her at that critical moment.

From what I saw of her then, I still think she is underestimating her worth a great deal – I think we all are. If we all could only see ourselves as Christ does, we would never hang our heads again.

Brother John

 

Please click here if you’d like to purchase the book, “Journey to the Veil”.

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My Sheep Hear My Voice (from the book “Journey to the Veil”)

IJesus and lamb small 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 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 metal insect to me. But, the little thing started every single time, had great traction in the snow, and almost never left you stranded. 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.

It was late one snowy afternoon with heavy fog when I was headed home from High School. The windows were frosted over. 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.

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 there were daily trains there. The crossing was marked by a big white X. There were no lights, or arms or bells. Just the white X.

I was coming down that 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 would rear end me stopped in the road. I put it back in gear and started to move over the tracks.

The Spirit again said “Stop!” a little louder. I stopped again, and again decided it was safe to proceed.

I had gone a couple feet when the Spirit plainly said “STOP, roll down the window!” So, I stopped again because the prompting was almost audible this time. I rolled down the window and through the muffling effect of softly falling snow heard the clickity-clack-clickty-clack of a train. I switched the lights on bright, which didn’t make much 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 a 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

 

Please click here if you’d like to purchase the book, “Journey to the Veil”.

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What Zion Is and Is Not

By in large, Zion is much more than what we as Latter-day Saints seem to think it is. Definitions range in our minds anywhere from the geography in and around Jackson County, Missouri, to the area of Salt Lake City, Utah, to the “True Church” in general; to the New Jerusalem as it will exist in the millennium. Each of these things can be correctly called Zion in some sense of the word.

That Zion which will receive Christ when He returns, which will be the City of the Living God during the millennium and capital city of His kingdom during that era, that Zion is a little bit of each of these, and far more than any of them.

It may take most of a lifetime to understand Zion-what it is, where it is, what it has to do with the dispensation in which we live, and how we personally fit into this amazing vision. When the truths of Zion are instilled into a soul by the Holy Spirit of God, something is added beyond the mere facts of what Zion is. What is gained is a truth so astonishing that it changes souls. The truth whereof we speak is twofold. First, it is the astonishing facts of what Zion actually is, and second, it is the sure knowledge that we-you and I-can obtain a place within it, without waiting for an actual city to be built in Missouri. We will discuss these things in depth as we continue.

When one at last understands what Zion truly is, the obligation of obtaining citizenship in that great society may seem overwhelming to the humble soul-and well it should. It is a journey intended to take a lifetime, to tug at one’s heartstrings; to test to the utmost, and to purify and refine the already clean. Yet, this journey is one that millions will walk, and it is not beyond us. Even more importantly, doing so is vital to our salvation.

Why is it vital to our salvation? Because we have been tasked with building Zion prior to the Lord’s Second Advent, and as we will discuss in detail further on, the Lord will not return until Zion is here to receive Him. Can we ignore such a divine responsibility, and still hope to be counted valiant?

Though the journey to Zion may seem astronomical without the lens of great faith to bring our desires into sharp focus, there truly is a well-marked pathway to becoming a part of Zion today. This realization is startling to everyone who comes to understand it, and very life-changing.

The way into Zion has always existed. We have been upon that exact path our entire gospel lives. We are just now rediscovering our personal place upon the path, and our obligations relative to establishing Zion. As has been mentioned, the doctrine of Zion is not new. It is, in fact, as old as Adam. We are just now coming to believe what our faith has already taught us.

It may well seem paradoxical to think of having to learn to believe what our faith has already taught us. One would think if we had faith in something, we would also believe it. But a mental inventory will reveal that much of what we know by faith, we actually don’t believe applies to us. Speaking personally, I have found that I have faith that these great miracles are true, and possible, but at times have also believed that they don’t apply to me, or that they were meant for other people, or another day and age. I have had to teach myself to believe that those things which I know are true are all available to me when I follow an inspired path to obtain them.

Examples may include revelation, visions, miracles and healings. As the miracles become greater and greater our faith remains strong, but our belief becomes weaker and weaker that they apply to us. Examples of these greater miracles may include speaking in tongues, raising the dead, walking on water, building Zion, becoming translated, speaking with angels and even with God Himself, and almost all other profound blessings of the gospel. Yet, the scriptures repeatedly promise them to us. A little further on we will discuss the convergence of faith and belief in depth. For now, the point being made is that we know many details about the latter-day Zion, and have faith that it truly will be built prior to the Lord’s return, but our belief structure may not include us personally building it.

