Winter Lessons

I waited for you
unblinkingly
by the side
of the road.
Spring, summer,
autumn, winter.

On a snowy afternoon,
you sent me
a stranger instead
with suffering tires
and eyes that
could shatter glass.

I dug in her trunk
for an elusive jack,
ruining my best suit,
the one I’d put on
for a different
occasion.

When she
drove happily off,
I looked up
and saw your face
smiling wryly
behind
thin clouds.

Michael James Fitzgerald

Temple Prayers

Draper Utah temple lighted at night.
Draper Utah Temple, December 6, 2020

Last night, I felt inspired to drive up to the Draper Temple. I was happy to see a number of cars parked there, all facing the Lord’s brilliantly lit house. I didn’t speak to anyone but His presence quietly unified us. I sensed reverence, faith, and tender pleas for help and guidance all around me.

I felt the fire of God’s presence. An unusual prayer came fell from my lips. It was real and came from my heart. I know He listened to me. I know He was there with me. I felt at one with Him and at peace.

I’m having a very difficult life right now. An extremely blessed life, but difficult. When you have the gravel of the world ground into your face time and time again, you learn lessons. One lesson I’ve learned is that if I don’t have the pure faith of a child, I will not be welcomed into God’s presence, now or in the next life. If I am not in His presence, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I have nothing.

So, I lay all my attitudes, all my ideas, all my prejudices on His altar. I don’t hold onto them because I know they’re deeply flawed. I hold all my opinions in contempt. I trust God and try every day to do what He asks. That is the only way I have survived. It’s where I take my stand. With God, with His Church, with His anointed. I don’t worry about anything else.

I claim to have my convictions, but I don’t care who’s “right.” I know God is right. I trust the path that leads to Him. That’s the only thing that matters to me now. I’m a train wreck of a human being, but God is happy with me sometimes in spite of my failures. It’s truly the only thing I have—His kind words and approbation.

I’m not sure what I would do without the gift of prayer. It’s a balm to my spirit and an anchor to my soul. It lends my spirit wings and my heart song.

I know my Father lives and loves me. I love to own Him as my Father. He was there with me last night. He made His presence known to me in a holy way.

I fall far short of who I want to be, but no matter how far I fall, I’m never beyond the His reach and care.

May you and I always speak His name in awe for that is what He truly deserves.

Second Coming: Awake to . . . Your Awful Situation

President John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Friday, November 22, 1963. Also in the limousine are Jackie Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie.
President John F. Kennedy motorcade, Dallas, Texas, Friday, November 22, 1963. Also in the limousine are Jackie Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie.

It was 1963, 57 years ago today. I had just turned 6. It was a Friday morning and I was home from kindergarten. I remember my mother screaming from her bedroom. I had never heard my mother scream before or since. I ran to the door of her room. President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas.

For days, the only thing on our four television channels was news of the assassination. All these years later, it’s hard to believe my parents allowed me to watch this nightmare played over and over again. I can still remember sitting in front of our black-and-white TV watching Lee Harvey Oswald wince as he was shot by the mobster Jack Ruby.

Even as a young child, I knew something was not right with this series of events. Something seemed fake about the whole thing. I couldn’t express it in words and I even have a hard time doing it now. But after thinking about it for nearly six decades, it seems like more of a coup d’état or secret combination than an assassination.

By the time I reached my late teens, I discovered for the first time these words in the Book of Mormon. Moroni, the last writer in the book, was recounting the fall of a civilization which he laid at the feet of sin, pride, and murderous conspiracies:

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. (Ether 8:24.)

“This Nation Won’t Fail”

Given the condition of our nation right now, I’m grateful that a former missionary companion and friend sent me this Harold B Lee quote the other day. We have reason to hope.

Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail. This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations in all the world. This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple. This is the favored land in all the world. Yes, I repeat, men may fail, but this nation won’t fail. I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living in a day when we must pay heed to these challenges. I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through. (Ye Are the Light of the World [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974] 350–51.)

It seems our country has been shrouded by a pall ever since that dark day in November 1963. There are too many unreconciled independent facts for me to not be suspicious of what happened then and what is happening now in the United States. There are too many contradictions and too many threats of violence. There is too much obvious propaganda and too much censorship. There must be something rotten in Washington, D.C.

