Monday, December 28, 2015

An Account of Miraculous Healing: Six weeks ago I experienced a miracle...

Just over a month ago, I met a woman at a wedding celebration of a mutual friend of ours. I had never met her before, but I had heard of her. More particularly, I had heard that she was coming from out of state for a blessing of healing from her friends. I saw her after this blessing occurred and saw a woman who seemed quite well, doing things she hadn't done in years. I was thrilled to hear her story, and her testimony of God's goodness. Now that she has shared it, I wanted to share it here as well. Included below is a copy of her account in her own words.

God is a God of miracles. I feel blessed for having read her account, and I hope you do as well.

You can read another account of miraculous healing that has occurred to one of my friends here.


Six weeks ago I experienced a miracle.

I wish I could say that and that could be enough. It is the most complete description of the truth of what I’ve experienced, and yet it is still severely lacking in depth and breadth. The idea that “truth needs to be experienced” has really hit home as I’ve pondered how to write this. How do I adequately describe what I have experienced? How do I begin to do justice to a miracle? A miracle! I wish I had more than just words, but I do believe the spirit can make up where I – and my words – lack.

So what is this miracle? I was healed of multiple incurable diseases – diseases that could only be managed through multiple medications for the rest of my life. Even on those medications I was what I call “chair bound” (i.e., I could still walk to the bathroom and my chair in the living room, but I was that close to being bedridden), and I was in that state for more than a year. I was healed in one night, and the next day was off all medications without any symptoms of withdrawal, or of the diseases they were treating. I can’t adequately portray how much of a miracle this healing has been without first explaining the extremity of the circumstance I was in. So please bear with me as I share that unpleasantness; I promise this won’t end till you’ve also read the joy and happiness. It really is necessary to see the full contrast to understand the magnitude of the gift I have received.

A little of the background story: Sometime around age 15-17 I developed a benign tumor on my pituitary gland at the base of my brain. It was tiny, about the size of half a pencil eraser, and it stayed that way. But despite being small and non-cancerous, it produced hormones all on its own that worked outside of the normal feedback loop of checks and balances within my body. These were very powerful hormones that affect almost every organ, system and function within the body, and they do a great deal of damage in excess. I was lucky that mine remained mild for years, because I was able to survive that long (Cushing’s disease has an undiagnosed mortality rate averaging 5 years, and I had it for over 17 years). And yet I was also unlucky that it remained mild, because it wasn’t so extreme as to be demanding of attention and get caught—until after all those years, when my body seemed to suddenly lose the ability to fight off the damage anymore. I went downhill very, very quickly. 

It still took a few years to get to the right specialists in other states, get a definitive diagnosis and treatment – neurosurgery. This is a long and complicated story I’m trying to shorten, so let’s just say that surgery didn’t fully work. Then about 9 months later, due to the fallout from surgery, the cells causing my Cushing’s disease appeared to die off (thanks to Empty Sella Syndrome) but so did the pituitary cells that make other necessary hormones.

It required me to replace multiple hormones, with the knowledge that it would be this way for the rest of my life. They were a pain, some literally so, and it was so complex that it required me to set timers on my phone so I wouldn’t forget a dose or take the wrong hormone one of the 4-5 times a day I dealt with medication. To replace what my body no longer made, I had to take pills at least three different times of the day (not just three of the same pill either). I had to spray a rather specialized hormone up my nose 3 times a day. And I had to inject a hormone into my stomach every night before bed. Because of all this I was surviving; despite all this, my quality of life was horrible.

I would wake up, will myself out of bed, use the restroom, get dressed while sitting on my bed, then move out to my chair in the living room where I would sit, aside from a very few trips to the restroom, until it was time to head back to bed. My food and drink was brought to me. My children were taught and supervised from this chair. I didn’t leave the house except for doctors’ appointments. I didn’t drive. I didn’t cook (which I LOVE!). I didn’t clean. I couldn’t. We had to buy a shower chair over a year ago with a shower nozzle that had a hand-held head, and my husband had to help me every time. When I did need to travel for medical appointments, etc., I had to use wheelchair assistance because I couldn’t physically stand in line or walk those distances. 

My social life was made up of purely digital communication, with the exceptions being my husband, children, and my mother. I couldn’t participate in any of the things I had enjoyed before. I couldn’t practice the skills or talents I had learned and enjoyed. Reading was hard. Writing was hard. Concentrating was hard. Remembering was impossible. And I don’t mean any of this lightly or figuratively. It was literal brain damage caused by over a decade of disease. I went over a month without leaving the front door of my home (amazing I didn’t have doctors’ appointments or lab work in that time!). Immediately upon standing, I’d feel like my head was going to implode, with immense pressure (yet low blood pressure I had to take medication to raise), a headachey feeling, some dizziness, nausea, pulse pounding, etc. I couldn’t “do” even if I had the energy (which I didn’t). All the things I’d used to create the picture of who I abilities, skills, hobbies, talents, activities, friends, productivity, independence, etc.,...all of it was gone.

On top of all that, I felt ill on a constant basis. Each day was different, or even each hour within the day, but it was constant. I would say my baseline “good” was akin to a healthy person’s “home sick with the flu” (or insert migraine, sinus infection, really bad cold, or all of the above). Nausea, headaches, aches, pains, debilitating fatigue, lack of concentration, a need for sleep yet inability to get any that is restful, and physical rest not bringing recovery, etc. Imagine for a minute how you’ve felt when sick like that. Imagine it going on, every day for years, with no cure and no respite. Think about how hard it would be to be kind when you have no energy and feel SO badly. My husband frequently would tell me he was glad I was a naturally kind person to begin with. ;) Imagine how hard it would be to be happy when you get no relief, when your biggest joys in life are also your biggest stressors (kids!), and you have no means of “getting away” nor an outlet for release like you used to have (music, hanging out with friends, reading, cooking, etc.). And those were the good days. I can’t describe the bad ones. 

So, take all of that in. Years of suffering. The only hope given you is that you will somehow hit the ever-moving target with your various hormone replacements and feel a bit better, for a while, till the target moves again. For the rest of your life, you’ll be where you are now. You’ll slowly recover from some of the damage done from the years that tumor was active, but you don’t know how much of that is permanent and you can’t actively work on any of it in this state. This new conglomerate of hormone diseases causes its own brand of fun, so it’s really bad on top of worse. Can you get a glimpse of what my life was just 5 weeks ago? This was it. I know it feels awful just to even read about it. No one wants to hear it. Friends,’s too depressing for them so you stop sharing and become yet more isolated. It is hard to fathom and hard to hear or read about. It was even harder to live.

I believed the scriptures when they said God is a God of miracles. That God is unchanging, and no respecter of persons. That Christ truly did perform all those miracles when He was on the earth, and so did his prophets and apostles as recorded in scripture and in Joseph Smith’s day. I believed it to be true, so I prayed countless hours for healing, for direction, for relief, for understanding. My name was added to temple prayer rolls. I received countless priesthood blessings. Still I went through the gamut of natural and allopathic medicine. I did receive help and guidance, but still I was left with this empty shell of a life.
Mormon 9:24 says: “And these signs shall follow them that believe – in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover;”

Moroni is teaching that miracles, including healing, will be seen among believers in Christ.

And D&C 42:48 says: “And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” 

I was a very “good” Mormon who lived by what I was taught. I believed. I acted. I hoped. I tried. I plead and even tried to strike a bargain with God. I gave my will over to Him. It seemed I wasn’t appointed to death, and at times I would have a very clear feeling that things would be okay regardless of what I was going through, yet there I sat sick and unable to truly live. So why weren’t these prayers, fasts, priesthood blessings, etc. working? 

Moroni answered my question in Mormon 9:19-21: “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. 
“And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust. 
“Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.”

So somehow I had dwindled in unbelief, departed from the right way, and didn’t really know the God I should trust? Ouch. Here were my thoughts on that before:

Unbelief – I believed in God and Christ, definitely. And I believed they had the power to heal.

Departed the right way – I was doing everything I had been taught was right and needful.

Didn’t know the God I should trust – Well, I certainly hadn’t met Him! But I studied my scriptures, believed in Him, had felt the promptings of the spirit, and thought I knew a great deal of His character and attributes.

Well, let’s just say my accounting of things wasn’t exactly accurate. God helped me to realize that this is a lot more accurate:
There was a lot of unbelief still in my life. I learned to define “unbelief” not as a lack of belief (disbelief) but a mixture of false ideas and truth. A truth that is a little off is still a little off. I had to begin a deep cleaning, of sorts, to have sufficient faith for this miracle to happen in my life. Faith has to be grounded in truth, or it is merely unbelief. Miracles are wrought by faith.

