Sunday, October 31, 2010


Over the last few weeks we have discussed the universality of our curiosity concerning prayer and the self-generated blockages which we constantly throw up between ourselves and our Heavenly Father. This week I would like to treat the final two thoughts I have at this time about prayer. First, we have a Father in Heaven who, like most concerned fathers, desires to counsel and communicate with his children. Second, there are some behaviors which we can modify in order to broaden the bands and clear the signals being sent in our direction.

The most often repeated admonition from the Lord is that we should ASK, SEEK and KNOCK with the corresponding declarations that IT WILL BE GIVEN, WE WILL FIND and IT WILL BE OPENED. We are then quickly reminded that the Master Teacher is in charge of the curriculum and will make the assignments according to His schedule and His understanding and not according to our elementary guesses. There is no doubt that His attempts at gathering us have been far more numerous than our gestures toward Him as we have scurried about the yard dodging His loving embraces with our heads under our own wings. One of the most powerful declarations of Heavenly Father’s love and dedication to the welfare of his reluctant children was given to Moses as he was conversing with God on a mount. The lord declared, ‘this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ (Pearl of Great Price – Moses 1:39) It is overwhelming to contemplate that He who can number and name the stars has as His main concern helping me maximize my potential. I therefore become dumbfounded with the thought that such a being would leave me to struggle during mortality without whispering His wise counsel to me at those moments when they are most needed. Larry King once said, ‘Prayer is to go home to God while still on earth.’

One of the great blessings the Lord has given me during my life was the privileges of serving as a missionary in Mexico as a young man and then serving with Kathleen in Colombia when I was not such a young man. It didn’t take me long to realize that the peoples of Mexico and Colombia were much more sensitive to the vibrations between heaven and earth than I had been during my youth. A native North American, Chief Black Eagle said in his autobiography that religion was much more important and real to his people than to the white man. As I wondered upon this seeming gap between their spiritual sensitivity and what I had experienced it seemed to me that at least a partial answer could be found in the difference of demands made in different cultures. The manana attitude has received a lot of bad publicity, but there seem to be some definite benefits to having a less cluttered and demanding lifestyle. Because our culture is what it is I really believe if we are going to have more two way communications with a Heavenly Parent we must find time and space where we can shut out the noise and worries of the world. The Catholic Chapels are always open where one can find retreat and become open to the promptings of the Spirit sent from above. Many religions have reading or meditation rooms where a person can find escape from the clammer and become more open to the light of the Lord. Whether we must find refuge in a Temple or Synagogue or in a closet in our home, for our own mortal maximization, we must find time and space where we can separate ourselves from the cares of the world and seek the comforting still small voice.

Elder Eyring suggests that whenever we can, as we go before the Lord in prayer, after we have gone through our expressions of gratitude and our pleadings, we remain in the attitude of prayer as a listener just in case the Lord may have some counsel or just want to let us feel His love for a few seconds. I really believe that the most important thing we can receive from Heavenly Father is the assurance of His inexhaustible love which will never be withheld if we but open our hearts and let it flow into our souls.

The story is told of Brigham Young passing through a town in southern Utah and being asked to leave them some instruction. He told them to paint their barns and mend their fences. When he next passed through this town he was once again asked to bless them with some counsel. He said he had nothing to give them. When asked why, he responded, ‘because you have given no heed to my previous counsel, your barns are still unpainted and your fences are still in need of repair.’ Elder Scott has taught that in order to reassure ourselves of a more constant flow of communication from the Lord it would be well for us to consciously hearken to those instructions we have previously been given.

If Lehi was right when he declared the purpose of our mortality to be to have Joy and the achieving of Joy is dependent upon our ability to draw closer to God, then I can think of no more compelling reason why we would seek more meaningful communication with Heavenly Father. In order that we might more fully embrace the joy which we were sent to earth to experience we would be wise to diligently strive to clear the commotion and other blockages from our lives so that when the glory of the Holy Spirit is showered upon us we will sense the presence and hear the whisperings of the still small voice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


As I have counseled with people and in moments of introspection, I have found that when people have decided to include Heavenly Father in their daily lives, although there are some who just can’t approach an unseen being, the majority who lack confidence in the prayer process are those who have a feeling that their prayers are not answered or they don’t know how to recognize answers if they have been given.

