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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Discerning the Voices That Influence Us, Part 2



Sometimes, the signals can get so confusing that we aren't able to effectively discern who's signals we're receiving.  We desperately want to do the right thing, and don't want to do the wrong thing.  Is there a way we can filter out all these conflicting signals and discern God's truth for us, personally?

Yes.  As President James E. Faust stated,

"We need to learn how to ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings—to filter out the static generated by Satan. As we become attuned to the Spirit, we 'shall hear a word behind [us], saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.'" (First Presidency Message, Liahona, June, 2006; http://www.lds.org/liahona/2006/06/voice-of-the-spirit?lang=eng).

Here are some filters to consider.  Keep in mind that there are likely other filters out there.  These are just some of the ones that come to my mind first:

Filter 1: The Source Filter

A few times, people have come up to me and began a conversation with these words: “God told me to tell you…” They then proceeded to tell me something I should or should not be doing.

Now sometimes, God has spoken truths to me through other persons. But usually they did not even try to trump their message with the “God card.” In fact, the people who delivered the word from God to me many times didn’t even mention God at all. They simply gave me a suggestion or offered an insight—and the Holy Spirit prompted me to listen.

When someone delivers you a message -- or even if you have a thought in your head you're grappling with -- ask, “Does this message align with what I know about who God is? Is it consistent with his nature and character?”

"… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Before you act on a prompting from within yourself or from the lips of another, slow down. Check it out. Does this message sound like it is from God as you know him?

Filter 2: The Scripture Filter

Is the prompting scriptural? 

God will never lead you to do something that is inconsistent with the principles found in His word. Can you imagine someone saying “God told me to cheat on my wife?” God has clearly stated his plan for sexuality in His word—one man, one woman, within the marriage relationship. Any voice that tells us something different is not from God.

One of the surest ways to hear God is to read and apply his Word. When you increase your scriptural engagement, you increase the chances you’ll hear from God, not yourself or Satan.

"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception." (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 54; emphasis mine).

Check every prompting you receive against the thematic teachings of the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.  Messages that contradict scripture are not from God.

Filter 3: The General Wisdom Filter

"O be wise; what can I say more?" (Jacob 6:12)

Is the prompting wise? 

Jesus told his followers to be wise.  God’s whispers rarely go contrary to wisdom and common sense.  The entire book of Proverbs is devoted to dissecting wisdom and all her attributes.  For example:

  • The wise one loves knowledge, while the fool hates it.
  • The wise one practices gentle speech, while the fool uses harsh, incendiary words.
  • The wise one lives blamelessly, while the fool is utterly corrupt.
  • The wise one follows a straight path, while the fool rejoices in the perverseness of evil.
  • The wise one inherits honor, while the fool is held up to shame. 
  • The wise one does not judge another, while the fool judges (even in the name of righteousness).

The scriptures are relentless in exhorting us to be wise in all our dealings, and to be wise in all our ways.  Why?  Because wisdom is the beginning of understanding. And understanding is being open to a process, a divine flow.

Filter 4: The Time Filter

How often do you give the Holy Ghost a chance to weigh in on a challenging problem?

"God reveals Himself 'in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will' (D&C 88:63–68). Revelation will probably come to you 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little' (2 Nephi 28:30; see also Isaiah 28:10; D&C 98:12). Do not try to force spiritual things. Revelation does not come that way. Be patient and trust in the Lord’s timing." (“Revelation,” True to the Faith, (2004), p. 140-144)

When we give the Holy Ghost an opportunity to guide us, we are not only exhibiting faith (in God) and doing what we've been counseled to do (in the scriptures); we are also acting appropriately (with wisdom).  As we are taught:

"The truth needs a little time to bear its fruits, and after all, by their fruits shall ye know them. In chapter 32, Alma talks about what happens to the seed after we have nourished it and watered it, when it begins to take root and sprout, then the heat of the sun comes and scorches it. What kind of seed is it then? If it is good, and if we have taken care of it, it will withstand adversity, and even grow stronger because of the adversity" (Bruce C. Hafen, “If with All Your Hearts Ye Truly Seek Me,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, p. 71).

As Mother Teresa said, "Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”

Filter 5: The Godly Counsel Filter

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." (D&C 9:7-9)

D&C 9:7-9 is a very brilliant, concise discourse on spiritual problem solving. In it, we learn that before approaching God, do some research.  Study the issue out in your mind.

Hopefully, that study will involve the scriptures.  But it may also involve seeking the advice of trusted, faithful friends. 

I'm not sure about you, but as for me, there have been many instances in my life where I sought the counsel of trusted friends, who gave me sage, sound advice. This is one reason why friends are truly gifts from God.

"Along with study and prayer, we must seek wise counsel.  When seeking wise counsel, turn to those who have exhibited obedience to the commandments and willingness to follow the promptings of the Spirit in their lives" (Robert D. Hales, “Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life,” Ensign, Nov 1988, p. 9; emphasis mine).

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall. But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14; emphasis mine)

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” (Proverbs 1:5; emphasis mine)

Whenever you sense that God is speaking to you, find two or three veteran Christ-followers -- preferably people who know you well and who are further down the spiritual path than you are -- and take some time to describe the situation to them in detail.  Humbly ask them, “Do you think God really did speak to me?  Is this the voice of God I’m hearing, or in your estimation did I get my wires crossed?” Then, listen openly and intently to the answers you receive, because they might just save your hide.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Discerning the Voices That Influence Us, Part 1


If you're like me, it can be a challenge to know if the voices you hear are from God, from Satan or just your imagination gone wild.

