Sunday, May 25, 2014 -- leader's share

For posting sharing from the Online Meetings or questions about the online meeting program.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014 -- leader's share

Post by KeithH » Sun May 25, 2014 10:36 am

Rather than posting a reading today, I feel led to share a letter to a friend that I hope will be helpful to others, with a little background to explain the letter.

My wife is currently in an extended care facility recovering from complications during hip replacement surgery. She has experienced extreme pain, and anyone helping her get out of bed, or even adjust her position in bed, must be extremely careful and gentle to avoid causing her excruciating pain.

It has been an interesting study in human behavior to observe the staff who care for her. Some are seemingly unfazed by the pain they are causing her, and require multiple reminders of her special needs before they start to pay attention. Many others are much more careful, and need only to be told of the situation, and they take great care.

(The fear of excruciating pain is a great deterrent to pushing the limits in rehab. Anyone who says “No pain, go gain” has not experienced the kind of pain that causes one to say to God “Please end this pain or take me home, now! I cannot endure it another minute.” My wife, bless her heart, has endured that level of pain for hours on end, often caused needlessly by those unfamiliar with her unique set of injuries, or uncaring as to whether they cause her pain.)

A few show compassion and a desire to serve that goes well beyond the norm. Not only do they take great care to be gentle when moving her, they go out of their way to really talk with her, and set her mind at ease. They find ways to help her without being asked. For instance, one staff member showed us how to put a pillow under the sheet next to my wife’s surgical leg to eliminate the possibility of her leg slipping out of the bed, and give her a greater sense of safety.

Those few have quickly become my wife’s favorites and she speaks very highly of them. She will attempt to do things at their request that she balks at when asked by others. I call them her angels, for they have truly given her a bright ray of hope in the midst of much darkness and despair.

We were talking with one such angel one day (I’ll call her Jane), and she learned that we are LDS. She related to us that she and her husband had joined the church, but when it came time to get their temple recommends, she was turned down because she drinks coffee. She has not been able to give up that habit, and she couldn’t understand why she is not allowed to go to the temple just because she can’t give up coffee.
I hope the following thoughts might help her, and anyone else struggling with that kind of question, understand better the gospel, and the temple, and have not only a desire to receive the blessings of the temple, but know what they can do to overcome longstanding personal habits that may be limiting their personal spiritual growth.
Dear Jane;

What a blessing you have been to both Sandi and I! Sandi has endured such excruciating pain for so many hours and days that she has despaired of ever being free of that pain, or of ever walking again. You have been one of the angels who brought light and hope back into her life through your thoughtful, kind, caring service to her.

You have gone far above and beyond the call of duty, and she is visibly more calm and hopeful every time she knows you are on the floor.
So, it breaks my heart when I hear you tell of your disappointment at being denied a temple recommend just because you are unable to give up your daily cup of coffee.

Jane, I have a deep and abiding witness that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, and that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior. I would like to share with you a sacred experience I had that brought me that witness in a powerful, life changing way.

I was raised in an LDS family, and always had a desire to live the gospel. I grew up believing that we are God’s children, and that if we obey the commandments, we can return to live with God again one day, as eternal families.

Sometimes, however, the commandments seemed like restrictions designed to take the fun out of life or make me miserable. I found some of the commandments difficult to keep. Although the rest of the world accepted many of the behaviors that went against the commandments as normal and acceptable, yet I was being taught that I needed to strive for a higher standard.

It was hard for me to understand why I had such a struggle with a particular commandment. When I slipped, I would increase my efforts at daily prayer and scripture study, and I would repent sincerely, seeking forgiveness, and feeling the spirit of the Lord again. My determination to never repeat that mistake seemed unbreakable. Yet a few days or weeks later, I would succumb again.

That struggle continued on and off for several decades. The mistakes became more prolonged and intense.

A few times, after I repented, the Spirit resided strongly in my heart, and all desire for my particular “cup of coffee” was lifted from my heart, as if by magic. It was as though the dark storm clouds had parted and the sun was shining through. The skies were blue again.

Unfortunately, each time it happened, it would not be long until the storm clouds gathered, the sun stopped shining, and soon I was embroiled in the battle with my personal demons again.