I hadn’t exactly departed the “right way” in that I was guilty of some grievous sin; it was more like unknowing omission. Because of those unbeliefs, those precepts of men mingled with scripture that I’d accepted as truth, I wasn’t worshiping in the way God intended for me. I was allowing the precepts of men to override scripture, and the spirit’s own voice in my life. And that had to change for me to be “in the right way.”

I had knowledge of and a belief in God, as stated above, but Joseph taught in The Lectures on Faith that in order to have “faith in God unto salvation,” you need a correct understanding of the character and attributes of God. Again those unbeliefs, especially ones related to illness, suffering and learning, were keeping me from a more accurate understanding of God, and thus true faith in God that would bring about miracles.

And in all this I want to pause and be clear that I don’t mean to give the impression that I somehow “accomplished” my healing...that I had anything to do with it, really. I do believe that all blessings are predicated upon eternal law, and when we live by those laws, our God eagerly blesses us, to the utmost of His ability, with all that is good for us. I think of it more as having to get out of God’s way and let Him do His if we listen and obey His word, His hand is visible in our lives. When I share the story of the night I was healed, you’ll recognize as I do that it wasn’t me at all. I know full well that I cannot boast of myself. That I could not have caused any of this to happen. I acknowledge fully that it was and is Christ’s love and grace only that performed this work.

So back to all those unbeliefs. What were they? Well, sadly, there were a lot of them (probably still are). But I’ll share some of the ones that I believe were instrumental in my ability to ask for and accept healing by faith.

The belief I had to let go of, that I believe had the greatest impact, was the idea that I somehow had to be worthy of Christ’s healing (add forgiveness, love, help, atonement, grace, etc.). The idea that I had to meet some arbitrary cutoff of “righteousness” before He could perform His work. I felt unworthy, and frankly I am, but the Lord can make up for all of that – that is the WHOLE point!

I had been taught to think of righteousness as a check-off list. If I’d said my prayers, read my scriptures, went to church on Sunday, partook of the Lord’s Supper, served in my callings, etc., then I was “righteous” and would be blessed accordingly. It’s called legalism by the Christian world, and really, it’s the exact form of worship the Pharisees practiced. They were exact in their worship, and yet their hearts were so far from their Lord that they didn’t even recognize Him when He walked among them. They didn’t recognize His teachings either. If we think we are somehow better than those who have come before us, we are sorely mistaken. We have the same issues, the same faults and frailties.

I had to realize that this idea was holding me back. It was a form of denying Christ, when you really get down to the nitty gritty. I looked at myself as sufficiently unworthy that even He couldn’t make up the difference. It sounds absurd to say it out loud, but really, that is exactly what I was saying, even if in different words. I had to realize that is what I was saying, and reading the scriptural accounts of the Savior performing miracles and healings during his life really helped me erase those ideas. In almost every account, the Lord forgave sin as He healed. He often cast out devils and demons. In my checklist of righteousness scenario, could someone having sins that needed forgiving be “worthy”? Could someone tormented by devils and demons be “worthy” and righteous by those standards? Obviously the Lord didn’t judge others the same way I was judging myself.

You see, Christ has already paid the price. It is done. Why would you put a gift that was already given to you freely on layaway? I truly believe that this is one of the biggest lies the adversary can tell those who believe...that you aren’t worthy enough. Because while you recognize your need for a Savior, you simultaneously place yourself out of His reach. And you do so ONLY by your own unbelief.

Another unbelief I had to reconcile was the idea that somehow I was meant to suffer. Maybe I was supposed to be this sick? I don’t know where this idea comes from. Maybe it is from the idea that we have to suffer with and like Christ? Maybe it is related to the belief that this life is for our experience and learning? I do believe that is true still, but how long does it take to learn a lesson? And if we’ve learned a lesson, can we then not be freed from the thorn in our flesh? Maybe it comes from the ideas of sin and penance? When we go back prior to the Latin translations of the Bible, sin and repentance take on a very different light...more like “missing the mark” and “re-aiming.” There is no extra shame, suffering, etc beyond what the choices themselves bring – we missed the target and it can be as simple as setting our sights and trying again. Remember, the price is paid. And did Christ turn away those who sought healing? No. He healed them. So why would I think He would turn me away? 

When I was preparing for my healing, I spent time every day pondering over the things I had learned because of my illness. What had it taught me and what had it stripped away? And I prayed daily that if there was something I needed to learn through the illness, that if I hadn’t already learned it, I would learn it quickly. I prayed to know what unbeliefs were holding me back. I prayed to know if I had somehow given permission for this illness to take hold of me, and to remove that permission if it existed.

Something interesting to learn was that just as some believe that God performed miracles and those “signs that follow them that believe” in the past but that He doesn’t really do that now...I had fallen into almost an opposite trap, thinking there weren’t really devils and demons now. Certainly not associated with illness. lol I mean, I knew there was a devil, and thus demons, etc., but I somehow imagined if I encountered one, I’d know without a doubt that I had. But I hadn’t applied my understanding that all things physical are also spiritual. And if there were demons and devils and spirits tormenting people in Christ’s day that He had to cast out for them to be healed, then there was surely some spiritual darkness associated with my illness. This paradigm change is still a bit odd to me. I am not “sighted”, I don’t see spirits, so I don’t “know” this in any tangible way; I just had to be willing to be open to the concept. And of course if there were demons, fiery darts of the devil, or darkness of some sort keeping me from healing, I wanted them gone! I mean, ew! Really.

I think I also had to release the idea that I wasn’t healed before because I just didn’t have enough faith. I’d been told this over and over again by just about everyone that spoke to me about it. Again, right back to some magical marker and me not making the cut. I had gotten to the point, before I set my mark on being healed all at once and for real, that when people would say that I would say “Well then how do I get enough?” It felt like they were saying to me “Well, we don’t know the answer, so we will just blame you.” It always felt that way. They knew no solution, but I was the problem. Of course, I now understand that I had some unbelief in there I had to correct, but no one suggested that was an issue...just a lack of amount of faith, or strength of faith. So vague and disparaging. I think the idea of blaming the one struggling is horrible to begin with. Are we that uncharitable? How does that help? 

Wow, I wish someone had taught me these things a good 4 (heck, 15) years ago. So please, if you suffer in any way or feel you lack faith in some way, ask God if these things are true for you and what false precepts you might have accepted as truth. If you’re willing to accept what He tells you, He will answer. Pray about it, listen, and search the scriptures. Actually, read them for what they actually say, too. Going into scripture with preconceived ideas of what they are telling you (like that the blessings are somehow figurative and future, etc.) just doesn’t get you far.

Then how did I gain “enough faith”? Well, you already know that I started to correct false beliefs. That led me to a more accurate understanding of the nature and character of God, and of my relationship to Him. I was able to trust Him more. But really, I don’t think I had more of it, or that it was stronger. It was just more true. In fact, the night I was healed, I had zero expectation of it working at that time. Yet it did. It wasn’t me.

I will say that I acted in faith, though. I think it really is a decision more than some obscure mystical power. I had watched my friend get healed this summer of another debilitating, incurable disease. I love her so much. Watching her suffer, with her pure heart and generous, giving character, was hard to do. I prayed for her as she set a date for her healing. I was many states away, and horribly ill at the time, but I pored over all the accounts of her healing from our mutual friends that were present for her healing. I got to see what an impact it had on her life, how her doctor reacted, etc. It was pure joy. It really happened. I had watched it all from afar, but I was aware of it all as it happened...the before, the preparations, the after. Miracles still do happen.

