Advice for a Repentant Sinner

LDSRepentanceMany years ago, I went through a difficult repentance process. Let me qualify that. I began a difficult repentance process. I am still going through it. In my opinion there are certain people who once they repent of some sin, are able to forget about it and move on. They no longer think about their mistake. It was a one-time problem. They got over it. The effects have been removed.

This has not been the case with me. Now you may say, “Well, it’s because you haven’t repented fully, or you haven’t forgiven yourself. If you have truly followed all the steps of repentance then you are supposed to be able to rejoice and live your life as if nothing ever happened.” I’ll just bet you’ve heard that before, haven’t you? In fact, I think I’ve shared that advice with some people.

A Conversation with My Bishop

Let me tell you about a conversation I had with my bishop as I completed the first phase of my repentance process and he gave me my temple recommend. I was very grateful. I knew my family would be very pleased. A temple recommend meant I could go on a mission. It meant I had met the requirements set by the church to qualify for entrance into the house of the Lord.

After signing the recommend, handing it to me, shaking my hand – in fact, he may have given me a hug - the Bishop asked if I had any questions. I was only nineteen but it had been a long hard process for me to repent and get myself ready for the temple. I had done a lot of reading and a lot of thinking about what it means to repent and what it means to be forgiven. So I asked him:

A Temple Recommend Received

“Bishop, I’m grateful to have this temple recommend. It means a lot to me and to my family. I’m looking forward to being endowed and serving my mission. You know I read the articles and the books you asked, including The Miracle of Forgiveness. That was a pretty difficult book. It had a lot of hard stuff in there. In fact, at one time I thought I could never qualify to go to the temple.

“I read what President Kimball had to say about always having to be wary. In fact, if I remember correctly, I believe he wrote that sexual sin can ‘start a soul on a lifetime of regret and anguish.’ On another page he wrote and I have highlighted that ‘a clearance from the Lord and the leaders of his Church [is required] so that a measure of peace may accompany them through their lives.’

We Must Always Be On Guard

“I don’t remember the exact quote on this one but I seem to recall he wrote a strong warning that we must always be on our guard and always on the lookout for the efforts of the adversary to entice us back into our old sinful ways. In other words, he made it clear that we could never forget that we had sinned. We can never put it out of our mind. The sin will always be with us.”

“Bishop, I’m concerned about statements like those. They make me think there is no way I will ever be able to completely forget about what I have done. They give me the impression that my sin will trouble me all my life. I’ll never be able to forget about it, to let go, to be completely free of the memory of this habit I have worked so hard to overcome. What advice can you give me?”

A Bishop Who Cared Deeply

I’ll never forget his response. He looked tired. I later realized he was serving in the last few months of his five or six years as a bishop. I’ll bet he had held this kind of conversation multiple times with many others before me, most of them young men like me. He took in a deep breath and let it out ever so slowly. He ran his finger along the desk and looked down for a long time.

It struck me that perhaps this was something that he had struggled with in his own mind. As I waited for his advice I got the distinct impression he wished I hadn’t asked him that question. I suddenly felt a deep love for this man who I had met with so often over the past six months. I wondered what he was going to say and why it seemed there were tears forming in his eyes.

Requirements for Repentance Met

“Brother Malone,” he said after some time, “as far as I can tell, you have met the requirements for repentance. You have confessed your sin, you have put this behind you and you have told me that you have felt the forgiveness of the Lord as you have prayed about it. Isn’t that right?” There was almost a pleading look in his eyes as he confirmed with me that I had done all those things.

“Yes,” I said, “I have done everything you have asked. As far as I know I have repented. And yes, I have felt the love of the Lord as I have prayed about it. I have felt a sense of peace as I have thought about my repentance, as if the Lord is pleased and has accepted my efforts.” I could not think of anything more I could say to convince him that I had done all I knew how to do.

There are no Guarantees

“Then, Brother Malone,” he said slowly, “all I can say is this.” He paused, almost as if it pained him to say what he was about to share. “You simply go about your life, living from day to day, doing all within your power to keep this sin behind you. I can tell you that it will be difficult. All you can do is endure to the end of your life and pray that you are still worthy when you die.”

I sat a little stunned. It was not what I expected to hear. I thought he would say something like, “Well, now you can ask the Lord to take away the memory of your sin. You’ve repented, so you have the right to do that.” Nope. He specifically said I would remember my sin, that it would be something I would have to continue to work on all my life and that there were no guarantees.

