Sunday, June 26, 2016

Chapter 2: Part A - Two Keys to My Awakening and Faith

Two Keys To My Awakening

It’s been said that there are no silly questions. That might be true. On the other hand, there exist many difficult questions that require us to think new and maybe unpleasant thoughts. That’s how I started to wake up from my deep sleep. Just like it’s important to turn unto the Lord when we wake up in the morning it’s important to seek the Lord early in a spiritual awakening and relying on Him. The words from Psalms give comfort in these situations.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”[1]
Recently I saw the following question and answer on Facebook: “This blog seems to say that we’ve been wrong all along? Is this reasonable?” The answer was great: “That’s possible. We’ve thought that we go to the chapel each Sunday but we’re not, we go to the meeting house.”

This book is about this–to wake up to the fact that we might’ve been wrong, if not all of the time, during a sufficiently long period of time that we’ve lost the ability to recognize it. Some wrongs are small, like what we call the building in which we meet, while other mistakes have a direct effect on our salvation, like the fact that we confuse the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost with the confirmation, that an invitation to the party is the party itself.

What I present here is an invitation to wake up–awake from a deep sleep[2], awake and start hearing the words of the Lord’s true servants[3], awake and no longer be burdened by sin[4], awake to being up and doing[5], awake to a sense of our awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among us[6], awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom [7], awake to righteousness[8], in short, awake to God[9]. Awaking in this way is like when you wake up in a place you haven’t before been to. It takes some time for you to accept the fact that you’ve been in transition and to reorient and map out a new direction.

Many shy away from this awakening because it’s too painful. This feeling of pain is very real and is born out of the realization that the map you’ve been handed has been shown to give a false view of reality.

The pain isn’t too great (even if it initially might feel that way). It’s possible to get through it and come out victorious on the other side. For those who experience this pain, I hope that this book might help. And for those who haven’t awakened it can function as an alarm clock. No matter where you are on your journey, it’ll be necessary for you to exercise faith in perhaps new ways with unexpected results.

Faith and whatsoever thing is expedient in the Lord

Shortly before his death, Joseph gave a “The King Follet Sermon”[10]. In it, he says,
 “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did”[11]
Despite that the fourth Article of Faith states that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel, I don’t believe we’re dealing with a contradiction. These concepts go together. One thing my awakening has taught me is the fact that without faith, we can’t do anything.

One of the biggest problems caused by being one mile wide and one inch deep in ones spirituality and beliefs, is that there is a lack of faith. There’s a huge difference between belief and faith and it’s important to keep these concepts separated. While belief is about holding something, a worldview consisting of distinct facts, for true, faith is a reliance on God that results in power and miracles. Maybe too many beliefs and a lack of faith is the ingredients in making you one mile wide and one inch deep. It’s like being “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.[12] I felt that this is where I’d landed in my spirituality.

Faith is a principle of action. We have faith that we will reap if we sow and that we will end up at work if we take the commuter train into town. Faith causes us to act. To take a step over the railing and walk on water like Peter, requires faith, albeit not in the natural consequence of a certain action, but rather in God. Faith in God is, aside from a principle of action, also a principle of power.

Jesus has shown and taught that if we have faith in him, we “shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in [him].[13], even miracles like raising the dead to life, put at defiance the armies of nations, and so forth.[14] Conversely, we won’t be able to do any of this if he doesn’t find it expedient. The determining factor, aside from our faith, is whether Jesus wants it to happen or not.

Through miraculous means, Jehova helped Israel flee out of Egypt. Eventually, Moses and his people found themselves on the shore of the Red Sea. The Egyptians were closing up on them. God spoke to Moses and said, “But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.[15] Moses obeyed, and the Isrealites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Was it the faith of Moses or the power of God that caused this miracle? I’d say, both. If Moses hadn’t spoken to the water it wouldn’t have parted. On the other hand, if God hadn’t told Moses what he (Moses) should do and what he (God) would do, Moses would’ve kept quiet.

The key to the salvation of the Israelites on the shore of the Red Sea, and other miraculous and divine interventions we hear testimonies of, is that God found it expedient in him to exercise his power in this way and revealed this to someone in possession of faith and a desire to “to do all things according to his will, according to his command[16]. Faith in God requires that we have a sure knowledge that God wants what we are called to do. When we desire something but lack this surety, we no longer act in faith, but rather with hope.

