The Space Between

When Alma was counseling his son Corianton, he spoke about the space between death and resurrection. This “space between” was of great interest to Alma, and of great concern to Corianton. It is something that has always interested me as well.

Sunset at Half Moon BayThe very idea of this “space between” is evidence of our faith that life continues after death. This is not a new concept and is referred to in various ways throughout the scriptures. In John 14, Christ talks about preparing a place for us in his father’s house. Verses 1-2 say: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

We also read in Peter that after Christ’s death, he went and preached to the spirits in prison. 1 Peter 4:6 says: For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. And in Corinthians we read: Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?

This paints a clear picture to me that our spirits continue on after this life.

Levels - Ogden TempleWhen we go to the temple, we go for one (or two or all three) of these reasons: For the living, for the dead, or for comfort/guidance.

Ordinances of the temple are absolutely crucial. President Nelson has said that we cannot return to God’s glory without them. Ordinances of the temple provide for reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever. In the temple, we make covenants that allow us eventually return to God’s presence.

It is easy to look at those covenants we make as constraining or as a burden. But by keeping covenants we lose nothing of value. Think about it- what do we lose by staying morally clean? What do we lose by serving others or mourning with those who mourn? What do we lose by withholding judgment or avoiding light mindedness? Nothing of value is lost in this, and in fact, so much more is gained. President Nelson said that “Keeping a covenant is not constraining, but enabling. It elevates us beyond limits of our own perspective and power…”

Boys at Half Moon BaySo if these ordinances are absolutely crucial, and we are to be judged according to the flesh, what about those who have not received them?

In Moses 1:39, the whole purpose of God’s work is given. Is says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

jesus-praying-in-gethsemane-39591-printIt is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that this, bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,  is accomplished.

Immortality is free. Unconditional. It is a free gift to all mankind because of Christ’s resurrection.

Eternal life, or exaltation and life with God and our family, is available through our obedience to the covenants made and ordinances received in the temple. So when we go through the temple for the Living, for ourselves, and keep our covenants, we are taking hold of that purpose -the eternal life of man.

Circling back to the atonement of Christ – to atone means to suffer the penalty of sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled (or to coexist in harmony) to God. We, a fallen people, cannot save ourselves. Christ, who was perfect and worthy, was the only one who could to it for us. Through the atonement, we can become clean. We are able to repent of our sins and be forgiven. We can also be comforted in all of our trials, and so much more that I can’t even understand.

We rely on Jesus Christ to become worthy to enter the temple, where we receive the ordinances that allow us to be exalted.

This atonement was infinite, covering everything (sins, pain, heartache, etc.) and everyone (good, evil, nice, not nice).

Every soul.

It makes no sense for such an infinite atonement to only be allotted to those lucky few who find and accept it in mortality. And this is where the second purpose of temples, for the dead, comes into play. It is also where we return to that “space between” that Alma spoke of.

As I mentioned earlier, as written in Peter, after Christ’s atonement and death he ministered to those in the spirit world.

Grouse Mountain Light WalkDoctrine and Covenants section 138 is a record of an amazing vision given to Joseph F. Smith in 1918. In it, President Smith saw the saints assembled in the spirit world waiting for Christ to come and declare their redemption from the bands of death, which he did, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful. Verse 19 says: And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.

But that said he was among the saints. He didn’t go among the wicked.

President Smith wondered about that, how on earth Christ had spent about three years ministering and teaching, and yet, as it says in verses 26-27, “notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands. But his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief time intervening between the crucifixion and resurrection. And I wondered at the words of Peter, wherein he said that the son of God preached unto the spirits in prison, who sometimes were disobedient..”

I was wondering the same thing. He basically had three days to teach everybody. Not really possible. But the Lord had/has a great system:

We learn later in the same section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the Lord “organized his forces and appointed messengers” to carry the gospel to those who were in darkness, “even to all the spirits of men; [small and great, the unrighteous as well as the faithful] and thus was the gospel preached to the dead,” those who had died in their sins, with or without a knowledge of the truth.

And what were they taught? The principles and ordinances of the gospel. Verses 33-34 say: These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Those who receive this message in that “space between,” can do a lot of things. They still have agency- they can choose to accept or reject the gospel. If they accept it, they can repent, and through the atonement of Jesus Christ become worthy to receive the ordinances that qualify them for exaltation.

Elder Cook said that every soul, living or dead, who is accountable for their actions, need the blessings of these sacred ordinances, and we can help our family members receive them. As church members, we have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out our ancestors and compile family histories. This is far more than an encouraged hobby. The ordinances of salvation are necessary for all of God’s children.

But they cannot save themselves.

We are commanded be like the Savior as much as possible. Most of us have that righteous desire to become like him, but since we are mortal, we fall short. 

