Thursday, September 17, 2015

This is a Test. This is Only a Test.


My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
—John 10:27

Are you old enough to remember the Emergency Broadcast System? My childhood and teenage years were punctuated by occasional announcements interrupting TV or radio programming as follows:

This is a test. This station is conducting a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.”

Following this announcement would come a horrible shrieking alert noise repeated a few times, then a concluding announcement:

This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with federal, state and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency.”

If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news, or instructions.

And that was that. With the system adequately tested, normal programming would resume and we kids were left to watch cartoons and wonder what the heck that was all about.

It was only later that I learned the Emergency Broadcast System was a product of the Cold War—originally developed to provide the President of the United States a means to rapidly communicate with the entire country in case of nuclear attack. 

Just like other civil defense drills of the time, occasional proving seemed the best way to ensure preparedness in the event of an actual emergency.

Proving them Now Herewith

We’re told in Abraham’s record that each of us came here to be proven as well:
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; 
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; (Abraham 3:24-25)
The object of the test is the same for all of us: to see if we will “do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us].”

Therefore, no matter what may be the appearance here; regardless of the justifications, distractions, or falsehoods promoted in this fallen world, the only test we face, and the only thing that matters, is whether we will do what God commands. If we will, He will lead us to redemption. If not, He cannot save us.

Of course it goes without saying that every one of us fails the test. Every one of us falls short. We all desperately need forgiveness and grace; we need changed hearts and changed natures. We need rebirth. And the Doctrine of Christ provides just that. Each of us can walk in newness of life through the cleansing effects of baptism and the Holy Ghost.

So, though we all fail at first, the point is to keep repenting, keep changing, keep receiving grace for grace until we arrive at the point where we will, in fact, do all things the Lord commands. This is why we came here.

And it must be possible to arrive at that point, or else this earth and all associated with it is just a farce and a waste. We can, in fact, become able to keep all of God’s commandments, even in this lone and dreary world. So let’s look at the pattern for how we can arrive at that point.

In the Beginning

When Adam and Eve found themselves fallen and shut out of God’s presence in the lone and dreary world, just like us, the following ensued:
And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence. 
And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. (Moses 5:4-5)
Consider what happened:
  1. They called upon the name of the Lord.
  2. They heard the voice of the Lord, giving them commandments.
  3. They obeyed the commandments. 
Did you catch that process? They sought, heard, and obeyed the Lord’s voice. It’s worth noting that this obedience attracted the visitation of angels who brought them further light and knowledge (see v. 6).

Seeking, hearing, and obeying the Lord’s voice is the very heart of the test we came here to face. No matter our circumstances, capacities, blessings or challenges, this is the test. In fact, this is the ONLY test.

As we learn in the temple endowment, obedience to light and truth brings angelic visitors with more light and truth, who prepare us to be presented at the veil and admitted into the Lord’s presence. This is the point of this life, and it’s designed to happen here and now—not sometime in the future; not after death.

With this in mind, let’s talk about each of the steps Adam and Eve took to begin the journey to victory. If we can follow their example, we can find our way back into God’s presence and redemption, just as they did. We must consider ourselves as if we are each, respectively, Adam and Eve.

Seeking

First and foremost, we must seek the Lord’s voice, just as our first parents did. Satan knows this, so he pollutes this world with millions of voices shouting in chorus, all vying strenuously for our attention. Distraction is his most effective tool. The information age inundates and overwhelmes our sensitivity and ability to process or even take in all that is offered to distract us. The flow of information is brash and relentless. It dulls the senses and destroys discernment. 

But the Lord’s voice, in contrast, is still and small. He does not demand our attention, but rather waits patiently for us to seek Him out. How do we seek the Lord’s voice? Where can we hear it?

First, we must seek the Lord’s voice in scripture. The very reason He has given us these books is to provide a reliable place to hear his voice. Those who knew Him recorded His words and their experiences to guide us to the same outcome they enjoyed. They left us a roadmap back to His presence.

If we leave those scriptures unexamined, justifying that we’re too busy, too smart, too powerful, too learned, or too ignorant to search them, we will NEVER hear the Lord’s voice. Therefore, because it matters, I’ll put it bluntly: If you aren’t searching the scriptures regularly, you aren’t interested in hearing the Lord’s voice. Whatever excuse you’re making is, in actuality, more important to you than knowing the Lord.

By “searching,” I don’t mean merely reading the scriptures to check off a box or satisfy a requirement. The scriptures open more and more deeply, the more carefully they are searched. Simple reading will never yield saving knowledge. The scriptures ought to not only inform us, but also cause us to question more deeply, and ultimately take those questions to the Lord, who can enlighten our understanding by His spirit. In other words, the scriptures are a Urim and Thummim, designed to elicit revelation, and the most powerful among them is the Book of Mormon.

