Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lessons on Love

From Dallas Freeman II to Elder Paul Freeman, dated February 20, 2008

Dear Bro,
How much can I send you an 15 minute break? Less than I could if I hadn't taken time out to eat some left over spaghetti and complain about how I never have any time to write you.

I wanted to tell you about an epiphany I had last night. Well not really an epiphany, more like a strong reminder. A lot of people love me. I think I have a hard time coping with that. It could be because I'm innately lazy and don't want to deal with the responsibility of anybody loving me. It could also be that my self definition is tied up with being the ignored middle child who asks for little and is not often disappointed. I don't know why I do it, but I just have trouble acknowledging the genuine feelings of love and concern that other people have for me.

Yesterday night as I was thinking about all of them I realized that that's probably the biggest thing to remember about being an adult: other people truly love you. Accept it, embrace it. Let it make you stronger. Let it inform your decisions. Thank Heavenly Father for that love and treasure it as something truly fine.

Once again, I've sent you a lecture that I needed to write more than you needed to read. I hope it has value to you anyway. I want you to know that I know that God lives. I've heard His voice. He has told me of the Book of Mormon's truth. This is the Church. I bear witness of it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Personal Revelation

From Dallas D. Freeman II to Elder Paul Freeman, dated February 7, 2008

Dear Elder Freeman,
I figure this message should still get to you today. How are things going out there in Cucamunga? I know that's not where you are, I just thought that it was pretty funny when I filled in the adress on that CD. I'm glad you liked it. I was going to send you the Garden but 20 buck is a little steep as a practical joke. I hope you've got someone there who has a CD player. I've never listened to it. I just looked at Tab Choir and decided not to get you show tunes. Would you have preferred hearing them sing Oklahoma?

[later] Whoops. Looks like I missed P-day again. It's not my fault that they only give us a fifteen minute break and that I use ten to make and eat ramen in the microwave. Now I've read this weeks letter to you I wanted to add my thoughts.

It is the most natural thing in the world to want to reject or at least resist revelation from God when he chooses some one we know as his messenger. It was easy for the Pharisees to laud Moses, but less so for their forebears, the former Egyptian slaves, who actually had to live with the man chosen to be the prophet. So it is with every age of religious people. We are more than willing to accept the prophet as long as we aren't forced to be in the same room with them.

I speak of natural and we in the the general sense. The exceptions to these rules are the basis for what makes the Lord's kingdom on this Earth grow in the way He has ordained it to. Aaron believed that his brother was a prophet. So hid Sam and Hyrum Smith. Imagine,if you, at the age of 14, suddenly came home school one day and told me that the Lord had called you as the prophet, do you think I would believe you? I like to think that I've be granted a feel for when truth is spoken in my hearing, but honestly, do you think I would be up to the task of swallowing that bit of medicine? Could I be a Hiram or a Sam? I sincerely hope I could, but recent events have taught me that I've got a long way to go.

Of course, the greatest example of this is the Savior. Have you read Jesus the Christ yet? In it Talmage points out two events that have stuck out. The first was that the chief priest Caiaphas received revelation by virtue of his office, even though he wasn't worthy to hold it. The second was that before the illegally held tribunal at Caiaphas' palace, Christ was silent until the moment when Caiaphas invoked his authority and demanded that he respond to the question. Talmage points out that even though the office of high priest had decayed into complete depravity, it was still the one the God had established to lead His people. So the Savior respected the authority if not the man and gave the answer which sealed his fate.

I've thought about that a lot. I won't tell you everything I've concluded, just that it really puts things in perspective for me. The Lord acknowledged God's authority even when it was wielded by a man who was trying to kill Him. I certainly need to do a better job of acknowledging it wherever else I may find it, because no matter how familiar I am with the messenger and his flaws, I can't reject anything that comes from the Source of sources.

And that's my two cents this P-day. I hope you're doing well. Go out and preach at someone. No, you know what to do. Go out and love some one and let the Lord use your mouth hands and feet to show His love for them to.



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

On Revelation

Letter to Elder Paul Freeman, January 18, 2008 (February 6, 2008)

Dear Elder Sweetie,

I think I haven’t been writing about important things of late because I’m having a tough time getting what’s in my head committed to text. Perhaps it’s because only bits of structured ideas surface, while most of what churns in me are feelings and impressions. Then, I get them to make some sort of coherent thought when I’m doing mindless things like washing dishes, but by the time I get back to the computer, they’ve been towed under again. But, this is important, so I’ll try and make it make sense.

Dallas and I have been talking a great deal of late about personal revelation and the promptings of the Spirit. His great desire, especially over the past year, has been to strengthen what he receives. Especially right now, I think you could say he is like Jacob who wrestled an angel until he received a blessing. Neither was Jacob of the Old Testament he only who persisted, but Enos of the Book of Mormon was mighty in prayer.