When Moses’ trust in the word of God met with the will and promise of God, a miracle occurred. Moses spoke and the powerful arm of God was revealed in accordance with his words. Peter stood in the boat and didn’t leave it until Jesus invited him to come. With faith in the words and invitation of Jesus, Peter was able to walk on water. Without this, he would’ve doubted the expediency of him walking on water. If God doesn’t invite us to action, we can’t exercise faith in him. If we act on our own ideas, there’s no power in our faith, for there’s no miracles wrought through faith focused on something other than God.[17]

In this we find the power of faith – by faith solely on the word of God, we act with an assurance that God will assist us and that he will finish our faith[18]. Our faith will be imperfect and without fruits[19] without the assurance that we are doing the will of God. The Lectures states it this way.
"Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.[20]
If we know that we are doing the will of God, we will always be able to act with full confidence in him and his power. “This is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn”[21] and those who were ordained to ”the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God[22].
A person arrives at this stage of faith step by step, row by row and commandment by commandment. The example of Moses can illustrate this principle. In Exodus chapter 3 and 4 we read about how the Lord taught Moses in the principle of revelation. Through the tutoring of the Lord, Moses got to the point where he could stretch forth his hand over the Red Sea and together with God part it for the salvation of the Israelites. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we read,
”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. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”[23]

Joseph said that,
The Spirit of Revelation is in connection with [the blessing of receiving your First and Second Comforter]. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, 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.[24]
Since we can’t see the complete picture and lack knowledge of what kind of results God will cause through our actions, the promptings God gives us are invitations to faith. If we focus on and give the Spirit of Revelation the needed conditions for growth in our lives and follow the promptings we receive, we live by faith and trust in God. We will grow in faith, not only in belief, for we will time and time again note how God’s always true to his word and that he won’t leave us alone. Hereby, we will attain unto the knowledge that Enos had.
"And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen.[25]

Signs will follow those who believe

Real faith in God bears fruit. This is not the same thing as in the fact that many members of the Church believe in many things (for example that God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph was a prophet, that the Church is true, that the temple is the house of God, that the scriptures are the word of God). These are oftentimes the things we bear testimony of. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf expressed it this way:

”A testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will always include these clear and simple truths:
         God lives. He is our loving Father in Heaven, and we are His children.
         Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world.
         Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days.
         The Book of Mormon is the word of God.
        President Gordon B. Hinckley, his counselors, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the prophets, seers, and revelators in our day.”[26]

It’s not wrong to espouse these convictions. On the other hand, it’s wrong to mistake them for faith. The kind of testimony president Uchtdorf was talking about is nothing more than a declaration of belief (that is, the belief that a set of assertions are correct and true), and this is what we often hear during our testimony meetings. It’s almost like the Book of Mormon story about the Zoramites was included in the book just to warn us about this. They, like we, met every Sunday to share their “testimonies” from the Rameumpton, the holy stand.
”Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever. Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ. But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God. And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.”[27]
When this was done, they all went their own way and never spoke about God until they met again the following week to repeat the procedure. The Zoramites were believers, all right, but to say that they had faith would be an insult.

How do we know if we have faith? Just like true prophets are known by their fruits, so is faith!
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith. Behold, it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth. Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost. Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought so great a miracle among the Lamanites. Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after. And it was by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death; and they obtained not the promise until after their faith. And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God. And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad. And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith. And after the brother of Jared had beheld the finger of the Lord, because of the promise which the brother of Jared had obtained by faith, the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight; wherefore he showed him all things, for he could no longer be kept without the veil. And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren through the Gentiles; therefore the Lord hath commanded me, yea, even Jesus Christ.[28]
There’s a similar enumeration in the New Testament. The composer of the epistle to the Hebrews,[29] after having commented on the miracles and mighty works performed through faith by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, his parents and the harlot Rahab, we read:
 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.[30]
 The same concept is presented in the Inspired Version of Genesis chapter 14.
”For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world. And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.[31]
Mormon taught that,
It is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men.”[32]
Moroni, the son of Mormons, wrote that,
And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth..”[33]
If miracles, ministering of angels and other wonders are the fruit of faith, it’s no surprise to read the following words from the Book of Mormon.
If these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.And the reason why [God] ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.”[34]
 In “Lectures on Faith” we read that,
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ..”[35]
 When these words from the Book of Mormon and Lectures on Faith are juxtaposed, it becomes clear upon what real and fruitful faith is based.

