A Long, Slow Life Review

Man walking in a stone-lined tunnel toward a light. Canva.com

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes.” This phenomena, commonly reported by near-death experiencers, is called a life review and involves a movie of sorts that replays all the experiences of life, good and bad.

I haven’t been well for the last year and a half, and strangely, I’ve been having my own life review on this side of the veil. Except mine is non-sequential and very slow. I’ve been surprised by all the things I’ve been recalling, which, but for the love of my Heavenly Father and Savior, would be unbearably painful.

I can hardly believe what is popping up for me.

Without trying, I’ve been recalling, in excruciating detail, all—and I mean all—of the sad, idiotic, and sinful things I’ve done since childhood. The people I’ve hurt. Bitter words tarnished by resentment. The pets I’ve neglected. My financial mistakes. My wilful teenage sins. My weaknesses, neglect, and foibles as a parent. It’s been a grand parade of folly.

I comfort myself with this: maybe it’s a preview of the life review I’ll experience on the other side of the veil. Maybe I’ll be able to say, “We’ve been over this. Next slide, please.”

I think this has been an unexpected answer to prayer. While I’ve been ill, I’ve thought a lot about the fragility of life and how surprising and swift an end can come. Accordingly I’ve prayed for the Lord to show me what I need to repent of. He has graciously obliged.

Through all this, I feel His perfect love and see His smile. I know I have and will receive more mercy than I think I deserve. I’ve learned to be less hard on myself because I know how kind God is.

I’ve heard of people who are nearing death say, “No regrets.” No regrets? Are you kidding me? You have no regrets about your life? I honestly don’t understand that. But if people can hold themselves up like that, well, more power to them. I can’t.

Nevertheless.

I am grateful for this glacial life review oozing across my mind. It has opened my eyes, softened my heart, made me more conscious and accountable for all the stupid, embarrassing things I’ve done in life. They are no longer buried. I am forgiven and I forgive myself, but some pain remains. I’m not wallowing in the past but I am experiencing it as if it were present. Sometimes it feels like I’m wearing a barbed wire shirt, but I’m getting through it. My appreciation for the Atonement has grown to reach heaven. I hope I someday I can reach heaven too.

“Have I Then a Mother in Heaven?”

Zina D. Huntington was bereft when her mother Zina Baker Huntington died of cholera in 1839:

For a time, [she] was inconsolable at her mother’s death. Then [a] spiritual experience confirmed her faith. As she paced the floor, almost brokenhearted in her loneliness, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” Zina cried out: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief.” A sweet peace came over Zina’s soul, and never again did she give way to such heart-rending grief.

—From “Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45, as quoted in “Zina D Huntington Young: A Testimony in the Heart of a Girl.”)

Is there any more startling doctrine from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven? Susa Young Gates records this vignette from Zina’s life:

Father [William] Huntington lost his wife [Zina Baker Huntington] under the most trying circumstances. Her children were left desolate. One day, when her daughter Zina was speaking with the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the loss of her mother and her intense grief, she asked the question:

“Will I know my mother as my mother when I get over on the Other Side?”

“Certainly you will,” was the instant reply of the Prophet. “More than that, you will meet and become acquainted with your eternal Mother, the wife of your Father in Heaven.”

“And have I then a Mother in Heaven?” exclaimed the astonished girl.

“You assuredly have. How could a Father claim His title unless there were also a Mother to share that parenthood?”

Susa Young Gates, “History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from November 1869 to June 1910″ (Salt Lake City: General Board of the Y.L.M.I.A., 1911), 16, footnote).

I was a little shocked to learn this as a teenager, with all it implied. But after pondering it for a few decades, though my understanding is incomplete, this doctrine has settled in my soul.

We know almost nothing about a Mother in Heaven. Isn’t this where we get in trouble with our doctrine and faith, when we use our logic, reason, and a very limited knowledge to fill in gaps? Patience, not presumption, is helpful if not essential. I’ve learned to let God fill in these gaps, not me or other wayfarers.

True is reason; truth eternal
tells me I’ve a Mother there.

Eliza R. Snow, “Oh My Father,” Hymns no. 292

I hold many things in my heart that I don’t fully understand and am not yet ready to accept, but I choose not to reject things outright. I’m not a skeptic. I don’t find it troubling to hold unanswered questions. I don’t mind waiting in faith. The more time I have to process new ideas, the better I understand them and the more peace I come to feel about them.

