The White Light of Exaltation

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A little child who is painting often likes to combine the colors together to make new colors. Sometimes this conglomeration of colors ends up a messy brown because so many colors were mixed together. This is a particular type of color mixing seemingly paradoxically called subtractive mixing. With these types of colors (e.g., paints or dyes) the more colors you add together, the darker the result (technically you only need cyan, yellow, and magenta to make black). In this case black is all the colors whereas white is none of the colors.

However, that is not how our eyes perceive visible light. The perception of visible light is based on the principle of additive mixing. With additive mixing, white is a combination of all the colors (the primary additive colors are red, green, and blue) and black is the absence of all colors. Or, in other words, black is the absence of light.

When studying the visual system, one is likely to come across optical illusions. One such such illusion is based on the principle of lateral inhibition, which is when surrounding ganglion retinal cells interfere with the actions of the most active cells (i.e., the cells that are in the fovea of the eye). Look at the image below (it’s called a Hermann grid) to get an idea of what I’m writing about. What do you notice?

Do you see the phantom black dots that appear in the white intersections in your visual periphery? They disappear when you try to look directly at them but return when you focus on a different intersection. The block dots do not exist; they are created by your visual system (one idea is that the surrounding black encroaches on {inhibits} the receptive fields that are responding to the white bars).

Now for the gospel application. When we focus intently on any one thing, it becomes hard to see things around us. This is good when our focus is God but not so good when our focus is not on Heavenly Father. Even more, sometimes if we are focusing on something too intently we start to see things in our spiritual periphery that are not there. These might be the proverbial motes in our neighbors’ eyes that appear when we focus only on ourselves. If we took the time to really look at our neighbors we might see that the motes we thought were there really are not present. Focusing on any one thing too much limits our ability to see “things as they really are.”

The prophet Jacob used those words in one of his sermons:

“Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old. But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” (Jacob 4:13-14; emphasis added).

Looking beyond the mark, looking in the wrong place and with too much focus, results in spiritual blindness. This spiritual blindness leads to spiritual stumbles. What sort of things are we allowing to cloud our vision? Do you stand in the light or sit in the darkness?

As we draw nearer to God, we are filled with His light. This light adds color upon color of blessings and purification. The color of God’s Spirit is intensified through His grace and through our righteousness until we are filled with a perfect brightness. This perfect brightness does not come until we have received the Trinity of Colors – the Holy Ghost, Jesus our Savior, and our Eternal Father in Heaven. Through these Three Colors we can receive a fulness of glory and the white light of exaltation.

Preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood

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This past Sunday our lesson for the Young Men was on preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood. The LDS Church’s Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2 had a nice summary of the ordinances that bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood and those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform. The lists go beyond ordinances but they make up the bulk of them.

Power of the Aaronic Priesthood

  • 1. Prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament.
  • 2. Baptize (priests only).
  • 3. Receive the ministering of angels.
  • 4. Go home teaching.
  • 5. Look after the physical needs of the Saints.
  • 6. Collect fast offerings.
  • 7. Ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons (priests only).
  • 8. Take charge of meetings in the absence of elders.

Power of the Melchizedek Priesthood

  • 1. Confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • 2. Name and bless infants.
  • 3. Administer to the sick.
  • 4. Consecrate oil for anointing.
  • 5. Dedicate graves.
  • 6. Confer the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods and ordain to offices in those priesthoods.
  • 7. Look after the spiritual needs of the Saints.
  • 8. Preside at meetings.
  • 9. Enter the temple and receive all temple ordinances.
  • 10. With the proper keys, officiate in all temple ordinances.
  • 11. Have power and authority over all the offices in the Church (see D&C 107:8).
  • 12. Do all things an Aaronic Priesthood bearer can do.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is the something contained in this list, namely that those who are ordained Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood have the authority to baptize others (of course, under the direction of their Bishops – all things are done in the proper order with the proper oversight in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but they cannot confirm those same people as members of the Church nor can they bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This is like the law that Jehovah gave to Moses and the law that He, as the Savior, gave during His mortal ministry. The Mosaic Law was preparatory for a higher law. It was a schoolmaster that led the House of Israel to Christ, although it had largely been corrupted by the time Jesus was born. The Mosaic Law was focused on outward ordinances (those ordinances were supposed to reflect inner change and covenant). These ordinances were done through the authority of the Aaronic (technically Levitical but those terms are basically interchangeable) Priesthood. But those ordinances were incomplete without the Melchizedek Priesthood. Christ was the great High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:8-10).