A Lifetime of Service

I thanked him. I went to the temple. I served my mission faithfully. I kept free from the habit that had caused me such distress in my youth for many years, but sadly it came back later in life. In fact, it came and it went many times over the years, even after I was married – in the temple. My bishop was right. There were no guarantees. I still struggle to keep myself free from this sin.

Because of constant repentance I have been able to keep my temple recommend all these years. Sometimes I feel more worthy than at other times in my life, especially as I keep busy in actively serving others through teaching the gospel or helping the ward and stake priesthood leadership as a clerk or counselor. But I have always wondered why I could never be truly free of this sin.

In Peril Every Hour

Many of you know that I have been actively reading the works of Denver Snuffer for the last year and a half since I was introduced to his writings. I thought that perhaps I would find in his books something refuting the counsel of this bishop. I thought I would find some statement the Lord had made, or something found in the scriptures that I had missed about being forgiven.

Nope. In fact, Denver makes a statement that as long as we are mortal, as long as we have not come into the presence of the Lord and been ministered to by him, we remain in danger. If I remember correctly, he states that we must have our calling and election made sure in order to have any promise that we will be exalted after this life. And then of course, there are still risks.

The effects of Sexual Sin

The obvious advice to us all is to never get entangled in sin, especially sexual sin, which, in terms of severity, is considered the sin next to murder (see my qualifying note below). Now admittedly, pornography and masturbation are not the same as fornication or adultery, but nevertheless, they are sexual sin. They make one unclean and impure before the Lord. Repentance from such is still a hard process.

I now understand why my good bishop was so tender-hearted when he gave me the advice I asked for at age nineteen. He knew what I was going to have to go though, even though I had repented. He knew I would have to continue to repent all my life. I don’t know how he knew that. Perhaps he knew it from personal experience but I would never assume such a thing.

Say Nothing but Repentance

Joseph was commanded to say nothing but repentance to this generation. I know when my stake presidency is inspired and acting under the spirit of the Lord when they remind the priesthood brethren in our stake that we need to be wary of pornography, keep away from it and confess to our bishops if we are having problems. Pornography saps power from the priesthood of the man.

It hurts when I hear them say that. It reminds me that I am a sinner, an addict and that I must be always on my guard to keep free from this sin. I have to be very careful about what websites I visit and what TV shows I watch. In fact, I try to not watch TV at all. I would rather read. Even though it hurts to hear, I am grateful my stake president warns us to beware of pornography.

Hope for Repentant Sinners

Some have said that if the church would stop talking about pornography, it would cease to be a problem. I’ve never understood that logic. The Lord commanded the leaders of the church to warn the members against sin. If they don’t, they would not be doing their duty. Perhaps what the critics are saying is that the leaders need to be careful to encourage those who have sinned.

Perhaps if there is any advice I could offer anyone in this church who deals with this problem is what the reader of one of my recent posts wrote in a private email dialog: “Stop being so hard on yourself. You have obviously repented. You should celebrate your life and the good things the Lord has done for you.” Good advice. But it’s still hard knowing I must always be on my guard.

The Best Advice I Can Offer

So here’s the best advice I can offer, and it comes from another reader. This is a summary of what Good Will left on my post Born of the Spirit for Addicts. After quoting Moroni 10:32-33, he wrote, “…you do not deny yourself of all ungodliness by your own virtue, grace, power or strength, but by His.” Of course, in order to do that, we must have those attributes from Him.

In other words, you’ll never be able to do it on your own power. You’ll never be enough. You MUST have the strength of the Lord in order to overcome and master the flesh. Because He is virtuous, you will be virtuous. Because He has power over the flesh, you can have power over the flesh. Because He is clean, you can be clean. But you MUST be enveloped in His love.

Faith beyond Intellectual Understanding

I’m not going to say this is a new concept for me, but perhaps it is one that I have somehow limited to an intellectual understanding only.  The objective of the Lord in working with us is to change our hearts, to cause us to be born again, to receive that baptism by fire, to be cleansed from the effects of sin, every whit. But I know it’s simply not something I can do on my own.

I suppose for me, my intellectual strength has become a liability in this area. I just can’t seem to get past the idea that I know it must happen, but I don’t understand how to make it happen. I pray for it, I fast for it, I do all within my power to serve, to bless others, to be kind and unselfish, and in short, to live my life in a way that I think would be pleasing and to invite the Lord’s presence.