(I try to reject things that lead to sin. I mean, haven’t I committed enough sins already? Do I need to pile on? I’m a sinner—a repentant one—who has had too many knife fights with the devil. I’m tired.)

I believe I have a Mother in Heaven. Though I don’t fully understand Her relationship with our Father in Heaven, it must be the most wonderful relationship imaginable. I don’t need all the answers right now—and I am wary of anyone who rushes in and thinks they have them all.

I am grateful for the opportunity to patiently believe and the privilege to know what little I do (it’s probably for my own good). Even if I can’t grasp a concept fully, whatever the truth is, I want to learn it, no matter how long it takes, no matter how popular or unpopular it may be.

The truth is the the truth. They only thing we can change is our relationship to it.

Let the Shadows Fall behind You

Boy holding stuffed rabbit with a frightening shadow behind him. From Canva.com.

Doubt is a normal thing. Like the common cold, just about everyone comes down with it from time to time. We all come face-to-face with shadows and have a chance to decide what we are going to do about it. Facing a dark night of the soul is not easy.

I had to face a dark night of the soul before I ever joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ll call it my pre-faith crisis. At 17, the bright light of the gospel showed up in my life, but my parents were violently opposed to it. I was so excited about it I could hardly contain myself, but my parents, especially my father, were apoplectic. They piled books and pamphlets in my lap that were, shall I say, less than complimentary of the Prophet Joseph, Brigham Young, the Book of Mormon, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre . . . you get the idea.

I read that material with an open mind. I wasn’t afraid of it or particularly shocked. I literally knew nothing about Mormonism before that time. As I sorted through the criticism, negativity, grumbling, and accusations that shouted from those pages, I was also reading the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, feeling the warm presence of the Holy Spirit, hearing the voice of the Lord come to my heart, and experiencing miracles daily.

Even at that young age, I could discern the dissonant voices who spoke against the truth and the light that shined from scripture and from the lives and examples of my Latter-Day Saint friends. The contrast was crisp and beautiful. It brought everything into focus. I could choose the path of light or the path of darkness.

I also knew that God was not in the dark and that I wouldn’t find Him there for “that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23). I also came to know that He will reach into the dark to pull you out, if you turn to Him.

Darkness versus Light

And what do I mean by dark? I mean criticism, mockery, sarcasm, blame, belittling, bitterness, disrespect, and contention. If any of these attributes are present in conversation or in something you’re reading, darkness is also present.

I made a simple commitment that unforgettable autumn, before I was baptized, to look to God and follow the light. In answer to my prayers, the Lord said to my spirit, “No one really knows what happened to Joseph Smith. I do. Do you believe Me?” That was over 40 years ago. I’ve been weak at times and have made many mistakes, but I have stayed true to that prompting from God.

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. It hasn’t always been easy, to be sure. I’ve certainly had dark days—dark weeks and months—but I’ve hung on.

And I have always received clear answers, eventually, to whatever question I’ve asked. This promise works: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).

I learned to not rely on the “arm of flesh” for my answers (see 2 Nephi 4:34). We’ve been counseled to “ask of God” who promises to give answers “to all men liberally.” He won’t rebuke us or treat us poorly for asking. He will simply give answers to us, if we ask sincerely and patiently (see James 1:5).

“Doubt Not”

I want to share a verse that is very powerful to me. It’s short. So short, I memorized it during the first few months I was a member of the Church. It’s still one of my favorites:

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.)

Let’s talk about these ten words for a moment. This is the voice of Jesus Christ, pleading with you and me to look to Him in every thought; He is also commanding us (He’s using the imperative voice according to English grammar) to not doubt or fear.

Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart. . . . (Mormon 9:27.)

Yes, we will all struggle with doubt from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be our constant companion. We can do something about it.

A Rattlesnake in Your Sleeping Bag

Look at it this way. If a rattlesnake crawls into your sleeping bag, are you going to let it stay there? Are you going to stay there? I think not. You would put as much cleverness and energy into resolving doubt that you would put into getting away from that rattlesnake. It’s wise to move slowly in such a case, but by all means, it’s best to move.