It’s time we waken to our awful situation. The media is biased and unreliable. The current election, according to many independent sources and witnesses, appears to be fraught with manipulation, irregularities, broken laws, and broken trust.

What and who are we supposed to believe?

I’ll wait for proof before I claim to have it, but I’m paying keen attention to evidence of mass corruption. Until we have proof, I’ll trust God. I’ll trust the heaven-inspired Constitution of the United States. I’ll trust in and cherish the sovereign, individual rights guaranteed by that constitution.

Official Whitehouse portrait of John F. Kennedy (Aaron Shikler, 1970)

May God bless President John F. Kennedy. May he rest in peace. And may God bless and preserve this great nation.

The prophets have testified that the United States will hold together, but it may look different after God is done with it.

I believe in America. But I’m braced for the political earthquake that is about to shock this nation and shake her to the core.

Finally, my [sisters and] brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:10–18).

The Near-Death Experience of Howard Storm

Of the many near-death experiences I have heard or read, Howard Storm’s account is one of the most remarkable and memorable to me. In 1985, Howard was a hard-driving atheist who thought as he was preparing to die in a Paris hospital that it would be a “go to black” moment, the end of his existence. He was in for a delightful surprise, as are we all.

Howard changed careers after his experience, as many experiencers do: He got a theology degree and became a pastor.

Some of the things about Howard’s experience that really resonate with me:

  • His authenticity and vulnerability
  • How his ember of faith rescued him
  • His long interview with Jesus Christ
  • His impression that Jesus not only loved him but really liked him!
  • His many insights into other worlds, the next life, angels, and the other side of the veil

This interview is longer than most but worth the listen.

You can find his book, My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life, here.

“Be Not Afraid, Only Believe” (Mark 5:36)

UFO Sighting, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, 1941. Courtesy Flikr Commons.

When I was a young boy, I saw a UFO. As I’ve shared my story over the years, few have believed me. I’m grateful to those who have been open to the possibility that I didn’t make my story up. I know what I saw. It was real. It wasn’t my imagination.

Maybe this experience is why I tend to be a believer and not a skeptic. Maybe this is why I believe anything is possible.

As I recall, it was in the late summer or early fall. I was a young boy, 5 or 6 years old. One afternoon, I was playing football—or the comical grade school version of it—with three or four friends in a neighbor’s huge backyard. I don’t know who caught sight of it first, but gasps and shouts got everyone’s attention focused on a rather unusual sight that suddenly appeared in the sky.

Across the street and hovering a few hundred feet above another neighbor’s house was what most people at that time would call a flying saucer. I could see it between a pair of Lombardy poplars. I remember the place where I was standing and I could take you to the exact spot today.

The craft hung in the sky as if it were observing us. It was a luminous gray color. The bottom of it was wider than the top. The edges were soft and rounded and it seemed to be spinning and wobbling slightly. Below the craft was a small round protrusion with rotating lights of various soft colors—orange, red, green and perhaps a sort of purple.

I don’t think any of us were afraid. I personally don’t remember feeling any fear. We yelled and pointed at it and ran as a group in its direction. After being visible for 10 to 20 seconds, as I was running, it was obscured for a moment behind one of those poplars and it disappeared in an instant, as if a window to another dimension opened up and swallowed it whole.

I have a vague recollection of telling my parents what had happened later that night. I recall my father smiling and dismissing my story as only my imagination. A bit ashamed, I kept the story to myself for many years.

Recently I retold the story to a close friend, one who was there with me that afternoon. He confirmed that he saw the same UFO and remembered many of the details exactly as I have shared them with you.

So why do I tell this story to you, to further embarrass myself? No, I’m not worried about that at all. Am I trying to convince you to believe me? No, not that either. I’m just telling you about an experience I had. You can believe or disbelieve me. That’s up to you.

The truth is the truth, whether we believe it or not. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but I fear our understanding of the truth can trip us up at times. I’ve been tripped up many times, for sure. And I’ve tripped up others. For that I am sincerely and deeply sorry.

We can believe whatever we want to believe. It’s our choice. No one can make that choice for us. No one can talk us into believing anything without our permission and nobody should.

I have always been a believer. I have believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world from the time I was a small boy. It always gave me a warm glow just to think about Him. It still does, but that warm glow has turned into a bonfire of belief.

