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Throughout His ministry, Jesus constantly cast evil from His presence. No matter if it was an individual demon or legions of them, He was quick, decisive and tremendously confident at telling Beelzebub to beat it. And every time, it worked.

Since the first endowments were given over 175 years ago, what little faithful members have learned about casting out evil has been gleaned in bits and pieces of the endowment. Even then, the information has been scant at best.

To make matters more difficult, there’s nothing written in the General Handbook of Instructions, no General Conference talks and in fact no scriptures about who should cast out evil and how it should be done. So, it’s reasonable to conclude that much of what we church members have done in terms of casting out has been based on nothing more than oral tradition.

One tradition: only faithful priesthood holders can cast out evil from their presence. Yet as I review the scriptures, I can find nothing -- absolutely nothing -- that says it’s the case.

Bring on the Believers 
If you’re looking for scriptures about casting out, you’re in luck; there’s not too many. Here are all the scriptures regarding casting out evil (minus those which are duplicated roughly word-for-word elsewhere):
Matthew 7:20-23
Matthew 8:16
Matthew 9:33
Matthew 10:8
Matthew 12:20-23, 26-28
Mark 1:34, 39
Mark 16:17
Luke 9:49-50
Revelation 12:9
1 Nephi 11:31
Mosiah 3:6
Alma 50:13
3 Nephi 7:19
3 Nephi 7:21-22
3 Nephi 14:20-23
Mormon 9:24
D&C 35:8-9
D&C 84:65-67
D&C 124:97-98

Amazingly, none of these 19 passages mention the word “priesthood” once. They don’t even mention “men”.

(Paul admonished that we “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21). No gender is mentioned in that scripture, either).

So who are the lucky ones (besides Jesus and his 12 apostles) who get to cast out devils and demons? Four scriptures (in red above) have our answer:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17; emphasis mine) 
“And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;” (Mormon 9:24; emphasis mine) 
“For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name. And whoso shall ask it in my name in faith, they shall cast out devils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk.” (D&C 35:8-9; emphasis mine) 
“And these signs shall follow them that believe
In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
In my name they shall cast out devils;” (D&C 84:65-67; emphasis mine)
These four scriptures are the only ones which definitively identify who can cast out devils. All four say the same thing: believers.

Now, my next question is, are believers in Jesus only limited to men? Of course not. The scriptures, the church and even your local fast and testimony meeting definitively proves one undeniable truth:

Believers know no gender... 
Lest I be considered “off” on my analysis, here are some latter-day leaders who agree with this truth:

Joseph Smith's private journal, called the Book of the Law of the Lord, specified the priesthood promise in his instructions to the women on April 28, 1842: “April 28 At two o’clock P.M. I met the members of the “Female Relief Society” and after presiding at the admission of many new members gave a lecture on the Priesthood shewing how the Sisters would come in possession of the privileges, blessings, and gifts of the Priesthood, and that the signs should follow them, such as healing the sick, casting our devils &c and that they might attain unto these blessings by a virtuous life and conversation and diligence in keeping all the commandments. A synopsis of which was reported by Miss Eliza R. Snow.” (Book of the Law of the Lord, 28 Apr. 1842, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 378-79; https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-c-1-2-november-1838-31-july-1842/500)

"The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons." (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Magnifying Our Callings in the Priesthood,” Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 66). 
“Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all of the gifts of the Spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord. He is no respecter of persons nor of sexes, and he blesses those men and those women who seek him and serve him and keep his commandments.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1979/06/our-sisters-from-the-beginning
"Many of us already have spiritual gifts, but we sometimes fail to recognize them. We may think they are reserved for people with special needs or callings. For the same reason, we may neglect to earnestly seek spiritual gifts, even though they have been promised to us." (Relief Society General Presidency, “Seeking the Best Gifts,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, p. 55)
...nor age 
Not only women, but also children, can cast out evil if they but believe:

“Levi Hancock’s children heard the devil telling their mother that she would be healed from her six-year convalescence if she would but deny the work of God. The mother resisted, and in the interim “the children heard the Conversation reached upon the bed and laid hands on their mother & the Devill departed at an instant”; Utah Stake General Minutes, v. 10 [1855-], LDS archives.”

The name of Christ is a word - but with power when you believe in it. 
There are some who say that such healings, based on faith alone, have limitations, whereas those based on priesthood authority have no limitations. Their beliefs are not based on the word of God, for in the above scriptures and quotes, no such differentiation exists.

I personally know many people with great faith who have received priesthood blessings given by high-ranking local church leaders, and the blessings had zero effect. They were later ministered to by another with great faith, and the healing was immediate and permanent. Am I the only one on the planet who has witnessed this? I doubt it.

God is no respecter of persons. Would He deliberately keep people in countries which outlaw Christianity from His blessings just because there is no priesthood holder for thousands of miles? I think not. I worship a God who is inclusive, not exclusive...who is ever-expanding, not limiting...who loves more than we can conceive, not vindictive and vengeful.

We've been told that in this mortal life, Satan has the power to bruise our heels. However, we've also been told that through Jesus Christ, we have the power to crush Satan’s head. Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking that’s an impossible task. Don’t let him fool you into thinking that only men have that power. He knows -- and now, YOU know -- that both the scriptures and prophets testify that believers of Jesus can have a role in crushing Satan’s head...if you’ll just believe in Him who is mighty to save.

Next, in Part 2 of this series, you’ll hear from some men and women who've successfully cast evil -- and along with it, fear, intimidation, molestation and worse -- from their presence.

In the meantime, if you’d like to interact with a few who have experience casting out evil, you’re invited to subscribe to The Perfect Day Facebook group. Follow the instructions on this page, and in the subscription form, tell us you’re wanting to learn more about casting out. We look forward to meeting you online.

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There once was a church ward with about 440 members. It was a considered a typical ward, with typical quorums, auxiliaries and programs. The names you’ll hear are made up; the scenarios are real.

One of the ward members, Marshall, is very respected within the ward. This is because he had served in very significant church leadership callings since he was a full-time missionary 40 years earlier. His church resume is impressive: He had served as mission Assistant to the President, Elders Quorum President, Bishopric Counselor and Bishop. It goes without saying that Marshall attends all Sunday church meetings, pays a full tithe and fast offering and attends the temple regularly.

He wears very nice suits and watches, and is very successful in his business.

Yet under the veneer of success and church activity is something far more concerning: He ignores beggars on street corners, believing they are frauds and fakes. He ignores requests to help someone move into the ward. He places success above friendship, and breaks contracts with small business owners because he wants to, leaving them to financially struggle while he enjoys Caribbean cruises and European vacations.

Dave is well respected in various Facebook gospel-related groups. He is tremendously knowledgeable about doctrines. Combined with his nice, extrovert personality, what’s not to like about him! One of Dave’s best qualities is his loyalty to friends. Once you’re Dave’s friend, you’re assured he’ll support you anytime, anywhere.

This becomes a problem, though, when Dave likes and shares posts by those who espouse false and even destructive doctrines. So, online, here is what he has clicked “Like” and/or “Share” to:

  • We should seek out darkness so we can eventually rise above it.
  • It’s OK to ignore certain passages of scripture that make us feel uncomfortable.
  • Light is to be feared (so Jesus, being the light of the world, should be feared?).
  • Mystical designs can be a substitute to true spiritual experiences.
  • Polygamy is something a church member should believe in.
  • Someday, we should have the opportunity to hug Satan and offer him forgiveness for all his evil, vile, violent and abhorrent crimes against humanity.

Not only has he publicly liked these posts by others, but because people know and respect Dave’s gospel knowledge, many follow his lead and like these false doctrines as well. Thus, Dave’s eagerness to be a true friend has also led to his other friends being deceived. And because they trust Dave’s gospel perspectives, they, too, share what he has liked, thus deceiving others as well.

Natalie has constant, severe migraines which often interfere with her ability to go to church every Sunday. But because Natalie doesn't have 100% attendance at church, members judge her. They question her faithfulness, her righteousness and more. When her 14 year-old daughter invited a non-member boy to church, they didn’t praise her for her missionary spirit; instead, the Bishop fired up a special lesson on dating.

“She must be sinning. She must be an apostate” are prevalent beliefs which actually hurt, not help, the situation. She has yet to receive a simple phone call or a quick visit from a ward member. A friend? A hug? A smile? A piece of chocolate cake? Ummmm, nope. Instead, other ward members speak in hushed tones around her and her daughter. If they have any communication with ward members, they’re emails with links to conference talks and quotes from church leaders.

Yet what these ward members with 100% attendance, awesome church callings, “righteous judgment” and GA quotes galore don’t know is that Natalie spends much of her time with others across the globe. She prays for them and encourages hundreds more to pray for people, by name, who are suffering or in distress. She doesn’t judge others. She looks for ways to show she cares about others. She sees the hurt in others, and they see Jesus in the light of her eyes, the warmth of her touch and the peace of her words.

Mike (and Doofus)
Mike recently moved into the ward. He was baptized in his previous ward. Yet despite his status as a new, tender church member, ward members just can’t get past the tattoos which predominate his body. I don’t think Mike knows this, but the Relief Society Presidency recently met and discussed Mike’s tattoos. They were “concerned” about the safety and security of Relief Society meetings with a “tattooed man with a beard and moustache” in the ward. Thus, an informal consensus developed within the ward council that Mike isn’t temple worthy and, thus, should not be called upon to make comments in classes, let alone teach.

These ward members’ erroneous judgment clouds their ability to get to know Mike. Although he’s a pretty busy guy, Mike and his dog, Doofus, spend a lot of their time at local hospitals and senior centers. Together, they transform tears to laughs, frowns to smiles among the young and sick, the old and dying. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of lives have been brightened because this tattooed guy and his dog spend their hours together just doing what Christ would have done. That’s Mike’s simple faith for you.