Sadly, indifference to the Lord’s voice is the common state of most of humanity, and even of many Latter-day Saints. It doesn’t help that much of what we tell each other about the scriptures and our position as God’s favorites simply isn’t true. The search is solitary. Do not trust any man to tell you what the scriptures say. Search them for yourself. Ask God until He teaches you. He WILL teach you. I know this by experience.

Hearing

Hearing the Lord’s voice in scripture ultimately leads to hearing the Lord’s voice in actuality. This happens in several ways. Here is one of them:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (D&C 1:38)
Therefore, hearing the Lord’s voice through his servants is vitally important. The most important question then, is who is the Lord’s servant? Obviously, as the verse states, it must be one who speaks the words the Lord has spoken.

Note that the Lord did NOT say that holding a certain office, title, or position makes a man His servant. Nor, has the Lord ever promised ANYWHERE in scripture that a man holding a certain position cannot possibly lead you astray. Therefore, if you trust your salvation to a man merely because of his title or position, you have already failed the only test. 

Did you get that? I’ll say it again. If you trust a man merely because of his position or title, you worship positions and titles, NOT the Lord. This is idolatry and will damn you. Do not make this mistake.

Well, if you can’t trust a man because of position or title, who can you trust? This brings us right back to the first item. You MUST be familiar with scripture. The words of scripture are the gauge by which you can evaluate all other words. (The Lord is no fool, you see. He set this up so anyone can figure it out, if they care to.)

Part of what you learn in scripture is that the Lord follows patterns. In His pattern, he calls men to speak for him and gives them His message. Such men are almost always obscure, unknown, unimportant, shunned, hated and persecuted for teaching the Lord’s word. They cry in the wilderness and few heed their message. Therefore, if you trust popular, rich, influential, powerful, celebrated men merely because they hold title or position or keys, you have fallen into idolatry.

The message is the proof of the messenger. Nothing else is. Not title, not position, not “keys” not hierarchy, not line of authority. Either a messenger has spoken with the Lord and bears a message from Him, or else he is a false messenger. There is no other option. If he does not have the words of Christ, his message will damn you if you heed it.

And thus, we arrive at the crux of the matter: 

Said the Savior:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
The Lord’s sheep hear his voice. No matter who speaks it, no matter where it is found, if you are the Lord’s sheep, you will seek and hear His voice. If you reject His voice because it doesn’t fit a certain set of requirements taught to you by a pious and self-righteous, false tradition, you are not the Lord’s sheep. If you refuse to hear the Lord’s voice—no matter the earthly source—you are not His sheep.
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. 
And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil. (Alma 5:38-39)
Crying in the Wilderness

When the Lord sent Lehi to preach in Jerusalem, there were no sheep to hear His voice. Lehi’s family were the only ones willing to listen. The "religious" sought his life. 

When the Lord sent Abinadi to preach to Noah’s people, the Lord had only one sheep in King Noah’s court. The rest refused to hear the Lord’s voice; and despite the fact that they held position, priesthood, keys, and authority, they murdered the Lord's messenger. Only Alma listened. What debt of gratitude do you owe to Alma?

When the Lord sent Samuel to scale the wall, attempted murder was the result. Some few sheep heard the Lord’s voice, but the majority rejected him, and thus rejected the Lord. To receive the Lord you MUST receive the servants He sends:
For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. (D&C 84:36-38)
If you reject those sent by the Lord—even if they are lone voices crying in the wilderness—you reject Him. 
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (John 12:48)
If you worship keys, titles and positions, valuing them above the Lord’s voice, you may be absolutely assured you would have been one who rejected Joseph Smith in his day, rejected John the Baptist in his day, or shouted “crucify him!” when the usurping carpenter from Galilee was finally caught and tried for His crimes.

Why? Because the test is always the same, in every generation.

There is only one test. It has always been this way, and it will always be this way. You either hear and heed the Lord’s voice or you don’t. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what other voice you trust, or why you trust it. You will be damned.

But if you do seek and hear the Lord’s voice—in scripture, through His servants, and by His Spirit—you will reach the point that you hear His voice in actuality. He WILL speak to you, even as a man speaks to another. (Ether 12:39

And yet, the Lord laments, very few will ever seek or hear His voice.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:14 )
Few, indeed, will find it. Isn’t it interesting that the VERY NEXT VERSE warns us against false prophets in wool suits?
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
What could be more literally "sheep's clothing" than wool suits?