No one is obligated to doubt. No one is forced to doubt. It is ultimately a choice. Like an addiction, it might be a hard habit to break. If we trust the wisdom of the world or our own wisdom above God’s, our doubts will bite with venom.

Unchecked, they’ll eventually infest our thoughts. We might wake up one morning doubting everything. Hearts will be troubled, if not embittered, and our outlook will be dark and at times contentious. These are signs that the rattlesnake is near or has already bitten you. But you don’t have to stay loyal to that snake. You can turn away from the serpent at any time.

I remember years ago hearing a friend quote the wise advice of his grandmother.

Don’t let the devil get into the car with you because pretty soon, he’s going to want to drive.

You don’t have to let doubt take the wheel; you don’t even have to let it get into your car.

You can turn your back on doubt and turn your whole heart to God, if you wish. Turn your whole heart to His light and the shadows will lose their strength. Trust that light and follow it. Don’t wait for complete and perfect answers before you choose to follow the light. Those answers will come after you choose to walk in the light. As you walk in the light and toward the light, the shadows always fall behind you.

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–13.)

We’re here to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). If you turn toward the light, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). You’ll know what to do. You’ll have peace in your heart. You’ll get your clear answers. Temptations will lose power. You won’t have to cling to your misunderstanding. You’ll find it easier to keep the commandments that have troubled you.

Have not I [the Lord] commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9.)

We in our times haven’t been asked to cross the plains of the American West, but we’ve been asked to cross the plains of doubt. We can do it. Of course we can. I know we can.

Make doubt your servant; don’t let it become your master. Let doubt be your acquaintance, but don’t invite it over for Christmas dinner.

Let me close with these words about the fruits of the Spirit and righteous living. I love the way Galatians 5:22–23 reads in The Message:

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

We’ll know who is walking in the light by their fruits (see Matthew 7:15–20)—that is, in the long run, they’ll produce joy instead of bitterness, unity not separation, love not disdain or hatred. Let His light lead you to the good fruit. He will not fail you if you put your trust in Him (see Mosiah 7:33).

And you’ll get that rattlesnake to find someplace else to curl up.

(First published as “When Doubt Crawls into Your Sleeping Bag” on October 24, 2016.)

My COVID-19 Story

COVID-19 spiky virus. Canva.com

I got COVID-19 in mid-March 2020. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but I keep thinking I should, so here I am. Maybe my story will prompt others to tell theirs.

It’s evident that I don’t have a spunky immune system. I eat a lot of vegetables and handfuls of supplements. I try to exercise regularly but I haven’t felt up to running or other exercise in last few months.

If you’ve had COVID, has it taken you a while to recover? I’m struggling. I don’t have “long COVID” but probably a cocktail of illness, old and new.

Diagnosis

So you’d expect I would have had a tough case of COVID, but I didn’t. To me, it was really like a bad cold. My fever and cough were slight. I was off work about a week and a half, but I was still able to keep up with my work email every day. Compared to some of the viruses I’ve wrestled with over the last five years, this one was on the light side. I feel blessed.

I thought I had COVID, but I needed a test to prove it. I have one of those apps where you can see a doctor online. I had to wait for several hours, but in the end (near midnight), the nurse practitioner didn’t think I had it. The following week, I went to the my regular doctor, but my symptoms were all but gone, so the nurse practitioner there didn’t believe me either.

On a follow up visit, I begged for an antibody test which my doctor finally approved. Within a few days, I got my diagnosis not from the doctor’s office but from a Salt Lake county contract tracer.

I called my doctor to give her the news. We can all use occasional moments of vindication.

Recovery

I recovered fairly well at first, but my running times were way off. I only ran two 5Ks in 2020, and my times were slow. Since last fall, fatigue has completely dominated my life. I don’t know if the fatigue is residual from COVID-19, or if I’m suffering from other maladies too—a cumulative effect. It’s been a trial of faith when you try so many things to feel better and nothing seems to work very well. Except sunlight.

In any case, I wasn’t well this winter, at least not until we started to get more sunlight in May. Since my big yellow friend arrived, time outside with natural doses of vitamin D have seemed to help and now I have a few semi-normal days each week, but I am still not out of the woods.