Please help my scripture mastery!
As I read the scriptures, I’m perplexed by the lack of verses which say you’re unrighteous and unworthy if you’ve missed a church meeting here and there. I do see plenty saying “Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) or some variant of it.

I’m baffled as to where we are told that outward appearances are indicative of inner commitments. I did read 1 Samuel 16:7,
“But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I’m still looking for scriptures saying we should embrace darkness and/or sustain those who do. I do see that Proverbs 4:19 says,
“The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”
Ditto for those scriptures informing us that beggars on street corners are all frauds and fakes, we should pick and choose when we should be charitable. But I do recall King Benjamin saying
“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4:16-18
And I just can’t seem to find that scripture saying we can and should break promises when it suits us. If you find it, let me know.

Is it all about obedience?
A little over four years ago, I blogged about "Why Obedience Is Not The First Law of Heaven" (here).

In it, I presented some research regarding the origins of this teaching:

And while obedience -- the voluntary adherence to God's laws -- is essential for eternal salvation (Abraham 3:25–26; Helaman 14:30–31), the notion that it is "the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest" is problematic:

  1. I've known many who were flawlessly obedient (attended all church meetings, paid full tithes/fast offerings, 100% home/visiting teaching, worked in the cannery, went to the temple every week, did family history) but were full of pride -- They prided themselves on their wealth, their gospel knowledge, ignoring beggars and more. Do you mean to tell me that church members who perform all the outward appearances of righteousness, yet inwardly are darkness, get to the front of the line in heaven?
  2. If you tried to count how many commandments we are to obey -- including instructions to grow a garden, visit the sick, do your family history, learn the signs of the times as well as all the written commandments – you'd find thousands. And what do you think the chances are that you'll obey them all. Zero, right? There are just too many "commandments" to keep them all perfectly. With that being the case, then technically, none of us should make it into heaven.
  3. "Obedience" itself is never declared a "law". The Ten Commandments? The Law of Moses? Now, those are are laws! But obedience, as I understand it, denotes a voluntary compliance to laws (see D&C 130:20-21).
  4. Logically, even if obedience were a law, it would be impossible for it to be the first law of heaven. After all, unless another law existed first, there would be nothing for obedient souls to obey.

Just four little letters
If obedience isn’t the true cornerstone of salvation, then what is?

"But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:34-40)

In other words, all the revelations which God has made to man in every age, all the utterances of the prophets, all the voices of history, lead us to one common denominator: we must FIRST love God. Then, immediately after that, we must love our fellowman.

These are the two grand links that unite God to man, man to his fellows, and men again to God.

Paul expounded on this fact:
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10; emphasis mine)
Thus, if we love God, and we love others, then we will naturally be obedient. These acts of obe­di­ence then become outward indica­tions of an inward change…
"For the nat­ural man is an enemy to God, and has been since the fall of Adam and will be for­ever and ever, unless he yields to the entic­ings of the Holy Spirit and putteth of the nat­ural man and becometh a saint through the atone­ment of Christ the Lord. And becometh as a child, sub­mis­sive, humble, meek, full of love, will­ing to sub­mit unto all things whatso­ever the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth sub­mit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis mine).
...and eventually elevate us to a discipleship level:
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35
What about you?
Are you judgmental of others because they aren’t what you think they should be, or don’t do things as you believe?

Do you self-justify liking thoughts which are incongruent with gospel truths because, after all, it’s a friend who’s saying them?

Is church attendance and church activity an accurate method to determine worthiness? Should we be contemplating others’ worthiness in the first place?

If you find yourself relating to Marshall, Dave or any of the members mentioned by Natalie or Mike, then repent. Change your heart. Be the example of love Christ created you to be.

I’ll make this real simple: Love is the answer.

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It's a spiritual shield which can infuse an area, even people, with the sweet, serene simplicity of the Spirit. It can elevate us to new spiritual heights. It can stop Satan dead in his tracks, even at times when we feel spiritually powerless.

You have known, and maybe have been inspired, by songs which stirred your soul to the Savior. Unfortunately, it can often be difficult or impossible to find songs which consistently keep your spirit elevated.

For these reasons, we have built a fourth and (for the time being, at least) final sister Facebook group: "Songs of the Heart".

"Songs of the Heart" will give you a place to find uplifting music which puts a smile on your face, elevates your emotions one minute, and tearfully thanking Jesus for His love for you the next minute.

This new Facebook group doesn't focus on the Tabernacle Choir (which has several other Facebook groups), but instead, other artists -- both LDS and not -- who enliven, motivate and inspire us to greater happiness and deeper spirituality. It's open to people of all Christian denominations as a place of gathering, of sharing, of mutually uplifting under the magnificent vibrations of love, holiness and a little bit of fun.

To join "Songs of the Heart" and engage in the discussions about the songs there, go to the group's homepage, here. There, read the group rules and click the red "Click Here to Join 'Songs of The Heart'" link at the bottom of the page. That takes you to the Facebook group. Click the blue "Join Group" button and answer some simple qualifying questions, and we'll clear your subscription request right away.

We look forward to seeing you in "Songs of the Heart" today!

How Poor in Spirit Are You Really?
Recently, it was my privilege to spend time with two separate friends in separate discussions. I say "privilege" because I learned a lot, and I say "discussion" because the main topic was -- you guessed it -- themselves.

Actually, in one case, it wasn't really a discussion. It was more of a monologue, which I was "blessed" to partake of. In the other case, the "discussion" was a book, which focused on how awesomely fantabulous the person was despite frequent "hardships."

In both the monologue and the book author, the personal pronouns of "I," "Me" and "My" were flowing as fast, frequent and free as a kid in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately, the mentions about God? Ummmm, not so much.

I admit: it's always kind of interesting to hear about others' personal spiritual experiences. But when such "humble" self-absorption and self-importance goes on page after page, minute after minute, on and on and on, I start to wonder...

Poor in Spirit?
In the opening stanza of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). It's the first of nine statements of who is blessed. This is parallel with Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."

Just what did He mean?

Most New Testament scholars agree that "poor in spirit" does not mean lacking in spirit, be it courage, the Holy Ghost or religious awareness. Instead, it is that poverty is not only a physical condition, but also a spiritual one. Such true, undefiled humility is absolutely genuine and unlike it's identical counterfeit, "spiritual pride."

How can you tell the difference? The personal pronouns of "I," "Me" and "My" are absent or rare. And the attribution of anything good, wholesome or worthwhile is genuinely, sincerely and solemnly redirected to another source. They recognize that they are utterly and completely nothing.

In my opinion, the Savior was saying, "Blessed are they, who in spirit, recognize that they possess nothing" or "Blessed are those who, in their spirit, are conscious of the fact that they do not possess one thing."

It all belongs to the Father.

  • If the car has their name on the title, it does not belong to them.
  • If the house has their name on the mortgage, it does not belong to them.
  • If the checking account is in their name, it does not belong to them.

These are all physical things, which I believe all of us readily admit belong to the Father.

But in Matthew 5:3, we're talking about the poor "in spirit." That's not a physical paradigm, but a spiritual one.

  • If true humility is demonstrated through their lives, it does not belong to them. It belongs to the Father.
  • If righteousness is manifested in them, it does not belong to them. It belongs to the Father.
  • If goodness is exerting its influence through their lives, it does not belong to them. It belongs to the Father.
  • If power flows through them to the needs about them, it does not belong to them. It belongs to the Father.

Anything spiritually valuable that they possess is not their own.

They are conscious that a person does not really possess any righteousness. Any he thinks he possesses is self-righteousness. He does not possess any humility or goodness. He does not possess any power, for all things belong to God (D&C 104: 14-18) and, naturally, all things bow in humble reverence before God’s throne (D&C 76:93).

Until you are truly poor in spirit, you are not in the Kingdom.
Anyone who thinks he or she has righteousness is far from the Kingdom.
Anyone who thinks he has humility, goodness or power is far from the Kingdom.

If Jesus gave all glory and honor to the Father, why not you as well?
Jesus never boasted of his own humility, goodness, righteousness or power. Yet you never saw Him with anything less!

"Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17)

Jesus declared that even the very words that He spoke belonged to the Father; they were the Father’s words.
"For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." (John 12:49)
Jesus said that the works that He did were not His own works, they were the works of the Father.
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." (John 14:10)
What He heard from His Father He spoke, and what He saw of His Father, He did. And He NEVER took the credit. Ever. He gave it ALL to Father.

As a son or daughter of God, you must be brought to the place where you know the words which you write (to inspire or uplift others) are not yours. Your inspirational works are not yours. The results are not yours. Your humility is not yours, your gifts are not yours, your calling is not yours, your ministry is not yours, your car is not yours, your house is not yours, your family is not yours, your children are not yours, your parents are not yours.

Everything belongs to Him.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

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In my last blog post, I mentioned this blog’s Facebook group, and how it is a safe, moderated forum with one singular focus: Jesus Christ, His characteristics and becoming more like Him. It has several forums for subscribers as well:
  • "The Real Jesus,” where you'll get to know the REAL Jesus. We discuss how you can experience the actual personality of Jesus in your daily life in ways that will deepen not only your faith, but also your understanding and closeness, with Him.
  • “Striving for Zion,” where we discuss how to become more Zionlike...today.
  • “Sweet Words of Prayer” -- An active, dynamic, unofficial prayer roll, as well as a place where we can learn about and exchange insights on how to have more effective prayers.
  • "Wonderful Widows" -- A place for women who have lost their spouse due to death.
  • "Grieving Moms" -- For women that have lost children due to death (including miscarriages).
  • "Busy Moms" -- Moms of all ages who find it challenging to find time to prioritize the things of God.
Today, I’m proud to announce another new forum:

“Great are the Words of Isaiah” -- Here, we discuss the Book of Isaiah, one chapter a week. If you’ve always wanted to better understand the Book of Isaiah, you now have a safe place to study his words.