In performing temple work for our dead, I believe we become closest to the Savior than any other way. Just like Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and made eternal life possible for us (because we couldn’t), we help make possible the blessings of the temple, and therefore exaltation, for those we do the work for (because they can’t).

If we believe this is true, that our work can be accepted by those we love on the other side, then we can gain a better, deeper understanding and appreciation for Christ’s atonement for us, which we can accept or reject. Repeating President Nelson, “Ordinances of the temple provide for reconciliation with the Lord and seal families together forever.” Just like the atonement reconciles us to God, so do the ordinances of the temple. We can help our families access that.

D&C 128:15 says: And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers – that they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Service in their behalf provides an opportunity for our continued temple worship, and as no unclean thing can dwell with God, we rely on the atonement of Christ to make us clean and worthy to enter the temple. This leads to a lifetime of worthiness for us. Through us, they are saved, and through them, we remain worthy to be saved.

The “Spirit of Elijah” is the Holy Ghost prompting us to search out our families who are waiting in the space between death and resurrection.

Malachi 4:4-5 says: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

In Moroni’s four visits to Joseph Smith, he repeats this, saying, “And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at is coming.”

Utterly wasted.

Remember that God’s work and glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. If our hearts are not turned to our fathers, and their work is not done, what a waste this whole thing would be. Again, they cannot do it without us.

Teton ValleyObadiah 1:21 says: And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

Doctrine and Covenants 103 also mentions being saviors.

“For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men; And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.”

Our purpose here is pretty clear here.

The Rexburg Idaho Temple 16x9Joseph Smith wondered: “But what is the object of [the coming of Elijah]? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion. But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples … and going forth and receiving all the ordinances … in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead…; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”

It is all connected in such a beautiful way!

God’s purpose.

The atonement of Christ.

Our covenants and ordinances.

Those waiting in the “space between.”

And it all culminates in the temple.

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But All Things Are Numbered Unto Me

Yesterday morning I was feeling pretty down. Really overwhelmed and a bit hopeless.

I became almost consumed with the current struggles of our family, and as I thought about reaching out to Heavenly Father in prayer, I felt almost ashamed.

Who am I to ask for help, I thought.

Yes,  I was struggling and yes, my troubles were feeling overwhelming. But they seemed so small compared to what other people are going through around the world.

My mind filled with images of fires, famines, people literally running out of water in South Africa, children being neglected, families falling apart, the homeless, the sick, wars, terrorism, etc., etc.

Who was I to ask for respite when so many others with so much more need were calling out to God for help?

I felt ashamed and very small. I felt that I was so far down God’s to-do list that I couldn’t even pray.

It was one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced.

I didn’t want to go to church but knew that I needed to. If for nothing else than to just go through the motions.

In Sunday School we studied the first couple chapters of Moses. I sat there, not paying much attention until a verse pricked at my soul.

Moses 1:35. God is teaching Moses about the creation. It says,

But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

Glacier National ParkAnd innumerable are they unto man, but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

My emptiness began to be filled at that very moment.

Yes, there are many here who need God. We all need God. So many, that man cannot count.

But God is not man.

And he knows each of his creations. He knows and cares about each of us, no matter how insignificant our problems might seem. If they are significant to us, they matter to him.

Maraine LakeI was reminded of a talk given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf in the October 2011 General Conference, in which he says:

The more we learn about the universe, the more we understand—at least in a small part—what Moses knew. The universe is so large, mysterious, and glorious that it is incomprehensible to the human mind. “Worlds without number have I created,” God said to Moses. The wonders of the night sky are a beautiful testimony of that truth.

There are few things that have filled me with such breathless awe as flying in the black of night across oceans and continents and looking out my cockpit window upon the infinite glory of millions of stars.

Astronomers have attempted to count the number of stars in the universe. One group of scientists estimates that the number of stars within range of our telescopes is 10 times greater than all the grains of sand on the world’s beaches and deserts.

This conclusion has a striking similarity to the declaration of the ancient prophet Enoch: “Were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations.”

Given the vastness of God’s creations, it’s no wonder the great King Benjamin counseled his people to “always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness.”

But even though man is nothing, it fills me with wonder and awe to think that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”

And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.

While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation—worlds without end—within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.

Steven in Lynn Canyon ParkI recognized that it was not anything from God that kept me from praying that morning. Satan wants to keep our connection to God as limited as possible. He knows that when we are in the depths of sorrow and humility, that is our greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. So what does he do?

He makes us feel shame or guilt for wanting to reach out. He whispers in our ears that we are not important enough to God.

For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint…

2 Nephi 32:8-9

President Monson has said, “He who notes the fall of a sparrow surely hears the pleadings of our hearts.”

Mount Hood VistaGod is aware of us. Not only aware, he knows us. He loves us, each of us, personally.