I have pondered these things much of late. Jesus Christ is not only the cornerstone of our religion. He is the bedrock upon which it is built and the mortar which holds it together. He is that substance which is elemental to all else. Without him, we are nothing.

But revelation is the foundation built upon the bedrock upon which our church is built. It too is essential to the sanctification of us all. Only through personal revelation, through the prompting of the Spirit can we gain a true testimony of Jesus Christ and accept his great redeeming sacrifice and atonement. We all are entitled to that inestimable gift which is direct communication with our Father in Heaven. We all require it. When we earnestly strive to know him, we seek it, and the more we recognize it and are strengthened by it, the more we crave it, for with that recognition and that identification comes the blessings of following the Lord’s will, and the taste is sweet and desirable above all other gifts.

But, what is revelation? How do we know we are receiving inspiration from God and prompting of the Holy Ghost? Do we expect pillars of light or burning bushes or the earth trembling beneath our feet? Do we seek visions and dreams and voices in our heads? If we don’t receive these type of manifestations, does that mean we are somehow less worthy or less loved by our Father? Does it mean we are of less faith? How can we be certain that what we receive is divine?

As I have said, I have been pondering this a great deal, particularly since I have had some very powerful experiences of late which are difficult for others to accept. Because of this, I’ve wondered if sometimes because we so much desire and seek revelation of the biblical variety (dramatic and unequivocal), that we overlook the many ways our Heavenly Father is trying to reach us through his Still Small Voice.

And so, I’ve been seeking a way to explain what I know of revelation, what I understand of how we as individuals rank in the ‘privileges’ department (meaning, what type of manifestations we are entitled to receive), and I hit upon this rather terrestrial (or perhaps celestial) illustration.

We live in an age of incredible knowledge, illumination, and technical advancement. Among our many accomplishments as a society, we have the capacity to gaze into galaxies billions of light years away. We can behold the incomprehensible grandeur of our Father’s creation and proclaim with all our hearts, “How great thou art!”

But, what if I, as an individual, wish to investigate the cosmos? What if I want to gaze into the stars? Am I limited to traveling out beyond the city lights to where the night sky is free of pollution and glare? With my feet in such a spot, is what I behold with my naked eye the limit of my reach? Granted, a great deal has been accomplished by simply studying the stars with the naked eye. Man has progressed for the vast majority of its existence through this and this alone. But, we live in this age, an age of wonder, and were I to limit myself to what I myself could learn, I would be hobbling myself needlessly.

Do I need to start at the beginning? That is the great blessing of the age in which we live. We do not. To gaze into the stars, a person need not learn to smelt glass pure and perfect, nor to grind lenses nor construct a telescope. A person need not rediscover electricity or radio waves or develop infrared photography or extraterrestrial travel. They need not travel beyond the bounds of earth to recognize our planet from space. All these things have been accomplished before by minds both great and minds diligent, minds that allow the Light of Christ to flood them with inspiration and the surety of truth.

Because of those who have gone before, I have the cosmos at my fingertips. I can skim the surface of what has been learned, ever in awe and wonder, or I can learn and discover and explore, I can stretch and reach to add my own discoveries to that great wealth of knowledge available to me if I so choose. I can add my own to the innumerable lifetimes which have been devoted to expanding that knowledge.

To know of those galaxies billions of light years away, to comprehend the concept of a light year, to understand the principles involved in obtaining this knowledge, I need no apple to fall upon my head. I require no eureka! moment. I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. I can take what they have learned on faith — when that same Light of Christ whispers to me that these things are true — or I can glance about me to see the evidence that proves these verities. Instead of the naked eye or even a telescope in my hand, I can utilize the Hubble telescope which to Galileo or Copernicus would only seem some fantastic, impossible fancy.

But, what has all this to do with personal revelation? Only this: I don’t need a pillar of light or a burning bush or the earth trembling beneath my feet. I have the truths and testimonies of those who experienced these things. I have the scriptures in my hands, and, above all, I have the Holy Ghost which whispers to me, which fills me with light and love and surety when I read these things, and I know that they are true. I know that Joseph Smith saw God the Father, and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I know Alma fell to the earth from fear and dismay when an angel of the Lord appeared and chastised him. I know he sought his Christ from the depths of his despair and damnation, and because he did, he was exalted. Because he did, because he wrote of these things, I know that I can too cry out in my distress and my Lord and Savior will raise and comfort me. Because I had the faith to try the experiment, I know of myself, beyond doubt.

Likewise, when I hear wise counsel, when I hear testimonies bourn, whether from prophets sustained of God or young children professing eternal truths in the purity of their faith, the Spirit stirs in me and my own testimony swells. When I listen to the prophets, betimes I hear their chastisement and I know they speak to me. The Spirit tells me I must mend. My heart weeps with my weakness and soars with my hope and faith in my Savior and I am compelled from my desire to return to my Father to repent. Whether from prophets or teachers or those who love me, it is the same.