When Egos Collide
A question for you:

In your past, has there been a time when a person or organization unjustly wronged you? Or, have you witnessed someone behaving in such a way, that you knew it was only a matter of time until they harmed themselves or someone else?

That was me. Last week.

Until then, I worked for a local non-profit group (as a consultant, on the side) for over a year and a half. During that time, I frequently reminded the non-profit’s officers that if they consistently catalyzed senseless, needless drama instead of being focused on the work at hand, I would disassociate myself from the organization (it has had a long history of drama almost destroying the organization from within). Well, as fate would have it, this last week, the non-profit chose the drama, and I disassociated myself from it. The disassociation also took quite a bite out of my monthly income. It still stings.

I discussed this unfortunate turn of events with a friend who is an acknowledged expert in this non-profit’s specialized field for decades, She has seen this non-profit wax and wane, come and go for several decades. Based on her experience, knowledge of the board and many other factors which she itemized, she had no doubt that it would struggle, and likely fold, within a few years. “It’s a cycle,” she said. “It’s sad when time and again, egos divert an organization from meaningfully helping thousands in the state.”

After my conversation with my friend, I pondered all the good that could have come from the organization had it been more committed to checking egos and drama at the door. I also wondered what opportunities, what joy, board members would have experienced had they tempered their own senses of self-worth.

Is Karma a Gospel Doctrine?
“Karma” is Buddhist/Hindu concept that states the way you live your life will affect you. It’s the spiritual principle of cause and effect, where the intent and actions of an individual influences the future of that individual. It’s perhaps the ultimate form of “what goes around, comes around.” or even "poetic justice."

There is a concept in Judaism called “midah k'neged midah,” which is translated as "value against value" or "measure for measure." It essentially means that one's actions affect the world, and will eventually come back to that person in ways one might not necessarily expect.

The word “karma” isn’t found in any scripture nor general conference talk. Yet as I go through life, I get the sneaky suspicion that it’s a very real thing, and quite likely, doctrinally supported.

We are taught since we are babies about sin and its effects. We learn of living a life of charity vs. the Final Judgment, of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7) and living by the sword vs. dying by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Even Job 4:8 says that those who seek trouble usually find it.

Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37-38). He also said “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
“There is a law [I believe it’s called “the law of the harvest”], irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it [that blessing] is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21; comments mine)
Clearly, we are blessed when we love, emulate and obey God, and are condemned, maybe even cursed, if we do not.

Then again, I see innocent children dying of cancer, people dying on 9/11 and Isis beheading Christians. Did these people deserve their fates? I also see criminals getting off scot-free and dynasties of madmen ruling as unopposed tyrants. Do they deserve their wealth, power and influence?

An Eternity to Contemplate Our Actions
Credible arguments can be made on both sides of the karma question.

So, where does the truth lie?

When all is said and done, it’s God’s Plan of Salvation -- conditioned upon our actions (and inactions) in the here and now -- which dictates our eternal placement in the hereafter. Now is the seed time; afterwards, it’ll be the harvest.

In that respect, all the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos who got away with murder will face an incomprehensibly horrible day of reckoning. Conversely, those who have innocently suffered -- especially in the name of Jesus -- will face an incomprehensibly far brighter afterlife.

It’s called “Restoration”
About 2,100 years ago, another man -- a father -- had a similar discussion about these issues with his son. Here’s what he said:

“And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41:12-15; emphasis mine)

Restoration -- it’s a pretty sobering doctrine. What do you “send out”? Do you contemplate that during the day? Do you evaluate that nightly with God?

Did you judge rashly? Then you’ll be judged rashly. Did you condemn? Then you’ll be condemned. Were you merciful? Then you’ll have mercy. Did you forgive? Then you’ll be forgiven. Did you love? Then you’ll be loved.

Sometimes, as Alma explained, that good or evil “restoration” won’t happen in this life. If it doesn’t, then it will in the next:
“Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.” (Alma 42:27-28)
Several others in the scriptures believed that no one-- I repeat, no one -- escapes the skillful hands of karma:
“And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.
And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;
Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Helaman 12:24-26)
“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Helaman 14:31)
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (3 Nephi 14:2
“For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.” (3 Nephi 27:12
“For behold, the same that judgeth rashly shall be judged rashly again; for according to his works shall his wages be; therefore, he that smiteth shall be smitten again, of the Lord.” (Mormon 8:19)
Why Revenge Isn’t in your Plans
In my opinion, we shouldn’t worry about the punishment which may be headed to others. Brigham Young counseled that unless we ourselves are prepared for the day of the Lord’s vengeance when the wicked will be consumed, we should not be too anxious for the Lord to hasten his work. Instead, he said “Let our anxiety be centered upon this one thing: the sanctification of our own hearts, the purifying of our own affections” (Journal of Discourses, 9:3).

When you pick a path, you choose the place it leads to. I hope you’ll choose charity. Sometimes it begins in our hearts. Sometimes it begins as we see that actions or inactions of others, and vow to never be like them.

That’s one of the beauties of Jesus Christ’s gospel, and perhaps the wonderful upside of karma or restoration: the concept of hope and well-being from "sending out" the good, no matter if it’s via your actions, words or thoughts. You can be proactive. You can be anxiously engaged in a worthy cause.

It all begins when you seek out, learn about, emulate and continually praise the author of all goodness and all righteousness, Jesus Christ.

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First, an important announcement:

We created "The Perfect Day" Facebook group in December 2017. It's very unique in that it's seriously maintained as a safe haven where we can discuss one topic and one topic only: JESUS CHRIST -- not only learning more about Him, but also developing a closer relationship with Him as well as developing attributes which are like Him. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Additionally, we recently created several discussion forums for group subscribers where they can meet, interact with and support others who share a common interest in a topic or belong to a specific  demographic. These forums can also help us to follow Christ’s admonition to love one another and to feed His sheep. Our forums include:
  • "The Real Jesus -- Reading the Gospels without knowing Jesus' personality is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things. But when we discover His true character -- this man who made the wind, music and flying squirrels -- suddenly, all of the remarkable qualities of Jesus burst forth with color and brilliance like fireworks.  A leader who was both humorous and confrontational, generous and moody. A man of deep emotion and courage we cannot fathom. A sense of humor that absolutely, positively cannot be beat, and love beyond anything we could dream of or hope for. In these forums, you'll get to know the REAL Jesus. We'll discuss how you can experience the actual personality of Jesus in your daily life in ways that will deepen not only your faith, but also your understanding and closeness, with Him (Note: Facebook allows up to 150 people in a group; hence, groups 1 (filled) and 2 (not filled). Although moderators will post the same posts in both groups, groups may differ in their actual discussions).
  • “Striving for Zion” -- “Much more than a place, a city, or a society, Zion is a state of being. To be a part of a perfected Zion society in any dispensation, we have to first become a Zion individual." This is where we discuss how to become more Zionlike...today.
  • “Sweet Words of Prayer” -- An active, dynamic, unofficial prayer roll, as well as a place where we can learn about and exchange insights on how to have more effective prayers.
  • "Wonderful Widows" -- A place for women who have lost their spouse due to death.
  • "Grieving Moms" -- For women that have lost children due to death (including miscarriages).
  • "Busy Moms" -- Moms of all ages who find it challenging to find time to prioritize the things of God.
Those who join any forum are asked not to share any links to websites, books, Facebook groups, other forums, etc without first clearing it with the Group Administrator. This helps ensure the safety of our forums.

“We are, on the whole, an idolatrous people -- a condition most repugnant to the Lord.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” First Presidency Message, Ensign, June 1976, p. 6).
President Kimball wrote those words in 1976...to and about we members of the church. That’s right: He wrote them to you and me.

We haven’t heard much about idolatry since then. In those 43 years, idolatry has been directly mentioned in General Conference a grand total of 12 times. But just because it hasn't been mentioned much doesn't make the doctrine any less important.

Quite the contrary, I believe we are far more deeply entrenched in idolatry than we were back then.

The only questions are, “how deeply entrenched in idolatry are you” and “what can you do about it”?

Why we, as a people, get in F in “Learning the Lessons of the Past”
“During the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an island of the one true God, surrounded by an ocean of idolatry. The waves of that ocean crashed incessantly upon the shores of Israel. Despite the commandment to make no graven image and bow down before it, Israel seemingly could not help itself, influenced by the culture of the place and time. Over and over again—despite the prohibition of the Lord, despite what prophet and priest had said—Israel went seeking after strange gods and bowed down before them.
How could Israel have forgotten the Lord, who brought them out of Egypt? They were constantly pressured by what was popular in the ambiance in which they lived. 
What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live. It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical when, all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.” (Elder David R. Stone, “Zion in the Midst of Babylon,” April 2006 General Conference).
Luckily, we latter-day saints are a bit wiser in that we don’t bow ourselves down to idols of wood, stone or metal. Right? I mean, we deserve a pat on the back for not building golden calves. And we've eradicated Baal worship so effectively, most members don’t even know what Baal worship is. So, yep, congrats are definitely in order.

Or...maybe not.

The idols in our lives
When you read Pres. Kimball’s article, you better understand what gods do we -- as church members -- worship:

“Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood.”

While it’s true that we don’t physically bow down to idols of calves or goats, we, like ancient Israel, have succumbed to the allurements and enticings of all that is Babylon. Here’s what I see:
  • As I drive around areas with a high density of church members, I’m struck by the sheer size and cost of many members’ homes (it’s sometimes astounding, and profoundly disheartening, to learn who lives in such homes, despite assumptions of their reportedly meager lifestyles).
  • I enter their homes and see opulence and extravagance, the values of which could clearly have benefited scores of destitute families. 
  • I see their Facebook pronouncements, proudly proclaiming their gold, platinum, diamond and double diamond statuses. 
  • I see people cry over the destruction of a famous building, then mock and condemn the beggars across the street from a store.