Just as the Mosaic Law was incomplete without Christ, so is baptism without confirmation and the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half – that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.314). The Law of Moses was incomplete without the confirmation given by Christ.

Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood can baptize but they cannot confirm. They cannot complete the baptism of fire, which is really what purifies and sanctifies the baptized through the Atonement of Christ. The Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory. It is only half the Priesthood. What is amazing is that God allows young men starting at the age of 12 to bear that great responsibility. Aaronic Priesthood holders have primary responsibility for the physical aspects of the Church (of course all Melchizedek Priesthood holders still have the Aaronic Priesthood so they too are responsible for the physical needs of Church members and sometimes more so than the young men). Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood are directly responsible for the Sacrament, which is one of the most sacred of all ordinances performed in the Church. The Sacrament was instituted by the Savior shortly before His death. Jesus blessed and broke and passed the bread and wine. He delegates this great responsibility to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood today.

There is no greater responsibility for men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the responsibility they hold as bearers of the Priesthood for even family responsibilities are Priesthood responsibilities. There are typically only six to seven years between when a young man receives the Aaronic Priesthood and when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood (all of this is contingent upon worthiness and personal and family desires). The teenage years are crucial for spiritual development. They are the time for young men to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood.

A Famine of Hearing the Words of the Lord

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The prophet Amos prophesied of a day of future famine, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). This prophecy was partially fulfilled after the death of Jesus and His apostles. His authority was lost from the earth and His words were changed – not all of them, but enough to leave people without a fullness. With the restoration of the gospel and priesthood authority, the words of the Lord once again went forth in purity. However, many in the world still suffer this spiritual famine. They willingly or unknowingly seal off their hearts and homes from the words of the Lord. The words of the Lord are ever-present but many will not hear them. Their homes become deserts without the waters of life that flow from the Lord and His anointed.

This can happen even within the membership of the church. And so I ask: is there a desert in your home? Are the words of the prophets in your homes? Is the spirit of revelation found there? Do you live the life you profess to live? Do you live the commands of the Lord and His living prophets? Is in your home a watered garden feeding and nurturing a tree of life or do you starve in a famine of hearing the words of the Lord? If you are experiencing a famine, what can you do to counter it?

There is one sure source of spiritual moisture – the Holy Ghost. Through the gentle yet piercing promptings and proddings of the Holy Ghost you can have your thirst sated. How often are you asking for this influence and nourishment in your life? Are you supplicating God in the name of Christ daily? Do you plead for forgiveness of your sins so that you might be better able to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost? If you used to pray frequently, do you do so now? “And now behold, I ask of you…have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?… And now behold, I say unto you…if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:14,26). A one-time change of heart is not enough. King David was a man after the Lord’s heart but he made mistakes and sinned. The Lord requires life-long endurance.

Have you kept your home an oasis of life in the midst of a desert, or have you allowed the desert to encroach into your home? Do you allow the east wind to blow through your home, drying it out and filling it with scorching heat and suffocating sand? What influences do you allow in your home? Do you eschew evil, or is it embraced? Is your home built by the iron rod and upon a rocky foundation, or have you established a residence in the great and spacious building, which has no foundation? Do you live full-time in a holy house or do you keep a summer cottage in Babylon? Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated, “Even if we decide to leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there, or we commute on weekends” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p.25).

Do you call upon God and plead with Him to abide in your home? Lowrie Hofford wrote this moving plea for comfort from Jesus:

“Abide with me; ’tis eventide.
The day is past and gone;
The shadows of the evening fall;
The night is coming on.
Within my heart a welcome guest,
Within my home abide.

O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.

Abide with me; ’tis eventide.
Thy walk today with me
Has made my heart within me burn,
As I communed with thee.
Thy earnest words have filled my soul
And kept me near thy side.

O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.

Abide with me; ’tis eventide,
And lone will be the night
If I cannot commune with thee
Nor find in thee my light.
The darkness of the world, I fear,
Would in my home abide.

O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.
O Savior, stay this night with me;
Behold, ’tis eventide.” (Source).

Have you asked the Lord that He enter and remain within your home? Have you made your heart and home a welcome place for Him? Have you walked with the Lord on your own road to Emmaus? Have you felt your heart burn within you? If you have, do you still feel it burn? Are you experiencing a personal and spiritual famine or do you drink deeply from the well of eternal life?

None of us are perfect and none of us will be in this life. However, we can, like Elder Maxwell said, strive to live close to Him who is perfect (see Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p.275). We have a perfect source of comfort and nourishment in the Lord. If and when we stumble and slip and fall – we all do – all we need do is get back up. If we ask, the Lord will be by our sides to help pick us up. By remaining close to Him we will find an endless well and be sheltered from personal and spiritual famine.