It seems that to one degree or another we all have a vision when we pray of Moses on the Mount approaching a burning bush and that God will speak to us with great force and clarity in response to our every sincere petition. How many messages have we missed because we were looking for a burning bush and therefore missed the simple sweetness of the still small voice?

One of the concepts we often overlook is that it is not God who is passing through mortality in order to learn and progress. As Joseph Smith was counseled in August of 1831, the Lord would not command nor compel in all things lest we become slothful and not wise servants. (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26) I have come to believe that we must do our research in due diligence (study it out in our mind), exhausting our available resources, which will include ongoing prayer, then after the best of our efforts, seek the Lords additions or subtractions. Reality has shown me that as I prayerfully and diligently struggle, keeping my shoulder to the task, I will be receiving line upon line leading to the correct solutions. Many times the final prayer is one of the offering of a grateful heart by one who has had his indebtedness enlarged. How often has the aid of Heavenly Father gone unrecognized while I have taken unneeded tangents because I neglected to see the lines being written one by one as I was struggling and seeking?

One of the biggest roadblocks which we place between ourselves and Heaven sent answers is that we are so in love with our own opinions and conclusions that any response which is being transmitted is muffled by the busyness going on in our own heads. It reminds me of observing political conversations where both parties are so busy formulating their next comment that they shut out the incoming words from the other end of the continuum. Thus when the two combatants separate they are left with the same opinion still. I wonder how much counsel has been lost in space because of the love I have for my own ideas and agenda?

Isaiah saw a day when people’s lives would be so occupied and whose houses would be so closely connected that they would not have time nor space to ponder or have a desire to pray. He saw people filling their lives with music, noise, and strong drink from the moment they woke until they retired at night. Even though while I was Stake and Mission President I thought I was anxiously engaged in a good work, I found that between my career and church responsibilities I was so busy trying to decide which fire in the forest I should dump the next load of water on or how I was going to help people keep their lots clear of weeds, that my eternal phone was normally off the hook during business hours. I will ever be grateful to a loving Heavenly Father who would often ring me up during off hours to keep me abreast of the ‘more important part’ I should be aware of. I came to look forward to the next 2 or 3 am call which would demand all my attention and require notes to be taken so that the counsel would not be forgotten as the demands of the next day tumbled upon me. It doesn’t take much imagination to come to a realization that most of us have missed many return calls from our Heavenly Father because we have been encumbered about by many things or just sleeping.

The scriptures speak of the need to have a clear signal which we recognize and therefore will be prone to respond to. All my life I have been able after hearing a voice on the phone one time, to recognize that voice whenever they would call again and identify the caller. It took me a long time to be convinced of the necessity of an answering machine which would identify callers. Prior to the invention of the printing press there was a dogma that the word of God would come only to those who had access to and could read the scriptures because these few had become familiar with the sound of His voice through the scriptures and therefore would recognize His voice when he chose to speak to His children. Although there are some problems with the dogma I do feel that familiarizing ourselves with scriptures can be a great aid in helping us recognize His voice and be alert to answers and instructions when His whisperings descend upon our minds. Is it possible that I have missed messages because they came to me as an uncertain sound because I have not paid the price to learn the intonations of his voice?

As the Book of Mormon draws to a conclusion we find a people who become so abominable that the Spirit of the Lord has been withdrawn and they are left to themselves without any communication with Deity. There is no doubt that the Lord has indicated that behavior and opening the communications from heaven have a great deal to do with one another. I think that Saul’s vision on the road to Damascus, Alma and his friend’s encounter with an Angel and the few other examples of someone in the depth of sin having their paths dramatically altered by divine intervention are demonstrations which by their rarity show us the uniqueness of such occurrences. For the vast majority of mortals we will rarely receive reassurances from heavenly sources while engaging in unseemly behavior. Once again, I wonder how many bits of light have been kept from my life because I was so submerged in darkness?

When I was young, for the most part I had little trouble accepting the fact that there were many people who could add to my small portion of knowledge. Almost greedily I sought to learn my ABC’s and 1 2 3’s but somewhere about the time of theorems and sentence structuring I started the process of becoming skeptical about what I was hearing from others and limiting who I would listen too. When a wiser person would have been expanding his stable of mentors, I was about the business of limiting those I considered worthy of my attentiveness. Luckily, before it was too late I woke and started to find some balance, where I would listen before I judged and try before I rejected. I don’t know if my life is typical, but I do know that having too healthful of an opinion of one’s own knowledge and point of view on subjects can weigh heavily upon one’s learning and progress. If Elder Hal Eyring is correct, many times the Lord will send His answers to our petitions through mortal angels. It would be well for me if I strip my pride so that it does not deter me from receiving heaven sent messages when these angels are sent and I hear them not, because my arrogance and single-mindedness blocks their message.


