Thursday, December 28, 2023

More Than Anything

In the last 13 years I've read a fair amount of blogs about the movement of people, like you and me, who are seeing the hypocrisy of the church and the discrepancies with what the church teaches and what the scriptures say. Some of the bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, etc., have gained followings. I have watched how these voices resonate with some and not with others and how groups form. 

One thing I've noticed I don't like is the new *but improved* (former) LDS voices that let you know you're pretty much a bad person and the reason Zion isn't being brought about is because of all of your bad traits that are keeping things from progressing to a holier level. These kinds of statements aren't prophetic - they're self evident. For goodness sake - we are ALL wicked, unholy, and prone to selfishness and pride. It is natural to have discord and judgmental responses to those around us. We live in a state of entropy constantly. What amazes me are those people who miraculously transcend such tendencies and are able to manage small heroic acts of kindness or love or charity for another. Telling me I'm horrible doesn't make we want to be less horrible - it only produces more spiritual distance from the One who is Holy via shame, guilt, and grief.

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to witness leaf cutter ants cutting leaves and taking them back to their home where they use them to sustain a white fungus that they grow in their nests to help feed them and their young. I was amazed at their precision in cutting and their exactness in marching in straight lines back to their home. The had purpose and they were not deterred. It was such a little thing that was first noticed by my children and then captivated by all of us as as we stopped to watch them in awe. I can't help but reflect back on that. It's silly - just little ants cutting leaves but it was something I'd only seen with on a nature program.

I couldn't help but see how much we are all like those ants. We get up each day, we have tasks to perform, we bust our b-hind's until the day is done - lay down, sleep, wake up and do it all again the next day. I smiled to myself as I pondered on the thought that these little ants didn't know they were being watched and filmed by us. They didn't even know what "we" were. They had a task an they were doing it and they'd go to bed later and then get up and do it all again tomorrow. Human beings aren't a thought in their little ant brains. We are just an object out there on the periphery that has no meaning or purpose to them. They didn't know that nature documentary films had been made about them and set to an awesome score of music where millions of people would watch them over the years. And yet - it was so.

How like those ant's are we in relation to God? We get up, we get stuff done all day that feels very important to us (white fungus stuff) and then we sleep and do it all again the next day. Off in the periphery is a shape we don't really understand and we've no time to delve into understanding it anyways.

I wondered if the angels had ever made a documentary about us small humans set to an epic score. They do watch over us and the song that vibrates heaven surely intensifies when we step out of the line of redundancy and wander off toward that shape of God in the distance. I wonder if we grow brighter and brighter the nearer we approach the throne - until the perfect day (D&C 50:24)

How rare is it for an ant to step off the path and seek something more? One in a million? One in a billion? How rare is it for a human to step of the proverbial path to seek Him? One in a million? One in a billion? But they do. And heaven rejoices and the musical score intensifies and to encounter Him is to become like Him. 

When you train your thoughts to always flow back to Jesus, He becomes the North Star to which your internal compass always returns. No matter which way you turn - you are continually pointing to Him and He to you. And then you are no longer afraid of the darkness for He dwells in you and His will has lead you to become Zion - of one heart and one mind...not with another human - but with Him

All the preaching of Zion won't get you to Zion. All the focus on external projects like a temple or a set of scriptures or baptisms or endowments won't get you closer to Him. They'll get you closer to the project - but not to Him. Jesus even warned about getting obsessed with projects - look!

John 5: 39-40 NLT

39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 

40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

You can substitute the word "scriptures" with anything. Allow me to demonstrate:
"You look to gathering as a group so Zion can come forth because you think that will give you eternal life. But Zion points to me! You refuse to come to me to receive this life."

"You look to going to the Temple because you think that will give you eternal life. But the Temple points to me! You refuse to come to me to receive this life."

"You look to Joseph Smith or the Davidic Servant because you think that will give you eternal life. But they point to me! You refuse to come to me to receive this life."
You get the idea. But do you believe it?

I remember my third Zone Leader Training on my mission in Tokyo over 20 years ago. It is a vivid memory because it was so disturbing. In the room sat about 8 missionaries and then the two ZL's. One particular ZL was an American full of all the worst of the American traits of pride and arrogance. He began berating the district for not baptizing more. His lecture felt like an eternity. Because I was so new I hadn't grown accustom to putting my head down and not making eye-contact as is common in Japan to show respect for those in authority above you. I sat there with my head on a swivel looking to each member of my district, heads down, all while feeling like I was on a really bad episode of "Candid Camera." 