Masks

While wearing a mask has been a bother (I get nauseated after about 30 minutes), I caught the fewest viruses last winter than in recent memory. Working from home and not riding public transportation may have contributed to a healthier season for me too. So in spite of the negative press on masks, I think they have helped me. I’ll wear them on the train next winter, COVID or no COVID.

That said, I never have had to wear a mask for longer than an hour or so. I feel bad for those that have to wear them all day, every day, at school or work. I especially feel bad for the kids.

Vaccines

I am not against vaccines, but I’m cautious about them. Sometimes they seem to do more harm than good. I have taken plenty of vaccines in the past, but when your toxic load is high like mine, you have to weigh risks.

First off, since I have had the disease, shouldn’t I have immunity. Some doubt that immunity from COVID will last, but a study from the Washington University School of Medicine (also see this article in Nature) indicates that those antibodies could last a lifetime. Isn’t natural immunity better than a vaccine? Why would a medical professional go against the history of medicine to try to get me to take the vaccine?

I try to do my homework on issues. I like facts more than theories even though theories can be fun. I do my best to listen to both sides of an argument, though it’s tough to listen to propaganda (from both sides). In a word, I try to not be an ideologue.

I also try to tune into motives. I’m constantly analyzing motives. I constantly ask myself why a person, particularly a public person, takes a certain stance on an issue. Will they or their political posture profit from their stance, or do they genuinely care about people? Are they telling the truth? Why or why not? You can’t judge a person fully, but you owe it to yourself to use your best judgment to discern what their motives likely are.

There are a lot of things about COVID vaccines that concern me (that’s an understatement), but I’ll only mention one here.

When I use MedAlerts to query the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) database, as of May 14, 2021, there have been 4,021 deaths due to COVID-19 vaccines. That caught my attention. And an older Harvard study reports that less than 1 percent of vaccine adverse effects are reported (see page 5). That is something to really think about, especially if you go to the trouble of doing the actual math.

Have you heard about these vaccine-related deaths on the news? I’d guess you haven’t. Is this information suppressed? If so, why? Who profits from suppressed information? I don’t feel guilty for asking these questions, but I make some people uncomfortable when I ask them because it goes against the standard narrative.

All I’ve offered are facts and questions. I have always bucked the standard narrative since I was a child.

What’s Next?

The overall cost of COVID-19, personally, has been more than I bargained for. The cost to the world has been catastrophic. I don’t know what the new normal will be for me or for our nation or world, but I comfort myself by recognizing that I have no idea what normal is anymore and that my eyes have been opened.

I don’t believe everything I hear, but I weigh most everything I hear. So I won’t be surprised if the origins of COVID-19 are more sinister than any of us have imagined. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Whatever the case, I trust God. He is ultimately in charge. He has definitely gotten my attention over the last year. I am more careful about my thoughts, words, and actions. I ramble prayers day and night. I want to stay connected to Him and to the many good people in my life. And I have every reason to be confident in the future because I know God is listening and is with me.

Dusty Smith’s Trial of Faith

I recently found Dusty Smith’s book Trial of Faith (also by Kimiko Christensen Hammari). It sort of waved me down. It was next to a larger book at waist level on a shelf at Deseret Book in Spanish Fork. I was not having a great day but it was about to get better. Something said, “You’ll want to pick up that book.” I took it in hand and bought the intriguing little volume forthwith.

I finished reading it the next day. It moved me. Dusty’s story is not candy coated. I was amazed by his honesty. He confesses his online antagonism —bitter, hate-filled, and frequent over two decades. But then something changed and his heart started to soften. The patience, understanding, and good humor of his now good friend Mike Robertson helped a lot.

Miracles came. Many, many miracles. Miracles so convincing that they seem more real than “reality.” Like the time (starting on page 60) when Dusty was deathly ill and his son innocently let a pair of missionaries into the house when he was not up to seeing anyone.

“You’re sick,” the missionaries observed.

“I’m not just sick,” replied Dusty, “I’m dying. Now please get out of my house.”

“Can we at least give you a blessing first?”

A hinge point. “If it’ll get you out of my house, then yes.”