So I chose to believe I could be healed. I could have easily said “I’m not as ____ as her so I can’t be healed.” And I would be entirely correct in saying that. I don’t think I’m on par with her. Luckily I’m not the judge. I also know full well that if I had said that, it would have been self-fulfilling prophecy. I would have been rejecting Christ’s gift because of unbelief and I may not have even asked. Instead, because I’d cleared out some such unbeliefs, I chose to have hope that it would happen. Is that “fake it till you make it”? Probably. But it worked once I had my foundation of truth to back it up. Each day, along with the prayer and pondering, I also actively chose to plan for a future where I would be healed. I set a date for a group healing prayer. I made plans that would require my healing. I changed my language to reflect it... “When I am better...” instead of “IF I ever get better...” “When I am healed...” And I started to visualize what being healed might actually feel like, what it might look like. I pictured myself cooking again, cleaning again, being able to dance around the living room to music with my kids, etc. When I set the date for my healing, I was going to be attending a celebration of marriage for my friend who was healed this summer, and I began to visualize myself dancing at her celebration (in the same trip, just two days after my healing). I was able to really start looking forward to being healed with anticipation. I can’t say there was no concern that it wouldn’t work, that I’d go through all this and still be sick. I mean, how abnormal is that idea in this world? It’s pretty weird. People might say foolish or ignorant. But I tried to brush those thoughts aside when they would come because I knew faith and fear cannot coexist. I also prayed often that the Lord’s faith and power would cover my lack, and I continued to hope and plan that I would indeed be healed. I really think faith can be that simple; we are the ones that complicate it. Find truth, decide to act on it, and then expect it’ll all work out (i.e., fake it till you make it). 

And really, like I said, my healing didn’t happen when I expected it to, it happened as I was preparing. I had been doing all those things above, along with whatever the spirit directed me individually to do. I had set a date for when I would be among the friends and loved ones who had participated in my friend’s healing that summer, traveling to join them for the wedding celebration. As the day drew closer, I was sad that my husband and children wouldn’t be a part of it, because we couldn’t afford the $800 airfare for all of us. It was a sacrifice to buy my ticket alone. This was going to work, and it would be big, right? And I wanted my children especially to experience what isn’t something that happens every day and I wanted them to have a firsthand view, not just the before and after. So the Monday before my trip (I was flying out Thursday morning with my healing prayer gathering Thursday evening) I told my husband I felt like we needed to do at home what would be done there. It would be smaller because it was just us and our children, and shorter for sure, but that way they could feel they had participated in it. I seriously didn’t even consider that THIS might heal me, I was just thinking that it was experience my children needed. But I’d received the prompting, and we acted on it.

So before bed we gathered in the living room and I moved off my chair onto the floor. My husband and children gathered around me, all touching me somehow, and each prayed when they felt to and with whatever words they felt to use. They were brief as is typical for young children age 3-12, and the 3 year old even disappeared down the hallway at some point. There were prayers for my healing, that I could lead a good life, etc. I don’t remember a ton of details. When my 8 year old son prayed, he specifically cast out demons and devils in Jesus’ name. We had spoken of such things before, but he had never witnessed such a thing, so I was a bit amazed by that. Then my 7 year old son prayed after him and cast out “the darkness that caused Cushing’s” in Jesus’ name. My husband prayed last and I don’t remember much aside from him asking the Lord to fill me with light. Again, aside from those specifics, these were all typical prayers like we’ve said a hundred times. 

After we had all prayed, my husband placed some frankincense oil on a stone, asked the Lord in prayer to consecrate it for my healing, and then put the stone on my forehead as I laid down on the floor for a while. That sounds unusual perhaps, because we’re so used to a rigid set of rules and expectations, but oils were consecrated and used throughout the scriptures. Stones were as well. When reading of the miracles in the New Testament, all kinds of methods were used...everything from touching the hem of a garment, words alone, water, mud, even sending a handkerchief or apron to someone who was ill (i.e., not physically present). The Lord obviously didn’t constrain Himself to one method only. We just did as the spirit prompted.

A day or two before, I’d been talking with a friend in Colorado about my healing preparations, and she lamented that she wasn’t able to be there. As we spoke, she was reminded of an occasion where she felt prompted to pick up a stone as she was walking. She obeyed. Later, she felt prompted to put frankincense and myrrh on it. Yet later, she was with a friend who felt like there was some kind of block making it hard for her to hear answers to her prayers, and as they talked, she felt she was to pray over this stone, and this woman, and place it upon her forehead. When they did so, the woman felt an immediate popping sensation and her issue was gone. My friend said she had completely forgotten about that experience until we were talking, and she was a little...embarrassed I guess?...about having shared it because it was kind of weird. I felt that it was brought to her memory and shared with me for a reason. I felt like I too needed to do something like that. We didn’t own myrrh, but we did have frankincense, so we did what we could and as the spirit directed when the time came.

Unlike her friend, I didn’t feel an immediate pop. I didn’t feel different. I stayed there on my back on the floor for a few minutes with the stone on my head, thinking and inwardly praying. Then as often happens, kids get restless and life goes on, so after a while I got up and sat back in my chair, thinking nothing of it. We followed our usually evening routine of reading scriptures and praying as a family, the kids were sent to bed, and as I got up from my chair to retire for the night myself, I noticed that I didn’t feel the immediate throbbing, head-imploding feeling. It took a few seconds to click, and then in somewhat disbelief, I had to test it out! I stood there, I walked around. I was used to making my way as efficiently as possible to where I was going – trips to other rooms were planned well so I could do everything in one swoop – and here I was pacing around for no reason. My husband came to the family room to get some luggage from the attic so I could start the next day to pack for my trip, and was amazed to see me just standing there. I told him why, half laughing, half crying. That may seem like a small thing, but it had made it impossible for me to stand or walk for so long. This was a HUGE deal. This was life-changing. I then walked into my children’s rooms because I wanted them to know that their prayers had really worked. They responded with an annoyed “Well duh, mom, we prayed for it.” And even complained that I was keeping them awake to tell them. I was shocked, they weren’t!

The next day I tested it out carefully, but I moved more, stood more, etc. It was amazing! I still had no muscles from all the bone/muscle metabolism of Cushing’s disease and the atrophy of hypopituitarism mixed with being chair-bound, but if I could stand and move, fixing that was now possible. And in the morning, I also realized I had forgotten to take some of my evening medications the night before, and I felt I should not take it then either, so I stopped all those hormones cold-turkey. I should have felt that within about 4 hours (i.e., the night before), and I should have been feeling SUPER sick by the next morning for sure...but I didn’t. And I really mean it, without these hormones, I couldn’t really sleep, get out of bed, and could have landed myself in the hospital (or worse)....but no. As a healthy person going off such medications, I should have experienced withdrawal symptoms at the very least, pretty nasty ones, and I didn’t. So hard to believe! I mean, I lived through it so I know, but it is still hard to believe!

I can’t remember exactly what I did each day, but I continued to do more in the two days before I flew out. On one of them I drove to the store. I drove for the first time in a year. And I walked around the store before my trip because now I needed actual walking shoes! A trip like that, even if brief, would have wiped me out for at least a week. It did make me tired, but I rested and felt fine after just minutes. I recovered THE SAME DAY! Wow! So unreal. So hard to believe after my body had been so abnormal for so long.

When I traveled on Thursday, I did leave the wheelchair assistance request on my ticket...but I walked WAY more. My calves practically burned due to all the activity. They weren’t injured, just sore from the sudden and drastic change in usage, but I wanted to make use of this newfound gift. After a full day of flying, I made it to my friends’ house, ate a very quick bite of dinner, and then people started showing up for the healing blessing. Everyone was shocked as each time someone else arrived, I jumped up to hug and greet them. There were many people there and many prayers and blessings were offered, so I’ll just give an overview of what was done and a few highlights of what was said.

After everyone we expected had arrived, children and all, we gathered in the living room. We sang a few hymns, said a prayer, and then blessed and partook of the Lord’s Supper as He instituted it in scripture. We’ve changed the meaning over time of “a sacrament” (D&C 89 says “sacraments” plural) to be synonymous with the Lord’s Supper, but in the time the bulk of our D&C was given it had a different meaning (in fact, the Lord’s Supper is the fourth and last-listed usage of the term in the 1828 Webster’s). A healing blessing can be “a sacrament.” An oath or ordinance is a sacrament. A wedding is a sacrament – thus Christ’s turning water into wine for the wedding at Cana. I noticed I was able to kneel normally during the sacrament without pain. That was brand new.

After we partook of the sacrament, they asked that I tell my story with my illness. And these friends wanted to know it all, to really understand what I’d been suffering with. This is NOT normal, I’ve almost never had someone ask for details, or how it impacted my daily life, or how it made me feel emotionally/spiritually. I kept feeling like I was sharing too much, because that had been my experience, and they kept urging me to go on, asking me to share more, to share it all. They asked a lot of questions. Someone asked if I thought I’d learned any lessons through my illness, so we discussed that a bit (yes, I definitely had). Another asked what I expected/desired from this healing and I explained that I wanted to be able to function as a wife and mother, to do things I enjoyed, to cook and clean, and that I had been envisioning myself dancing at our friends’ wedding celebration that weekend. I was asked if I thought I could let it go.