There are many among us who have gone weeks, months, even years without recognizing God's voice.  If this is the case with you, don't worry -- you're in good company. 

The boy Samuel had trouble recognizing God's voice, even when he could hear it. 

In the book Come Be My Light, we learn that throughout the course of her unparalleled ministry, Mother Teresa suffered spiritual dry spells, times when she didn’t detect the love or companionship of God. Month after month, and in some stretches year after year, Mother Teresa became increasingly despondent because of God’s silence. Although she desperately sought even a mere whisper from him, her wait was in vain. Despite his silence, Mother Teresa remained devoted. “Even though I don’t feel his presence,” she wrote, “I will seek to love him as he has never been loved."

(I love that last part: “I will seek to love him as he has never been loved")

Even if your "spiritual radio" may not be tuned in, or even turned on, God's signal is aimed at you, and continues unabated.  He who shed a drop of blood with your name on it beckons, invites and yearns for constant, consistent, intimate, transformative communication with you. 

Our God is a communicating God. Always has been, and always will be.

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord, and then do it” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Great Commandment—Love the Lord,” Ensign, May 1988, 4).

In endeavoring to fulfill this task, we are ultimately influenced by three voices. 

And remarkably enough, the first voice that influences us may very well be God's. 

The First Voice that influences you: God's

In learning the will of God, it is the Lord himself who takes the first step towards us.  That's right -- contrary to popular belief, it is the Lord -- not we -- who knocks and speaks to our hearts and minds first.  It's up to us to open the door, and let him in:

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3: 20 JST)

The characteristics of the Lord's knock are pretty specific:

“They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness, and build up the kingdom of God.” (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, April 1944, pp. 138-141; http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=122&era=yes)

Elsewhere, we read:

"Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." (Moroni 7:12-13)

These godly enticings will be delivered:

  • In a soft voice: “The voice of the Spirit is a still, small voice—a voice that is felt rather than heard” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000, 8).
  • With peace: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22–23)

Once we're aware of these characteristics, we can be on better guard for them.  Then, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “If you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten.” (Joseph Smith; Charles Lowell Walker, Diary of Charles L. Walker, [1855-1902], pg. 902)

Or, as President Harold B. Lee counseled,

"All of us should try to...give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us, and if we’ll give heed to them and cultivate an ear to hear these promptings we too—each of us—can grow in the spirit of revelation" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 2000], 51).

The Lord's knock reverberates in two directions: our hearts and our minds: "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (D&C 8:2).

  • Your heart: Your heart is aligned with God when you "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7)  Indeed, "But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." (Deut. 4:30).  This is what happened with the two men who (unknowingly) walked with the resurrected Lord; they stated after they recognized him, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?” (Luke 24:32).

However, sometimes our heart is oriented in a direction opposite that of God. 

"Feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness might cause us to turn our hearts away from God to seek acceptance and approval from other sources. Sometimes our 'hearts are set [too] much upon the things of this world' and 'aspire to the honors of men' (D&C 121: 35). Disobedience can cause our hearts to harden and stiffen and sometimes even turn to stone. Hearts in these conditions have difficulty choosing in accordance with God’s will" (LaNae Valentine, "Discerning the Will of the Lord for Me", BYU Devotional, June 29, 2004, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1336)

  • Our minds: “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 151.)

Yet as Paul said, "There are . . . so many kinds of voices in the world" (1 Corinthians 14:10) that compete for our attention.  In a society filled with TV, shopping, sports, news, computer games, movies, music and the Internet, there are a thousand different stimuli which can easily distract and deviate our minds from God.

"If we are not in a quiet, still place when we approach Him, we might not hear or feel His answers. That quiet, still place must extend to our state of mind. The Spirit has difficulty impressing a busy, racing, anxious mind. More often than not, whisperings of the Spirit will go unheard if we are too busy to listen." (Valentine)

How can we ever be focused on His kingdom when we are so wrapped up in our own?

The Lord's knock may very well not be heard if our spirits are grossly out of alignment with his.  If we are living our lives in such a way that we have denied the sweet communion with the Spirit, then we need to repent. The Savior said, “Sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands … before me, that I may make you clean" (D&C 88:74). President Spencer W. Kimball also taught:

“The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul. … God will wipe away … the tears of anguish, and remorse, … and fear, and guilt” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 363, 368). 

Repentance literally brings about spiritual cleanliness, the effects of which are peace -- the same peace we need to turn our focus away from the telestial kingdom and our telestial selves, and towards our celestial Father.

The Second Voice: Ourselves

If your heart is out of alignment with God or your mind is out of alignment with God or your spirit is out of alignment with God, then you may be in a state where you are unable to discern the still, small voice -- a state which Nephi describes as "past feeling":

"Ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words." (1 Nephi 17:45)

When we are unable to effectively feel God's words, we often substitute his words with our own, the characteristics of which are exemplified by doubt and indecision.