”Lectures on Faith”, 3:2-5
Mormon 9:20
The idea that he actually exists
Dwindle in unbelief.
A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes
Know not the God in whom they should trust.
An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.
Depart from the right way.
= faith unto miracles and salvation
= no miracles and no salvation

It was through this kind of faith Abinadi was able to defy the murderous king Noah and his priests, because he knew that he was exactly where God wanted him to be. Without that surety, everything else considered, it’s impossible to have faith.

When I look around, and at myself, and search for the fruits of faith, I see a lack of miracles. This is my experience, and if yours is full of miracles, then be happy for that. I believe that he who dares to honestly assess our collective level of faith will reach the same conclusion. What’s the problem? Well, Moroni said it – we dwindle in unbelief, have departed from the right way, and know not the God in whom we should trust.

 Jesus said that,

Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repentFor it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that at that day whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off from among my people, O house of Israel.”[36]

The final words of the “Lectures on Faith” sums it up well.
This is the reason that the Former Day Saints knew more, and understood more of heaven, and of heavenly things than all others beside, because this information is the effect of faith-to be obtained by no other means. And this is the reason, that men, as soon as they lose their faith, run into strifes, contentions, darkness and difficulties; for the knowledge which tends to life disappears with faith, but returns when faith returns; for when faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with it—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth. For these are the effects of faith and always have, and always will attend it. For where faith is, there will the knowledge of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto—revelations, visions, and dreams, as well as every other necessary thing in order that the possessors of faith may be perfected and obtain salvation; for God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom until he shall know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent: whom to know is eternal life: Amen.”[37] 
We need less of what put us in this predicament, instead we need more repentance. [38]

After having read this book, I believe that you will have a clear view of what we need less of (and also what we need more of). If you’ve read the book and still can’t get a clear view of it all, I refer you to the blogs and the books I’ve recommended.

[1] Ps. 23:1-4
[2] 2 Ne. 1:13
[3] Mosiah 3:3
[4] 2 Ne. 4:28
[5] Alma 60:24
[6] Eth 8:24
[7] L&F 133:10
[8] 1 Kor. 15:34
[9] Alma 5:7
[10] This sermon wasn’t given during a royal funeral, but the first given name of the deceased man was King.
[11] TPJS, s. 345-346
[12] 2 Tim. 3:7
[13] Moroni 7:33 - And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.
[14] More examples of the consequences of real faith will be given later.
[15] Exodus 14:16
[16] JST Gen. 14:31
[17] The serious student of the scriptures will note that the priests of Pharao performed ”miracles” in the duel with Moses. I propose that there is a difference between miracles. The devil has power to cause supernatural phenomena, but miracles are reserved for God. We also have the example of Moses striking water from the rock instead of commanding it with his voice. The result was the same, but Moses lost through his disobedience the right to lead the children of Israel into the Promised land.
[18] Moroni 6:4
[19] The fruits of faith will be the theme for the next part.
[20] Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5
[21] TPJS, s. 151
[22] D&C 107:3; this order of priesthood shouldn’t be mistaken for the ordinations to the Melchizedek priesthood we perform in the Church today; read more about this in the part ”The Fulness of the priesthood”
[23] L&F 8:2-3
[24] TPJS, s. 151
[25] Enos 1:5-8
[26] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, ”The Power of a Personal Testimony”, General conference, October 2006
[27] Alma 31:15-18
[28] Eth. 12:12-22
[29]Paul is oftentimes believed to have written this epistle. Bible scholars, however, haven’t agreed on this.
[30] Hebr. 11:4-38
[31] JST Gen. 14:30-32
[32] Moroni 7:37
[33] Mormon 9:24-25
[34] Moroni 7:37 och Mormon 9:20
[35] Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5
[36] 3 Ne. 21:14, 20
[37] Lectures on Faith, 7:20
[38] Rita Mae Brown: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”