The idols on our bodies
Over the years, we latter-day saints have repeatedly referred to ourselves as “a Zion people.” Here’s what Isaiah said about “the daughters of Zion”:

“Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
The rings, and nose jewels,
The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.” (Isaiah 3:16-23)

It’s not just the daughters of Zion who wear the jewels of Zion. Men, too, are prone to wear needlessly expensive clothes, watches and cuff links to church meetings.

One need only take a three minute walk from the Salt Lake Temple to see Babylon in all her glory. Here are some images used in advertising the City Creek Center (enchanting, isn't it?):

Human idols
Time and again, the Lord commands us to trust Him and only Him.

"And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him [for many hours] I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste." (1 Nephi 8:5-7)
“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Nephi 4:34
“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 28:31
“The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—” (D&C 1:19)
Despite these frequent commands, many members continue to ignore Him and instead put their trust in mere mortals, be it others or themselves. They revere, venerate, stand in awe of, extol, put on a pedestal and idolize leaders or celebrities. Even worse: They encourage their children and/or grandchildren to do the same.

In doing so, they are easily deceived by crafty people (or themselves) who profess a great love of God and  humanity while advocating programs and perspectives that are not of the Lord. Even today, news headlines trumpet far and wide those who were trusted by others while they were simultaneously committing gross indiscretions and criminal violations for which they will serve many years, even decades, behind bars.

To know who truly represents God, we must turn to His word, the Holy Scriptures, and compare what is said by the mortal with what’s found in His word:
“If you want to measure truth, measure it by the four standard Church works. … If it is not in the standard works, you may well assume that it is speculation. It is man’s own personal opinion, to put it another way; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, you may know by that same token that it is not true. This is the standard by which you measure all truth. But if you do not know the standards, you have no adequate measure of truth.” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 148–49). 
"Search the Scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory, nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how he will save them." (Joseph Smith, HC v1, ch 20, p. 282; emphasis mine).

The idols of our money and time
In Exodus 32, the Israelites grew tired of waiting for Moses. They wanted to move on into the Promised Land without him. So acting on their own self interests, they created an idol -- a golden calf -- to get them there. The golden calf represented their desire to have God, but on their terms. Their treasure was a god of gold, and the one true God judged them according to their heart.

What about your heart? Do you, also, desire to have God, but on your own terms?

Let’s look at two things you can control: your time and your money.

Money: How much money do you devote to that which is temporary and transitory? Do you invest in “uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17), hedging your portfolio or appropriating your discretionary funds on things where moth and rust doth corrupt (3 Nephi 13:19-20; Matthew 6:19-20)?

Now compare those funds with what you've spent directly on humanitarian needs -- charities, the poor, the sick, the uneducated, in both the gospel and otherwise. What’s the difference? The reason I ask is because:
"For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted." (Mormon 8:37
"Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?" (Mormon 8:39)
"Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God—to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way, that they may also be fruitful. Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, ‘Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not.’ (Mormon 8:39)” (Pres. Kimball, Ensign, June 1976, p. 4)
Time: We’re told, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). I think you’d agree that one of our greatest treasures is time.

God constantly tells us in His Word to love Him first with all of our mind and being. Does your average day demonstrate that devotion?

While it’s true that your conscious hours must be filled with necessities (work, school, raising kids, etc), you likely do have discretionary time, when you aren't required to be somewhere or to do something. It’s your time.

How much of that discretionary time is spent in front of the TV, on games or the Internet, as opposed to blessing others’ lives or studying the word of God? Now, compare the difference. Which got more of your time, and why?
“If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.” 
"For the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord" (D&C 68:30
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16).
I witness people spending a lot of time and money on things which are clearly transitory, temporary and temporal. A week, a month, a year later, all that time, money and effort are often a forgotten memory. Eventually, when the earthquakes, droughts, pestilences, wars, mobs, floods and storms of the pre-Millennial tribulations utterly destroy the works of men’s hands, many will be left regretting that they hadn't invested their time and wealth into things like wells, schools, medicines and more for the poor, the sick and the afflicted.

(In my opinion, I don’t believe that God expects us to devote all our discretionary funds and time to Him or to others. However, when these inequalities or amounts are significant enough to erode our relationships with Him and the less fortunate, our spiritual standing is increasingly jeopardized).

One foot in, one foot out
You’re deceived if you think you can train your focus upon, and even perpetuate, idols -- people and things that stand in between you and God, or God’s will -- and call yourself a believing Christian.

You’re deceived if you think you can simultaneously have a summer cottage in Babylon while counting on a future residence in Zion (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], p. 47). In such cases, because you’re neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm in your devotion to Him, He says, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

You’re deceived if you believe you can legitimately enjoy your time and money while casting a blind eye on the poor and needy. Your destiny: You “shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17–18; see also D&C 56:16–17). You’ll also be denied manifestations of the spirit (D&C 70:14; see also D&C 49:20; 78:5–7).

If you’re not eliminating your idols now, how can God justify your living among those who do exemplify non-idolatrous qualities in Zion?

Cast the idols from among you
To me, Pres. Kimball’s analysis that “We are, on the whole, an idolatrous people -- a condition most repugnant to the Lord.” is just as true today as it ever has been. And with more advanced technologies and things to idolize, I’d even posit there’s a pretty good chance that we’re even more idolatrous than we were in 1976.

This post is about charity. It’s a fact that you can’t have true charity towards others, yet love the world. You must “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:14–15), because "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." (Luke 16:15).

But how do you effectively do that? Go to God in prayer. Why?
“The right way to repent of sins is by going before our Maker in secret prayer, identifying the specific transgression, confessing it, forsaking it, and continuing in the Lord’s Spirit. As the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph: “I will forgive you of your sins with this commandment—that you remain steadfast in your minds in solemnity and the spirit of prayer.” (
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We live in an era when wrong is right, down is up, evil is good, dark is light.

To discover the truth, we turn to our best informational resource: the internet. There, the truth is most often elusive, as falsehoods are guised as authoritative fact. It's not unusual to have to wade through a hundred false, fake "facts" to find a possible nugget of golden information.

We also find:
  • Traditional sources of truth, the media, evading their responsibilities to investigate the truth and report it objectively. Our response: We keep listening to and watching them.
  • Long-time, trusted sources of truth having to recant and retract their widely-promulgated stories and statements. Our response: We ignore their missteps, only to see them arise again at another time and place.
  • Even those we love, our friends and family, are prone to forward emails with stories which seem true, but aren't. Our response: We don't ask the sender to correct their mistake; we just delete the emails.
  • Common idols which have unabashedly eroded spirituality for millennia.  Our response: We openly, enthusiastically promote them at nearly every turn, while we simultaneously condemn others who extol other idols.
  • Teachings passed off as doctrinal "truths", having no scriptural basis whatsoever. Our response: We believe them, and proselytize them as God's own words.
  • We create excuses to ignore and minimize some our most important latter-day scriptures, for which we stand condemned by God. Our response: We ignore said condemnation, and consider ourselves blessed, enlightened and true.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Inevitably, as we either embrace untruths or don't stand up for the truth, we unknowingly merrily march through the morass of muddied misinformation. We degrade our discernment. We acclimate our spirits to the normalcy of mediocrity at best, and falsehood at worst. We get used to the static, and not the Spirit, signaling our souls.

And even in those times when we've strayed off-course, we ask God to "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me. Help me find the way." Then we wonder why God isn't answering our prayers because -- in our heart of hearts -- "we've done nothing wrong".

I believe that in a lot of cases, the cruddy, frustrating, even heartbreaking circumstances we often find ourselves in -- and begging God to help us out of -- are due to our own persistent, consistent, tireless stupidity.

This brings up an interesting point: Could God command you to do one thing, and command another to do something else -- perhaps even the complete opposite?

Yes and no.
The Unchanging Changeableness of God
For generations, we've been taught that God doesn't change, and that what was truth to Him long ago remains truth today.

"For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?" (Mormon 9:9-10)

If this is the case, then why do we read:

  • In Exodus 35:2 that we should kill anyone -- including doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, military, air traffic controllers, pilots -- who works on the Sabbath?
  • In Leviticus 11:7-8 that we shouldn't touch the flesh of dead pigs? Does this invalidate football? Does this mean Cougar Football -- not to mention all those little league and community football games for kids -- are an abomination in the sight of God? Is wearing gloves the solution?
  • In Leviticus 25:44 that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us? Does this apply to both Canada and Mexico?
  • In Leviticus 21:18-19 that I should avoid anyone with a mole, birthmark, blindness, disability, a flat nose, dwarfism, or cataracts?
  • In Leviticus 19:27 that men who cut their hair are condemned before God? Does this mean that bald men are spiritually beautiful?
  • In Leviticus 19:19 -- and Deuteronomy 22:11 -- that my wife is condemned for wearing a garment mingled of linen and wool? Does Leviticus 24:14 mean that my ward should stone her? 
  • In Leviticus 20:13, that we should put to death all homosexuals?

On top of all of that, in Matthew 5:17, we understand that the Law of Moses was neither revoked nor repealed, but fulfilled.

Because it's doubtful the Lord would be pleased with any of the above laws being enforced today, how do we make sense of these scriptural differences? (Keep reading for an explanation).
What's Right for You May Not Be Right for Me
You and I are at different levels and places in our spiritual progression. We differ in our spiritual gifts, the trials we face, the experiences we have and the knowledge we obtain. We also differ in the personal commandments God gives to us.
"God does love each of you, He is aware of you, and each of you has a customized curriculum in life. There is divine design in your life, better appreciated perhaps even you look back than when looking forward." (Neal A. Maxwell, "The Challenge of Selfishness", University of Utah)
This means that you and I may be tasked with different responsibilities and expectations at any given time. For example, God may prompt you to work on family history, whereas He may prompt me to work on this blog. You bake cookies for the invalid woman in the ward, and I'm prompted to visit a good brother in the ward who's in the hospital. You're prompted to pursue the Gift of Charity, and I'm prompted to pursue the Gift of Faith. In such a scenario, are you doing the wrong thing? Am I? I don't think so, because both of us are hearkening to the Spirit.