I Must be Missing Something

I confess I am still struggling. I guess what I’m saying is that I know the answer to happiness, but even after nearly forty years of repenting, I haven’t quite figured out how to make this a real day to day power that gives me the strength to say that I am redeemed of the Lord and have His strength and power with me. I take the sacrament each week and feel strengthened, but still…

I’ll bet some of you are slapping your hand to your head and saying to yourself, “Tim, you just don’t get it. It’s so easy. Here’s all you have to do…” I would love to hear from you. I’ve been working on this for most of my life and still feel the pains of an anguished soul every time the topic comes up in a priesthood meeting. How can I ensure the Lord is dwelling within me?

The Savior will take Up His Abode

I’m not looking for simple primary answers – pray, read the scriptures, take the sacrament, exercise faith, attend to your duties, give service, magnify callings, etc. I do all that. I’m looking for answers from someone who has gone through this and knows what it takes. Am I looking beyond the mark? Is it really as simple as asking in prayer each day to have the Lord with you?

I guess I’m looking for something more. I pray for the spirit to be with me each day and I do feel the help of the spirit. Is there a difference between having the spirit with you and having the presence of the Lord with you? I am convinced there is. The scripture says the Lord will come and dwell with you. I think I’m missing that step. For those who get it, will you ‘splain it to me?

Invitation to Dialog and Connect

Thanks. I don’t care if you berate me for not understanding. I have been a teacher and leader in this church for all my life and I confess I simply don’t get it. If you do, please be merciful and share with me how you have done it – how you have invited the Lord to dwell with you and KNOW that He has come in to make his home with you. It seems a step above where I am now.

I get that I need the Lord’s virtue and the Lord’s power to give me strength to resist sin and to take away my desire for sin, which seems to hit me every few months whenever something important or stressful comes into my life. Satan knows my old weakness and hits me up every time the Lord wants to give me something more and move me along a step on my progression.

Advice for a Repentant Sinner

I’ll be forever grateful if you get it and will share in the comments or email: tmalonemcse @ gmail.com. God bless you for your kindness and thoughtfulness in sharing your thoughts and ideas. I’m committed to the Lord. I love Him and have experienced marvelous manifestations of His love so many times over the years. I feel his spirit with me almost every day of my life.

What I’m looking for is a way to find some sort of guarantee that temptation will have no more power over me when it comes along. I’m looking for a way to say and know that I have been born of the spirit and have no more desire to sin, as the scripture says. If you’ve achieved this and can say that you are never tempted, talk to me. Or am I simply living in a fantasy world?

Comments

tmalonemcse said…
I could not sleep last night. Went to bed at 10pm, but tossed and turned as I thought about what our new Stake President had said in our annual Stake Priesthood meeting last night. So I got up and wrote this essay. It just flowed. Don't know if it was inspired or just the brain dump of an anguished soul. I know this is basic stuff - the gospel of repentance. I have been teaching it for years. But we can always learn more.
Matthew said…
Here are my thoughts. You seem to be seeking something beyond the comfort of the spirit as you pray, read, serve, etc. You seem to be seeking a greater outpouring of blessings, spiritual power, and gifts from heaven. I believe they are within your grasp, and you just need to take the next step.

In my estimation (and I am on a similar path), the next step is more than we usually give. It requires more prayer, more fasting, more sacrifice, more humility, more contriteness, more brokenness. What seems to be working for me is to increase all those things that we already know. Bring yourself to the point of laying everything on the altar. Is there something you can further give up to the Lord?

I have learned invaluable insights from spiritual books recently. Yet, I reach times where I feel that I need to put down the books, disconnect from the internet, and just pray for hours without any other voices telling my mind what to think about this or that gospel principle (as edifying and important as that can be). I know my comment is bordering on a primary answer, but prayer is the way to receive Christ more abundantly than anything else. Try not even reading anything until the Spirit instructs you, and listen to the Spirit as you read and be aware of when you slip into "reading mode" ... where you're obsessively absorbing information (even scriptural information) rather than feeling the dews from heaven distilling gently upon your soul. When you feel yourself moving towards "reading mode," go back to your prayers. They are the key. The Lord can instruct you more fully than any man. In fact, more fully than even men quoting the Lord. The inspired writings of others have their purpose, but in our current information age we risk idolizing our vast quantity of (even good) texts.

Now after saying all that, I will recommend one small reading. One of the most incredible descriptions of prayer I've found is on pages 266-267 in Triumph of Zion. There you'll find a manner of prayer that is beyond the primary/seminary description. Read some pages from that section and then put the book away and return to your prayers. The Lord will give you everything you are seeking, but it will take time, and it will take pleading, and it will take line upon line coupled with magnificent events that can and will occur as you submit more fully to God.