"How often have you had an impression and rationalized it away as your own thought? For instance, when faced with a particular challenge or problem, an impression might come as to what to do about it. Instead of acting on that prompting, many of us second- and third-guess the prompting and begin to doubt that it actually came from the Spirit." (Valentine)

D&C Section 6 gives us a classic case study of this particular situation.  Here, we read how the Lord had to remind Oliver Cowdery that he had already received many answers concerning the veracity of the Church and the course he was to take, but was unaware of it:

"Behold, thou knowest that thou has inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth. . . .
Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not." (D&C 6: 15, 23, 36; emphasis mine)

Here's the big picture: When we do not pay attention to the Lord when He whispers to us on seemingly insignificant things, we are ill-aligned to discern his promptings when something big comes along.

This leads us to the third voice.

The Third Voice: Satan's

As we well know, Satan is the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33).  One of his best tools to solidify our doubts and confusion regarding the Holy Ghost's influence is to inject counterfeit revelation:

"Be ever on guard lest you be deceived by inspiration from an unworthy source. You can be given false spiritual messages. There are counterfeit spirits just as there are counterfeit angels... The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that it is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary." (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Jan. 1983, pp 55-56).

“Some have received revelations and heard voices that are put there deliberately by wicked sources to lead astray. You can learn to recognize those and tune them out, if you will." (“Revelation in a Changing World”, October 1989 General Conference).

So, how do we recognize Satan's counterfeit influences?

The Lord assures us that if a decision or course of action is right,

“I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9: 8–9).

The dictionary uses many words to describe a stupor: dazed, sluggish, numbness, absence of the ability to move or feel, apathy, languidness, dullness, or not feeling inspired to go forward. The depressive mood inherent in all of these words is noteworthy; there is nothing inspiring, exciting or comforting about any of them.

Contrast the stupor descriptors with words describing the Spirit: enlightens, enlivens, quickens, enlarges, expands, purifies, inspires, fills the soul with light, peace, love, clarity, and joy (see Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 9th ed. [1965], 101). Other descriptors of how the Spirit confirms our course are “much assurance,” “peace to your mind,” “confidence wax strong,” and “feel that it is right.”

In my next post, we'll examine different types of filters we can employ to better discern the spiritual signals which influence us.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Emmaus Gift (aka "Passing Unseen")


One unusual category of miracles is identified as "passing unseen", or as I call it, "The Emmaus Gift".

There are a few instances of Jesus Christ passing unseen or unrecognized. Such events occurred both before and after the resurrection. The first is described in Luke:

"And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
But he passing through the midst of them went his way" (Luke 4:28-30).

Elsewhere in Luke, we read:

"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:13-32)

In modern times, the Emmaus Gift (passing unseen) also provided protection, just as when the Lord was protected by the miracle.  The Prophet Joseph Smith was once benefited by it:

"The branch of the Church at Colesville was also suffering persecution; and the Prophet had to forget for the time all his personal afflictions. In the latter part of August, 1880, he called to his company John Whitmer, David Whitmer and Hyrum Smith, and went to comfort and instruct Joseph Knight and those who were associated with him. Such fierce threats had been uttered by the mobocrats who sympathized with the Presbyterian ministers, that Joseph and his brethren felt that they were risking their lives in thus journeying to Colesville. They joined together in mighty prayer, beseeching God that He would blind the eyes of their enemies, and permit them to go and come without recognition by the wicked. The Prophet informed his companions that their prayer would be answered, and the angel of the Lord would protect them and cover with a veil the vision of the murderous mob. They made no effort to disguise themselves, but traveled through Colesville to the house of Joseph Knight in broad day, meeting a score of their persecutors. A reward had been offered to anyone who would give information of Joseph's return; and among those whom they met were many who would gladly have earned the money, even at the expense of the Prophet's life. But no one said a harsh word to Joseph and his companions, and they were treated merely as ordinary strangers passing through the village. A meeting of the branch was held that night, and the Spirit of God was poured out upon the believers in rich abundance. They were all made firm by the blessing given, and filled with a determination to yield nothing of their faith, though the anger of the wicked should be visited upon them through robbery or even death." (George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 94)

So was President Wilford Woodruff:

"During the antipolygamy crusade in the 1880s in Utah, President Wilford Woodruff experienced the same type of miracle. While meeting with other Church leaders in the Historian's Office in Salt Lake City, Wilford Woodruff noticed that the building had been surrounded by federal marshals. Realizing that they had warrants for his arrest, he prayed that the Lord would help him escape. He walked out of the Historian's Office, crossed the street, and "passed unseen." As he noted in his journal, "the eyes of all the marshals was closed by the power of God." (Donald Q. Cannon, "The Grasshopper War of 1855 and the Provo Sugar Miracle," Ensign, Feb. 1986, pp. 60-61.) This miracle was recorded in the journals of numerous eyewitnesses." (Donald Q. Cannon, Acting Dean of Religious Education Brigham Young University, "Miracles: Meridian and Modern", The 1990 Sperry Symposium on the New Testament)

Interestingly enough, just recently, scientists have discovered what may likely turn on or off our ability to recognize faces (watch the video, where a test subject gets 4 mAmps -- and later 3 mAmps -- applied to a very specific region of his brain, called the fusiform gyrus):

http://www.businessinsider.com/facial-blindness-switch-in-brain-2012-10

Some fascinating comments from the test subject:

"Only your face changed; everything else stayed the same."
"All of a sudden you were you, and then you weren't you."
"You could have been someone else standing in front of me."