When everyone felt they had an understanding and had had an opportunity to ask their questions, a chair was placed in the center of the room for me to sit on, and just like in our prayer circle at home, people gathered around with most touching me in some way. And we began prayers and blessings.

Someone felt to consecrate some oil and place it on my head. All prayers invoked the name of Christ, asking Him to heal, to cleanse, to bless, to fill with light and to cast out darkness. Now and then others felt led to place specific oils on my skin. One simple blessing stated that my “sins were forgiven me.” A friend whispered in my ear at some point “Give Him what He paid for.” We received witness that there were loved ones beyond the veil there to support and help from the spiritual realm. One friend felt to seal upon me the healing that had already occurred in the days beforehand. I prayed silently almost the entire time, adding my prayers and pleading and acceptance to those being shared verbally. And I did pray verbally as well...a long, slow prayer. I would say what was in my heart, then pause to listen and think, say what came next, etc.

Another friend felt inspired to pronounce a blessing, and felt she wasn’t strong enough to do so on her own, so people stood with her, adding their love and support, as she laid hands on me as women did in the time of Joseph Smith, and pronounced a blessing. The destroyer was cast out and rebuked in Jesus’ name. He was there, with his sword, to protect me and cast it out. The devil/demon/darkness that was in me was told to leave and to leave no trace behind. And there was a shift felt by many in the room at this time. Then words were spoken that remind me that while Christ is Lord, He is also my friend, with a sense of humor, and full of love and compassion. I feel odd saying “she said” because the reality is that I knew who was speaking, and it wasn’t the person giving voice to the words. He told me there was no such thing as praying too fact, He teased me about it! He said “Go ahead and try to talk my ear off!” as if He was taunting me. Yes, He is REAL and He has a sense of humor. And He speaks to you in your own language. He told me He had an ear for me and loved to hear from me. Did I mention I bawled the whole night? Yeah. I’m a crier. I’m crying writing this now, because it is so real for me, so awe-inspiring, and so very much a part of me now.

One of my friends actually had to shout between prayers “I HAVE SO MUCH LOVE FOR ALL YOU PEOPLE!” This room was filled with love. God is love. Charity is the pure love of Christ. Perfect love casteth out all fear. Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them. These scripture quotes are true. We witnessed it that night. I do not believe what happened could have happened in any other environment than one of love unfeigned. Our hearts really were knit together in love. And I think there is a spiritual bond that is created when that happens. I feel like I am eternally tied to these people. I really there is an invisible cord of love that runs from my heart to theirs like a big heavenly spider web. It is like our spirits have touched. I don’t know how to explain that. I don’t think I have words that can do a better job. I’ve felt it with individuals before, but this was a whole room of people, at once.

Prayers continued. One friend touched my head, neck, forehead, ears, etc., as she prayed that all spiritual blockages would be removed, that my glands and organs would begin to heal and function. Some prayed silently and told me later some of the impressions they received while there. One friend prayed that my heart might be healed, like there was a spiritual wall there due to past hurts...kind of like a coping mechanism that has outgrown its welcome and has become a hindrance. Christ was asked to heal that wound, protect my heart, and help remove the wall. Another friend felt to speak directly to my organs and glands. To tell them they were not fulfilling the measure of their creation, that we had removed the obstacles that were keeping them from doing their job so they could now function properly. They were told that if they had forgotten how because it had been so long since they were able to, that these cells could ask God who created them and taught them from the beginning, how to perform their work, they were told to obey Him and to begin to function fully and well without any further thought from me. So much was said, it was overwhelming. I wish we had a recorder or someone transcribing what was said for my own personal study and records. I wrote down what I could remember in the days following, and asked others to do the same, in the hopes that I wouldn’t forget.

It was a long and tiring day, and a long and spiritually/emotionally draining night, but I was lighter. I was floating. I don’t think I slept too much that night. When I got up in the morning, I showered. On my own, without a chair and without it wiping me out at all! That day, 4 days after the initial healing, my calf pain disappeared completely. The Lord gave me new calves in 4 days! My lower back and heels then started hurting instead, due to all the standing and walking. And I hoped that that too would only last for four days, but I think it was closer to 12. Maybe that’s symbolic. Anyway, that day I walked round and round in a store, helped wash dishes by hand, felt what “normal” dehydration feels like for the first time (and recovered in less than an hour through fluids and rest!), and had a great day. And each day I just did more and more and more. It was crazy! It still is crazy! Crazy good! The evening of the wedding celebration, my friend (whose celebration it was) that had been healed that summer from chronic Lyme disease jumped up and the two of us danced together. It was silly, fun, awkward, and beautiful. Many tears were shed. Two miracles, both of us so sick before, there dancing together.

Since then I’ve had realization after realization about new things I can do that I couldn’t before. The other day I ran up and down about 4 flights of stairs delivering homemade gifts to friends and family for Christmas, and I wasn’t even winded! I remarked about it to my husband, who said “You mean you feel normal”? in a somewhat teasing tone. It’s so true. I’m emotionally and spiritually lighter and happier. More at peace in my own skin. Definitely more so than four years ago when my illness really took a turn for the worse, possibly even more so than before the first signs appeared. I don’t know. It’s so surreal. I can exercise and recover quickly. I’ve made homemade bread almost every day since I got home. I’ve cooked and cleaned, I’ve done a ton of Christmas crafts (maybe I’m making up for lost time?), I’ve showered myself, I’ve driven, I’ve gone out to social events, I’ve chased kids under the mistletoe, I’ve deep-cleaned my kitchen and dining room, I’ve bought (and helped carry!) a treadmill, on and on and on. I’ve not touched medicine; I’ve had no need of it. I can feel muscles now that I couldn’t before. I haven’t dropped weight yet, but I’ve dropped clothing sizes. I’m losing measurable inches each week. I know muscles weigh more than fat, and since I can see and feel the changes, I’m just not going to worry about it. I welcome the muscles! My husband says I have a visible “bounce” to my step that he hasn’t seen in years. He says I’m more cheerful with a positive, playful mood. People tell me I look so much better. Actually, my hair is coming back in (I was half bald due to the hormone issues). I have color back in my face. My blood pressure and pulse are great – better than I could get them with medication. I sleep well at night, REALLY well. I dream. I recover from exertion and am getting a boost from it instead of a full-on crash like I have for years. I’ve been busy nonstop, sometimes not really sitting down for more than a few minutes until after dinner time. A friend at the celebration that first Saturday even said “I can hardly believe you were even sick!” And, that’s what it is like...I feel like I’m in a dream, or maybe like I just woke from a nightmare? How can I be this much better? How can it only take a week or two? It’s only been 5 even now! There are so many amazing changes, so many good things, and I keep finding more! The difference is SO night and day. It is miraculous!

I have heard it taught in church that miracles don’t really happen much anymore. If that is true, it’s to our own condemnation, as Moroni said...God has not changed. I’ve also heard people say that the reason we don’t hear of such miraculous events is because they are too sacred to share. What a pile of justifying horseshit! Excuse the profanities, but really, let’s call a spade a spade. I think only someone who hasn’t experienced the miraculous would say such a thing. I may not share all of what was said in the prayers, but I certainly can share that there were prayers and the result of them. Have we not read the scriptures? The first thing people turn around and do when they make contact with Heaven is tell everyone that will listen. It’s overwhelming to contain. When Alma spoke of the mighty change of heart in Alma 5, he asked “Have you felt to sing the song of redeeming love?” I’ve felt to sing that song. And let me tell you, when a song is stuck in your head, you can’t help but let it out. Our scriptures are full of “sacred” accounts that were shared over and over again. And they were shared so we could know the God we seek, see examples of people just as lowly as we are following “the right way” and parting the veil, and so we could have faith that it IS possible for us too. See how it all ties back into those verses I shared from Mormon 9? It’s a circle. I would not have been healed if it weren’t for someone else having been healed sharing those experiences. I too want to share so others can receive.