If you feel that you are an anguished soul, you are very close! The Lord will give you the instructions you need to continue on the path and yield more to His will. He can give you the assurance that you need. He can give you everything you desire in due time.

Now, I am going to follow my own advice and log off for the rest of the day. Godspeed, and thank you for the blog (and all those that comment) as I have certainly benefitted from the ongoing dialogue.
tomirvine999 said…
The Greek philosopher Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

There are far too many people in the world who are careless and who do not accept responsibility for their actions. And there are many who say “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die,” as the Apostle Paul warned in 1 Corinthians 15:32.

But those of us who are trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ sometimes face a different problem. We may focus too much on our own faults to the point that we become discouraged. Our discouragement then becomes a wedge that separates us from Christ.

Even the prophets and apostles had weaknesses.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Adam then blamed Eve who blamed the serpent. (Genesis 3)

Noah became drunk after he left the ark and had planted a vineyard. (Genesis 9)

Abraham lied twice about his wife Sarah, each time claiming that Sarah was his sister. (Genesis 12 & 20)

Jacob played a trick on Isaac in order to get the birthright blessing. (Genesis 27)

Aaron built a golden calf for idol worship. (Exodus 32)

Miriam had a bout of leprosy as punishment for gossiping about Moses’ wife. (Numbers 12)

Moses was not allowed to cross into the Promised Land because he was disrespectful to the Lord when he drew water from the rock at Meribah. (Numbers 20:8-12)

Jonah at first refused to go to Ninevah. So he was swallowed by a whale. (Jonah 1)

David sinned with Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11)

Solomon worshiped the gods of his wives. (1 Kings 11)

Elijah was depressed and asked God to let him die. (1 Kings 19)

Job cursed his own birth. (Job 3)

Zacharias was struck dumb because he doubted the angel Gabriel’s message that he, Zacharias, would be the father of John the Baptist. (Luke 1)

Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven demons before Jesus cleansed her. (Luke 8:2)

Peter denied knowing Christ three times. (Mark 14)

Nathaniel questioned: Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)

Thomas doubted that Jesus had been resurrected. (John 20)

Paul (Saul) held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen. (Acts 6)

John Mark left Paul and the other missionaries who were traveling to Asia Minor, and he returned to Jerusalem. This caused a break between Paul and Barnabas some time later. (Acts 13 & 15)

Paul confessed:

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
(Romans 7:15,19)

* * *
Bruce said…
I sent you a private email describing my thoughts. But for public consumption on the blog...you may have missed Denver's blog on June 12th.

The church cannot forgive sin. Even when they are entrusted with judgment, it is carefully circumscribed so as to make it the Lord's and not theirs. (3 Ne. 27: 27.) They DON'T have discretion and don't have power to forgive sin. That is the Lord's.

He forgives freely. Confess your sins and He is faithful to forgive. All that is required is real intent. The process is essentially immediate. Read the scriptures, the Book of Mormon in particular, and you see how immediate it is.

Fruits follow.

The church's use of the concept gives them the authority to exercise control and dominion and compulsion over others, it is true. But it does not grant them repentance. The Lord does that.

If a person feels compelled to confess their sins, it would be better to do that to a victim, accompanied with expressions of regret. Telling a bishop may only get your "permanent record" annotated. Which may in itself be a very good thing, but it isn't repentance.

That is not to say that a good, caring and loving priesthood leader can't help someone. I've known some great men who have helped others by using the church's processes. But in the end the forgiving comes from the Lord. And it needn't take long. June 12, 2010 11:45 AM
tomirvine999 said…
Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity is a psychological disorder characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues. It is personally distressing, objectively dysfunctional, and often accompanied by significant impairment in social functioning. It is typically conceptualized as a moral or religious form of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), although this categorization is empirically disputable.

The term is derived from the Latin scrupulum, a sharp stone, implying a stabbing pain on the conscience. Scrupulosity was formerly called scruples in religious contexts, but the word scruples now commonly refers
to a troubling of the conscience rather than to the disorder.

As a personality trait, scrupulosity is a recognized diagnostic criterion for obsessive–compulsive personality disorder. It is sometimes called "scrupulousness," but that word properly applies to the positive trait of having scruples.