Interestingly, the phenomenon was most pronounced when looking at human faces, and not inanimate objects like a balloon or TV -- hence the test subject's comment, "So far, the most significant change is around your face."

Hmmm...interesting.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The "Saint" who was never an (official) Latter-Day Saint

I've been studying the life of Mother Teresa lately, and am blown away by how Christlike she was.

In the book Come Be My Light, we learn that throughout the course of her ministry, Mother Teresa suffered spiritual dry spells, times when she didn't detect God's love or companionship. Month after month, and in some stretches year after year, Mother Teresa became increasingly despondent because of God's silence. Although she desperately sought even a mere whisper from him, her wait was in vain. Despite his silence, Mother Teresa remained devoted. "Even though I don't feel his presence," she wrote, "I will seek to love him as he has never been loved."

(I love that last part: "I will seek to love him as he has never been loved.")

Below are some more quotes from this truly remarkable woman, who (although not yet canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic church), I personally have no problem whatsoever calling a "Saint".

To you who are reading this, I have a question: Which quote (below) hit you just the right way, and why?



"I have found the paradox: that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."

"We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."

"There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in - that we do it to God, to Christ, and that's why we try to do it as beautifully as possible."

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway."

"If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway."

"If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway."

"If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway."

"The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway."

"Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway."

"For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."

"I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

"I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?"

"Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing."

"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are."

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."

"Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts."

"A life not lived for others is not a life."

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Ten Characteristics of those who've had their Calling and Election Made Sure, Part 5 of 5

A True Story of One Who Had Their Calling and Election Made Sure

Last April, I introduced you to "The Blog Reader who Received their Calling and Election" -- a female member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to another who has received such an assurance.  Although I will not reveal his identity or location, suffice it to say he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lives in the Western United States.  Despite what he says about his lack of humility, my interactions with him have demonstrated that he is an extremely humble man, with a humble, gentle voice and demeanor.  He is your quintessential "regular church member" who you could be sitting next to in a church meeting, never knowing the blessings he has received.

Here is his story...

I most humbly write to you of my experience.  When you shared the characteristics of those who have their calling and election I was stunned.  I never knew of the depth of humility the called saints live their life.  It’s no wonder the Lord has made a point to let them know of their calling and election.  He needs these humble followers to do His will.

I have always been somewhat of a rebel.  If you were to ask my family, they would quickly identify me as a rebel.  Not in the worldly sense, just not always willing to do things as upright members of the church do them. 

For the past twenty some odd years since I served a mission for the church, I have tried and tried to have a better relationship with the Lord.  My mission was great!  I had lots wonderful spiritual, faith-building experiences.  I have remained faithful in the church with callings and all  the normal stuff members do.  However, spiritually I was silently suffering.

I was suffering from a terrible addiction.  I had talked about it with several bishops.  Of course, one more recent trip to the bishop’s office, I was told to start attending some meetings and read some book about following twelve steps like they do in AA.  I was confused, yet I attended several meetings determined to fix my addiction and lay to rest my horrible self.  The more I went to these meetings, I realized this is not what I wanted for myself.  I struggled with the guilt of this for years.  I was not following the council of my bishop and I just figured I would be damned for it.  And I was damned for it.  

I will be very frank.  I did not desire a program established by men to manage my addiction.  I knew I would have to confess to myself and others for the rest of my life that I was an addict.  No!  I wanted real, lifelong healing from this sore which had held me back.  I desired the unreasonable and pushed aside a church sponsored program which appeared to me as be a battle of the wills.  A path that I knew I could not endure.  Great for other people who embraced the program, but simply did not speak the language of this poor, lost soul.

Yes, I was damned and I knew it.  At times I just considered taking my life.  Yep, this had become a favorite fantasy when the flames of hell licked at my feet.  I could just end it all and go early to the place I knew I would end up anyway, telestial glory.  I was never very serious about the prospect, just liked to allow this fantasy to temporarily block the intense feeling of being such a huge loser who couldn’t seem to get control of life.  Damned, going to hell and addiction beset by ugliness.  A spiritual abyss with no way to get myself out.  And I was right, I never did dig out of that hell.  It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Out of left field, a close acquaintance spoke some things to me that gave space for a faint idea of change.  Of course I had heard about all the other ideas and programs before.  But as my friend spoke to me, I noticed a light in her that I had not seen before.  A healing had taken place in her.  She had also been through the mire.  She talked of the Lord healing her from her afflictions.  I decided to listen to her story of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  After hearing of her healing, I let her story settle into my heart (like in Alma 32), where I watered it, nurtured it and began to see the fruit of her experience.  So I decided to try it for myself.

It was really a pretty simple idea.  An idea I had heard about and read about many times over the years.  Just give it all to the Savior.  I used to cast that thought out of my mind as soon as it came in.  This time, I knew of the fruit and I could no longer cast it out as dross like I had before.  My friend shared her technique with me.  It did not occur to me then, but I would later begin to know why it took a special technique for me to repent.  I had been knocking my head against the repentance door for so long, it held no power for me.  I needed a new way.  A way to distract my mind long enough to allow the Lord to relieve me of my burdens.  I realize this sounds strange and peculiar, but it was the only way for the Lord to get my attention long enough for me to give it up.  And give it up I did! 