On my way home from a church women’s activity a week or two ago, I was thinking about how odd it had felt sitting there talking about normal things while it felt like my insides were about to burst and I wanted to shout out “God is a God of miracles! I’m living proof!” to a group of mostly strangers. Yeah, that wouldn’t have been weird or anything. ;) I’m not quite that brave, either. I had prayed that I would have the opportunity to share, and I did towards the end with a small group of women, and the spirit was strong and they were so receptive. But I was thinking as I drove home just how similar that feeling was (though at the opposite end of the spectrum) to how it feels “moving on with life” after losing a loved one. Life goes on around you; people act normal and say normal things. You almost feel like you are going through the motions but inside you feel like your heart has been ripped out and you feel like shouting “Don’t you see the world has changed? Can’t you feel the loss?” It is SO much like that. My world has changed so drastically. Can’t you feel the light? It’s so blatantly obvious that I cannot fathom others cannot see the miracle, and how are we not talking about it constantly? This is huge! It is hard to talk about normal life and go on with life as usual as if nothing has happened, and I just itch to share the goodness and mercy of my Lord. I want everyone who is suffering to receive healing! It is there for us, all of us, if we can but believe and ask for it.
“O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.” -Mormon 9:6

I wouldn’t say I am pure, spotless, fair, white or clean, but I have been cleansed and purified beyond what I was before, beyond what anything earthly could achieve. I now know that the Lord can heal in the same way that I know what hot is, because I’ve experienced it. That is the witness I share. I have felt that power and I have been touched by it in an undeniable, visible way. God is a God of Miracles. He healed me, and He can surely heal you. Ask. Trust in Him. You may think you’re not enough...but Jesus is.

Hosanna to God and the Lamb!

(Note from Sarah: before and after videos are linked at the bottom of her original post.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

What C.S. Lewis Knew

Yesterday was the 52nd anniversary of the death of a literary giant, and a wise man, C.S. Lewis. His story is a fascinating one. After becoming an atheist as a 15-year-old, he later, in his adulthood, converted to christianity, and became an open proponent for it. When the day ended on November 22, 1963, it was more than just the light of the sun that left, the light that this man brought to the world also left. And so, it is fitting that he passed from this life near sunset.

In memory of him, I'm going to share a quote taken from The Screwtape Letters. For those unfamiliar with this book, it's written as a collection of letters from one of the devil's high ranking minions (Screwtape) to his likewise minion nephew (Wormwood), giving him pointers and education on how to win targets over to their master's side. Here is one such example:
The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills.  When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.
There is truth in this statement, that can be found in the scriptures as well.
But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backwards, and not forward. Jeremiah 7:24
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put up the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Ezekiel 14:1-5
When we expect a certain answer or outcome in prayer, and aren't willing to wait on the Lord for these things in truth, we are actually denying the Holy Spirit. We're not allowing it to speak to us. We're not willing to face the possibility that the answer we expect is the wrong one. We're setting up idols in our hearts that keep us from God, rather than helping us get to know Him, rather than allowing us to understand Him.

God calls these "evil hearts."

Your intentions may be good, but you have not allowed the Holy Spirit to give utterance.

The result of this is that you have committed that scriptural no-no of trusting in your own flesh. You are giving yourself your own outcome, your own answer.

Joseph Smith once said, "There are two comforters spoken of. One is the Holy Ghost, the same as given on the day of Pentecost, and that all Saints receive after faith, repentance, and baptism. This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.149)

That other comforter, as we know, is Christ Himself.

Back to the first comforter... all the other emotions and physical reactions that we attribute to the Holy Ghost as answers... What are those if the Holy Ghost only answers in pure intelligence?

What about this scripture?
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? D&C 6:22-23
And this one?
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well--and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. And behold others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto the: I am no devil, for there is none--and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps the with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. 2 Nephi 28:21-22 
Is your peace from God? Or are you being pacified?

Learning the difference is important for all of us. It is an excuse to pray and seek out the truth for ourselves. It's a vital experience in discerning that all faithful followers of Christ must undergo.

I highly recommend Feeling, and Fooling, the Spirit for a more thorough examination of what is and is not the Spirit.

Along with us blocking the Spirit with our own feeling and own answers, there are always people who will encourage that. People who will exploit (whether knowingly or unknowingly) this tendency in devout people.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto thee that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. Jeremiah 23:16-17
This is another example of how we are pacified and lulled into carnal security.

Furthermore, not waiting and allowing God to answer us, filling ourselves with the answers of our own expectations and understanding, is that not despising the Lord?

It certainly is not putting our trust in Him.

This tendency that C.S. Lewis pinpointed is an example of arrogancy, vanity. It is trusting in ourselves over God. We put our own wisdom and knowledge before that of God's.

And we do it unknowingly.

Admit to yourself and God that you don't know the answer. You have a guess, but you're willing to cast aside that assumption for the truth that God has to give you. You even have a lot riding on the answer you want being the correct one, but you're willing to give up all that entails to follow Him. Have this in your heart, then wait on His answer. This is humility. This will get you more answers. You can't learn something different than what you already supposedly know. You can't gain real charity by fabricating it yourself. You can't gain real forgiveness by fabricating it yourself.

Wait on Him.

You'll be happy you did.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Women and Gifts of the Spirit: Read All About It

Recently, the church came out with this article, titled Joseph Smith's Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women. I was glad to see them address this topic. It is something I have been familiar with since combing through the Relief Society Minutes in preparation for a Relief Society activity a year and a half ago.

I thought they were thorough in their summary of what Joseph Smith actually taught, but less thorough on why we don't do it that way today. Frankly, the logic explaining it was lacking. For example a quote from the article:
The second aspect of Joseph Smith’s teachings to the Relief Society that may be unfamiliar today is his endorsement of women’s participation in giving blessings of healing. “Respecting the female laying on hands,” the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record, Joseph said that “it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith,” and admonished, “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.”30 Some women had performed such blessings since the early days of the Church. At that time, Latter-day Saints understood the gift of healing primarily in terms of the New Testament’s teaching that it was one of the gifts of the Spirit available to believers through faith. Joseph Smith taught that the gift of healing was a sign that would follow “all that believe whether male or female.”31
During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have the gift of healing.32 “I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters,” testified Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift.33 In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow explained in 1883, “Women can administer in the name of JESUS, but not by virtue of the Priesthood.”34
I can verify that Joseph is quoted correctly here, as this is what I came across and read as well. The next quote is from the next paragraph in the article:
Women’s participation in healing blessings gradually declined in the early 20th century as Church leaders taught that it was preferable to follow the New Testament directive to “call for the elders.”35 By 1926, Church President Heber J. Grant affirmed that the First Presidency “do not encourage calling in the sisters to administer to the sick, as the scriptures tell us to call in the Elders, who hold the priesthood of God and have the power and authority to administer to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ.”36 The current Handbook of Instructions directs that “only Melchizedek Priesthood holders may administer to the sick or afflicted.”37 
I find this explanation for our current practices woefully lacking. Yes, the priesthood can administer to the sick, but to deny woman to do so in faith, is denying the gifts of the spirit.
And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. Moroni 10:8

Parable of the talents

In Matthew 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents. Because of the similarity of the word talent as we use it, and talent (a form of currency), as used in this parable, it’s easy to get stuck on a particular meaning. But talent doesn’t necessarily mean talent, meaning it doesn't mean your physical or mental abilities. The talents the Lord wants you to multiply in this parable are not your talents of singing, dancing, acting, instrument playing, poetry, or car mechanics. A talent in this parable has monetary value. It’s something of value that God gives to His servants. This could be spiritual gifts, spiritual knowledge, or as it is described in a section of D&C the right to pursue priesthood (meaning that one has been ordained of man and has to opportunity to receive power in it through God). Once you are given something of value from God, He means you to use it.

As mentioned in the scriptures, Joseph Smith (quoted in the article above), and the Lectures on Faith (Lecture 3, paragraph 23), God is no respecter of persons. The gifts of the spirit are freely given. Many of which are manifest (as with the day of Pentecost and Christ’s original 12 disciples) during an outpouring of the Spirit. These are actual occurrences known as baptisms of fire. As I described in my Baptism of Fire post, I dreamt visionary dreams after such an occurrence.

Gifts of the Spirit as found in Moroni 10:9-16, include these: that he may teach the word of wisdom, teach the word of knowledge, exceedingly great faith, healing, work mighty miracles, prophecy concerning all things, beholding of angels and ministering spirits, all kinds of tongues, interpretation of languages & diverse kinds of tongues.
All these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. 
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men. Moroni 10:17-19
There were women testified of in the Old and New Testaments who had the spiritual gift of prophecy.  Likewise Joel and Moroni prophesied of the same occurrence/s:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. Joel 2:28-29
Your gender and your skin color do not prevent you from receiving any of these gifts. These are not, and cannot be given by man. These are given from God, and He is no respecter of persons.