When you believe something, true or not, you often find confirming evidence because of something called confirmation bias, which can be misleading. The more conscious we can be of our bias, the better. Less tripping up that way.

To some, believing in UFOs or alien beings or Bigfoot or other cryptids may seem contrary to traditional Christian beliefs. Some find it hard to wedge such things in to a preconceived reality.

Here’s how I look at it: Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that UFOs do not exist? You can’t. On the other hand, can I prove to you that they do exist? I can’t. But the reality of my experience has proved it to me. I’ll just leave it at that.

I’m the only one accountable for my beliefs and choices. Yes, I’ve been sideswiped many times by other people’s choices as I’m sure you have. Others can influence us, but you and I alone can choose what to accept, believe, and how to live.

You choose to believe what you believe usually based on your experience; I choose likewise. My experience in faith, politics, career, and family is so different from yours that I can’t see the world like you do and you can’t see my world, either. But I trust you and I don’t want to disrespect what you have experienced or believe. I honor you. We are living in different worlds, so to speak, and I refuse to judge the world you live in.

I am not out—er, I am no longer out—to try to convince anyone about anything. I may share my feelings, beliefs, far out stories, or invite you to consider something new, but I won’t try to “get you” to believe me. Not anymore. Nuh uh.

You’re a sovereign being. You have freedom of choice. I don’t know of a weightier eternal principle than agency, the freedom to choose and believe as you will.

Freedom of choice, however, is not freedom from law, whether we are aware of those laws or not. If you walk off the edge of a cliff, for instance, the law of gravity will remind you, perhaps one last time, that you are not in charge of the results of your final choice.

Angels or wrecking ball incoming. Our choice.

I’ve suffered from bait-and-switch offers. I’m sure you have too. But the results of those choices, harmless or harmful, have shaped my beliefs and, sometimes after multiple failures, have sharpened them to be more accurate perceptions of reality and more helpful to me and others.

What you believe and what you don’t believe makes all the difference. It’s all on you, ultimately. And I choose to love you, no matter what you choose to believe or do.

Amazon Prime Day 2020

During Amazon Prime days this year, October 13 and 14, 2020 all Overdue Books Publishing Kindle books are on sale—either free or $1.00.

Note: After Amazon Prime Day, all these books will be offered at $0.99 or $1.00 until October 17, 2020. And thank you! Several books reached #1 status in the Amazon Free bookstore.

Here are the links. Thank you for reading this blog and my books.

Inspirational

In the Last Days, First Edition — brief book on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

In the Last Days Revised and Expanded Edition — expanded edition of In the Last Days with approximately 60 more pages

Behold the Man — the New Testament story of Passion Week, including the anointing, triumphal entry, final teachings, end-times prophecy, last supper, suffering, arrest, trial, conviction, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, combing the four gospel accounts into one

Glory to God in the Highest — devotional Christmas readings for December

“Let Him Ask of God” — read early accounts of Joseph Smith First Vision retold as a single narrative

The Law of Attraction and the Scriptures — explore how scriptures elucidate what the world calls “the law of attraction”

Self-Help

Making Decisions — make great decisions with the reflection method

Write Your Book in 24 Hours! — how to write a book quickly

The Science of Getting Rich Workbook Edition — the Wallace Wattles classic with footnotes and study questions

As a Man Thinketh Workbook Edition — the James Allen classic with footnotes and study questions

Patriotic

The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Bill of Rights — the essential founding document of the United States, with brief explanatory notes and color images

Fiction

Song of Falling Leaves — with the help of a magical horse, a lonely city girl recovers a lost childhood and rediscovers hidden gifts on her grandfather’s ranch in Nevada

Second Coming: Caught Up to Meet Him—the Rapture

The Rapture: One in the Field by Jan Luyken (Bowyer’s Bible, 1795).

At some time before the Second Coming of Christ, faithful saints—those on earth who are still mortal and those who’ve died—will be caught up to meet Jesus in the sky.

Sounds like something I want to be part of. How about you?

There’s plenty of chatter going on about the rapture online and I thought I would re-explore a Latter-day Saint perspective on it.

So, why is called “the Rapture” and when will it take place?

Definitions of Rapture

In ordinary English, rapture means “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion [or a] a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.” To many Christians, the Rapture means being caught up or swept away to meet Jesus in the air at a special time preceding His Second Coming.