Solace from the Storm – Part 4

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We are responsible to be open to the spirit. Nephi reprimanded his wicked brethren and taught them about the communication from the Lord: “He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45). If we are past feeling, the Lord might need to speak unto us with the voice of thunder and destruction. If I get to choose (which I – and we all – do) I’ll take the still small voice over a thundering voice. I enjoy thunder but not when it’s directed at me!

It is also through this still small voice that we can know the truth of all things – whether it is the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the reality of the Atonement, or anything else sacred or secular: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

It is through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost that we have solace through the storms in our lives. The Holy Ghost teaches us truth. Truth is an anchor to our souls. If we are founded upon truth and righteousness and holiness, all which come through prayer and the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will withstand any storms that come our way. Again, it is truth and more specifically, eternal truth, that binds us to the Rock of our Redeemer, even our Savior and Atoner, Jesus Christ.

Alma desired to let all know of the necessity of repentance: “Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:2). When we are pure in heart and repentant, we will be protected from that “voice of thunder” that calls all to repentance. This does not mean that we will not need repentance but to those who are already repentant, the voice of the Spirit will come more as a still, small voice than as a voice of thunder and lightning. Even when it does come as a voice of thunder, the righteous will hear the piercing small voice amidst all the tumult.

As we are built upon the foundation of Christ we will withstand the destroying east winds. We will find solace amidst the dust storms and driving winds of mortality. “Yea, when all [Satan’s] hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).

Solace from the Storm – Part 3

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The Redeemer is our Rock of defense from the storms. As we build upon His gospel, we are strengthened and blessed. I think a story from Elijah’s life will be illustrative of one way the Lord protects us from the storms. Elijah was hiding in a cave in the wilderness because the wicked Jezebel desired his life. As he bemoaned his sufferings and the wickedness of the people, the Lord asked him to go stand out on a mountainside: “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Elijah was asked to stand out on the mountain by the Lord; he experienced a great and strong wind that broke up the rocks, he experienced an earthquake, and he experienced a fire. The Lord was not in any of those but the Lord came as a still small voice. The whisperings of the Holy Ghost were there to comfort Elijah but also to tell him to continue on in his calling as a prophet. As we face storms in our lives, the Holy Ghost will be there to provide comfort if we are listening. It can be difficult to hear that still small voice if we are surrounded by a cacophony of commotion. As piercing as the still small voice is, it can be easy to miss. The more our lives are founded upon righteousness, the better able we are to hear the voice of the Lord.

If the voice of the Spirit does not come (usually) with the voice of thunder, wind, earthquakes, and fire, what does His voice sound like? The Savior said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). The Savior’s sheep know His voice. They recognize it and follow it. We know the Lord’s voice because we knew Him in our pre-earth life. He is no stranger to us just as we are not strangers to Him. However, learning to recognize His voice can take effort. We also need to listen carefully and closely.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson said: “Listening is an essential part of praying. Answers from the Lord come quietly—ever so quietly. In fact, few hear his answers audibly with their ears. We must be listening so carefully or we will never recognize them. Most answers from the Lord are felt in our heart as a warm comfortable expression, or they may come as thoughts to our mind. They come to those who are prepared and who are patient” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 13; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 19).

Sin, Sorrow, and Suffering – Part 5

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The Savior suffered so that we need not suffer.

“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit” (D&C; 19:15-20).

The last sentence explains what true suffering is: being without the spirit of the Lord. There are many on earth who live without the Lord’s spirit. Some have completely forced out any influence of the Spirit – it is these people who truly suffer. Those who suffer even more are those who had the presence of the Spirit (i.e., had received the Gift of the Holy Ghost) but, through their choices, removed themselves from that Spirit. They have tasted a small part of the sufferings they will have to endure if they repent not of their sins. This is part of the suffering the Lord endured – the loss of the Spirit. When He took upon Himself the sins, pains, illnesses, and sufferings of the world He suffered the withdrawal of the presence of the Holy Ghost, of His Father. He truly was alone (which is why the Father sent an angel to help strengthen Him in the garden of Gethsemane). Christ suffered so that we might have His spirit with us always, as we do what is right and repent when we sin. We are never alone when the Holy Ghost is with us.

This means that no matter how hard the circumstances we might be in or how sad we might feel, if the Spirit of the Lord is with us we will not truly suffer. We can take comfort in the Spirit and be strengthened by it. Amid the tumultuous cacophony of a sinful and floundering world, the Spirit brings inner peace when the waves are crashing like cymbals and the world seems to be collapsing around us.