Each time the clouds parted and the sun shone through, it was after I had been reading a book about the Savior’s atonement called “Believing Christ” by Stephen Robinson.

My personal demons, like your cup of coffee, kept me from getting a temple recommend. I did manage to give up my demons long enough to go on a mission, and later, to get married in the temple. I loved the peace and spirit in the temple. It was the most beautiful place on earth, to me. I knew that only through temple ordinances could I qualify to return to my Father in Heaven.

However, keeping my demons at bay grew more difficult over the years. I would go for several years without a temple recommend, then manage to stifle my demons long enough to get a recommend and go to the temple a few times, then the demons would return.

During one of the periods of respite, when the clouds had parted and the sun was shining through, I approached my bishop, seeking his blessing to return to the temple. All desires for sin, even any form of selfishness, had been removed from my heart by the Savior, not through any great effort on my part. I wanted so badly to keep that rebirth, that sin-free outlook on life. I knew from past experience that the likelihood was that the clouds would come again. I was hoping, desperately hoping, that by returning to the temple, I could keep the clouds and the demons away, and stay in the bright sunlight of the spirit.

I knew without a doubt, because of the intensity and frequency with which I felt the Spirit, that God had forgiven me for my past mistakes and had made me clean. I knew He wanted me to remain clean. But I didn’t know how to do it. The only thing I hadn’t done consistently in the past was to go to the temple every week. I hoped that would be the key to staying in the sunlight of the spirit.

Alas, my bishop did not seem to understand my dilemma. His words to me were something like this: “Keith, when you have remained abstinent from your demons for six months, come back and talk to me and we’ll see if you can go back to the temple.” At the time I spoke to him, I had been clean for about five or maybe six weeks.

I was devastated. Five or six weeks was the longest I had managed to stay clean for many years, no matter how earnestly I read scriptures and prayed each day. Always, the demons would return in a few weeks. I saw no way to keep them at bay for six months. It seemed paradoxical to me that I was denied entrance to the temple when I knew that I was meeting all the requirements at that point in time, in order to prove that I didn’t need the extra blessings of the temple to remain clean.

I did not manage to keep the demons at bay for the additional time specified by the bishop. I began to spiral downward, and before long reached a point of despair I had never before reached.

As a teenager, struggling with my demons, I had promised Heavenly Father that I would never stop trying to overcome them, never, until I returned to Him. I repeated that promised to Him over and over throughout the years, each time I lost my struggle and had to start over again.

Finally, however, at age 48, I gave up. I believed that I would never get back to the temple, and never get back to Heavenly Father. Satan convinced me that since I wasn’t going to get back to Heavenly Father, I should at least have some pleasure in this life. I reasoned that since I was going to burn in hell forever after this life, I would abandon all attempts at living the gospel, and just seek my own pleasure, my own selfish interests.

I had a conversation with God in which I told Him that I was revoking my promise to Him that I would never give up until I returned to Him.
His reaction was interesting, to say the least.

Within a few weeks of that conversation, as I continued to spiral downwards into greater and greater selfishness, He had someone I trusted recommend to me that I check out AA. I had heard that AA had a 12 step recovery program, but I had never learned more about it than that.

I decided to look up the 12 steps online. At the same time, someone else I trusted emailed me from a long distance away, telling me about a book written by a member of the LDS church, that talked about 12 step recovery.

I read a chapter of that book online, and a glimmer of hope entered my heart.

As I recall, I read the AA 12 steps on a Saturday, and the book chapter on a Sunday. I learned from the book about an LDS 12-step group that held daily meetings online, early in the morning.

On Monday morning, I logged into that daily online meeting for the first time. Although I felt impatient with the very slow pace of the meeting, since everyone one had to type out what they were saying, and the rules of the group were that no one said anything except when invited by the meeting leader, as the 12 steps were posted in the meeting, a miracle occurred.

I felt two presences enter the room where I sat. I did not see them with my eyes, but there was and is no doubt in my mind and heart that two people entered the room. When they did, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and love and approval unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.