Sunday, October 17, 2010


Many times during my career and in my church activities I have been approached by students sincerely wanting to be assured of the veracity of engaging in the practice of prayer. As I have broadened my reading during the years I have found that the question of the reality of communication taking place between Deity and mortals seems to be universal and crosses the boundaries of creeds and denominations.

I relate the following words of Morris B. Margolies to introduce some thoughts on this problem which seems to bother most of us at one time or another during our lives.

In the early stages of medieval Jewish mysticism, the figure of the angel Sandalfon--a fiery angel in the "seventh heaven" who was always close to God's Throne and who brought the prayers of humans before Him--emerged. In a deeper sense, prayers are angels and Sandalfon is a metaphor for them. A prayer uttered to God from the heart of the petitioner will sprout wings and fly heavenward.
In the summer of 1952, peace talks between the Americans and the North Koreans were in progress at Panmunjom. I was stationed near Taegu, not too far away, as a chaplain for the Tenth Army Corps. From my headquarters, I set forth every morning in a jeep on the way to units miles distant, where I led Jewish soldiers in prayer. Because I covered about 300 miles every week along bumpy and narrow mountain roads, someone painted the legend "Rough-Ridin' Rabbi" on the back of the jeep. Above the words was a rough sketch of a Jew wearing a prayer shawl with his hands outstretched.

The week before I was to return to the States, I held my last service for the smallest of the congregations--four men and one woman (an army nurse), who also were the farthest to reach. For months, our attendance had been 100 percent. At the last service, one of the men was missing, as I soon learned, permanently so. He had been killed by a land mine three days earlier, and his body was already aboard a transport plane on the way home.

We could not get into a prayer mode in any routine fashion. The prayer book somehow failed to say what was in our hearts. The nurse, a lieutenant named Sarah, spoke: "Does God really listen to prayer, Rabbi?" And she wept. Almost immediately, the rest of us broke into tears. The tears flowed freely, punctuated only by sobs that still ring in my ears. When all was quiet, I said, "Sarah, I think you have the answer to your question."
Before adding my own thoughts about the question of prayer I wanted to provide a sampling gathered through the miracle of the internet on the subject:

Prayer is an end to isolation. It is living our daily life with someone; with him who alone can deliver us from solitude- Georges Lefevre

There is great power in prayer. As a son or a daughter of God, you can, as Joseph did, pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ for strength. - Boyd K. Packer

Prayer can assume very different forms, from quiet, blessed contemplation of God, in which eye meets eye in restful meditation, to deep sighs or sudden exclamations of wonder, joy, gratitude or adoration. - O. Hallesby

Oh, what a cause of thankfulness it is that we have a gracious God to go to on all occasions! Use and enjoy this privilege and you can never be miserable. Oh, what an unspeakable privilege is prayer! - Lady Maxwell

We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; The Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. - Oswald Chambers

All the prayers in the Scripture you will find to be reasoning with God, not a multitude of words heaped together. - Stephen Charnock

What men usually ask of God when they pray is that two and two not make four. - Anonymous

I have lived to thank God that all my prayers have not been answered. - Jean Ingelow

Do I want to pray or only to think about my human problems? Do I want to pray or simply kneel there contemplating my sorrow? Do I want to direct my prayer toward God or let it direct itself towards me? - Hubert Van Zeller

Don't try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible. - Carlo Carretto

Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one's self in God's glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God. - E. M. Bounds

By prayer we couple the powers of heaven to our helplessness, the powers which can capture strongholds and make the impossible possible. - O. Hallesby

Prayer alone doesn’t do the work – that is up to us. – Larry King

If we are willing to spend hours on end to learn to play the piano, operate a computer, or fly an airplane, it is sheer nonsense for us to imagine that we can learn the high art of getting guidance through communion with the Lord without being willing to set aside time for it. - Paul Rees

Grant us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray as to deserve to be heard. - Jane Austen



Sunday, October 10, 2010


I’m not sure the concept is yet worthy of being etched in stone, but as I have added days, years and decades to my life I have seen growing evidence that most of life’s progressive steps are accompanied by a loss of something which was dearly treasured. Experience is gained only as we sacrifice youth, then the prime times of life and finally the golden years. A diligent quest for knowledge uses precious moments which quickly turn into years gone by. The joys of family limit individual adventuring and exploring. Building a secure tomorrow exacts a toll on fulfillment of some of today’s desires.