So if you are a woman with the gift of healing, or at some point in your life you find that you are blessed with it, you are left with a choice… Do you obey the men who suppose they have the authority over the gift of healing, and that you do not? Or do you obey the God who gave you a gift and use it as He intended, in His service, rather than hiding it where it does neither you nor anybody else any good?

My advice is to use it freely in His service, without gain. This is my advice for those with any of the spiritual gifts. Heal. Prophesy. Teach. Work mighty miracles. But do not be afraid to use it.

And if you do not possess these gifts? You may seek after them. As we know from modern revelation given to the church in D&C 46:8-9, we are encouraged to “seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given… they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.”(D&C 46:8-9)

So seek spiritual gifts, but not for a sign, not to be seen of men, not for praise, worldly gain, or worldly glory, but for the benefit of others.

Ask for the gifts that the Spirit directs you towards.

And we are promised that, “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.” (D&C 46:30)

A Common Mistake

Whenever we make the assumption that the way we’re doing things now is the right way, we run the risk of misunderstanding what the way is. To do this is presumptuous, vain, and proud. If you already believe you have it figured out, there is no room and no opportunity for you to learn what God would teach you in the matter. You kill the opportunity to gain knowledge through the Spirit. You hamper and handicap yourself, effectively setting up a stumbling block you can’t see around.

This is the problem I see with the church’s article. There’s a lot to be learned from it, but this assumption leaves us trying to interpret the scriptures that contradict the articles’ conclusions in a way they were not intended to mean. I imagine a lot of the corruption in our bible comes from this tendency of man. When the word of God from the past didn’t match what God’s people were doing, and they were convinced the way they were doing it at any given time was correct, then they had to make the past narrative fit the current one. This is how knowledge is lost. This is how plain and precious things are removed and later require a restoration.

The article assumes Joseph Smith, knew less about this than we do know. It does not open to the possibility that his knowledge was in line with the scriptures. That he knew MORE about it than we do. Because the way we do it now must be correct…right?

I have had the opportunity (only once) to participate/mostly observe a blessing of healing given by women to another disabled woman. I can honestly say I don’t know the outcome of it, whether she experienced healing or not, but I could see why Joseph saw no harm in it. It was a beautiful experience.

As the church’s article points out, women used to give blessings of healing, but only the men are permitted to now. Joseph said he saw no harm in it. The man through whom we received The Book of Mormon, restoration of priesthood and its ordinances, latter-day revelation, and this church. A man so close to God that God was able to bring this to us through him. More than any subsequent leader of the church. But the one who brought the most knowledge, knew less about spiritual gifts than we do today?

Are you sure?

Would God give you a gift you weren’t supposed to use?

There’s an easy way to know the truth of this matter. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…

 It doesn’t really matter what I have to say about any of this, but God can give it to you straight.

Go ask Him.

Born of Water

For the last few weeks, perhaps months I've had the Born of Water button along my sidebar. I think now is a good time to talk a little about it.

Like in John the Baptist's time, there is a need now for authoritative baptisms. The Jewish church then didn't recognize him or his authority to do so, though it hailed from a sure authority. As you recall, he was ordained by an angel of God when "he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power." (D&C 84:28) The Jews, though in appearances a very devout people, had ceased to follow or recognize the word of God. They began to follow the philosophies of man mingled with scripture (Satan's favorite brand of religion). "Authority" was a very important thing to them. John the baptist was a descendent of Aaron, and therefore had the right lineage to administrate in the priesthood, but he was not recognized by the Jews of his time as possessing it. Moreover he possessed true authority, when they claimed it and had only the appearance of it. In truth this had become lost to them. You cannot mess with the ordinances of God, reject His voice, and then retain His authority to administer in His name.

Baptism did not begin with John the baptist. Adam was baptized (Moses 6:64-65). At the end of 2 Nephi, Nephi teaches about the importance of the Doctrine of Christ and of baptism. It was known to his family as well. But there was a reason it and the authority to perform it was restored in John the Baptist. Perhaps it was a plain and precious truth that had been lost or twisted into something it wasn't intended to be.

With recent news headlines, and certain policy changes in the church becoming public, it has become obvious that the difference between the Doctrine of Christ as laid out by Christ, and what the church requires for baptism is growing. It should be a wake up call. It should be becoming more and more apparent that the voice requiring the things the church does for it is not God's voice. It is not our Heavenly Father that denies little children, even if their parents do not meet the criteria and they give their permission for their child, the opportunity for a saving ordinance. There are and will be many excuses and explanations for why this is the "right way," explaining away everyone's concerns, luring them back into a carnal sense of security (2 Nephi 28:21-21). But to one that is familiar with the scriptures, it will become clear, this is not God's way.

Because the church has added to the Doctrine of Christ, something we are all warned from doing (3 Nephi 11:40), because their creeds and policies on it are an abomination to God, there is a need for authoritative baptism again. There is a need for ordained priesthood holders who don't count themselves authorized until, like Alma the elder (Mosiah 18:12-13), they have received it from heaven, and know for themselves that they are. Baptism is needed that doesn't require testimony of or obedience to a man, or devotion to an organization. It is an ordinance between the individual and God.

For this and other reasons, I chose to get rebaptized just over a year ago, as I've written about before. I did not join another organization or quit the church when I did, I simply made a witness to God of the change in my heart. I had prayed about the person I ended up asking to baptize me. I had prayed about whether he was authorized, and was assured by the Spirit that he was worthy before the Lord to do so.

God does not deny baptism to those who qualify for it. You can read God's qualifications for baptism as they are given in scripture here: Born of Water, and here: Request Baptism

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so these qualifications have not changed.
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. 2 Nephi 26:33
Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. 2 Nephi 26:27-28
You don't have to believe what I say on the matter, but you should look into your scriptures. You should ask God for the truth of the matter, for yourself, who giveth to all men liberally.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Know the Lord?

In light of this post, I wanted to ask the question of whether or not we really are supposed to know The Lord.

Is it necessary to know Him for ourselves?

Is what we have enough, if we faithfully receive all our ordinances (from baptism, temple, etc), follow the prophet, be patient to the end, go to church every Sunday, etc.? Is this enough? Is this knowing The Lord?

Is knowing The Lord the same as having a witness of His name?

I'm not going to answer any of the questions above. I'm simply going to post a few scriptures and turn you over to the Lord in prayer for your answers.

From the scriptures:

Matt 25:10-12 JST And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, ye know me not.
Hebrews 8:10-11 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 
John 17:20-26 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold me in my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world. 
O righteous Father, the world hath not know thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them
D&C 112:25-26 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.
3 Nephi 14: 21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Proverbs 8: 17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
In the words of David, 1 Chronicles 16: 10-11 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.
Revelation 3:20 Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 
JST Matt 7:7-8 Say unto them, Ask of God; ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 
And then said his disciples unto him, They will say unto us, We ourselves are righteous, and need not that any man should teach us. God, we know, heard Moses and some of the prophets; but us he will not hear. 
And they will say, We have the law for our salvation, and that is sufficient for us. 
Then Jesus answered, and said unto his disciples, Thus shall ye say unto them, 
What man among you, having a son, and he shall be standing out, and shall say, Father, open thy house that I may come in and sup with thee, will not say Come in, my son; for mine is thine, and thine is mine?
D&C 93:1 Verily thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
D&C 130:3 John 14:23--The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man's heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.
In the words of Moroni, Ether 12:39-41 And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things; 
And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.  
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.

The Testimony of Christ

In D&C 76, one of the requirements of the Church of the Firstborn, who are also the heirs of the Celestial Kingdom, is that they have received the testimony of Christ, to be contrasted with Terrestrial heirs who did not receive this testimony in the flesh. I offer another few questions to consider.

Is having the testimony of Christ the same thing we get up and say in Fast & Testimony meeting?

Is having a testimony of Christ more than what we think it is?

Is it knowing Him as Moroni and others knew Him?

Is having the testimony of Christ, actually Christ having a testimony of our faithfulness?

Concluding Questions

What does knowing the Lord mean for me?

Is it a righteous desire?

Is it a necessary desire?

Will I choose to know Him for myself?

How can I come to know The Lord?

If you truly want to know the answers to any of these for yourself, lacking knowledge, then ask, seek, knock. Turn to Him who does not lack for knowledge.

What is knowing God worth to you?