As I gave up my burden, the Lord began to speak to me.  He spoke to me in my language.  I don’t mean just the English language. I mean in the language, the thoughts, gifts and knowledge that I needed to hear.  He poured out blessings upon me, too wonderful to put to pen.  Where I had been stopped up before, revelation began to flow.  I never knew of the power of personal revelation until I was truly conversing with the Lord.  I could ask Him questions and he would respond by giving me what I needed to know in my personal language.

After a very short time, the Lord began to express his deep, abiding love for me.  He began to share knowledge about His interactions with me in the pre-earth life.  He told me stories.  He gave me visions.  I listened intently.  I went from having a nice experience with the Savior and Him helping me with my addiction problems to discovering my true spiritual identity.

The Lord began to reveal a work to me.  It was something that I had to do.  Something akin to building the empire state building with toothpicks.  I was floored by the immensity of the request.  I listened and followed His request.  He told me to learn His ways as defined in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.  He told me I would find answers to my questions there.  He also told me I had been given the authority to complete my assignment.  So I began this wonderful journey of piecing together how to perform the Lord’s will.  I have gained incredible gospel knowledge on this path.

After I had been on this journey for a couple months, I realized that my addictions had become less prevalent.  They were diminishing.  One Saturday, I felt strongly that I needed to go to the temple.  I could feel a tangible presence with me all day.  I went to the temple that evening and had the most profound experience of my life.  He Spirit of the Lord came down upon me and I saw visions and was blessed like I never had been before.  So intense was the Spirit, that I knew I could never deny my experience.  So vivid were the visions that I knew I could call upon them in my mind the rest of my days.  I was truly a new person in Christ.  I drove home stunned and with my head in the clouds. 

It was a complete transition for me.  In just a matter of weeks I went from the depths of spiritual hell on earth, to spiritual enlightenment and bliss.  And the key was to give all my sins, sorrow, pain, embarrassment, shame, guilt, suffering, feeling of spiritual abandonment (the list goes on and on).  I gave it all to the Lord and He gladly took it from me.  I no longer had these sins in my life and the Spirit of God rested upon me and cleaned my soul.  I was sanctified before the Lord.  I no longer have desire to go to that dark place of that terrible addiction I had suffered from.  I had a new hope in Jesus Christ.

I had a long time friend over to my house and I shared some of my experiences.  I have been recording all these experiences at the direction of the Spirit.  I shared some of the stories about how the Lord told me of my place with Him and of the assignment I had to complete.  I shared other profound experiences as well as what happened in the temple.  My friend who had been studying the subject for years asked me if I knew what had happened.  I looked at my friend in the eye and shared my gratitude that the Savior had literally removing my addictions from me.  My friend acknowledged that the Savior had indeed removed this from me and had shared a certain profound knowledge with me.  My friend pointed out, from my own records of these experiences, that the Lord had shared the knowledge of my calling and election.  

It took my friend showing me what I had written about how the Lord had made promises to me that I would be with Him forever more.  I had just thought the Lord was trying to boost my confidence.  I didn’t have enough self-assurance to recognize that I had received my calling and election.  In fact, it was not just one time that the Lord had told me.  As I went back and reviewed my records, I saw multiple instances of the Lord coming right out and telling me of my eternal place with Him.  I was so thick and consumed in everything I had been going through, it took a dear friend to point out the obvious right in front of me.  One of the promises I have received in all of this is that the Lord would visit me in person while I am yet in the flesh.  A knowledge I hold sacred.  Yes, I have a new faith in Jesus Christ.  A hope that will never again depart from my soul!

The ten characteristics you put up were so very real to me.  I can testify to that fact.  What is especially profound to me is that all this happened when I held no church calling other than home teacher.  I just figured the Lord needed me to take a break from all the callings I had served in so I could receive the True Calling of Christ.  Yes, I am just  ordinary folk with ordinary problems and I would say I don’t deserve any of the Lord’s special attention or saving blessings, except now I know what I know about myself.  I can no longer doubt the Lord’s calling and election for me in my own personal language.

I add my humble witness to yours that the characteristics you presented are so very real.  I pray that people will take heart and find their own calling and election with the Lord.  It is very real.  It is the best thing that could ever happen to the children of the Lord.  If people could begin to see how important this sacred event is to them in their salvation, if they could just cast off their current beliefs for just one moment and let these words to be planted in their hearts, I know a mighty change would follow.  Of this I bear my humble witness. 

It it true!  It is true!  It is true!  Amen and Amen and Amen!  Hosanna to god and the Lamb!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Ten Characteristics of those who've had their Calling and Election Made Sure, Part 4 of 5

The Last Five Characteristics



6.  They recognize the endowment for what it *really* is: a "calling card" from God, in how to more directly, more purely approach Him and enter his presence while in mortality.

  • They tend to visit the temple frequently.  Why? Because they enjoy the solace of an environment that is not of this world (in which they feel like strangers).
  • They seek opportunities to enter into more and greater personal covenants with the Lord.

7.  They engage in daily, sincere, sustained repentance and pleading for forgiveness and sanctification is considered essential.

  • Sometimes that repentance is automatic. Other times, it's at the end of the day, when they "Return and Report".
  • They develop the twin tendencies of (1) not being able to look at sin with the least degree of allowance, and (2) basking in the feelings and sensations which accompany sanctification.
  • This develops within them a deep, sensitive knowledge of just how eager and anxious the Lord is to forgive us of our sins. Two quotes come to mind regarding this:

"Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 257-258)

"I believe that His [Heavenly Father's] judicial concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in His justice and mercy He will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that He can give, and in the reverse, I believe that He will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for Him to impose." (President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, 3 Oct. 1953, p. 84.)