I have these experiences. The Still Small Voice speaks to me. Must I then turn around and say, “Father, tell me what to do?” Do I look beyond the revelation I have received, do I refuse to recognize it because of its source? Do I say, now I need a confirmation of that confirmation — one that is my own? Do I refuse to see that I have had confirmations of my own from the beginning simply because the voice of truth I heard was mortal?

I fear too often it is so and I weep for my own frailty because I know I am nurturing my own doubt because I am too afraid or too lazy to act. More still, I know the blessings that will come to me if I exercise that faith, act on that revelation, and thus open the windows of Heaven to receive line upon line. I think how blessed we all are when we choose to believe and to act when the promptings are still and quiet and gentle. How wondrous it is that we do not require an angel condemning us and shaking the earth beneath our feet.

Laman and Lemuel have been filling my thoughts of late. I think of Lehi’s dream, of his great desire for his sons to partake of the Fruit of the love of Christ. He called to them, he beckoned them. I cannot imagine him doing anything less than entreating them to come and join him, but they would not. Why? Perhaps they too much demanded that they discover things of themselves.

I think of later, when Lehi told his family of his dream, and Laman and Lemuel could not understand. They asked Nephi — perhaps they weren’t even asking, but discussing what their father had said amongst themselves. Nephi asked them if they had asked God, and they replied that God did not talk to them. And I have to ask myself, why not? Did God love them any less than he loved Nephi? No. I have to believe that God did talk to them, the whisperings of the Spirit were as available to them, but they refused to acknowledge them, as they refused to acknowledge the truth when Nephi offered it to them again and again. Because they did not care for the truth of those prompting and the commandments of God which they confirmed, they denied them, not only in themselves but in Nephi and their father.

Then, I think of Sam, also Nephi’s older brother, also asked to accept his guidance, his counsel, and his leadership. Sam had the faith to follow his father and Nephi. He had the courage to follow the promptings that he received. I have to believe that he had the courage to stand up and add his own testimony to that of Nephi’s, otherwise, Laman and Lemuel would not have beat him with a rod as they did Nephi when their efforts failed in retrieving the brass plates. He took the hard road, the strait path, not because he had seen visions as his father or dreams as his brother, but because the Spirit witnessed the truth to him when he heard their accounts.

An angel appeared to them, but Laman and Lemuel continued to deny the strength of the Lord. Nephi’s righteousness taught them the blessings of obedience through the direction of the Liahona, but they refused to see. They lived for eight years entirely dependent upon the Lord and his constant direction, but when he told Nephi to build a ship, they laughed him to scorn. They had grown past feeling. Despite all the things that should have strengthened their testimonies from one day to the next, they cared neither for the message nor the messenger, so they denied the Source. In their pride and determination to ‘choose of themselves’, they denied the blessings the Lord would bestow upon them. They could not see that choosing obedience is the greatest freedom of all.

So, what is revelation to me? Many, many things. In its simplest form, it is the stirring of the Spirit which confirms to me truths I hear, whether over the pulpit or read in the scriptures, or discussed in a class or a conversation. I need not return to the Father and ask him for confirmation, for I have already received it.

Revelation to me is that burning in my bosom which testifies, which catches my breath and rushes tears to my eyes professing to me of truth. It is that discomfort and restlessness of remorse and regret when I know I am being called to repentance. It is the prick and prickling of conscience when I know I am being directed from on High to alter my course, no matter how difficult that change may be. It is that knot in my stomach that professes something is wrong, and the calm assurety, as glassy as the surface of water still and deep, when I know I am doing the right thing. It is when I pursue a chosen coarse and come up against difficulty after difficulty, where obstacles are thrown up in my path and I am forced to reevaluate my actions, as much as it is when the way is open before me and everything falls into place. Then, I know I am being blessed from on High and that my choices are true.

In its most sure and powerful form, revelation comes to me when I am on my knees, when I am speaking to my Heavenly Father in the name of his Son, my Brother, and through him I know I have the right to approach that Mercy Seat. It is when I search my heart and ponder the things for which I should pray, when I attend those things that leave me feeling uncertain and wrong and I turn away from them to seek the right. It is when I search and probe and allow thoughts to flow, until my tongue is loosed and my heart swells within me and I know the things for which I am praying are those things with which the Lord would bless me. It is that overpowering assurance of his mercy, his approval, and his guidance and love.

This is revelation to me. This is how I know beyond doubt that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God. It is how I know he suffered and died for me, as much as I know of his personal and intimate love for me. It is how I know this is his church, and his work. Of all I would hope for you, this is the gift for which I most plead with my Father.

My time is short, although my heart is full. Know that I love you. Know that there is always a prayer in my heart for you, as your name always resides upon the rolls of the temple. Your Father loves you and is proud of you, and whether you build the Kingdom on a mission or afterward, you are doing His work.

Know that you have all my love,