Another dichotomy which has drawn my attention as I observe contemporary and scriptural situations is the oft times repeated phenomena where varying results seem to come out of similar inputs.

We find children seemingly growing up in the same environment, being raised by the same parents; one embraces the values and teachings of his parents finding them fulfilling and helpful, while the other rebels against those same concepts finding the teachings repugnant and repressive. People can look at the same data and come to extremely different interpretations and needed solutions. While one finds comfort in the conveniences of living in a big city, others can never feel contented away from the country life.

I know the causes of these variances are extremely complex, but it seems that there is something beyond the external stimuli of our surroundings which contributes significantly to how we interpret and react to our environments. The rains descend upon the heads of all. Some are only capable of seeing and complaining about the mud, while others lift their faces to heaven giving thanks for the outpouring of this essential source of life. As the sun radiates upon the earth, some of the inhabitants bask while others bake. The blowing wind brings a shivering chill to one while freshening the air of a neighbor.

The source of these varying reactions to external stimuli seems to be generated from somewhere deep within each of us, something which exists independent of a nervous system which is reacting to the five normally recognized senses. This heaven born part of us seems to give each a propensity toward acting positively or negatively as we see, smell, taste, feel or hear.

As I try to meld these two concepts together let me first speak of those who seem to live in a perpetual Pollyanna world. Although to many, always having the ability to see the bright side of every coin might seem a desirable way of life, in reality it is necessary at times to know that too much rain, sun or wind can lead to very destructive consequences. Likewise, although we might at first think that looking at things negatively is on the wrong end of every continuum, in the heat of life’s battles we come to know that a healthy dose of skepticism can lead to the avoidance of many a miss step. Somehow each of us may need to sacrifice a measure of our natural propensities in order to gain a healthy interaction of yin and yang in our lives. At the end of our lives we should all strive to be able to join in the choir, adding our voices to that of Scrooge as he sings out at the end of the movie based on Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, ‘that which I was I will never be again.’

After all, was it not the declaration of the Savior that the finding of one’s life would be conditional upon the loosing of the life one might currently be living? There it is again, progress countered by a loss. None of us should feel so secure in our current selves that we would be diverted from this divine counsel to be about the business or sacrificing some of what we are so that we can move forward toward what we were sent to become.

Gaining the exuberant feeling of being loved by others will come as a result of spending time in being of service to them. Having an environment of peace and calmness will be purchased by paying the price of controlling my tongue and anger. If I am going to enjoy the fruits of the gospel I must be willing to spend time laboring in the vineyard.

Like so many of life’s worthwhile pursuits, the understanding and actualization of the process of gaining through giving will only become ours after we have applied hammer and chisel and with diligence, permanently etched the changes upon our soul. However, through this diligence like all other things we are required to put off in order to make room for the better part. We will shortly but powerfully begin to realize the rewards which are coming to be ours as we gain dominance over ourselves. We will start to be released from the terrible burden of having our joy dependent on the whims of others. We will be able to see though a glass more clearly that all our neighbors, like we, are but works in progress. We will find new and exciting horizons as we willingly sacrifice unbalanced attitudes which we have embraced for far too long. We will be encouraged as we begin to glimpse the reality that Heavenly Father may care even more than we, the direction we are headed and the progress we are making.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


After years of Kathleen pleading for mercy, not too long ago I entered into another phase of my ‘AIDS’ period of life. This ‘AIDS’ phase seems to afflict almost all who are privileged to have an extended period of gathering sheaves into the barn. The most recent addition to my personal collection came in the form of a 16 channel set of hearing aids.

The first month of wearing my hearing aids was spent letting my brain adjust to the many sounds which have not been registering for several years. It was a delight to once again hear the birds singing in the morning and the tinkling of small chimes. I also spent a lot of time asking Kathleen to speak a little more quietly. After the adjustments we have both found a greater peace in our communications. Interestingly, I have had to return to have the decibel levels adjusted downward so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable when hearing certain sounds.

