My Heart’s Desire

We picked up our daughter from her mission in New Jersey in March of 2008. One of the last things the mission president’s wife shared with the departing missionaries was a simple way to pursue their heart’s desire.

She provided little paper cut-out hearts and suggested that they write their heart’s desire inside of one. The idea was to capture and hold the desire, focus on it, and ask for the Lord’s help in receiving it.

I took several blank hearts that day but did not act. After thinking about it for several weeks, when we had returned home to Utah, I finally wrote my desire inside a yellow heart and tucked it in my old, black-covered triple combination. It was Saturday, April 5, 2008.

My heart’s desire is private, as is yours, but I’ll share a little of mine. It has to do with my writing career and providing for my family. I had a good job at that time, one of the best I’ve had, but I wanted to find something more: the path my intuition and dreams had been urging me to follow since my late teens.

I was talking to my wife about this today and I suddenly grasped something that I had not understood.

That same month, April 2008, the first scene of a novel came to me. It was something like a snapshot. It was a picture of a girl discovering her courage and hidden gifts as she stopped a man named Willy Jack from stealing a prized horse. The scene eventually became chapter 28 of Song of Falling Leaves, a New Young Adult fantasy set in contemporary Elko, Nevada. That book took six and a half years to write. I finally published it last September.

I didn’t realize until this afternoon that an important part, perhaps the most important part, of my heart’s desire has been fulfilled.

The fulfillment of a desire is often the fruit of undaunted hope, mixed with persistent imagination. Sometimes hope is a dormant seed until the dew of heaven quietly wakens it.

Second Coming: The Lord Shall Be Red in His Apparel

Painting copyright Jon McNaughton

When I think about the Savior, I usually think of His love, of the goodness and mercy He shows us “according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7). But that won’t be the case at His Second Coming, not for His enemies anyway. To them, that day will be a day of vengeance.

Do you suppose you can get rid of the justice of an offended God?

And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day; and it would be better for them if they had not been born. For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come? (3 Nephi 28:34–35.)

Accordingly, when Jesus comes again, He will not be dressed in white. He will be dressed in red—blood red. John the Revelator wrote:

And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:13–14; emphasis added.)

Modern revelation echoes John’s vision, as do the writings of Isaiah:

O Lord, thou shalt come down to make thy name known to thine adversaries, and all nations shall tremble at thy presence— . . . And it shall be said: Who is this that cometh down from God in heaven with dyed garments; yea, from the regions which are not known, clothed in his glorious apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? And he shall say: I am he who spake in righteousness, mighty to save. And the Lord shall be red in his apparel, and his garments like him that treadeth in the wine-vat. (D&C 133:42, 46–48; emphasis added.)

And why will be He be dressed in red?

And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; and I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart. (D&C 133:50–51; compare Isaiah 63:1-7; emphasis added.)

When I see the uncountable and unaccountable crimes, the sickening atrocities, the abominations, the injustices, the ornate selfishness, the cruel covetousness, and the downright wickedness of this badly off-balance world—and to be sure this wickedness has continued since the day Cain slew Abel until now—I admit I am anxious for the winding up scene, but I know I must be patient.

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalms 27:14.)

I am not anxious to condemn the weak, the discouraged, or the repenting sinner, for I am among them. I am not disposed to condemn anyone. But of those who worship Satan, those who serve the devil, his devotees, perhaps unknowingly, John also wrote:

The third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:9–10; emphasis added.)

Woes await the unflinching and determinedly wicked. We need not be among them.

I admit that I must strive daily for mastery over the natural man (see 2 Timothy 2:5), but I don’t do it out of fear. I do it out of reverence, for God our Heavenly Father, for what is right and good and holy, and for His Son our Savior, whose coming I cherish.

Finishing the Race

Photo courtesy Ernst Vikne from Skien, Norway (CC License)My dreams are not often vivid or memorable, but I had a dream last night I actually remember.