I knew who the two persons were. I had always thought that if I were ever in the presence of the Savior, I would feel shame and guilt, and He would criticize me, or tell me I must do better.

I felt none of that. Without words, but with feelings that were undeniable, Father and the Savior let me know that they love me infinitely, and that they were pleased with me. The loved me just the way I was, demons and all!!

That experience changed my life. For months after, I had no desire for sin of any kind. When I walked down the street, or at work, or at church, I saw everyone through new eyes. I realized that every single person I saw is a child of God who God loves just as much as he loves me.

I continued to attend the daily online meeting early each day for several months. I prayed each morning, asking for that blessing of rebirth to be renewed, and it was.

Then, the start of daylight savings time in other states made that early morning meeting even earlier, and I quit attending, and quit praying each day. I learned through hard experience that when I stopped doing that every day, the miracle wore off very quickly.

But something had changed. I now knew how to keep the sun shining. I knew that by asking Heavenly Father each morning to apply the atonement in my life, as though my life depended on it, my life was transformed. When daylight savings time ended, I resumed daily attendance at that online meeting, and praying earnestly for the Lord’s forgiveness and spirit each morning, and gradually, my desires for sin were lessened, and eventually removed. And they stayed removed, as long as I kept asking Heavenly Father earnestly every morning for that blessing.

Along with removing my desires for sin, He also began to teach me. He began to teach me that the taste I had received of His love and the Savior’s love for me, was only a tiny glimpse of what the celestial kingdom would be like. He taught me that He loves to serve his children. Nothing gives him greater joy than to serve us. I learned that He longs to talk with me every day. He loves having me spend time with Him, conversing with Him, being taught and encouraged and loved by Him. He loves to see me loving and serving those around me.

I have renewed my promise to Him to never quit trying until I am back with Him.

I know that I cannot yet fully comprehend the glory and beauty and power that will be present when I rejoin Him in heaven. I know that I must be changed through the power of the atonement, line upon line, until my very being has been transformed to be like Him.

I know that part of that process is learning to submit my will to His in all things, even those that I don’t understand.

I am humbled and awed, when I contemplate that the Savior submitted to the Father in all things. He was baptized for the remission of sins, even though he was sinless, “to fulfill all righteousness” (2 Nephi 31:5).

He taught us in John 14:10, that he didn’t even speak, unless he was directed to by 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.”

Jane, I pray that you might feel of the Savior’s love for you, and that you might catch a glimpse of the glorious blessings that await those who seek the face of the Lord by following the Savior’s footsteps, and submitting humbly to His will and the will of the Father.

I no longer see the commandments as restrictions. I now understand them as loving lessons from Father as to what it takes to become like Him, to acquire His nature, to allow Him to reform the very molecules of my body and make me like Him. I no longer have a desire to tell Him how he should do his job.

Jane, I am pleased to hear you say that your husband continues to attend church, and read the Ensign, and go to the temple. I am sure your husband loves you very much, and you him. I promise you that if you will humbly seek the Lord’s confirmation that He wants you to go to the temple, no matter what price you must pay – if you will ask sincerely, every day, and keep asking until you get an answer, being willing to do whatever He asks, as long as He provides the way, that you will know how much He loves you, and that He wants you to come back to Him, not temporarily (as we all will), but eternally, having fully accepted the atonement and allowed Him to remake you in his image in every whit.

If after you get that confirmation from Him that the path back to Him is through the temple, if you find it hard to give up coffee, ask Him to help you. If you feel so inclined, I would be glad to introduce you to the LDS 12-step program that made such a difference in my life, by leading me to the Savior.

Jane, you have a wonderful, loving heart. You truly have been an angel to Sandi and me. I pray that you will not believe the lies that Satan has spread in the world that would slow down your progress on the path back to Father. Satan would have us believe that we can pick and choose which commandments we want to keep. He would have us believe that as long as we are good people, we will go to heaven. However, the heaven he tells of in his lies is but a pale shadow of the true beauty and power and light that is present where God is. Becoming like Father is hard work, but it is what we came here to do, and He will help us every step of the way if we will let Him.

May God bless you, my dear angel friend, to know Him, and reach out and take His hand and walk with Him every day.

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