The word rapture doesn’t actually appear in any English translation of the New Testament, but a form of it appears in the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome in the late fourth century AD where is appears as a declension of the Latin rapior.

The Greek word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, a key New Testament text for the Rapture, is ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha) which means “to seize, carry off by force . . . to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly . . . to snatch out or away” (see The Online Greek Bible for 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

With the Trump of God

An important text supporting this event is found in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, just mentioned. Here’s verses 14–17:

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14–17; emphasis added.)

It’s interesting that the Greek word for cloud (νέφος, nephos [ne/fos]) can mean several things: a cloud, a mass of clouds, or, metaphorically, a cloud or multitude of people. This reminds me that Jesus will not be alone when He comes, for Jude quotes Enoch saying that He “cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (see Jude 1:14; compare 1 Thessalonians 3:14).

When the Resurrection Began

The resurrection of the dead began with Jesus on Easter Morning, or as some prefer, Resurrection Morning. He was the “firstfruits of them that slept” (see 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23),but others were resurrected at that time as well. Matthew writes of the time shortly after Christ’s death and Resurrection:

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:52–53; compare 3 Nephi 23:9.)

It follows that possibly many saints have been resurrected since that time and, hidden from the knowledge of the world, will continue to be resurrected until they appear when Christ appears “in the clouds.”

Enoch’s Translation

Speaking of Enoch, he and his city of sanctified souls were likewise caught up to heaven before the destruction caused by Noah’s flood (see Genesis 5:19–24; Moses 7:68–69). For context, Enoch was translated some 70 years before Noah was born, and the flood occurred when Noah was about 500 years old. Yes, 500 years. People had long lives before the flood—and apparently used their time to get into a lot of trouble.

Enoch’s translation is a type of the Rapture which will likewise protect and preserve believers from the destruction that will occur during what is commonly believed by many as the tribulation, a seven-year period that will include a “great tribulation” before Christ’s foot rests upon the Mount of Olives (see Zechariah 14:4; compare Doctrine and Covenants 45:48–53).

This tribulation is much disputed. Views on the timing of this and other end-time events abounds. Click here to view a section of a Wikipedia article with brief comparisons.

The Tribulation

The Savior told four of His disciples in a private meeting on the Mount of Olives that when His followers see a desolating abomination they were to immediately flee Jerusalem:

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21; emphasis added).

For centuries, much has been made of the tribulation—also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (see Jeremiah 30:7)—by scholar and laymen alike. Some believe that this tribulation has been happening since the time of Christ; others see it concentrated in a seven-year period, during Daniel’s seventieth week, so called, and immediately preceding “the day of vengeance” (see, for example, Isaiah 63:4; see also “day of vengeance” under Vengeance in the Topical Guide).

During this season, the “tribulation saints” and others who remain on earth after the Rapture will be tried and tested “such as was not since the beginning of the world” (see Matthew 24:21 above).

I’m unsure of the Lord’s timing and I try to not get wrapped around the wrong axle, but it is clear a rapture of both resurrected and living saints will precede Christ’s decisive return to the earth. How much before, I don’t really know.

Modern Revelation about the Rapture

The Doctrine and Covenants also speaks of this amazing day:

And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—they are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God. (D&C 88:96–98; compare D&C 109:75; see also D&C 78:20–21; emphasis added.)

So when Christ comes again, He will come with “tens of thousands” of saints and will be joined by many thousands, probably millions, of saints who are yet mortal or who have not yet been resurrected. Those who will be resurrected at this time will be “first caught up to meet him” (emphasis mine).

A Spectacular Moment

The Lord hinted at this dramatic time in His Olivet discourse when He said:

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Matthew 24:40–41; emphasis added.)

What a spectacular moment this Rapture will be! Imagine when potentially millions of the faithful are caught up to heaven: people taking a test at school, working in factories, riding on a bus, flying in airplanes, going about their normal business. Gone.

But an even more important moment is this moment. What can we do, you and I, right now to better prepare ourselves for this mind-blowing time we’re living in?

P.S. I’ve collected over a hundred online stories about Rapture and end-times dreams and visions; you’ll find them here. Yes, not everyone has the purest motives when sharing dreams or visions and the impressions of other persons have little bearing on you; however, there is some consistency in the details and timing, and hundreds, perhaps thousands are sharing. Given the times, they’re something interesting to consider.

Originally published in 2015.