Alma 22: 15-18 And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yeah, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy. 
But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest. 
And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying: 
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. 
vs. 23 ...And the king stood forth, and began to minister unto them. And he did minister unto them, insomuch that his whole household were converted unto the Lord.

Called of God

In our religion in our generation, we put a lot of emphasis on the phrase "called of God" and those we claim are called of God.

I won't argue whether any making that claim or any making that claim for others really are called of God. I will just point out that being called of God in the long run might not mean much, and I will explain why.

We should put less emphasis on the calling. It will aid in our humility, especially since the calling is only the invitation to do. It is not the actual doing. If we glory in the calling, and forget about the doing, then the whole thing was in vain.

Lots of people are called:
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? D&C 121:34

Any calling by God is a test for us. We are given it to prove ourselves, to show we ought to be chosen. Sure, God likely knows what we will or won't do beforehand, but we also probably wanted the opportunity ourselves, and we can not be given the rewards of a challenge we haven't taken. Heavenly Father knew He could trust Jesus to fulfill the Atonement, and we all trusted Him to do so in the premortal existence, but He still had to go through with it.

Unfortunately for us, just because we are called doesn't mean we will end up proving ourselves of anything except not being ready.
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson-- 
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the Powers of Heaven, and that the Powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled, only upon the principles of righteousness. 
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control of dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man. 
Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. 
Hence many are called, but few are chosen. D&C 121: 35-40
A phrase that sticks out to me here is "ere he is aware." This is a sad phrase. I can picture it in my head, this person, while still trumpeting being called of God, is unaware that he is left to his own devices. He still probably thinks that he's doing it in the name of the Lord, while instead is fighting against Him.

He has not been chosen.

Worse still is the 35th verse which says this is the nature and disposition of ALMOST ALL MEN. This is alarming indeed and a warning for us all, man or woman. This should tell us that an individual who is not only called, but also chosen, is very, very, very rare.

We are given, particularly if we have asked, the opportunity to receive greater light and knowledge, but in our diligence to the laws in front of us, we miss those opportunities. Consider the problem of this scripture:
Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live. Ezekiel 20:24-25
How is someone called into this situation supposed to act or judge? Does he follow the law and stone the adulterers? Or does he go against the law and forgive the repentant offenders? I've talked a little bit about how we ought to judge here.

Also, though the Israelites were commanded in the law of Moses to offer animal sacrifices to the Lord, David had this to say about it:
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. D&C 51:16-17
The purpose of the commanded sacrifices was not in their performance alone, but in what it was supposed to point them to, something greater, something that would help them to rise up. God didn't want an animal killed, so much as he wanted a person with a broken and contrite heart to approach Him, a person so humble that the will of the natural man (the part inclined to pride, vain ambition, the desire to cover one's sins, or to use dominion or compulsion) is laid aside, and the heart is laid bare before the Lord.

This is the rare individual that is not only called, but chosen.

This is the person that sees through the things he's "supposed to do," to the things God desires of him.

Saul and David are good Old Testament examples of men who were both called of God. When the Israelites went against the will of God and insisted on having a king to rule over them, God sent Samuel the prophet to Saul. He was a humble and good man at the time. Samuel anointed him king. Saul even showed gifts of the Spirit when he began prophesying among the prophets, but though he was called by God through Samuel, he soon followed after his own inclinations, good intentioned as they may have been. And He was left to kick against the pricks, though he remained king.

Samuel secretly anointed David after this, when he was a humble child looking after his father's flocks. He was chosen over his many strong older brothers. So, all the time that both Saul and David lived, both were anointed and called by God to be king over the Israelites. During this time, Saul would go from favoring David, to being jealous of him when he began to suspect David was his replacement. And he sought to have David killed over and over and over again, though David was innocent of any wrongdoing against Saul.

Saul lived a long time, and David was in his 40s (I'm going off memory) before he inherited the kingdom.

Just as in the case of Saul, being called whether through a man, prophet, angel, or God Himself doesn't mean much if that's where it ends. Being called isn't something worth boasting about, and really ought not be. It's only the invitation. Are you going to boast about an invitation, show it to everyone, and then forget to attend the actual event?

It's also my opinion that we shouldn't boast about someone else being called of God. Because you know what? From the scriptures, I know Saul was called of God...

...And a fat lot of good it did him and the Israelites.

Defy the natural man instead and be chosen. It's what you choose and what you do after you are called that determines this.

Monday, August 17, 2015


There's something to be said for context.

Sometimes, rather than correct people about me. I let them take me out of context because straightening it all out seems burdensome. I probably shouldn't do that.

If God wasn't used to being taken out of context, this psalm would never have been written, "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." Psalms 50:21

The wicked being addressed assumed God agreed with their actions, but silence did not mean He agreed or approved.

Back to the point: I have some clarifications to make.

Clarification 1: Prophets...

I believe in prophets. Of course I do. Without them we would not have a single page of scripture. But one might take my statement out of context in assuming I mean the men we currently call prophets of the church. I believe true prophets of God will bear the fruit that position, in actual prophecy, etc. This has been true in scripture. One thing I also notice in scripture is there wasn't a limit to "one true prophet." Prophets seem to have been called by God (I'm not saying by God through man as we assume the meaning of this phrase is today, similar to the Catholic religion, but actually by God) severally, as needed, where needed. The Book of Mormon mentions "prophets" that come preaching repentance when the Nephites are coming close to destruction in their wickedness. Samuel the Lamanite was a prophet who prophesied to the wicked Nephites, when Nephi was currently alive and also serving the Lord. By the simple order of things and the way we understand them, this should have been Nephi's job. But the Lord called Samuel, an outsider, to bear this prophecy. Moreover, the Lord insisted they record it, when He showed to them that they had neglected to do so in His later visit with them.

The order we so cling and depend on is not exclusively how God works. He works according to His pattern, and His order, which is less like the corporate structure of our church than we like to think it is, and more in keeping with the pattern of scripture.

In scriptures, there were prophetesses. They weren't performing ordinances or leading the church, but they did prophecy. One such woman was present at the temple when Jesus entered as a baby. One such woman served as a "judge" of Israel, to deliver them from their enemies before they chose to live under kings instead.

Then there is Paul. After Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and his subsequent suicide, there were only 11 apostles. Later, when the remaining apostles were gathered together, they selected by the spirit a 12th. But they didn't call Paul (he was busy persecuting them). They called Matthias. Paul did not believe Jesus Christ was the Messiah, and was busy afflicting them. Yet, Jesus personally called him to His service anyway after His resurrection. Paul became an apostle (the 13th) and for himself did witness the risen Lord (Acts 9:27). Through him came Christ's ministry to the gentiles. Through him came the majority of the New Testament books. And this done outside our recognized order of things, but not outside of God's.

So, I believe in prophets.

Of course I do.

And I believe there is a prophet today, called by God personally, at least one. Probably, hopefully, more. (...would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! Moses speaking in Numbers 11:29)

I see a lot of good, a lot of admirable traits in the men that lead the church today. But I don't see how they are the prophets of God.

After I had prayed and considered this for months, the Lord finally put it to me this way, "Would a prophet of God reject the word of God?"

My answer was, "Of course not." If anything, the prophet would accept the word of God, recognizing the source of it as the same master that He serves. If he did reject it, either he would not be a prophet of God (or cease to be the prophet of God), or the word was not really the word of God. But a true prophet of God would not reject a message originating from God, no matter which messenger God chose to send it through.

So if this prophet casts out this messenger, or upholds the casting out of the messenger, then the prophet is not really a prophet of God, or the messenger is not really the messenger of God, or neither of them are God's. In any case, the determining of which is which is up to each individual.

I have heard the word of God through this message and this messenger, who has been cast out of this church for this very message. I have recognized it. I have studied it. I have inquired of the Lord about it. I declare it.

The church recently bought ad space in the Book of Mormon musical playbill.

We teach that people must read the Book of Mormon to determine its truth rather than just listening to what other people have to say about it. You have to read it for yourself. I'm applying that same reasoning here. Read the message (or listen). Know for yourself, and then you don't have to take anyone else's word for it, mine included. But do so with an open heart, because by the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know the truth of all things. But it cannot speak so easily to a heart that is closed. A heart that doesn't want to know if something is true, or is not true. That has decided the answer already, whether or not it is the right answer.

I want to make it clear, I am not suggesting we substitute one man for another. We've had too much of that in the history of the world. It's important that we accept the messages that are God's and follow Him, not substituting following the messenger for following Him. To do so places that man in the position of an idol, as we put him between us and God. You should place nothing between you and God. I have discussed this in this series of posts.