  • They counsel with the Lord often.  In doing so, they often learn how to avoid temptation and the plans of the evil one, even before the evil one has launched his attacks.  This is what I call "Anticipatory Spiritual Warfare".  To elaborate, here's this quote:

During your nightly Return and Report sessions with Heavenly Father (in prayer), "We can monitor our own progress and discern the gains we make and the patterns in which we are vulnerable to temptation. I am indebted to a wise old friend (both in years and in association) of another faith who taught me to take an active interest in learning about the patterns in my life and how temptations occurred. He struggled a long time with some of his temptations and finally decided to take a proactive interest. He tried to anticipate where in his life he might encounter that "old trickster devil" again. He became a good scout. He watched the terrain of his life and could tell where it looked like his own form of quicksand might be. He rerouted and gave up trying to see how close he could get to that quicksand without getting caught." (Marie Cornwall and Susan Howe, eds., Women of Wisdom and Knowledge: Talks Selected from the BYU Women's Conferences, p.114; also see here)

8.  They realize that in the final analysis, their efforts aren't about themselves.  It's about: (1) loving the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and (2) loving thy neighbor as thyself (Matt 22: 37-40).

  • They exude a kind of positive energy, a positive frequency, that practically wards off negativity and even evil.  This means that they are happy, tend to smile often, and have a healthy sense of humor.  They are living examples of D&C 50:24: "That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."
  • In lowliness of mind they esteem others as better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3).
  • They are meek, humble, submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things they stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things they do receive (Alma 7:23).
  • They are long-suffering, kind; envieth not; are not puffed up, do not behave unseemly, seek not their own, are not easily provoked, thinketh no evil (1 Corinthians 13:4–5).
  • Neither do they judge -- period (they leave that responsibility to the Lord - 3 Nephi 14:1).
  • If they mess up, they recognize, are remorseful, repent and try to recompense for their behavior.

9.  To help accomplish these objectives, they seek after -- they study, ponder, pray about and beg for opportunities to develop -- spiritual gifts.

  • They have a kind of child-like inquisitiveness, in that they love to learn and be taught by the Spirit.
  • The Gift of Charity is the number one gift many seek after.  It shows in their approach to God and to others. They beg, they plead, for more opportunities to serve others.  And then once they have helped someone, they beg the Lord for more opportunities -- helping to make them veritable "mortal angels."
  • The Gift of Discernment is another primary gift among many.  They gravitate to and seek after truth, are not afraid to place a new concept on a proverbial shelf, and give the Spirit a chance to weigh in on it.
  • The Gift of Prophecy -- having a sure knowledge of Jesus Christ -- is also consistently sought.  They desire is to testify of Him and invite others to come unto Him as well (ala Lehi's dream about the fruit).

10.  Yet they're not as focused on the end result (although it's something they pray for); but rather, the process that's involved in incrementally improving their relationship with Christ and (ultimately) Father.

  • They are not distracted by thoughts about their past, which is over.
  • Nor are they obsessed with the future, which hasn't happened yet.
  • Instead, they focus on the present ("Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof --  Matt. 6:34") , which can simultaneously erase the mistakes of the past and prepare us for a better future.

In Summary

Brothers and sisters, to have your calling and election made sure is to have your day of judgment advanced and be sealed up unto eternal life, so you have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world.

Both Peter and Brother Joseph pleaded with you to make your calling and election sure.  One reason why: to give you hope and knowledge in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation...to shore up your courage for the coming storms and furies that will befall you.

Although some may suppose this blessing is given only to high-ranking church leaders, such an assumption is incorrect.  We know that throughout history, it has been given to good, plain folk who never did anything earth shattering for history to remember and never ascended to hold positions of honor in the Church. 

That is the case today, as it was 180 years ago.  There are some in our midst who, like these Mormon pioneers, are good, faithful, humble latter-day saints who seek not spotlights, but the constant companionship with the Lord 24 / 7 / 365.  The common characteristics of their lives provide us with an example of the elect.
 
It's my personal testimony that this blessing really is pronounced upon individuals in these latter days.  It is also my testimony that Jesus Christ lives -- a testimony I have independent of any other person past or present.  It's my prayer that the principles we've discussed tonight will help you draw closer to him, even unto and including the piercing of the veil and obtaining your calling and election as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Ten Characteristics of those who've had their Calling and Election Made Sure, Part 3 of 5