They gave him a blessing and this is what happened. “I felt instant relief,” he reported. “I was immediately and completely healed. My fever broke, and I was able to get out bed even though I wasn’t able to just a few minutes before. I walked the missionaries downstairs and asked them to never come back . . . [but] I was left with a nagging feeling to read my mission journal, and I kept thinking about the Church. Was God trying to tell me something? Why did the missionaries just happen to knock on my door that day?”

That’s just one of many miracles that led a man who once had a Korihor-rible (John Bytheway’s word) attitude about the Church to someone who had his testimony resurrected, was rebaptized, came back into full faith, and had his story retold in general conference. Dusty’s tale was shocking to me, eye-opening, encouraging, heart-warming, and miraculous. I highly recommend the book.

When we adopt—or readopt—God’s wisdom as the guide to our lives, our lives change, and I was changed by this amazing story. Thank you, Dusty, for your example of faith and humility. I’m grateful to have made your acquaintance through your book.

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

Our King

Adapted from the words of S. M. Lockeridge and Chuck Missler.

Our King is
the King of the Jews,
the King of Israel,
the King of righteousness
the King of all the ages,
the King of Heaven,
the King of Glory,
the King of Kings and
Lord of lords.

I wonder, do you know Him? Do you really?

Followers of Christ wave palm leaves as Jesus enters Jerusalem.

He was a prophet before Moses,
a priest after Melchizedek,
a champion like Joshua,
an offering in the place of Isaac,
a king from the line of David,
a wise counselor above Solomon,
a beloved, rejected, exalted son like Joseph.

The heavens declare His glory,
and the firmament His handiwork,
He who is, who was, who always will be,
the First and the Last,
the Alpha and Omega,
the Aleph and the Tau,
the first fruits of them that slept,
the “I AM that I AM,”
the voice out of the burning bush.

He is the Captain of the Lord’s host,
He is the conqueror of Jericho,
He is enduringly strong,
He is entirely sincere,
He is eternally steadfast,
He is immortally graceful,
He is imperially powerful,
He is impartially merciful.

He is the greatest phenomenon to ever
cross the horizon of this world.

In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead,
our Kinsman-Redeemer,
our Avenger of Blood,
our City of Refuge,
our eternal High Priest,
our perennial prophet,
our reigning King.

He’s the loftiest idea in literature,
He’s the fundamental doctrine of theology,
He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism!
He’s the Miracle of the Ages,
the superlative of everything good.

We are the beneficiaries of His love letter,
written in blood on a wooden cross,
erected in Judea 2,000 years ago.
No means can measure the limits
of His limitless love.

He was crucified on a cross of wood,
yet He made the hill on which is stood.
By Him were all things made that were made, and
without Him was not anything made that was made,
and by Him all things hold together.

Jesus is nailed to the cross.

What held Him to that cross?
It wasn’t the nails!
It was His love for you and me.

He was born of a woman
so we could be born of God.
He humbled Himself
below all things
so we could be lifted up.
He became a servant
so we could be heirs with Him.
He suffered rejection
so we could become His friends.
He denied Himself
so we could freely receive all things.
He gave Himself
so He could bless us in every way.

He’s available to all,
to the tempted and the tried,
He blesses the young,
He cleanses the lepers,
He defends the feeble,
He delivers the captives,
He discharges the debtors,
He forgives the sinners.

He franchises the meek,
He guards the besieged,
He heals the sick,
He provides strength to the weak,
He regards the aged,
He rewards the diligent,
He serves the unfortunate,
He sympathizes and
He reaches down to save.

A portrayal of Christ's empty tomb after his resurrection.

His offices are manifold,
His reign is righteous,
His promises are sure,
His goodness is limitless,
His light is matchless,
His grace is sufficient,
His love never changes,
His mercy is everlasting,
His Word is more than enough,
His yoke is easy and His burden is light!

He’s indescribable,
He’s incomprehensible,
He’s irresistible, and
He’s invincible!

The heavens cannot contain Him
and man cannot explain Him,
The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him and
found they couldn’t stop Him.
Pilate couldn’t find fault with Him,
the witnesses couldn’t agree against Him.
Herod couldn’t kill him,
death couldn’t handle Him, and
the grave couldn’t hold him!

He has always been and always will be.
You can’t impeach Him and
He isn’t going to resign!
His name is above every name
and at the name of
Yeshua Mashiach
every knee shall bow and
every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, who
reigns in power and glory,
forever and forever.
Amen and amen.