As I have pondered upon this newest adventure in my life I have found many correlations between my hearing loss and the loss that many of us suffer with our spirituality.

My hearing did not go away all at once, but diminished little by little in almost imperceptible degrees. Is it possible that unknowingly this may be happening to me spiritually?

I did not lose all parts of my hearing, but only selective parts which made it difficult for me to hear the voices of some women and my grandchildren. I also lost the ability to distinguish many consonants which made it hard for me to understand and learn the names of people when I was being introduced. Is it possible I have lost some selected or neglected areas of my spirituality and the long time absence has caused them to be eliminated from my present awareness? Have I diminished my circle of loved ones because I am missing or ignoring important interactions?

I found that the losing of my hearing not only affected me, but also altered the lives and activity of my loved ones. Can I really think that I live on an island where no one will be affected by where I am spiritually?

There have been many occasions when I was receiving instructions where I either got them wrong or had to put my own interpretation on them, which sadly was often erroneous. Do we estrange ourselves from our Heavenly Father by not really hearing or understanding what He is trying to tell us? Do we sometimes insist our interpretation of doctrines is much more enlightened than that which has descended from divine sources?

There were many activities which I had previously enjoyed, such as some soft musical sounds, which could no longer emotionally impact me. Have I allowed other ‘important’ parts of my life to crowd out those things of spiritual importance?

I found that the noises of the world would frequently drown out the more meaningful things which I should have been hearing. Have I allowed the world’s wailings to interfere with heaven sent messages?

The overcoming of most of my hearing problems happened almost miraculously as I sought out the help of those who were trained in the alleviation of this type of problem. Likewise, if we are suffering from the loss of spirituality we may need to turn to the counsel of those who have the understanding which will help us overcome our handicap.

As I was going through the brain adjustments to be able to register sounds I had not heard for some time, some of what was coming in seemed strange and even harsh. Likewise, as I begin the journey to recoup my spirituality some teachings may seem unusual and even irritating and may take time for me to be able to readjust to the renewed awareness of these principles.

Just as I found that I had to allow others to become aware of my renewed ability to hear, we may have to give those around us time to know the reborn person we are striving to become as we attempt to renew our spirituality.

There were times when I had to return to the experts to continually refine and adjust my hearing aids and little by little I found subtle but pleasing improvements. Likewise, I must not get discouraged if all does not fall into place at once as I journey toward spirituality and feel a renewed desire to pray, read the scriptures and listen to the counsel of those I recognize as having a better understanding of where I need to place my steps.

When I returned to the expert I found that since my hearing aids had 16 channels they could only be adjusted when the aids were hooked up to the computer and the right keys were struck by the operator. I think it would be helpful if those I rely on for counsel had the ability to hook up to heaven in a way that I desire, but as yet may not have accomplished because I lack the ability to know which are the right keys.

One day after putting on my hearing aids I was sure that my right aid had gone bad on me. When I put on my ‘eye aid’ I saw that some impurities had gotten into the ear piece and were blocking the aid from doing its marvels. Likewise, as I strive for greater spirituality I must continually be aware of keeping myself clear of the pollutions of the world which will interfere with any advancement I may desire to make.

I found that my adjustment to the hearing aids took place more rapidly because I was willing to put them in each morning and wear them all the hours I was awake. Likewise, I am sure that my return to the level of spirituality I desire will be reached more rapidly if I daily try to put on the whole armor of God and wear it throughout the day.

I feel blessed to live in a day when technology has made it possible for me to reenter a large portion of the world that had faded into obscurity because of my hearing loss. I feel blessed to know that my Heavenly Father will welcome me home no matter how prodigal I may have become. I feel grateful to know that no matter how far I may have wandered, the Good Shepherd is out looking for me and

I have but to seek Him in order to be found. I am grateful for the understanding that the grace of God is sufficient to help me overcome insufficiencies which are and which will be part of my mortal probationary period.

One of the things I have accepted in my new world of sound is that my hearing will never be perfect in mortality because it never has been. I also must accept the reality that in my earthly sojourn my spirituality will never reach perfection. However, I desire to continue the quest because I have come to realize that each step I take towards greater spiritual awareness brings a corresponding increase in joy.