 The First Five Characteristics

1.  They did not receive this blessing because "what" they are.

  • They are not necessarily life-long members of the church; in fact, most are converts.     
  • Both males and females are in this group.  They recognize (and I believe most would agree) that personal worthiness is not determined by gender.
  • Their receipt of this blessing is not contingent upon the faithfulness of their spouse.  In fact, in some cases, their receipt of this blessing was obtained in spite of their spouse (i.e., putting up with/enduring the telestial habits of their spouse).
  • Their receipt of this blessing is not contingent upon their church calling.  Only one of the two dozen has a title of "President", "Bishop" or "Elder" in front of their last name (and in that case, the person received their leadership calling after they received their C&E).
  • Except for that last exception, most do not have an in-depth knowledge of the General Handbooks of Instructions. 
  • They do not consider themselves as "scriptorians" or anyone with a special background of scriptural knowledge.  Although they read the scriptures daily, they -- like many -- seek to have a heightened ability to link scriptures and key concepts.
  • All consider themselves "regular church members" who you could be sitting next to in a church meeting, never knowing the blessings they have received.  They're regular people who, for example, like science fiction, the Beatles, really juicy hamburgers, shooting guns, painting, singing in the shower.  Some are bald and some have a full head of hair.  Some are thin and some are, I guess we could say, "under-tall" (haha). They, too, have struggled with raising teenagers, bad spouse habits, financial management, health problems and employment.  I'd say most have a pretty healthy sense of humor.
  • To some extent, ALL are acquainted with loneliness.  They understand the grief that comes from their beliefs being shunned or ridiculed by family members.  Some have been ostracized by friends, church members or even church leaders. 

2.  They consider themselves as VERY IMperfect.

  • Most are rather shocked that they have received this blessing, because they are SO IMperfect.  In many cases, the recipients agreed with the statement, "If people only knew the full story of my past, they would have been justified in doubting I'd ever have my calling and election made sure in mortality."
  • This may be because they have a very keen sense of their own guilt, uncleanliness and standing before God.
  • However, they continue on, having a "perfect brightness of hope" that they will someday be redeemed...and they take the actions (the following characteristics) to demonstrate that hope.

3.  They are prepared to do whatever it takes -- including and especially "The Tough Stuff" -- to obtain this blessing.

  • They understand that there are no checklists in obtaining your calling and election.  Instead, just the customized, personalized tutoring of the Holy Ghost.
  • If the spirit invites them to read the scriptures more, they do it.
  • If the spirit invites them to hop off of AVOW for a month and study Isaiah, they do it.
  • If the spirit invites them to share a smile to someone at church who they don't know, they do it.
  • If the spirit invites them to do three endowment sessions in a day, they do it.
  • If the spirit invites them to give up drinking caffeine for the rest of their lives, they do it.
  • Why?  Because they realize that it's the responsibility of the Holy Ghost to invite all to come unto Christ. And recognizing and heeding the Holy Ghost's invitations are essential if they ever hope enjoy a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord.

I quote my friend, John Pontius:

'Especially in spiritual things, we want to know the formula, the rules of the road, the laws, bylaws and fine print that governs spiritual blessings. I suppose our hope is that if we can learn all of the requirements, we can check them off one-by-one and then the blessing will manifest. Or, perhaps we are trying to make sense of why we checked off every box we understood, and the blessing is still somewhere before us.

One of the things that I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is extremely custom made for each seeker. There are undergirding principles, ordinances and requirements that are common to every journey, but when you go beyond those few things, there really are very few 'rules' one can write down and check off. The process is very simply to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him.' That purifying and perfecting process will assuredly take as many different forms as there are people seeking it.

This doesn’t mean that we are left without a clear guide as we step off of the known and seeable launching pad. It means that if we have correctly prepared to step off, that we have already taken Christ as our guide, that we have attuned our spiritual ears to His voice, and that we are willing to do anything he asks us to do. Here is the great safety of coming unto Christ, that we are not following a set of rules, but a living, loving, enabling and atoning Christ whose work and glory it is to see that we actually arrive there. Our exaltation isn’t a work He is doing, it is the work He is engaged in. He isn’t doing anything else.

Now, here is the hard part: it is that we must let go of the handrails and the training wheels of the launch pad, and trust Christ to lead us there with complete safety and in the highest definition of efficiency. This is a big 'if', but one should never leave home without it – if we have taken the Holy Spirit to be our guide, then we can replace every question with the assurance of faith. We do not need to know why in every instance, we only need to know that it is His will. This is not blind obedience, this is obedience with our eyes open wide with wonder and acceptance, delighting in the eternal vistas that are opening before us." (John Pontius, "Making Sense of it all," September 25, 2012, http://unblogmysoul.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/making-sense-of-it-all)

4.  They trust in the Lord. 

  • They are content to wait upon Him -- an essential characteristic for those proceeding down this very demanding journey.
  • They do not trust in the arm of flesh, no matter what another's church calling or position in life may be.

5.  They realize that the greater the blessing, the greater the price paid for it.

  • Invariably, some degree of pain, loss or temptation -- and loneliness -- will need to be overcome.
  • Yet, they know that sometimes the Lord calms the storm; other times, he lets the storm rage, and calms his child.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Ten Characteristics of those who've had their Calling and Election Made Sure, Part 2 of 5



Good, Plain Folk

I'd like to take you back about 180 years for a few minutes.

The Colesville Branch of the Church, having lived in the relative civility of New York and Ohio, followed the call to resettle on the frontier in Jackson County, Missouri. At first, the branch had neither tents nor implements to farm with. They had little to eat but some beef and cornmeal made by rubbing ears of corn against an old tin grater.  (Larry C. Porter, “The Colesville Branch in Kaw Township, Jackson County, Missouri, 1831 to 1833” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Missouri, ed. Arnold K. Garr and Clark V. Johnson (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1997), p. 292; also see here).

Yet when the Prophet visited them in April 1832, he found them in a lively mood. Amid what for lesser people would have been a plight of abject misery, the Colesville Branch welcomed their Prophet as had those that once shouted Hosanna at Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem; they rejoiced as the ancient Saints had when Paul returned from his long dispersion. 