All things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

 

As It Were A Dream

There is a passage in the book of Jacob that always stands out to me.

In Chapter 7 verse 26, Jacob is concluding his record, and says:

 “…the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

Jacob’s life was full of many many trials.

Mist on Antelope Island

He was born in the wilderness, after his family had already left Jerusalem. So he never had a real home. All he knew was wandering, moving from place to place in order to survive. He had amazing parents, and Nephi was probably the best brother a person could ask for. But he grew up with his brothers Laman and Lemuel constantly causing contention and trying to murder their family! When Lehi blessed Jacob in 2 Nephi chapter 2, he told him, “..in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.” His days were filled with wars, and probably much confusion. Temporally, I wonder if Jacob ever felt secure.

Spiritually, he was a giant.

Going back to Lehi’s blessing, he continued, “…Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

In writing of Sherem, the antichrist, Jacob said “And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.”

Jacob knew the goodness and glory of God. He was blessed with a great testimony of Christ and of the gospel.

He became a righteous and great minister among his people. He gave us the allegory of the olive tree. He rejoiced in keeping the record on the plates. He was bold and said what needed to be said. I mean, just think about the book of Jacob. There are so many nuggets in those few chapters that teach and fill the reader with the desire to be better.

So focusing back on the phrase he uses- our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream. I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last month or so.

Because I feel the same way.Rainstorm on Antelope Island

When Carey was laid off last December, it was a shock for sure. But I was certain that within a month at most, he’d be back to work and that it would be even better than what he was doing before.

A month passed, and then another. We still had some energy, and were blessed with a temp position to help pay the bills. Still looking for the next step, and certain it was just around the corner.

Then all of a sudden it is July. And I’m not really sure where the last seven months have gone, except that they have gone and we are still trudging along feeling almost directionless. Still so grateful for the temp work, but keenly aware that there are only a few weeks left until that dries up.

I admit that the stress of the last seven months has really gotten to me. I’ve put on some weight, I have less motivation to keep up my house and keep up my regular routine, tensions are often high at home and my kids definitely feel that lack of normalcy and security. While we aim to stay where we are, we really don’t know if we’ll be here even a month from now. It’s not like we haven’t continued living- we have. We still go on little getaways, we still have movie night, we still make plans, we still live. But there is this shadow hanging over all of it for me.

With all those emotions and stresses, it really does feel like the months have passed away like as it were unto us a dream. It’s the best way I can describe it.

But I have had this growing feeling inside of me that I don’t want to waste this time. I feel like I have just been waiting for this trial to end, and not much else. I’ve been sleeping through it.

So how do I wake up live intentionally, instead of just waiting out my days? How do I grow and learn during this trial?

Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.  (Ephesians 5:14)

We see that word several times in the scriptures.

Awake.

In chapter 3, Jacob tells us to, “…arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death..”

Alma encourages us to “..awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words..”

Lehi pleads to his children, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep… Awake! and arise from the dust…”

The Light on the BeachI’ve actually been working on this blog post for a week or so. I’ve felt like there is something that I really need to learn in this, so I’ve been studying it out and pondering a lot. As I said above, I’ve been asleep. I desperately want to wake up! Because when it comes down to it, I know deep down this trial will come to an end, and I will be amazed (but not surprised) at what the Lord has done for us. But I don’t want to look back on it and see that I squandered my opportunity for growth, or that I whined my way through it.

The term Arouse your faculties caught my curiosity when I was studying. It is often seen when the writer is pleading for the reader to awake. I’ve read the phrase hundreds of times in my life, but never thought too much about it until now. I turned to the dictionary to try to understand it more.

Arouse: verb – To evoke or awaken

Evoke: verb – To bring or recall to the conscious mind. Or, to Remember.

Faculty: noun – An inherent mental or physical power.

Inherent: adjective – Existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute. Deep-rooted, fundamental. Perhaps eternal?

So to arouse your faculties means to remember your eternal power.

Remember who you are.

We are children of God. All of us! We have eternal spirits. We have power! We lived before this life and we will live and progress after.

We are not meant to sleep our way through this life. What would be the point of that?

It’s hard. When you feel so weighed down it’s hard to just get up.

But remember that you can. Just the desire to get up is enough to start stirring that power within you. Not just your power, but the power of God, and angels, and friends from the other side of the veil who are all rooting for you and cheering you on.

Sky

There will always be trials. That’s why we’re here. Some will trip us up and some will knock us down completely.

Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, Better is the end of thing than the beginning thereof..

At the beginning of a trial it seems it will never end. The end is where the light comes, that refreshing breeze. But the middle is where the growth happens.

The middle is where you get to remember who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Special Holiday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Last Sunday in Primary, the sharing time teacher asked the children if they knew what General Conference was.

One adorable little boy raised his hand and said, “It is a special holiday where we stay home from church and watch it on TV.”