It was when he said, "If you don't baptize each month it means you are a bad missionary and aren't keeping the rules" that I could take no more. I raised my hand and asked, "Let me see if I understand this if I taught someone in my last area and they got baptized but I was transferred before the baptism - is it *my* baptism or did I need to see it with my own eyes to have it count? And if I teach someone else today but get transferred tomorrow, do I need to be there to have it count as *my* baptism? Because I want to be righteous, right? So how, exactly, does counting baptisms work? And if the person I am teaching uses their free agency to choose not to be baptized, does that mean I'm bad too? Should my goodness override their agency and turn it into a baptism - so I know that I'm a good missionary?"

Oblivious to my mocking question he took the time to spew forth answers of which were forgettable. When he was done trying to break it down I told him I was a good missionary, no matter his opinion of what makes a good missionary, and nothing he could say about monthly baptisms would tell me otherwise. Heads in the district popped up and a discussion of logic ensued which turned the tides of guilt that day. 

What helped me be able to have that conversation were two things: 

1. I knew my mission president. I knew he would never teach the Elders hogwash like that and 2. I knew who Father was. You can't tell me I'm bad if He's told me otherwise.

Those groups that form within and without the church form on the commonality that they, like my district, hear a voice and determine that it is unequivocally God's voice to them. Until you take time to silence all other voices but what comes to you directly from God - you will always have a second hand relationship with God. Zion won't come about because you have successfully managed to tame your jealousies or anger. It will come about because you have become so intimately acquainted with the Lord that you will naturally gravitate to all Jesus lovers everywhere. When He is your North Star you will no longer feel satisfied with more discussions on Joseph or the restoration or the Temple or General Conference or (fill in the blank). He will be the only thing that will quench your thirst and your hunger.

Do you feel it? Do you long for something More? Perhaps the Father is drawing you to Him. Perhaps you should respond...

John 6:44-51 KJV
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
A.W. Tozer said it best (I've used it before but I'll use it again here):
"We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends (or groups, teachings, Joseph, Scriptures, Temple, Davidic Servant, the church, etc.). But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

"The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough, old miser within us will not lie down and die in obedience to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul by violence, as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves against his piteous begging...

“Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival.... Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there."
Who or what is your North Star right now?

Ask the Lord to reveal to you what your North Star is (or what your mind runs to instead of Him)?

Why is it so hard to let go of political obsession, emergency prep., Joseph Smith history, Zion, a prophet, gathering, the Temple, the group you are a part of, or (fill in the blank) and just have Jesus as your North Star and as your guide? 

If you let your *righteous obsession go - you will get it back. But if you cling to it, it will be taken from you. To get to Jesus you can't take another god with you. He has to be your waking thought, your breath, part of your suffering, part of your joy. He has to be your everything.

What is the story you are living in?

We're all living in a story and in each story is a narrator. Who is narrating your story?

We always have a narrator of events in our lives. Always pray to bring your narration under the authority of Jesus.

What narrative has got your attention right now? Is it the story God is telling you?


Is it politics, the economy, emergency prep., Zion, the Davidic Servant, Joseph Smith, new and improved scriptures, gathering as a group, paying the bills, your job, your family, fill in the blank.

God is in charge of everything. The story of God is the story of the world!

Who is the "bad guy" in your story?

Who is the Hero?

Who or what are you looking to to save the day?

Is Jesus Christ absolutely central to the narrative you are living? Who gets to determine the narrative for you? The news? The prophet? The leader of your group?

John 8:31-32
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
It takes consistent work to make Jesus your North Star. We have other god's we have filled in His place. Our mind easily runs back to worry or to food or pleasure. Don't let this post make you feel guilty for not thinking of Him more. It's a wonder we think of Him at all! We are so like the ant's - busy and unaware of the great things God has in store for us. But today I'm putting a Stone in your path (as has been done for me many times). You can walk around it and fall back in line or you can pause, drop the leaf you are so desperately clinging to, and look around at the One who is smiling at you watching you in love and awe. Take time to answer the questions posed in this post. Often we don't slow down enough to ask ourselves what the heck we're doing.

Slow down.

And if you like this post it was inspired by Wild at Heart's 30 days to resilient pause app found here (scroll down for the link to the app). If you're looking for Jesus - for your compass to point to Him as your North Star, give it a try. We are doing it with our children morning and night and today my 11 year old came to me and said, "I really like the feeling in our home since we've started doing this together." 

Or you can go back to the grind, the leaf....fermentation.

More Than Anything
Natalie Grant