Please Email me if you the like the name of the professional counselor who helps our family with this issue. She is LDS but has a private practice. Email: tom@irvinemail.org
tmalonemcse said…
Hi Tom. I'm familiar with Scrupulosity. I have been watching John Dehlin share his work toward his Utah State PhD on the subject online. I have always found it fascinating. From what I can tell, he is doing a marvelous job. I look forward to seeing the final results of his dissertation. He shared the preliminaries last year. Very enlightening. Thanks for the offer. That's very kind of you. Although I am a California boy, I will contact you privately. Perhaps she can do remote work or recommend someone in my neck of the woods.
tmalonemcse said…
Hi Bruce. I do recall Denver's post on the subject. I'm sure you recognize the original events I describe in this post transpired nearly four decades ago. In a past essay here on my blog, I related the story of the last time I felt the need to confess this sin. I was newly married. The Bishop returned my temple recommend and advised me to use it more. He said, "you work this out between you, Carol and the Lord." I have been following that advice ever since.

That still does not take away the pang of guilt I feel when I hear our local priesthood leaders call upon the members in a general stake priesthood meeting to confess and get help. It brings back all the old feelings from my Bishop at age 19 who answered my questions about President Kimball's book that the only way to deal with these feelings was to endure to the end. He effectively said there was no way to ever be completely free since you would always have the knowledge that you had sinned. I kind of liken that to the nail in the board analogy. It has troubled me all my life - thorn in my side.

As I hope I made clear in the post - perhaps I didn't - I DO feel the Love of the Lord to a great degree in my life. I DO feel His spirit helping me with so many things, from controlling my temper, overcoming a deep sense of disappointment at the drug addiction of my son, providing inspiration in my everyday work and many other areas. I also use this great quote from President Harold B. Lee when asked how a man could tell if the Lord had forgiven him of his sins:

"If the time comes when you have done all that you can to repent of your sins...and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability... , then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find that peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance" (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974]

I normally don't have a problem dealing with this old guilt - only when reminded of it by something like a general announcement from a stake President in a general priesthood meeting. It has happened many times over the years. It is Satan's way of trying to get at me, especially when I feel myself getting closer to the Lord in some way. I normally DO have a peace of conscience about this issue. I couldn't serve in my callings if I didn't, not could I stand at the pulpit or in front of a classroom and speak under the inspiration of the spirit.
tmalonemcse said…
Thanks Tom. I especially appreciate your comment: "those of us who are trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ sometimes ... may focus too much on our own faults to the point that we become discouraged. Our discouragement then becomes a wedge that separates us from Christ." Oh, how I have felt that over the years. The adversary knows this and uses it as a wedge to keep me from achieving more good in my life.
tmalonemcse said…
Thanks Matthew. I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond. I think you nailed it. You are correct. I am seeking something beyond the comfort of the spirit as I pray, study and serve. I DO enjoy the blessing of the spirit. I DO feel the love of the Lord. I DO feel that I have been forgiven. I DO trust that the Lord forgives as we repent. That’s not the issue, although my post apparently seems to focus on that according to the responses of others.

I am indeed seeking a greater outpouring of the blessings, spiritual power and gifts from heaven. I am looking to take my relationship with the Lord to a higher level. Thank you for your words of encouragement and advice. Your question about seeking something more to lay upon the alter is exactly what I needed to hear / read. Like you, I believe my prayers need to deepen more and to increase in real communication. The sacrifice I can offer is that of being in a hurry in prayer.

I especially like your suggestion to ask the Lord what would be best to read next – yes, I read a ton of stuff in between work – all day, every day. How much more effective it would be if I were reading and focusing on what the Lord knows I need to absorb. I am going to take your advice. Although I have a huge reading list in front of me and a pile of books on my desk, I think I will clear them both and ask the Lord for advice in focusing on the ones He wants me to study.

I also appreciate your recommendation to read from the Triumph of Zion, pages 266-267. You comment reflecting that you understand my “anguished soul” feelings is the best. The Lord has blessed you with analytical insight that I greatly appreciate. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is why I bare my soul in these essays, even when I am feeling down in the dumps like I was last night after hearing the Stake President talk about the need for our priesthood to confess sins.

It’s nice to have someone who reads between the lines and who gets it. God bless you my friend.
tmalonemcse said…
I want to add a general comment based on a wonderful private email I received from a reader. I won't reveal the details, but simply want to comment on the concept of "the sin next to murder." I had no idea this was a controversial phrase. I'm old school and was simply basing my use of the phrase on the way it was used by my bishop at age 19 and from the way President Kimball used it in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Apparently we have misinterpreted the phrase attributing it to fornication when it was meant to be attributed to idolatry or the act of idol worship, which is an abomination to the Lord. I'm still not clear on all the details, but am now aware that Michael Ash wrote about this in a Nov 2006 Sunstone article. So the way my bishop characterized this sin and the way President Kimball made it sound so severe may not be doctrinally sound.