Joseph, overcome with their greatness of soul and generosity of heart, gathered them together and did something that caused a considerable stir among those that witnessed it — he sealed up the branch, all present, to Eternal Life. (Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies 17, no. 1 (1976): 39; also see here)

Though it cannot be known if every member was present to be “sealed up,” in naming a few of the sixty-eight souls in the Colesville Branch, it is clear that these were just good, plain folk. No matter how you argue it, Ezekial and Electa Peck are not exactly household names, nor is Freeborn Demille, Hortensia Rogers, Orientia and Anna Badger, or the Joseph Knight Sr. family.  They never did anything earth shattering for history to remember, nor ascended to hold positions of honor in the Church.  They were just homey stalk with hearts in the right place. (Larry C. Porter, “'Ye Shall Go to the Ohio': Exodus of the New York Saints to Ohio, 1831,” Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Ohio, ed. Milton V. Backman Jr. (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1990), 7.).

I doubt much has changed in the intervening 180 years.  Are we lesser Saints than those who went before?  I don't think so. 

Over the years, I have been blessed to meet many individuals who, like the Colesville Branch members, have unexpectedly received this blessing. 

These men and women, whom I have known for many years, have consistently shown by their words and deeds that they are not only disciples, not only friends, but they are also beloved of God.

They are good, faithful, temple-going, home/visiting teaching, humble latter-day saints who seek the constant companionship with the Lord 24 / 7 / 365.  Yet simultaneously, they shun spotlights and anything that highlights them.  They are adamant about maintaining anonymity and giving all the glory to God.

They also display many common characteristics which, when combined, further solidifies the testimonies they have borne not of themselves, but of their Savior.

The following two posts (after this one) will include what I consider the Top Ten characteristics of the called and elected.

Note:

  • There may be, and probably are, more than these 10 characteristics. 
  • These characteristics are displayed by the approximately two dozen people I know who have had their C&E.
  • I will not betray their anonymity.
  • ALL consider the Savior their best friend in a way that can't adequately be expressed in words.  When they speak of Him, their tone becomes softer, gentler, more sensitive.  In some cases, their eyes may well up as they contemplate He who held their hand and hugged them even in the deepest, darkest nights.
I will leave it to you, and the Spirit, to determine which of these 10 characteristics are relevant to -- and should be embraced by -- you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Ten Characteristics of those who've had their Calling and Election Made Sure, Part 1 of 5

Controllable vs. Uncontrollable Events -- Which are more important to you?

In today's world, it's pretty easy -- practically effortless -- for us to get "sucked in" to the news of the day. 

Everywhere you turn, there are news stories about economic collapse, conspiracies, wars and rumors of wars, famine and the kind of behaviors you'd expect to find in a telestial kingdom.  I know many, many people who practically thrive on today's depressing news -- as well as topics regarding events that may or may not even occur in the future -- believing it to be some sort of psychological preparation for when times really get tough.

What do these news stories all have in common? They concern issues or events over which we have little to no direct control.  Even worse, with some, this interest becomes an obsession, and the current and potentially future events begin to control them.

Don't get me wrong; I couldn't agree more that we should prepare ourselves spiritually and temporally for the future.  You'll find no bigger advocate of that doctrine than myself. 

However, IMHO, while it's good to be aware of what's happening in the world, your country, state and city, it's also wise that we prioritize our minds and hearts to topics we can control. 

"And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful." (Mark 4:19)

How to obtain true hope and knowledge that will support your soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation

On May 21, 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated:

"...you have got to make your calling and election sure." (HC 5:403.)

A week earlier, on May 14, 1843, the Prophet also stated:

"... I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy,..." (HC 5:388 389.)

How is this relevant to what I'm discussing?

“Having this promise [of Eternal Life] sealed unto them,” spoke Joseph, “it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation.” (HC 5:388 389).

I get a couple things when I read that last paragraph:
  1. Joseph didn't say that focusing on "bad news" (and back then, they had plenty of it) would prepare you for the temporal and spiritual challenges which would lie ahead.  Something deeper, more lasting is required.
  2. When you read Brother Joseph's pronouncements of eternal life on others, you'll see a clear sequence to his statements: first, the promise is given to make the receiver strong, and then the thunders roll. This may be why, at age 37, Heber C. Kimball and many others were given the promise so early in life: it was to shore up their courage for the coming storms and furies that would befall them.

Having One's Calling and Election Made Sure

To have your calling and election made sure -- to be sealed up unto eternal life, to have the unconditional guarantee of exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world -- is one direction which should be pre-eminent in your life.

To receive this blessing is to receive the assurance of godhood; it is, in effect, to have the day of judgment advanced, so that an inheritance of all the glory and honor of the Father's kingdom is assured prior to the day when the faithful actually enter into the divine presence to sit with Christ in his throne, even as he is "set down" with his "Father in his throne." (Rev. 3:21; Doc. New Test. Comm., 3:331)

How important is it to seek after having your Calling and Election made sure?

Two of the greatest prophets since Christ's resurrection both pleaded with members to pursue this righteous desire.  In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter says we should "...give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."  The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 366).

Peter's and Joseph's statements were not limited to certain periods of time.  They are invitations to us...today...right now.

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:21)