In that case, then why do we see some who are prompted to abandon certain gospel truths and pursue other teachings, perhaps in another church or organization? How is it that they who are traveling a different path may be reading the scriptures, praying and repenting more than they did when they were aligned with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ? Why do they "feel the Spirit" when they listen to a leader or teacher whose teachings aren't congruent with the gospel, as well as the doctrines and teachings revealed through Brother Joseph?
"Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 33, p. 573).
There Are No Easy Answers Here
So, what may be right for you might not be right for me, and visa-versa. In fact, what may be right and proper for one generation (like the Levitical) may be wrong for another (today) (see 3 Nephi 15; Alma 34:13-14 and here).

Judgmentalism often surfaces when people become aware of these differences in others, and oppose them as being incongruent with what God has taught them. To justify this judgmentalism, we often point to historical records (which are often unreliable), the scriptures (or shall I say, our own interpretation -- or misinterpretation -- of them), or our own personal revelation (which can also be misinterpreted). And, although I mean no disrespect whatsoever, even Pres. Uchtdorf admitted in General Conference an inconvenient truth most members would rather not contemplate: We are all fallible. We are all imperfect. Not every utterance, from every General Authority, is the mind and will of God.
"And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us-His imperfect children-and imperfect people make mistakes." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Come, Join with Us", October 2013 General Conference)
"The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: 'Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been' (Ether 12:6)." (Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Trial of Your Faith” October 2012 General Conference).
So if we can't ascribe infallibility to historical accounts, scriptural, revelatory or ecclesiastical interpretation, how do we avoid deception?

The Beginning of Discernment
Are there some truths which transcend our personal commandments, which are applicable to all mankind?

In searching for an answer to that question, I recently turned to a friend who used to be an investigative journalist. Last week, I asked him about discernment. His answer was illuminating. He said that on his first day of journalism school, his professor (who was a dead-ringer for Kenny Rogers) said something to the effect of, "As a journalist, you're going to hear a lot of falsehoods, and very few (if any) truths. You're going to have to work harder than anyone else to obtain those truths. You'll need to be more persistent, dig deeper, look broader and question more. In fact, you'll need to question everything. As you do this, the truth will begin to appear as dots of facts, which your investigations have begun to connect", the professor said. "To be blunt, if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Likewise, when it comes to embracing doctrinal truths, we can't just passively sit there and think God's going to bestow us with profound insight just because we asked for it (see D&C 9:7). You need to work for it. You need to persistently dig deeper, look broader and question more so you force the dots of truth to emerge, thereby enabling you to better connect the dots. Maybe a dot will come from the scriptures. Maybe a leader or teacher. Maybe your own personal revelation. But the dots of truth will be congruent and synonymous. Here's what the Lord said about this strategy:
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)
"Search the scriptures -- search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God: nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. Then again we say: Search the Scriptures, search the Prophets and learn what portion of them belongs to you." (Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 11)
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
"And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—
Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.
He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances.
And again, he that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you.
And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.
Wherefore, by this pattern ye shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens." (D&C 52:14-19)
In other words, when we prayerfully search the scriptures, we can learn truths straight from God, independent of anyone or anything else. We'll also know when others are aligned with the truth by the fruits they bring forth.

When There Are No Dots to Connect
Yet often, the truths we seek may not be clearly delineated in sources we have before us. The words of God's true representatives may be silent on a subject. Historical accounts may be incomplete, or may not make much sense. We may find ourselves without many, perhaps any, dots to connect. Additionally, God told us that there would be times like these:
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” (D&C 58:26)
This is a particularly vulnerable time, because there are no easy answers, and likely no immediately forthcoming answers at all, no matter how hard you dig.

Additionally, Satan will do his level best to distract you. As an expert theologian, he'll teach you many truths. He'll show you signs, wonders and miracles, all in a concerted, well-planned and executed attack to fully justify your stepping off the yellow brick road of truth.

You're a Citizen of Which Government?
So, let's recap what we've examined so far:
  • Our society is overrun with untruths, for which we Latter-day Saints may deserve some measure of blame.
  • Many embrace exceptions to gospel truths, often in secret.
  • God's commandments are immovable and applicable to the whole of humanity, but His personal commandments (which are rooted in general commandments) may differ from person to person.
  • We justify participation -- or rejection -- of these personal commandments based on historical accounts, scriptural, revelatory or ecclesiastical interpretation -- all of which have the potential to be "off".
  • The Lord gave us a pattern that we may not be deceived.
  • Even so, Satan will throw every trick in the book at us to knock us off the divine course.
You see, today, there are two spiritual governments which function on the earth: One of light and one of darkness. One of salvation, the other of damnation. One presided by God, the other presided by Satan.

Both of these governments are vying for our souls, and both offer us three gifts. One offers faith, discernment and charity. The other offers fear, judgmentalism and self-sufficiency.

As I've already spent the last year and a half discussing the Gift of Faith, I'm now moving on to the Gift of Discernment. I think as we proceed, it'll become increasingly obvious that the fulcrum, the deciding factor that determines which government you're a citizen of, depends entirely upon your passion, your allegiance, to one of these two governments.

To be realistic, all of us, no matter who we are, from the least of us to the greatest, have one foot in one government's realm, and the other in the other government's realm. All of us are unprofitable servants, yet all of us are children of the Most High God.

Constantly and consistently exercising discernment is a real challenge. We probably fail at discernment more often than we succeed. Still, I know two things:

1. No matter how many times you fall, Christ will be there, right beside you, offering His hand -- NOT His judgment -- to help you back up and succeed.

2. If knowledge is power, then divine knowledge of discernment must be tremendously powerful.

That's why, in the coming weeks and months, you'll learn:

  • What the Gift of Discernment is, how to seek it and obtain it.
  • About true and false signs, of dreams and visions, which are dispensed by both governments and are designed to either uplift or deceive the very elect.
  • About gifts and anti-gifts (or curses), which can be used to enhance or hinder not only your life, but also the lives of others.
  • About how your everyday choices and behaviors may exhibit a deficiency in your discernment, and what you can do about it.
  • What gifts lie beyond the Gift of Discernment.

Have I written these blog posts yet? Nope. But I know they are coming up. And I'm just as excited to read and learn from them as I hope you are as well.

Strap in your seatbelt. Let's pursue the Gift of Discernment!
“… Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least." (Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 162–63)

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The deeper I study the Gift of Charity, the more I find that you really can’t exercise the gift unless and until you realize three things:

1. You are nothing -- absolutely, positively nothing -- before God. 
“O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.” (Helaman 12:7)
“For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—” (Mosiah 4:5,11)
2. Even if you think you’re something before God, you aren’t -- without charity. 
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
3. Before you can credibly implement the Gift of Charity, before you can justifiably move beyond being a great big nothingburger before God, you must first cleanse and align yourself:
“Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.” (Alma 60:23; also see Matthew 23:26-28)
Charity Begins Inside Yourself
Imagine if that full-time missionary had never visited you, your parents or one of your ancestors.

Imagine if God had never given Joseph Smith the context of his circumstances while in the Liberty Jail.

Imagine if an angel from heaven never came and strengthened Jesus while in the Garden of Gethsemane.

All of us (even the greatest, Jesus Christ) need strengthening. Sometimes, the best way to begin feeling the light of God's love is for someone to first share it with us.

It's an indisputable fact that strengthening one another -- sharing the light of spiritual strength -- is a primary component of God's plan for mankind. If that weren't so, then Zion (where all are of one heart, one mind, dwelling in righteousness with no poor among them) would be a fantasy.

Over and over again, Jesus has told us to feed His sheep. And not just church leaders. Not just the full-time or ward missionaries. Not just those gung-ho church members in your circle of friends. He spoke to every one of us, without exception.
"Feed my lambs." (John 21:15)
"Feed my sheep." (John 21:16, 17)
"Feed my sheep" (D&C 112:14)
I See A Light...Oh, Wait...Nevermind
Despite these consistent commands, it’s astounding to me how easily and frequently we latter-day “saints” behave closer to latter-day “aint’s” when it comes to sharing the gospel and testifying of Christ. The excuses why many don’t share include:

FEAR #1: “I fear people won’t like what I say. I’m too sensitive to take criticism of my testimony.”

"The proud stand more in fear of men's judgment than of God's judgment. (See D&C 3:6-7; D&C 30:1-2; D&C 60:2). "What will men think of me?" weighs heavier than "What will God think of me?" (Ezra Taft Benson, "Beware of Pride," Ensign, May 1989, 5)

FEAR #2: “There are too many people here. I’m uncomfortable sharing my testimony with all these people.”
"And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine." (Matthew 25:25)
INDECISION: “[Despite all that I’ve been blessed with], I don’t know what to say.”

INGRATITUDE: “Mehhhh, somebody else can thank that person for their testimony.”
"Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38)
SACREDNESS: “My testimony is just too sacred to share with other people.”
"The Spirit and testimony of Christ will come to you for the most part when, and remain with you only if, you share it. In that process is the very essence of the gospel. Is not this a perfect demonstration of Christianity? You cannot find it, nor keep it, nor enlarge it unless and until you are willing to share it. It is by giving it away freely that it becomes yours." (Elder Boyd K. Packer, "The Candle of the Lord" [A talk given at a seminar for new mission presidents, June 25, 1982])
AMBIVALENCE: “I’m too busy right now (watching tv / playing games / chatting with others on the internet). Maybe another time.”