And just to be clear, the sins to which I'm referring in my post are pornography and masturbation, not fornication.
Eric said…
Even those whose calling and election are made sure are tempted (since some can become sons of perdition).

But regarding dealing with temptation, maybe a couple quotes (from a nonmember) can be applied somehow:

"A thought is painful only when allowed to persist in the mind. With knowledge of the mind you can learn to drop painful thoughts. This is not the same as suppressing uncomfortable thoughts, which is what most people do. A thought can be dropped only after seeing it clearly, as when awareness of a hot kettle makes you drop it."

"Whenever we resist something--perhaps an unkind remark, a shocking event, or a depressing feeling--our very resistance indicates a belief in the power of that event to hurt us. Although it is really powerless, our mistaken belief in it induces despair. But by not resisting, we dissolve the false belief and consequently the false power for harm. . . . we need not fight, we need not resist. We need only to understand."
tmalonemcse said…
Great advice - almost Zen-like. Seems contrary to Western thinking that we must analyze and have an answer for every thought. Maybe that's just the technologist thinking and training in me. I often think that our Western way of thinking - and I am steeped in it - is a detriment in dealing with difficult things and thoughts in life. Also, the concept of a son of perdition in general is still mind-blowing to me. I think of someone who has seen the Lord, no, done more than seen the Lord, but had His glory revealed to him and partaken in the knowledge of heaven as revealed by the Lord.

Then I read the definition of a son of perdition that such a person would fight against the Lord and His work, as if to deny that the sun is shining when his eyes are lit by the glory of that sun. That is an amazing and terrible thought to contemplate. I can hardly fathom it. I hope someday to spend some time coming to an understanding of Eastern ways of thinking. After all, the people of the Book of Mormon did not have any Western influence in what they left us. The power of Babylon is not found in the Book of Mormon because the authors left the old world before the days of the captivity.

Thanks for contributing to my efforts to improve my mental health.
Eric said…
I hope I'm not digressing too much, but the Tao Te Ching becomes very interesting when one substitutes "Light of Christ" or "Spirit of the Gods" in place of "Tao." Some examples:

When the Spirit is followed, the war-horses plough fields. When the Spirit is not followed, the war-horses ravage countrysides.

Whatever is not in accord with the Spirit, will not endure.

Like deep water that is dark and still, the Spirit seems unfathomable yet eternally present. Since it has been from the beginning of the very beginning, no one knows how it came to be.

Water is like the highest good because it flows to the lowest places. While people strive to move upward, water goes freely downward, and on its effortless course nourishes everything in its path. Such is the way of the Spirit.

Although the Spirit seems indifferent and aimless, its course is precise and unerring.

Being formless, it gives order to the things that happen; being intangible, it gives substance to the things that are.

Learning consists of filling; following the Spirit consists of emptying.

When the Spirit is followed, power and virtue become one.

It nourishes everything yet it controls nothing. Because it controls nothing, it seems unimportant; because it nourishes everything, it is valued beyond value.
tmalonemcse said…
Profound: "Learning consists of filling; following the Spirit consists of emptying." I have NEVER heard this before. I have spent my life believing and furiously following the concept that I MUST use every possible moment to FILL myself with stuff I'll need for my journey in the next life. I am reminded at every turn that life is made up of time, that time is limited, that we MUST not waste time, that we must be careful about what we do with our time because we don't want to get to the other side with regret, realizing we have wasted our days in pursuing unimportant things. I have got to learn more about the idea of emptying to follow the spirit.
tmalonemcse said…
General comment: I am overwhelmed by the number of private emails I have received from this post, perhaps more than any other thing I have posted on my blog in the last five years. These are not short emails either. So many of you have shared advice that is simply amazing. I am digesting it. If I do not respond right away, please accept this as my thanks and acknowledgement that I have received your email and am pondering it. I am so pleased to know that what may have been standard advice in our church forty years ago, was perhaps not the best thing I needed to hear, since it still bothers me after all these years. Then again, maybe it was exactly what I needed because I have been driven to my knees in countless hours of prayer over the years trying to come to a reconciliation with my God, whom I dearly love and desire to please. Thank you all.
tmalonemcse said…
And for those who may not have the book:

Suggestions for Effective Prayer from John Pontius

Develop the habit of preparing to pray. Set your world in order; make time; be willing to remain for as long as it takes.

Kneel when possible.

Don’t speak immediately. Allow words to form around your feelings. Feelings flow from the Spirit; words flow from the mind.