Mary Magdalene speaks with Christ after His Resurrection.

All images courtesy of Gospel Media © IRI.

Nephi’s Formula for Spiritual Success

Courtesy Gospel Media Library © By Intellectual Reserve, Inc.There was a critical event in the Book of Mormon that doesn’t get headlined very often. It was when Nephi was dealing with the bitterness, doubts, and scorn of his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

Instead of allowing his brothers to dissuade and discourage him, he took his questions to the Lord independently. And he got a crystal clear answer. It’s one of my favorite verses in the whole book. Here it is:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Nephi 2:16.)

Hinge Points

We all have hinge points. Sometimes those points open doors, other times they close them. To me, this was Nephi’s hinge point. Maybe it was hinge point of the whole Book of Mormon epic. I mean, if Nephi had followed his brothers’ examples and become a Mr. Grumble Grump, would we even have a Book of Mormon?

Well, I suppose the Lord would call and install another, as his works cannot be frustrated (see Doctrine and Covenants 3:1,3), but Nephi would not have been in the picture. Well, maybe he would have been another bad example. The Book of Mormon has a herd of goats and Nephi could have been numbered among them.

Nephi’s Formula

Here’s my take on Nephi’s formula.

  1. He had a great desire to know and understand the mysteries and will of God.
  2. He prayed to the Lord, at the right time, for the right reasons. It seems he didn’t just say his prayers, but cried out to God in some pain and great earnestness.
  3. The Lord visited him and softened his heart so that he believed all the words of his father.

This formula works for me and you if we have the faith to apply it. That’s my experience. We don’t have to wait for someone else’s explanation. We can get an answer directly from the Lord. It takes time, patience, and repentance.

“I Will Go and Do . . .”

It was after his prayer that Nephi returned to his father’s tent and uttered these now famous words:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7).

Nephi must have had a remarkable experience to declare his faith and commitment like this. From what we can gather from the pages of 1 and 2 Nephi, that experience never left him.

Put Your Trust in Him

I have had a both good life and a difficult one. I have had lots of personal troubles—I still have plenty of them—but I’ve also had my own spiritual experiences, my own quiet triumphs. I make mistakes every day that I regret, but with all my heart, I believe these words from Alma the Younger:

I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 38:5.)

The Lord has led me out of my trials because when I take them to Him, He can help me—and He can help you. He can help everyone, no matter where they are on the trail. It takes patience and a humble heart, but God always delivers those who don’t give up on their faith in Him.

But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage. (Mosiah 7:33.)

Wow! Now that’s a promise. I like to think he will deliver us for any and all kinds of bondage: pride, deception, bad habits, bad attitudes, intellectualism, judgment, perfectionism, lust, addictions, sins new and old—He will deliver us from any and all of them, if we can manage to trust Him and act on that trust.

Facing Uncertainty with Faith

Man facing a wall of waterLast year, I wrote a blog post called “Diving through the Waves of Uncertainty.” It’s a personal story of when I was 17. I was faced with a barrage of persecution, contradiction, and what I now call “scornography.” Fortunately, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to find my way. I’m sharing this link here because I feel prompted to share it. It might help someone who’s passing through the same fire.

Scornography

I see scornography—media that mocks, belittles, blames, slams, and tears down—the same way I see pornography. If you spend time with it, it’s venom will cross the blood-brain barrier and spread like black ink across your mind. It will bind you and block your ability to see and understand God’s hand in your life. There’s not much difference between the two when you consider the damage they cause.

A Mountain to Climb

We all have the same mountain to climb. We’ll climb different faces, hike trails of our choosing, meander from camp to camp at the base. That doesn’t matter much. What matters is that God our Father stands at the peak, offering His help. If we can manage to lift our eyes from the trail we’re on at the moment, we might just see Him there. He is always willing to help when we ask for it with all our hearts. This I know for certain.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11–13.)

In spite of grinding weakness, I keep looking for the top of the mountain. In tatters, bloodied knees, and a broken spirit, I intend to keep climbing. I don’t know if I’ll reach it in one piece or not, but for now, I’m taking one step, one confession, one slice of humble, and one prayer at a time.