I dreamed I was running a race. It was a course I’d run before. I had on my running clothes and my bib was flapping in the breeze. I was moving along at a good pace and enjoying myself.

I suddenly realized that I was running the race alone, that the customary markers along the course were missing. A bit of panic swept over me. Where was everyone else? Was I running on the wrong day?

Then I thought to myself, “It doesn’t matter if no one else is running this race. I’m going to finish it anyway.” As I picked up speed, I woke up.

I’ve been thinking about my dream all day. I’m grateful that I don’t always have to run alone, though I realize there are some who have to run all by themselves. Sometimes we are called to pass through a Gethsemane of loneliness. We all pass through those times, and I know those times will pass for you as they have for me.

I’ve started a lot of things than I haven’t finished, but I am determined to finish the race of a lifetime. I’ll let the apostle Paul say it:

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify [of] the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24.)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV 2 Corinthians 9:24–25.) 

Finishing that race strong is the most important thing you and I can do, for ourselves and for those who look to us for strength.

I have a wonderful family and great friends, but I feel alone sometimes. It’s part of the deal when you live away from your heavenly home and Parents. Even though I feel lonely at times, I know I’m really not alone. Neither are you.

Here’s a bonus: If you are feeling discouraged, watch the story of Tim Hurst, a one-legged marathon runner and karate teacher. Amazing.

Five Smooth Stones

Courtesy LDS Media Library.

I’ve loved the story of David and Goliath since I was a boy (see 1 Samuel 17). David was the ultimate underdog. When I think of the odds stacked against him, his confidence and boldness amaze me. That shot with the sling? One in a million. And in spite of falling very hard later in life, he repented as best he could and remained a man of faith until his death.

I won’t retell the whole story, but here are a few highlights.

David was sent by his father to take some food to his older brothers who’d been in a stand off with Goliath and the Philistine army for over a month in the valley of Elah (probably means the valley of oaks). When David heard Goliath’s defiance, he said: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (v. 26).

David, who was but a youth or stripling (v. 33, 56), said he’d fight the giant of Gath when no one else dared. Saul the king doubted but David, a shepherd, reported that he had killed wild animals in defense of his flocks.

David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee. (V. 37.)

Saul offered armor and a sword to David. He tried them on but gave up on them quickly. “I cannot go with these,” David said (v. 39).

He took off the armor and sword, and took up again his shepherd’s staff. Then he chose “five smooth stones out of the brook” (v. 40) and put them in his bag or scrip. With only his staff, a sling, and five stones in a small bag, David approached the heady mocker.

Valley of Elah by David Bena, courtesy of Creative Commons license
The valley of Elah, December 2014, by David Bena

It turned out that David only needed one stone to get the job done. That’s all it took. He ran toward the towering Philistine and, once in range, struck Goliath in the forehead with apparently just one shot. The stone sunk into his forehead and Goliath fell to the ground on his face.

Imagine the shock of the Philistine army! David stood on top of Goliath, and with Goliath’s own sword, took off the giant’s head.

In an instant, the momentum changed in favor of the Israelite army. I’m sure you can predict how the rest of the day went without even reading the chapter.

I want to go back to those five smooth stones. I’ve been thinking about those stones for years, but more particularly the last few months. A few nights ago, in a somewhat desperate prayer, I asked the Lord to tell me what my five smooth stones were—what five stones could I use to defeat my enemy, my giant. I needed to know! Then I listened. And listened. I was patient for a switch.

And He told me, in clear, distinct language, what my own “five smooth stones” were. It might seem strange, but I heard or felt words that were combined in ways that I have never heard or thought of before. I wrote them down on a 3 × 5 card as soon as they came to me. I also recorded them in my journal. And I’ve been thinking about them—even applying them—ever since.

You can ask for yourself. If I can know, you can know. I’m sure of that. And with those smooth stones, we can defeat anything that defies the living God.