Don’t multiply words. Begin by remembering who you are addressing. Ponder upon the idea that, as you truly pray in the Spirit, the magnificent, powerful, and glorious Being of all existence is going to stop and listen to your prayer and extend some portion of His glory in blessing you in your needs.

If nothing happens, pray that the Holy Spirit will fall upon you. Cleanse your mind, forgive, repent, gird up your loins, and try again and again.

Express gratitude for blessings, remembering Christ’s sacrifice, pondering blessings received, and expressing love are all effective in opening the pathways of revelation through which mighty prayer flows.

Wait upon the Holy Spirit to fall upon you. You will know when it comes because a sense of peace, power, and a quickening of understanding will flow over you. Words will flow into your mind a little quicker than your normal cognitive processes. It can take much experience to learn how to clear your mind and let the Holy Spirit fill it with thoughts and words of inspiration.

Clear your mind of your desires, forget your needs, step outside of your mortal self, and let the words fill your uncluttered mind. Learn to remove your mortal will from the equation of prayer. God already knows what you want, what you need, and what you fear. And, he knows far better than you what is needed next in your righteous journey. Trust Him. Let yourself become unimportant until he wordlessly asks you, “What is wanted?”

Express flowing rivers of gratitude. Thank Him for very grace and gift in your life. The Spirit will fall upon you as you rejoice.

Speak whatever words enter your soul. Don’t edit them. Don’t stumble over placement of words. Don’t worry if you don’t feel in control. You can tell when the Holy Spirit is guiding you because your speech patterns will change. You will say things you have never considered, in ways and with words you would not normally use. Remember, the ideas come from the Holy Spirit, but the language is your own. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak English – you do. You are translating inspired feelings into language, and thus they may jumble together her and there or fail to express the exact meaning of your heart. Even if they are not perfect English, the Lord knows exactly what your soul is laboring to say. Language may be unnecessary at times of profound inspiration.

Let your soul worship. Speak every loving and worshipful thought that enters your soul.

Sing the song of redeeming love when moved upon by the Holy Ghost to do so. You will know when it occurs.

Weep, rejoice, worship, shout praises to God when so moved.

Last – and least of all – ask for those things that you are instructed to request. If you are not given what to ask – ask for nothing.

Remain on your knees until instructed to end your prayer.

End in the name of Jesus Christ. Speak His name slowly.

Source: pages 266-267 in The Triumph of Zion (2010), Cedar Fort Inc.
[…] a recent post here on my blog, I wrote about some advice I was given by my Bishop as a youth nearly thirty-seven years ago as I […]
Vic said…
It is my understanding that fornication is next to murder because both deal with the giving and taking of life, affect the spirits and bodies (the souls) of God's children and cannot be "undone" or made right, even with repentance. I'm to tired to do any research on it tonight, but that's what sticks in my mind and it makes sense to me.
Vic said…
Tim,

The following has helped me and I pray it will be helpful to you as well. In his August 26, 2010 Unblog, John Pontius wrote:

“Many years ago in a Stake Priesthood Meeting in Idaho, I heard Bruce R. McConkie ask this question: ‘How can you tell if you are living a life that is acceptable to God? How can you tell if you have been forgiven for a past sin you have been working to repent of?’ His answer was simply this: If you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life –- if you are receiving personal revelation, if you receive answers to your prayers — then you are in the straight and narrow way, and your sins are forgiven, because the Holy Spirit does not dwell in unholy people.’”

Tim, perhaps the next time you hear the brethren warn people of the dangers of your specific weakness, you can begin to condition yourself to respond, rather than with feelings of guilt, with gratitude to the Lord and a sense of empowerment that you have been blessed, through the Lord's grace, to come through that trial to where you are today. I would think that rather than feel guilty for past mistakes you could focus on your accomplishment and the blessings of God in controlling that addiction and end up with feelings of overwhelming gratitude and of feeling loved and valued by our Father and His Son. I think you're right in saying that Satan has your number and is using that old guilt to hold you back from your full potential. Tell him to just get lost, using the power of the Priesthood if necessary.
tomirvine999 said…
Experience with male and female nudity within the LDS Church (perfunctory gasp).

1. Baptisms services today are overly hyperfocused and individualized on the new convert or eight-year-old child. But back in my day, a single baptism service would be held for a dozen or so baby-boom-era children. I still remember changing in and out of my baptism clothes with a number of boys and fathers in the same room. I still remember brother "H" standing naked as a jaybird wringing out his wet suit over the sink.

2. When I was in young men's or mutual or whatever we called it back in the 1970s, we had numerous career-oriented meetings where men would talk about the jobs, or sometimes give us a tour of their workplaces. One evening an ob/gyn doctor in our ward gave us a slide show with full pelvis photos of mothers in various stages of labor and delivery.