This much is astonishingly true-one cannot discover what Zion actually is without yearning to be a part of it. To catch a glimpse of Zion in its true light, and true glory, is to suddenly see the mind of God, to understand the meaning of mortality, to understand the mystery of godliness, to view the purposes of the latter-day gospel in a far brighter light, and to finally comprehend those things which “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Much more than a place, or a city, or a society, Zion is a state of being. To be a part of a perfected Zion society in any dispensation, we have to become a Zion individual. It is roughly like saying, to live in the air, one must become a bird. To enter the rarified environment of the latter-day Zion, when it has reached its full potential, requires a specific and powerful change to recreate a body and soul into the Zion format.

As we continue to explore Zion throughout this book it will become apparent that to be a participant in Zion is to be become pure, to be endowed with the fullest priesthood power, to rise above the mortal sphere, to be endowed with power that transcends life and death, to have authority in heaven and on earth, and to quite literally dwell with God.

Having said all that, I am convinced that the previous paragraph is a textbook example of knowing things by faith without believing them. As we read such statements, each assertion “feels” true, so little thought is given to translating them from truisms into personal beliefs. Consider for a moment one of the statements just above. “To be a participant in Zion is to rise above the mortal sphere.” What an amazing statement! Our initial reaction is to believe the words, because the Holy Ghost accords to the soul that they are true. They were try of Zion societies past, and will be true again. But, there is raw power in those words that apply to us today. To rise above the mortal sphere is not to leave mortality, but as a mortal to no longer be subject to the trials of mortality, to live beyond pain, hunger, even death. Such privileges have belonged to past generations of Zion individuals, and will belong to this dispensation of those who seek and obtain Zion.

We are speaking of the powers of godliness, power that transcends life and death; power over personal injury, immunity to disease and sickness, and to literally have power over our own death.

Such a Zion lifestyle exceeds our present paradigm so powerfully as to make it inconceivable-not in the perception of Zion someday being like this for someone, but in the perception of Zion being like this in our day, for you and me. We can’t conceptually place ourselves in that Zion. In other words, we don’t believe what our faith actually tells us. Thus we have ceased to strive for the very thing which would bring us our greatest triumph in mortality, and our greatest joy.

What we may not also grasp is that Zion is not unlike the Celestial Kingdom in that one must meet rigorous qualifications to enter. Zion is in fact the “City of the Living God,” and Christ will live there and rule the earth from Zion during the Millennium. This makes Zion a function of the divine presence, and those who dwell there will of necessity be changed to endure-or better stated, to enjoy the presence of Christ.

Unlike the Celestial Kingdom though, Zion is not on a celestialized globe. Zion will begin on this earth in this day of wickedness, before the world is cleansed prior to the Second Coming. The Latter-day Zion is a phenomenon of mortality, and will be established among living mortals-you and I hopefully-on this earth prior to the Lord’s return in glory. We will discuss and document these assertions in detail later.

The blinding truth before us is that Zion is not beyond our reach. God does not task us with impossible assignments. Zion is a state that has been obtained in the past, and will be obtained again in this dispensation, possibly by hundreds of thousands, prior to the Lord’s return. The question before us is only whether we, meaning you and I, are willing to pay the price to be a part of it.

What can be more fantastic that this? There is in fact one truth that transcends even the glorious possibilities of Zion. We will discuss this fully later, but in brief, it is that it is within our capability to establish Zion in our lifetime. Everything we need, every doctrine, every priesthood ordinance, every truth and power and principle that is required of a mortal to personally qualify for and enter Zion exists today within the latter-day church. Nothing is missing. Nothing remains to be revealed. No statement or proclamation of the living prophets needs to be made. It is all present, now, in its complexity and completeness. All we must do is see what we already possess with an eye of faith, obtain inspired believe it is ours to claim, and then be willing to pay the price to do so. Of course, only the living Prophet can tell us when it is time to gather and build the city of Zion. But, we can, and even must, obtain a Zion stature and privilege before we would be invited to become a part of that great city of holiness.

When we as individuals enjoy the full effect of every ordinance and covenant available to us, we will become a Zion individual-not just in the millennium-but now, in this life, in this pre-millennial world. We are the seeds that the Sower has scattered upon the landscape of mortality. Those seeds who take root in this dispensation, and that weather the storms that refine and define us, and reach their divine birthright, will bring forth the full fruit, and we will become Zion.

We trouble ourselves a great deal about the timing of the Second Coming, and about making preparations to endure the rigors we assume must precede it. We want to be among the “wise virgins” whose lamps are full, so we store food like squirrels, and pay our tithing, which we humorously refer to as “fire insurance”. We often rehearse to ourselves that “no man knows the day or hour” when the Lord will return. Yet, we do know that He won’t return until Zion has been established. So we may say with certainty that we do know that as long as Zion does not exist, the time is not accomplished for His return. In this sense we do know when He will come. He will come when we have built and populated Zion.

– Brother John

— John Pontius, “The Triumph of Zion”

Please click here if you’d like to purchase the book, “The Triumph of Zion.”

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