I loved his words. ...A special holiday. So true!meme-mcconkie-words-prophets-manna-1389784-print

We all have holiday traditions. For Christmas, we always get our tree and set things up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Every night we have our advent gifts and study the life of Christ. On Christmas Eve we always see a movie and go out to dinner. Stockings always have the same goodies- I have one child who makes sure of it. Thanksgiving, Easter, even Halloween for some people. We love our traditions and it makes the day even more special and meaningful.

Well, many of us also have traditions for General Conference weekend (called GenCo at our house). Many of them may have started out of desperation when our kids were young, in order to keep them still for at least a few minutes. We have always had a buffet, and gathered in our pajamas with comfy blankets and pillows. We look forward to it every 6 months.

At Thankgiving we give thanks, and spend time with the ones we love. Christmas celebrates the birth of our Savior, and at Easter we remember and celebrate His atonement and resurrection. Our thoughts are turned to important, eternal things on these special holidays. It is the same with General Conference.

first-presidency-lds-477209-printWe are so flippin lucky! Think about it- we get to be directly instructed by a prophet and apostles of God! Twice a year! Us Mormons seriously have it good- 2 extra holidays a year, which fill us and teach us and increase our capacity and ability to love and to work our way through this life.

Like many holidays- let’s be prepared. For Thanksgiving, we plan and prep the meals with care. At Christmastime we decorate and prepare gifts.

What about General Conference?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,

“As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered. … There are messages in each general conference given as a gift and a blessing from heaven specifically for our personal life situations.”

And from Elder Robert D Hales:

“As the time for conference arrives, we sacrifice other activities, laying aside the things of this world, to seek for the things of a better. Then we gather our families to hear the word of the Lord, as King Benjamin’s people did.”

So how can we prepare?

  1. Pray- we all have something going on in our lives right now. We all need direction. Write down what you need, and pray and ponder on it over the next week so that you are prepared to receive answers during conference.
  2. Actually watch (or listen to) conference! It’s 2 days that will fill you for 6 months or more. Set the time aside. Sacrifice the things of this world for something better.

By coming to conference with a soft and open heart, and laying aside the things of the world, we will be ready for what God would have us hear. And we will be ready to implement those teachings into our lives.

Decide now to make general conference a priority in your life. Decide to listen carefully and follow the teachings that are given. Listen to or read the talks more than once to better understand and follow the counsel. By doing these things, the gates of hell will not prevail against you, the powers of darkness will be dispersed from before you, and the heavens will shake for your good.              – Paul V Johnson, of the Seventy

What a blessing!

What a special holiday!

 

He Shall Prepare a Way

Last week I finished the Book of Mormon, which means that I also started the Book of Mormon again.

Those familiar words are like coming home. I Nephi having been born of goodly parents… perhaps the most read passage in the Book of Mormon?

Anyway,  today I read 1 Nephi chapter 3.

This is a classic and well known chapter where Lehi sends his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban.

Laman and Lemuel murmur as they do, but Nephi is faithful and says in verse 7..

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

path through the painted hillsThis is such an important scripture because it tells us that it is possible to follow the Lord in all things. We’ve all experienced moments of weakness or great times of trial. This scripture assures us that there is a way through it.

Something that stood out to me this time through was Nephi’s idea to go and get his father’s gold and silver and precious things in order to gain the brass plates. Laman had tried to get the plates by asking Laban, which did not work. So Nephi, knowing that God will provide a way, remembers their riches that they had left behind.

I wonder if he thought, “oh! It makes sense now. It all fits together! We left our riches so that they would be here just when we needed them in order to get the plates.” He definitely thought it was the solution to their problem.

But, it wasn’t.

They gathered their riches and presented them to Laban as a trade for the plates, but Laban lusted after the gold and tried to kill them. They lost their property and still didn’t have the plates that they were sent to retrieve.

I wonder if Nephi was at all confused. His brothers were certainly angry. So much so that they beat Nephi with a rod so badly that an angel had to intervene for his sake. But if Nephi was discouraged, he doesn’t talk about it. Think of it though! He thought he had received the answer and was willing to give up all of their riches, and it turned up nothing.

How often has this happened in our lives? We seek guidance and feel prompted to go a certain direction only to have it not work out. It can be incredibly discouraging.

boy on a pathBut as we see in the coming chapter, there was a better solution. One that Nephi could never have imagined on his own. One that not only benefited Lehi’s family by providing them the plates, but also gave them Zoram, and later allowed them to get Ishmael. And who knows how many other lives were blessed because of the removal of a wicked man.

God truly does have a plan, a way for us to accomplish his works. So when our first or second or third attempt at reaching our goals, or at following the commandments of the Lord do not get us to where we thought they would, hold tight.

God will provide a way.