SELF-DEFEATISM: “I’m not a scriptorian”, “My testimony is too simple” “I’m not good at [writing/speaking]” and the ever-popular “I’m just not on that spiritual level.”

TAKERS: “I’d rather sit and read what others say than share my testimony or gratitude.”
"No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light." (Luke 8:16)
God, having foreseen these church members who supposedly took upon them His name at baptism and weekly in Sacrament Meetings, had this to say about such responses:
"But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them." (D&C 60:2)
Of this scripture, President Spencer W. Kimball said,
"The Lord says in the 60th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, ‘With some I am not well pleased for they will not open their mouths’ (D&C 60:2). What does he mean? He says that if they do not use it, they will lose what he has given them. They lose their spirit. They lose their testimony. And this priceless thing that you have can slip right out of your life." (Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Testimony," New Era, Aug. 1981, p. 6)
He’s not alone:
"When we have something to tell others which will benefit them, protect them, or enlighten them, we should not hold back. There are so many people who are confused and discouraged and who want a better way of life. How grateful they are when someone takes the time to share their happiness and purpose in life. Will you seek to hear even more? You are a great power for good, providing your righteous potential is harnessed by service. (Elder Derek A. Cuthbert, "The Futility of Fear," New Era, Nov. 1985, p. 46)
"Sometimes we have among our missionaries those who are afraid because of the fear of man, and if you permit yourselves to get that spirit of fear, the adversary will back you up. He will support you. He will encourage you in it until you get to the point where you are afraid to exercise your authority and to bear testimony regarding this message. Remember the promise made in the first section: "And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them." (D&C 1:5) There is no place for fear. There is no place for discouragement, because you can't fail in this work if you do your part. There is no place for timidity or hesitancy. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], p. 61-62)
So, if you think for one second that you’re spending eternity with Abraham, Moses, Nephi, Peter, John, Moroni, Joseph Smith and others who unhesitatingly, boldly and proudly testified of Jesus Christ -- while perpetuating excuses of why NOT to testify of Jesus -- you are grossly, horribly self-deceived...and need to repent.
“These are they [who are of the terrestrial] who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” (D&C 76:71,79)
The Deception We Call "Learning by Observing"
Of particular note are those who say they’d rather learn than share, to be edified than to help edify, to be inspired rather than inspire.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just spend the day learning what others have learned?

To me, such behaviors indicate a lack of charity, because the person is thinking only about themselves and not others. How can such behavior possibly be compatible with Zion? And if it’s not, how can you possibly hope to survive the forthcoming tribulations which will weed out all but those with Zionlike thoughts and behaviors?
“And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18)
The very concept of Zion flies in the face of selfishness. I mean, imagine a Zion in which people routinely took, but never shared...received, but never gave.
"Selfishness is the making a man's self his own centre, the beginning and end of all he doth." (John Owen, reported in Gardiner Spring, "Essays on the distinguishing traits of Christian character" (1829), p. 70)
"Show me the man who would go to heaven alone if he could, and I will show you one who will never be admitted there." (Owen Feltham, "Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers" p. 535)
The Antidote to Spiritual Selfishness
Selfishness can never be completely dethroned in the individual, or in society, until love has been completely enthroned. Love reigns only in proportion as selfishness is cast out.

And how is that done?

Know the Exemplar
The story is told of a man who was horribly disfigured in a car accident.

The tragedy left him in a sea of despair. There was nothing the plastic surgeons could do to repair his appearance. Tired of being stared at, ridiculed, mocked and feeling rejected, the man finally went into the solitude of his bedroom and refused to come out.

A couple of years passed, and no amount of coaxing from his wife could bring him out of the dark room.

Finally, his wife went to the plastic surgeon who tried to repair his face and said "Listen, I'm going to ask you to do something crazy here. I want you to mutilate my features to match my husband's. He's alone in his disfigurement and I want to keep him from being lonely.

The surgeon obviously refused. The lady insisted. The surgeon said, "Before I even consider this even further, I want to see your husband. Would you please take me to your home?"

There, standing in the hallway, the surgeon knocked on the door. He identified himself and asked the man to come out. The man said, "Go away. There's nothing anyone can do to help me."

The surgeon then said, "Well, let me tell you why I'm really here. I'm here because your wife has come to me, begging to be disfigured, so you don't have to live alone in your disfigurement anymore."

There was a long silence. And then the door opened, and the man stepped out of the dark room and into the light of day for the first time in many years.

So it was with Jesus’ incarnation. The beautiful, celestial one -- Jesus -- became the disfigured, mortal one...to keep us from being alone.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7)
The reason He did it: He just wanted to be with the ones He loves.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Jesus' incarnation serves as an example of how we should love and serve others. Just as God was manifest through Jesus, so Jesus is manifest in and through His believers. But they are not those who simply profess belief in Jesus. No. These are they who manifest His goodness, kindness, non-judgmentalism and love in their very beings.

Time and again, when He was asked about His goodness, kindness, non-judgmentalism, love and more, Jesus was both consistent and quick as to the source of all those characteristics and qualities: His Father in Heaven.

I believe that the secret to a Christian life is submission -- particularly, submission to God.
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38)
“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)
Just as Jesus submitted Himself to the Father, so should we:
“Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9)
“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29)
Likewise, just as Jesus’ focus was indisputably focused on Father, so should we be focused on Jesus:

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:67-68)

It should be crystal clear to you by now that when you lose your life, you find it.

This is because -- well, quite frankly, Jesus is the answer to everything.

Your life is clearest seen in Jesus. Your life -- at its highest and best, brimming with potential, overflowing with capacity, aligned with purpose and destiny -- all of those things are seen at their best in Jesus.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." (Moroni 7:48; also see 1 John 3:2-3)
The Opportunity
This blog’s Facebook group is seriously maintained as a safe haven where we can discuss one topic and one topic only: JESUS CHRIST -- not only learning more about Him, but also developing a closer relationship with Him as well as developing attributes which are like Him. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The Terms and Conditions state:
We are passionate about maintaining this as a place where you are safe from judgment and criticism, falsehood and deception. Our sole focus is Jesus. True, topics like general conferences, leaders, priesthood and temples all point to Christ, but here, we focus not on the means, but the end. Not on the journey, but the destination point. Not on the persons, places or things which point to Him, but instead, *HIM* -- Jesus Christ.
In this post, you’ve hopefully gained some further light and knowledge regarding the importance of sharing and testifying of Jesus Christ, without excuse. You know what’s right. You know what’s expected of you. And now, you know what happens to those who aren’t valiant in their testimony of Jesus.
“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” (D&C 82:3)
Now it’s up to you to take the next step.

It’s an easy one to make.

Click here.

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If you go here, you’ll see that in my opinion, there are three gifts of the spirit which all of us are entitled to, all of us should seek and even covet: The gift of faith (because in my opinion, faith is the foundational layer of all that we should say and do) and the gift of discernment (which helps us discover right/wrong and true/false).

But in a greater sense, discernment can also help us realize further opportunities to serve others.
When we’re seeking discernment for that reason, we are co-workers with God in helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

This is a natural transition to a discussion about the gift of charity.

Of all the gifts of God, none ranks higher in importance than the gift of charity.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. 
Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all” (Moroni 7:46)
“except they should have charity they were nothing” (2 Nephi 26:30)
In fact, you’re worse than nothing; you’re deserving of being cast out from the presence of God:
“Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.” (Alma 34:29)
“except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.” (Ether 12:34)

What Charity Is
So, to have charity, we should:

  • Be meek
  • Lowly of heart (Moroni 7:44)
  • Be long suffering
  • Be kind
  • Envy not
  • Not be puffed up
  • Seek not your own
  • Not be easily provoked
  • Think no evil
  • Rejoice not in iniquity but rejoice in the truth
  • Bear all things
  • Believe all things
  • Hope all things
  • Endure all things (Moroni 7:45)
  • Have the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47)

With discernment combined with charity, we seek to build another up, not destroy them. We enhance, not demean. We “look for the good and not for the bad in others” (Pres. David O. McKay, "Protecting One Another's Honor," The Instructor, Vol. 95, June 1960, pp. 177-178). We are kind and loving, even when they may not receive or even be deserving of that love.
"True religion, as exemplified in the gospel of Jesus Christ, teaches that every man should be the defender of his brother's good name. It goes even further by requiring everyone to overlook another's trespasses.”
"In upholding the good in others he makes better his own soul. He that looks for the good shall find it; and he who protects another's good name makes bright his own.” (McKay)

What Charity Is Not
“If every man is the keeper of his brother's good name, he who proves false to his trust weakens his own good character, stains his own soul. There is a mean element in human nature which 'feeds fat' upon seeing weaknesses and faults in others—which secretly gloats upon others' failures. The more one yields to this meanness, the meaner one becomes." (McKay)
Thus, in our eagerness to help others, we talk about people who should be avoided. “They’re bad,” “They’re deceived,” “They’re dangerous,” we say. “It’s because I’m concerned [about the person being gossiped about, or to]”
"Looking for the good does not mean being blind to the bad. Human nature is full of weaknesses and frailties; evils and sin about everywhere. But in organized society, and particularly in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are means established whereby weaknesses may be corrected and evils overcome. They are only made worse when magnified and multiplied by gossip's idle tongue." (McKay)
Interestingly, whisperers (gossipers) are lumped in with some pretty bad other sins:
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:29-32)
When We Do It for the Church
The church is an organization which helps the sinner. As members, we’re obligated to help heal the sinner:
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:” (2 Corinthians 12:19-20)
God takes seriously how we communicate about others in the flock. Peter said:
“be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)
When we character assassinate another (delivered via whispers, calls, emails and posts), we often justify it by saying we’re trying to warn others so they’re not deceived, or we’re protecting the flock -- often in the name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus perfectly exemplified charity’s attributes. I read about His interaction with the woman at the well. He never judged her. He loved her. I read about his encounter with the woman caught in adultery. He even said He didn't condemn her. He loved her. Even when He was on the cross, He didn't judge others. Instead, He begged, "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do."

