And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.1 Nephi 11:11
Speak with the Lord as you would with another person.
I remember a quote from Joseph Smith in which he encouraged the church members to speak with the Lord as if He were present and as if He were a normal person, a friend. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, chapter 10, paragraph 21.) I have spent the years since it was mentioned in our Priesthood quorum lesson working to make my prayers be as much like that as possible. It still eludes me. It is more difficult than the usual “Thank Thee/Ask Thee” rhetoric we have been trained to use. But what I have found on those most successful of occasions is a connection with the Divine that can be had in no other way than when you treat Him as He is – an ever present, all knowing Being with body parts and passions, and powers beyond our own that allow Him to connect with us when we pray to be heard of Him.
And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men.1 Nephi 12:18
Don’t let vanity convince you that you’re somehow greater or more important than you really are.
This is perhaps one of the easiest traps for many of us to fall in – and something I have struggled with in recent years, particularly in my current employment. I had this over-exaggerated, over-inflated sense of my own importance to my employer – and it has led to troubles. I fell – and I fell hard! It has been a truly humbling and painful experience, but I have learned the hard way that when we have a vainly inflated perspective of ourselves and our importance to the world in general we set ourselves up for a fall that can be devastatingly soul crushing. Many never recover from it. The only way I have found to recover from it is to turn to the Lord and accept the reality of our own nothingness (as Moses describes it) and get out of that great and spacious building as fast and as far as we can. As I have learned to humble myself I have seen an important change in my relationships with others, and others are seeing dramatic changes in me – which is what repentance is really all about.
And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.1 Nephi 11:16-17
Admit what you do know. Also admit that you don’t know everything and be specific about what it is you don’t know. Admit this to God – but also admit it especially to yourself.
From the previously mentioned humbling experience I have learned that this is the quickest and surest way to get out of the great and spacious building and stay out! Acknowledging to myself the things I don’t know and admitting them to the Lord has helped in my process of recovering time and again. I now realize I’m not as great as I once thought I was and my daily effort to “do better and be better,” is a reality. Every day I am aware that I need to change – and I am more willing to than ever because I realize now that as much as I may know about a few things there is still so much more to learn about those things. These ideas often bring me to my knees to confess before God that He is God, He knows everything, that I can hide nothing from Him, and that I need Him and His Son in every facet of my daily experience. Those prayers typically bring me closer to Him than any other.
And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.1 Nephi 13:8
Set your heart’s desires on things that will allow you to be part of the church of the Lamb of God.
This can be the hardest mirror for any of us to look into. I’ll never forget the time my best friend and I admitted that the only merit a particular film we had recently watched had was to see the attractive women in it. While at the time we couched our discussion in the Beatitudes and being pure in heart (rather than those ideas contained in this passage), since that occasion I have often considered what my motivation for doing a particular thing is. Frequently I stop to consider what my motivations are when making certain decisions and it is usually enough for me to turn aside and make a better decision – but not always. I am mortal and human – just as Nephi was who said, “I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” (2 Nephi 4:18) As I consider my imperfections I realize just how far I have to go before my desires are purified enough to allow me to really be part of the church of the Lamb of God. But that’s why we have a Savior – so that we can be redeemed from our fallen state if we will turn to Him and repent. I am finding more and more a deeper sense of peace and hope as I rely on Him to purify my desires and decision making.
And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.1 Nephi 12:17
Don’t let Satan’s temptations blind you into leaving the path or harden your heart against following the path that leads to the greatest joy.
Temptation is everywhere. Satan’s whole purpose is to deceive us into not reaching our potential. I’ve experienced this very recently as I have begun exploring various innocuous seeming video games on my device, intending to fill the gaps when I have nothing else to do. Only they began filling more than just the gaps. They left a sense of accomplishment and a desire to keep going and accomplish more. They were full of motivation to keep going and a false sense that I was accomplishing something worthwhile. I got stuck in a pattern of playing them in every spare moment I could. And at the same time my connection with Heavenly Father was weakening and my motivation to keep up habits I had formed as a youth waned. In the few moments I could look at myself from the outside I was scared of what was happening to me and I could begin to see just how unhappy and empty giving in to these temptations was making me. These games were surrounding me with darkness and blinding me from a proper view of what’s important in life and what my actually desired goals were. I was starting to get lost.
Fortunately the Lord never gave up on me. His Spirit whispered to my soul almost daily for several weeks to let the games go – a thing that a much younger version of myself was far more adept at following – and it has taken far longer than it should have, but I have finally been able to set the most recent one down. And now I know the promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true – the Lord does provide a way for us to escape and conquer temptation if that is what we want. This refocused effort on my blog – as guided by the Holy Ghost – has provided not only the means to renew my relationship with God, but also with the rest of humanity, and to escape the temptations Satan has been using to blind me, attempting to pull me away from the path to the tree and its fruit. My daily experience is now again filled with things that are building my soul and helping me grow and progress in all aspects of my life, and I am grateful for the fortification I feel and protection from the desires to get sucked into that false and deceptive world again. In relating these experiences I wish to acknowledge simply that this is one of an infinite number of temptations any of us can experience, and as Joseph Smith said, please don’t think I was involved in anything aweful. I wasn’t! I just got hooked on something that had power to keep me from progressing – addicted as it were – and I of myself had not the power to set it aside on my own. I cannot express how grateful, hopeful, and energetic I again feel because the Lord has helped me set down and ignore these things placed in my way by Satan to blind my view of what is really important.
. . . and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.1 Nephi 13:40
Come to Jesus.
If there is one message I would hope you all take from this blog post in particular it would be summed up in these 3 words: Come to Jesus. From recent experiences I can say I know that when we come to the Lord for help, redemption, and salvation He gives it immediately, with swiftness and great power that can seem small in our eyes. But when we come with real intent on seeking and accepting His aid He has all power to redeem us from our sins, misdeeds, and other poor decisions that can be destructive to our souls. Come to Jesus. Please. Come to Him!