Regarding the men who lead this church, I have this conclusion to offer:
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feast, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. 
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Matt 23:1-13

Chief seats in the synagogues?

To be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi:
You can read here, what the original meaning of this title was and how it evolved. But it was a title, given to those who were thought more enlightened or educated. It could have as simple a meaning as "teacher." Likewise we should not love to be called of men master, or teacher, or doctor, or professor, or elder, or apostle, or prophet, bishop, stake president, etc. etc. etc. or always having your middle initial included in your name when you are introduced, or addressed. These are things that men love to do. But it really isn't about the title, whatever the title, or the chief seats.

Titles aside, we are all just brothers (and sisters).

Do not ye after their works:
These men appear to be good men, and I have nothing against them. In many ways, I desire to be like them. They teach good things, for the most part. They teach of Christ. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. Yes, they teach of Christ, but as I have said before, an appeal goes to the first presidency, and an appeal denied by them is an casting out upheld by them. You cannot be a prophet and reject the message of Christ. It does not work both ways.  Men can do things in the name of Christ. Many do. To speak in His name while not following His will is to speak His name in vain. Because it does not serve His purposes, so must only serve theirs, and their vanity.  Do not ye after their works. Do not do the same. Follow God. Follow Christ, He will lead you.

The all so important Doctrine of Christ, is not "follow the prophet." There was a reason he did not mention it in His doctrine, and while alive warned the Jews of blind leaders. We are commanded not to add to His doctrine, so anyone that inserts "follow the prophet" as Christ's doctrine cometh of evil.

The Jews also thought their leaders were righteous. They looked righteous. They followed all the statutes and commandments, the definition of righteous.  Right? And yet, their authorized High Priests were the ones who determined to have Christ killed according to their laws. They were not right. And anyone who trusted in their decision, also rejected the Christ who came among them. It's an easy mistake to make, particularly when you trust in a man unconditionally. And believe he cannot be led astray.

If God allowed the high priest (same current position held by the prophet of the church, by the way) of his day to make a decision that clearly led the Jewish people astray, that clearly was the wrong decision... and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever... then why would it be any different for the high priest of our day?

God allows us to make our own decisions.

The restoration was about more than another earthly church:
In Joseph Smith, we had the promise that any of us could know God the way he did.

In Joseph Smith's teachings we had him encouraging us to receive Christ in the flesh, make our callings and elections sure, etc.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told that the fullness of the gospel is held within the Book of Mormon, a book that describes several people witnessing Christ for themselves in many different time frames of the book. The same thing the endowment leads us to do.

Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in:
Heber J. Grant admitted to never having had the privileges of the fullness of the gospel Joseph Smith taught of, and admitted he didn't want it.

Lately, Elder Oaks in his Boise Rescue talk, (and reportedly Elder Nelson at another time) have denied that this is a part of their calling. They have not entered in. And have never claimed it was a necessary, or even an important part of the gospel. The apostles do teach about following the prophet, though, and that he can't lead us astray; therefore, removing any reason to question a "prophet's" choices. By teaching this are they personifying this, "neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in?"

I wonder what Joseph Smith would have to say about that?

I found this blog about a letter from Elder Oaks enlightening on the matter.

Do you want to enter in?

Are you willing to inquire of the Lord and trust His guidance on how you may do this? Then, do it. Stop waiting on other people. The only one you need to wait on is the Lord.

Clarification 2: Followers of this blog

Blogger tells me I have 2 followers of this blog. I believe, and I'm not very up on news and technology, that this is through an outdated service that blogger had, allowing people to follow through actual blogger. I think now any kind of following must be done through widgets, bookmarking, etc.

This blog is nothing grand, nor do I care to make it something of that effect. It is what it is. Blogger statistics from this morning reported over 5700 views globally to my blog since I started it. I see that as a very humble number as far a blogs go.

Over 1000 of those views are to my most recent blog post (aside from this one) called don't read this post. This is my most viewed post, which tells me that a lot of people don't like to be told what to do.

But if anyone were to ask me how many people follow my blog, I'll probably use the number blogger tells me: 2. I do this because I'm not sure how to know if people, other than those 2, regularly check here. That would constitute a follower of a blog, wouldn't it?

Clarification 3: Blogs that I link to

I only link to other blogs and posts within my own posts that I think offer important information. If I linked to it, it's because I found it valuable. I do not randomly select them.

Clarification 4: I write what I mean

To clear up any confusion regarding the matter. I write what I mean. I am direct on this blog. I do this because I really struggle in person to be direct and say exactly what I mean, and this is the medium where I have time to really think over the things that I am conveying.

Clarification 5: Baptism and Authority

So, I've been told that the authority to baptize now, must come through man (or through the chain of authorized men), though power to do so comes from God.

I would agree with that had other things mentioned above (and some not mentioned) happened, and that needs to be considered.

In reply, I will ask this:

If God is telling you to baptize someone, but the "authorized men" are telling you not to, which one should you obey? You know it is God who is telling you to do it. You know the authorized men won't let you. Really think about it. What should you do?

If God is instructing you to, and informs you that you have all you need in order to do it, aren't you definitely authorized?

Let's look first at Abinadi and Alma. The Nephites had priests to perform their ordinances. The problem was that they were wicked. So when Abinadi came in preaching repentance, they were offended. They may have scoffed and said, Who are you to tell us what God wants us to do? We're the ones with authority.

Eventually, Alma believes him and has to resort to hiding near the Waters of Mormon. Here he begins baptizing the repentant Nephites. He was a priest, however being in hiding from the unrepentant priests, I wonder it they would have told him the same. That he was no longer authorized to perform such things... Something worth pondering.

Next, let's consider John the Baptist. He by birth was a descendant of Aaron, who had the right of the high priests. His father was also a priest who worked in the temple. Yet, John worked outside the authority and grounds of the Jewish church, having been ordained by an angel at only 8 days old. He went about baptizing believers in the wilderness, by no authority that the Jews recognized.

Jesus, after entering Jerusalem in triumph and throwing the moneychangers out from the temple and healing the blind and lame, was asked by what authority He did these things. He had no claim as a priest or teacher according to his birthright, which was through Judah (as far as they knew). The line of priests came through the Levites. And yet, He taught and held priesthood and the power thereof, though it was the Levites that were authorized for these things.

Should these individuals have relied on the recognized authority of men? Rather than knowing what they had and what to do with it from God, himself?

How does one know if their authority, passed from man, comes from God as well? No matter where it comes from, it still has to be connected to God.

Or it doesn't mean much.

Mankind likes to control what it thinks it has. It makes us feel secure. But this tendency is vanity. We can't control what God gives to another. We can't control the way that God will execute His plan. We can only be humble enough to accept what part in it He may offer to us. And He will perform His strange work (strange to us, because it makes perfect sense to Him).

If we get too caught up in what we think the order of things are, we will miss the BIG picture, like so many before us did.

Just some last thoughts:
There was a delightful line in a show called When Calls the Heart, where a priest says, "Gathering together to praise the Lord, worship in His name, doesn't require a building."

That, I have found, is true.

When there was no church and no temple, where did Abraham, Moses, the brother of Jared, Elijah, and others go?

A mountain.

Even Christ did this, despite the current temple in existence in Jerusalem.

Wine is not evil, or God would not have told us to use it for sacraments. The Word of Wisdom actually says we should use it for sacrament. It also says mild barley drinks (a.k.a beer) are okay. Seriously!! Technically, it wouldn't make a person unworthy of the temple. Go look for yourself, D&C 89.

I've always been a vehement Not Even Once Club believer. I was always determined to "Just say NO" and always do exactly the right thing in exactly the right way, and anyone who didn't do that was wrong. And I've finally learned I was unrighteously judging people based on if they smoke, or what they drank. The Word of Wisdom is not a commandment. Inasmuch as it has been made one, it is a commandment of men and not of God. He was clear about that when He gave it originally:
A word of wisdom, for the benefit of the council of high priests, assembled in Kirtland, and the church, and also the saints in Zion--To be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of saints in the last days-- Given for a principle with promise adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints. D&C 89:1-3
It's not a sin if you don't follow it. Which is great for all the major meat-consuming Mormon families out there. It's also not a righteous way to judge others. I was wrong in that.

Barring baptism and temple attendance based on following whatever today's explanation of the Word of Wisdom is, is wrong. It was wrong from the beginning.