It seems as though the only ones He had words of judgment and condemnation for were those who were hypocritical, those who were themselves sinful, yet felt perfectly justified in casting a light on others' sins.

Nowhere in the scriptures are we told to protect the flock. However, we are told that God is fully capable of doing so:
“And they did rejoice and cry again with one voice, saying: May the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, protect this people in righteousness, so long as they shall call on the name of their God for protection.” (3 Nephi 4:30)
Doesn't God tell us time and again that if we are threatened, He’ll fight our battles? That may be one reason why speaking evil of others is expressly forbidden in the very scriptures we profess to believe:
"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:" (Luke 6:37
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone" (John 8:7
"speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men." (Titus 3:2)
"Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles." (Proverbs 21:23)
"cease to find fault one with another" (D&C 88:124)
"Speak not evil one of another" (James 4:11)
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people” (Leviticus 19:16)
“A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)
Those who think they’re doing the church a service by gossiping about others should think again. When you gossip, you harm the entire church.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:6
“Another place where we have ample opportunity to serve is in the Church. Our wards and branches should be places where the Golden Rule always guides our words and actions toward each other. By treating each other kindly, speaking words of support and encouragement, and being sensitive to each other’s needs, we can create loving unity among ward members. Where charity exists, there is no place for gossip or unkind words.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Finding Joy through Loving Service,” April 2011 General Conference) 
“This is the kind of gospel culture we desire to cultivate throughout the Church of Jesus Christ. We seek to strengthen the Church as a place where we forgive one another. Where we resist the temptation to find fault, gossip, and bring others down. Where, instead of pointing out flaws, we lift up and help each other to become the best we can be.” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Believe, Love, Do,” October 2018 General Conference)
I've never understood how people can feel they are “protecting the flock” by gossiping. That’s tantamount to saying that we can accomplish a righteous end using unrighteous means. Does that sound like the Lord’s way?
“We simply cannot criticize, gossip, or judge and keep the pure love of Christ.” (Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President, “Choosing Charity: That Good Part,” October 2003 General Conference)
The situation is made worse because when we speak ill of another, the effects can spread far and wide (and for a very long time). American editor, lecturer and essayist William George Jordan put it best when he said:
"The second most deadly instrument of destruction is the gun—the first is the human tongue. The gun merely kills bodies; the tongue kills reputations and ofttimes ruins characters. Each gun works alone; each loaded tongue has a hundred accomplices. The havoc of the gun is visible at once, the full evil of the tongue lives through all the years.” (William George Jordan, “The Kingship of Self-Control”)
Gossip can also drive the people you love or care about to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined -- a circumstance which wouldn't have happened had you not gossiped.

The Fate of the Character Assassins
Why do we constantly see those who have taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ judging and condemning others? Where do we read in the scriptures that we're justified, that it's OK to spread rumors and speak ill of others behind their backs?

If Jesus didn't judge and condemn others, why do we -- who are all prodigal sons and daughters -- unilaterally assume a judgmental status superior to that of Jesus?

Do we not realize that when we do so, we destroy our spirituality and further the distance from Christ possibly far more than the person being spoken of? We sift ourselves right out of the gospel and a possible future among those who are merciful and kind to others.
"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." (Romans 2:1)
Evil speaking injures the reviler more than the reviled. Those who assassinate characters, reputations and more -- even if the facts are true -- are ranked among the uncharitable, for “In being just, one will not condemn, find fault, or gossip, as there is no salvation in being critical of another.” (Elder Franklin D. Richards, “Justice, Mercy, and Humility,” April 1970 General Conference; emphasis mine)
“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12, 14–15). 
". . . ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” (D&C 64:9)
Perhaps a friend’s experience drives this point home best:
“My mom’s husband recently died. I won’t detail who he was, other than to say he believed some apostate doctrines and thought himself as a very significant leader. 
The other day I was meditating and I asked Jesus about him, where he was. I suddenly felt myself traveling through a tunnel very fast and I arrived, with Jesus standing behind me, in hell. I saw XXXX (my mom’s husband) in agony on the floor of what looked like a dark cold cement room. He was suffering. 
Jesus said to me, "There is a special place in hell for those who hurt other people in my name." And I knew that Jesus was telling me something pretty specific with that statement. It wasn't just a snarky comment toward XXXX. There really is a special kind of hell for people who use Jesus' name to hurt others. 
I wasn't sure what to do, and I felt Jesus tell me in my mind that it would be helpful if I forgave him to his face. It would be helpful to XXXX, not me so much. I had already forgiven him, but for XXXX to hear it would be to his benefit. So I took a step forward and said, ‘XXXX, its zzzz. I want you to know that I have forgiven you. I hold nothing against you and I want you to have joy.’ He started yelling at me and saying this was my fault, the church's fault. I don't know if he realized he was dead. He seemed to think that the church and I had put him here. We were punishing him. 
I said to him, ‘XXXX, you need to let go of pride. Forget everything you know and start again. Just turn to Jesus.’ XXXX again started yelling at me. I felt bad for him. I prayed that teachers would come to him that he would accept, and that he would be able to soften his heart. Then Jesus grabbed my shoulders from behind and pulled me backwards and said, ‘It is enough.’ Then the vision closed. 
There is a special place in hell for people who hurt others in His name. There are varying degrees of this, from the simple judgments at church to mass murder. Judging others in the name of Christ makes Jesus very sad. That's not what He is about!”
It’s my observation that those who harm others in the name of God are eventually cursed, forfeiting God’s blessings, while those whose names have been tarnished are often eventually vindicated by none other than God Himself.

Reaching Higher. Being Better.
“...there is a strong almost universal tendency to find the fault in another; that is, the mote that is in our brother’s eye. Second, when we focus on this mote, his fault, we don’t focus on the beam or fault in our own life. Third, in this spirit we often try to correct another. It doesn’t work. We may have a correct opinion but our spirit is wrong. Then we hurt, reject, offend, and threaten. Spirit, or attitude, communicates far more powerfully than opinions or gilded words. Fourth, because of the beam in our own eye, we are unable to see clearly. Our judgment, or opinion, may be entirely wrong. We may be merely projecting our own weakness and calling it his or hers… To improve a situation, you must improve. To change your wife, you must change. To change the attitude of your husband, you must change your attitude. To win freedom, you must be more responsible, must exercise more discipline. To raise obedient children, you and I must be more obedient to certain laws and principles. This is not to say that we should altogether ignore the faults and weaknesses of others or that we should be blind to injustices in a situation. But it is to say that the very first step we take in improving any situation is to work on the injustice or fault in our own personal life, which helps remove the beam from our eye.” (Stephen R. Covey, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, p. 134-135).
In my opinion, those who gossip are broadcasting that they are unaligned with God:
“When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving.” (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” April 2012 General Conference; Ephesians 4:29-32)
Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed,
“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” (“The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” Ensign, May 1992, p. 19)
One way to cease the urge to gossip is to leave whatever it is that’s bugging you to God. Quit trying to intervene into issues which God Himself is fully capable of handling. Quit having faith in your own infinite wisdom and give God a try:
"And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:" (Acts 5:38)
When we do that, we let God do what He does best, while we do what we are asked to do: be the highest form of influence by being a model, not a critic; a light, not a judge. In so doing, we exercise faith (in God), then discernment (in seeking to bring about the best in others -- anybody), then charity (where you love them as the Savior did, without exception).

When we know another’s heart, we are different. We don’t judge them. We simply love them.

I invite you to not only love each other more but love each other better. As we do this, we will come to know with a surety that “charity never faileth.” (Moroni 7:46)

I've learned that the best way to reclaim charity is to uncumber myself and simply love and serve the Lord.

How do we do that? We start each day kneeling in prayer to our Father in Heaven. We hear His words through daily scripture study, and we follow the guidance He freely gives us. In other words, we put Christ first, restoring charity’s circular love.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
He gives to you, then you give to others, then He gives to you some more. This is the reciprocating cycle of charity.

Casting Crowns - Jesus, Friend of Sinners - YouTube
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Throughout his life, Joseph Smith lamented his inability to convince people of truths which they had not personally experienced.
"There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 309; History of the Church 5:424).
"It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty." (History of the Church, 5:529–30; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 13, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards.)
"Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther. Did Abraham when called upon to offer his son? Did the Savior? No." (Notes of James Burgess from a sermon in the temple grove 27 August 1843, The Words of Joseph Smith, p.243-248)
"I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, You will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions." (History of the Church, 5:554; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Aug. 27, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards and William Clayton).
Then, only six months before he was martyred, Joseph Smith lamented,
“But there has been great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this people. Even the Saints are slow to understand. I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].” (History of the Church, 6:184–85; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Jan. 21, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 520)
Joseph wasn't alone. During His mortal life, Jesus spiritually, mentally and even physically fought against false traditions. We also read in Ether 12:5 how Ether prophesied great and marvelous things to the people, which they didn't believe, because they never saw them. I suppose Lehi, who preached among, and was rejected by, his people could also relate.

But look at his last two quotes again. There, in crystal clear, black-and-white language:

Your ability, your destiny, to be a chosen, joint heir with Jesus Christ is directly tied to your willingness and ability to put away your traditions.