3. Without divulging sacred details, let's just say that temple initiatory ceremony of today is significantly more modest than the 1980 version I experienced prior to my mission.

4. I actually closed my eyes during part of the temple film during my first viewing because I thought I would see more of Mother Eve than I was prepared for.

5. Not sure what the men's MTC restroom layout is today, but the 1980 version was a single pole with nozzles in the full communal tradition.

6. In my last mission area in Japan, we held our Sunday meetings in the very small apartment of the unit leader. We would all kneel on the living room floor. Sister unit leader would turn away from us as she discretely nursed her baby boy. But sometimes she would get excited and want to interject a comment into a lively discussion. She would thereupon turn around with junior's mouth becoming detached in the process, thus giving us a full view of her motherly glory. As a naive missionary who had lived a sheltered life, I was very embarrassed but not offended.

What is the point of all this? I am not even sure. But I think in our righteous desire to preach absolute morality and in other ways, we have lost an opportunity to help our youth develop a healthy attitude about the human body.

I personally detest pornography and even dislike studio nude fine art photos. But I enjoy the outdoor au naturel group photos of Spencer Tunick, showing that people are beautiful even with cellulite, surgical scars, warts, and all.

I am NOT advocating naturism, skinny-dipping or any such thing, but maybe we could turn at least some men and boys away from pornography by helping them develop a healthy appreciation of the unadorned human body of both genders.
[…] as I shared in that post, my poor bishop seemed absolutely distraught when he shared with me that the best I could hope for […]
log said…
Three more things which will be helpful (out of a much longer list).

Luke 18:1-6
1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

Ether 1:43
43 And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.

2 Nephi 32:9
9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
log said…
Lastly, if you are plagued by temptations and evil thoughts, it is because you are not walking up to every covenant you made at the altars of the temple. Your eye is not single to the glory of God (which means you are not focused on serving God to the exclusion of the things of this world).

It is that simple.
log said…
I should be more explicit - "continually plagued," for the Lord at times does allow that we should be tempted to see if we will yield to our common enemy.
RC said…
log -

Thanks for the treatise again. I personally am enlightened and feel the Holy Spirit as we share these very sacred things.

There is nothing wrong with what I feel when I share with you brothers and/or sisters.

Thank you again log, Geoff, Tim, et al
Duane said…
In the early 1960's, a troubled 18 yr old LDS young man was coerced by his parents to live with his very old great-grandmother who was living near the Mesa, Arizona temple and working there as well. He wanted desperately to be living with his friends instead of this old lady who had been raised in a small Mormon town in northeastern Arizona. As a young girl, her colony was even practicing the United Order.

After a few weeks of disappointment, he had finally concocted the perfect plan to get his wish. All of his previous shenanigans had blown up in his face.

On the chosen evening, he had dinner awaiting her as she arrived home from her temple duties. As they enjoyed the dinner, he followed through on his devious plan. He laid the pornographic centerfold magazine on the table in front of his great-grandma. He just knew this would be the final straw and she would kick him out of her home once and for all.

"What do you think about this girl, Grandma?", he proudly asked.

"Oh, I think she is one of Heavenly Father's prettiest girls I have ever seen!", she kindly replied.

This answer was NOT what he was expecting. Grandma's "perspective" took him by surprise. Her point of view diffused his demeanor. Her view of "sin" was not the same as his.

Repentance is a change of thought or perspective.

This great-grandma needed to have a different perspective as a young girl growing up in her small LDS town. Her father was a sickly pioneer and knew his time on earth was about up and therefore he would be leaving his wife and his daughter (great-grandma) and his boy.

Before he died, he asked his best friend to take his widow and sire him more children for the next life. These pioneers knew more of the higher laws than most LDS do today. The friend sire at least 7 more children for his friend and all of those children bore the surname of the deceased friend. (There are similar cases throughout the church during the days of Brigham Young.)

What knowledge or perspective did this young girl need in order to grow up in a small Mormon town where all her neighbors knew of this "peculiar" family? What would modern day LDS members say about this situation? What do they say about divorced and remarried people in their wards today?

When the 18 yr old boy sees a picture of a naked girl, he might feel the urge to masturbate. He might also decide to change his perspective of pictures of naked women. A married man or woman can assess their views of pornography or even what earlier members of the church did such as having children for other deceased members.

It's possible we might forget sin because our perspective of it has changed. There is much more that can be said, but I appreciate the venue to make a comment. Thank you.

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