When Moroni met with Joseph Smith in his bedroom on September 23, 1823, one of the scriptures the angel quoted was from the book of Acts, quoting Moses:
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. (Acts 3:22-23)
He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when “they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,” but soon would come. (JSH 40)

Did you catch that? That day, soon to come in Joseph’s time, is now upon us. The final sorting is happening even now. If you will not hear the Lord’s voice, through whomever He chooses to send, only that cutting off remains.

Obeying

You cannot ever receive and obey commandments from the Lord if you will not hear his voice.
I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:12-13)
If you refuse to hear His voice, and therefore never receive and obey commandments from the Lord, you can never “do all things, whatsoever the Lord your God shall command you.” And thus you fail the only test you came here to face, and continue to fail until you decide to seek and heed the Lord’s voice. There is no other way.

This is the test. This is the ONLY test.

And unlike the tests of the broadcast system, this IS an actual emergency. 
Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear: 
Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh; 
And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth. 
And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people; 
For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion. (D&C 1:11-14, 35)
War is upon us. And because this IS an actual emergency, the above alert is indeed followed by instructions: 
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; 
And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets— 
The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh— 
But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; (D&C 1:17-20)

The Lord wants us all to know His voice, and to know Him.

Though the Lord spoke to, and through, Joseph, we have increasingly ignored, forgotten, altered and embellished Joseph's words in the years since his death. The organization born of Joseph's legacy today bears little resemblance to the religion Joseph Smith taught and practiced.

Therefore, as has so often happened before, the Lord has again called, spoken to, and authorized a servant to speak His words as a final warning. The Lord's call is to return to the restored gospel and the truths sent into the world through Joseph Smith. We must first remember the restoration before it can move forward to completion.


Joseph's restoration is in grave danger. If we don't remember and preserve it now, it will be permanently lost.

The Lord's voice is sounding again. Will you hear Him? Will you remember? Will you repent?


This is the test. This is the ONLY test. What will it prove about you?



PS: General Conference is coming soon. You will face the test again as great men in great suits speak great words to you. If you intend to listen, please listen carefully for the Lord's voice. Ask Him if He owns the words they speak. Ask to hear His voice in a way you can recognize. Then listen. 

By the way, how the words make you feel is the wrong test entirely. Whoever taught you that was deceiving you.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for posting again! Your words feed me! And the more I study what you write, the easier it is to study the scriptures and understand them. Denver has done this remarkably well for me also. He changed my life, but so have you. (don't let it go to your head ;)

    What a powerful post! It put a fire burning inside me! Thank heaven for people like you who have the courage to tell the truth. You make me want to search for truth. You make me want to pray and study. You write things that make me yearn for the spirit, which comes every time. By their fruits ye shall know them...

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    1. Melissa, you are far too kind in any reference to me. I think we both agree any good that comes is rightly credited to our Lord, and thus we can rejoice together in Him.

      His word is as a burning fire. I feel to shout His praise for seeking, yet again, to reclaim and gather His sheep who are willing to hear His voice. May we all hear it!

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  2. Spot on. We just were using this same scriptures in a recent FHE, and I had a conversation with a fella from church yesterday along the same lines...

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  3. "What could be more literally "sheep's clothing" than wool suits?" I have never caught that comparison, shocking! Thank you for continuing to provide valuable insight for those who are striving to hear His voice & obey.

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  4. I reject the notion of this essay. For we are told that "the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon..."

    "Freedom" is equated with "acting," and therefore, bondage is comes about by being "acted upon." If I am the participant of a "test," whether it is known to me or not, then that means someone else is acting upon me. I have to be obedient to their rules, their system and their commandments to "pass" the test.

    Now if we look as a "test" as an "experiment," or something proactive initiated by my desires for "good," (as opposed to getting some reward for passing the test), then I can get on board with that. Those who are redeemed from the fall apparently know good from evil. And how does that come about? By obedience? No. It's by experience, both happy and "sad." If we set out to do what we're told exactly in every observance, then nothing is learned.

    "The righteousness of man is sin because it exacteth over much; nevertheless, the righteousness of God is just, because it exacteth over nothing at all, but sendeth the rain on the just and unjust, seed time and harvest, for all of which man is ungrateful."

    So go ahead and take the test, exacting over every commandment of perceived instruction. The effort will not change your heart, because you are bound to the instructions given, and every day you will cry "Oh Lord, my heart groaneth because of my sins this day! I am a wretched man and my heart sorroweth because of my flesh! My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me!" rather than crying "My heart has been changed and I no more desire to do evil, but to do good until the end of my days. I no longer am consigned to an awful view of my own guilt. I remember my abominations no more!"

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