Traditions are knowledge, customs, practices, and beliefs handed down from generation to generation. They are often equated as the standards of behavior and expectations shared by all the members of a group about how people are supposed to act. For example, family traditions can be very worthwhile:
"Family traditions serve as a kind of emotional grounding for individuals as they go through life. These may be such traditions as those surrounding birthdays and such holidays as Thanksgiving and Christmas, traditions in saying hello and bidding farewell, traditions of planning and preparing for missions, of family prayer, of temple marriage, of the family hour, of Sunday dinner, of Saturday afternoon activities. These are security points in young people's lives, something they can depend upon, something they associate with joy and happiness, pleasure and love, and something they will always be able to identify with throughout their lives." (Stephen R. Covey, "Spiritual Roots of Human Relations")
Unlike family traditions, doctrinal traditions can be a double-edged sword. When it has a scriptural basis in the word of God, it can perpetuate righteous principles and serve as a marvelous support system in helping us employ our moral agency wisely. For example, righteous traditions like modesty, chastity, honesty, moral responsibility, sacrifice, and serving others are clearly doctrinally-based traditions. They're rooted in truth and light -- Christ's words (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:8), His behaviors and His gospel (D&C 74:6) -- and can be found, in their purest form, in the Standard Works:
"If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion." (Pres. Harold B. Lee, The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24–26, 1973, Reports and Discourses, p. 69)
“All that we teach in this Church ought to be couched in the scriptures. It ought to be found in the scriptures. We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures. If we want to measure truth, we should measure it by the four standard works, regardless of who writes it. If it is not in the standard works, we may well assume that it is speculation, man’s own personal opinion; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, it is not true. This is the standard by which we measure all truth” (Pres. Harold B. Lee, “Using the Scriptures in Our Church Assignments,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1969, p. 13).
In short, "the four standard works" are "the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine." Statements which are unsubstantiated by the scriptures are merely private opinions. And when these opinions become the norm, and are handed down from generation to generation, they become traditions.

Yet when we embrace traditions which deviate from the doctrines and teachings found in the Standard Works -- no matter how long they've been around -- we make ourselves vulnerable to Satan stealing away our light:
"And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers" (D&C 93:39)
This loss of light (which comes by aligning with false traditions) catalyzes our dwindling into ignorance (Alma 9:16) and ultimately unbelief (Helaman 15:15), which therefore disqualifies us from being joint heirs with Jesus.

Conversely, if we do the opposite, we entitle ourselves to far greater manifestations of God:
“[God] would be glad to send angels to communicate further to this people, but there is no room to receive it, consequently, He cannot come and dwell with you. There is a further reason: we are not capacitated to throw off in one day all our traditions, and our prepossessed feelings and notions, but have to do it little by little. It is a gradual process, advancing from one step to another; and as we layoff our false traditions and foolish notions, we receive more and more light, and thus we grow in grace; and if we continue so to grow we shall be prepared eventually to receive the Son of Man, and that is what we are after.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:309-318).

While some traditions are easily viewed within the spectrum of doctrinal truths, others I just can't find in the scriptures. For example:

  • Don't seek out or talk about the mysteries. It's dangerous to do so.
  • Don't drink caffeinated beverages. They're against the Word of Wisdom.
  • You shouldn't travel on Sundays.
  • You can only use your right hand to partake of the sacrament.
  • Temporal prosperity is an indication of righteousness.
  • Garments are a physical protection.
  • Clean shaven = worthy. Beard / mustache = unworthy (this makes me wonder when unworthiness kicks in -- 3-day stubble? 5-day stubble?).
  • "I would be ungrateful if I didn't stand and bear my testimony."
  • White shirts are a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate (they aren't; Handbook 2 20.4.1).
  • Gross vs Net vs "Increase" tithing.
  • We don't need to sparingly eat flesh of beasts and of the fowls of the air.
  • Non-face card games (like Uno) are evil.
  • Giving preference to manuals and handbooks over scriptures.
  • Stand when the President of the Church enters the room.
  • Blessing foods that are inherently not nourishing and weakening to the body to magically become both nourishing and strengthening.
  • We need God; God doesn't need us.
  • Miracles are wrought only by priesthood power.
  • If you're nice / compassionate to a sinner, you tacitly accept the sin.
  • It's OK to ostracize and even publicly condemn people (not just beliefs) who believe differently than we do. After all, we need to protect the flock (see Acts 5:38).
  • Only those who have been endowed / the Brethren can see Jesus or have their Calling and Election made sure.
  • We shouldn't even talk about seeing Jesus or Heavenly Father.
  • We shouldn't talk about Heavenly Mother.
How many of these have you thought, said or taught?

How many are rooted in the word of God?

Please note that I'm not criticizing or condemning anyone who believes, does or teaches these things. That's not my place.

But I think it's important to ponder one overriding possibility: By teaching man-made traditions as the word of God, people turn the profane into the sacred. They are "lighters of fires, who illuminate with mere sparks." (Isaiah 50:11).

How about you?

This is the Christmas season. The season of giving.

It's also a time when we should be reflecting on Jesus, and the gift His life was and is to us. After all, we've promised -- even covenanted -- to take upon us His name, always remember Him and keep His commandments.

Yet during this season of giving, of Christ, how enthusiastically are you going beyond these weekly-renewed covenants...by doing as He would do?

As I reflect upon His life, I'm convinced that during the Christmas season -- if Jesus were alive today, here in the Western world -- He wouldn't be spending tons of time shopping nor mounds of money on presents. No Amazon, no Best Buy, no Walmart specials for Him. No ESPN, no hours upon hours engorging Himself with food to the point to where He feels like napping on the couch.

Instead, while the world would be celebrating His birth, He would be out in the cold, breezy winter weather bringing love and hope and understanding to the less fortunate, the mentally ill, the outcast, the suffering, the dying.

No microwaves nor TVs for Him. No, He'd be found in hospitals, senior centers and womens shelters. Armed with hot chocolates, hand warmers, maybe some granola bars and a few restaurant gift cards, He would be driving from street corner to street corner, seeking and searching for people with whom He could share a laugh, a pat on the back, well wishes and His goody bags.

So this season, I invite you to do something maybe you've never done before: Go beyond professing belief in Him, remembering Him and keeping His commandments. Be an ambassador of love, of hope, of caring. Go be Jesus' eyes and ears, legs and hands this Christmas season.

You know what you need to do. What you SHOULD do. What He very likely WOULD do.

After all, you're one of His disciples, right?

Please let me know how the new Christmas tradition goes!

Thus ends my miniseries on the Gift of Discernment. I hope you've enjoyed it, learned something from it, and perhaps even pondered implementing a few of the principles discussed.

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When You Don't Feel the Spirit
I've received six emails in the last four days where the sender essentially asked me the following:
"I have a tough time feeling or hearing the Spirit. What recommendations do you have that might help me?"
First, it's important to know that I'm no spiritual guru or mentor. Never have been, never will be. In my steadfast opinion, you should have only one mentor, and He has nailprints.

Second, when I ask them what the Lord has said, the response is pretty consistent: The Lord has said nothing. That's incredible to me because I'm convinced the Lord wants us to enjoy as much of the Spirit as possible, as often as possible.

So, I start wondering, "Is there are chance, a possibility, that we're asking the wrong question here?"

Ask the Question that Elicits an Automatic, Consistent Answer from the Lord
Do you love the Lord?

"Of course, Mr. Perfect Day" you say?

Terrific. If that's the case, let's see what the Lord would say if He asked you the same exact question.

The last chapter of John tells of an especially tender exchange between Peter and the resurrected Christ. Three times, the Lord asked Peter if he loved Him. The answer was immediate and consistent: Of course I do! You know I do! The Lord's response was equally immediate and consistent (three times!): "feed my sheep" or "feed my lambs" (John 21:15-17)

In 1837, it seems that Quorum of the 12 President Thomas B. Marsh had a similar question. The Lord's answer hasn't changed: "feed my sheep" (D&C 112:14).
"When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32)
But was the Savior just talking to the Apostles? No.
"He was also talking to every person who has been blessed to hear the gospel and is a member of His Church. In revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord puts it in very simple terms: 'It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor' (D&C 88:81)" (Elder M. Russell Ballard, "The Essential Role of Member Missionary Work", April 2003 General Conference).
And as Elder Robert D. Hales stated in 2012,
"This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: 'Feed my lambs...Feed my sheep' —- share my gospel with young and old, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging, and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do." ("Being a More Christian Christian", 2012 General Conference) 
Imagine the paradigm shift, where we go from asking about how WE can feel the Spirit to how we can help OTHERS to feel the Spirit!

No matter if it's in the valleys of Judea or modern-day Babylon, the Lord's answer to "What do I need to do?" appears pretty consistent to me. Feed others spiritual "living water" (John 4:10–14) and spiritual "bread of life" (John 6:48).

In so doing, I have no doubt that as others feel and hear the Spirit, you will, too.

"I sought my God
My God I could not see.
I sought my soul,
my soul eluded me. 
I sought my brother
and I found all three."
-- Ancient Celtic prayer of hospitality

Here's a New, Easy Way to Feed His Sheep...At Home, In Your Pajamas!
Effective today, LDS Perfect Day has a Facebook group (click here).

Click here to join it today!

So now, if you have time to hop online (which you do), to email someone (which you do) or interact online (which you do), you have the opportunity to feed other sheep, and to be fed as well.

Imagine interacting with others who are themselves passionate about growing closer to the Lord.

Imagine learning from others about hearing and feeling the Spirit, pursuing and exercising spiritual gifts, mighty prayer, calling and election, faith that moves mountains and parts veils, Zion and more.

Imagine asking the Lord for experiences which will feed you -- and other -- sheep, no matter if they're on the Facebook group or not. Don't you think He'll jump at the chance?

I invite you today to join this new, exciting Facebook group.

It's a place where you'll find others who have the same desires and wishes you do, maybe in your same area.

It's a place where you'll find opportunities to share to the Lord's sheep, and to be fed by others who share as well.

It's a place where -- hopefully -- you'll find answers to your questions about how to grow closer to, and enjoy a greater relationship with, the Lord.

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