July 26-August 1
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In part of Section 84, we learn a very specific truth that not many people seem to talk about directly.
Doctrine and Covenants 84:22-24
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
Moses was transfigured and entered into the presence of God. When he got back, he attempted to prepare the children of Israel to experience the same profound blessing he had experienced. The prophet saw the face of the Lord and tried to help his people receive the same blessing. That’s a big deal.
Now every once in a while, we run into little nuggets like that. We hear a quote or a verse here and there that teaches us that the Lord does want us to enter into His presence as soon as we are able to receive Him. And yet, I’ve learned that more often our leaders teach in broader phrases that can apply to each of us at any level of spirituality that we may find ourselves (Please note! I said level of spirituality. I did not say level of knowledge or years of experience or some high calling. There is an important difference.).
For example, President Nelson recently quoted, “Ask the Lord to teach you how to open the heavens.” This is a very open-ended quote that can apply on so many levels. Opening the heavens can mean asking the Lord to help you know whether you should quit your job. Opening the heavens can mean just that…opening the heavens, entertaining angels, brother of Jared experiences, etc.
My goal in this post isn’t to give you a step-by-step guide on how to once again enter the presence of the Lord. Even if I had already entered into His presence again, I would not be able to share those steps with you. This used to be confusing to me…I love receiving directions and then following them explicitly because I tend to be a rule follower. It never made sense to me when Nephi said the Spirit stopped his utterance in 2 Nephi 32. Why would the Lord not give us exact instructions so we can follow them? The only way I can think of to describe this phenomenon is through analogy.
Let’s say I built a set of stairs that reached to heaven. If I let you climb those stairs and enter into the presence of the Lord, you would be destroyed because we can’t enter into His presence without being prepared and purified by the atonement. Simply climbing the stairs would not give you the preparation you need to enter into His presence. You have to build the stairs yourself with Christ as your guide. Only then will you have grown sufficiently to enter into the presence of the Lord.
You have to kneel before the Lord and ask Him to prepare you. You have to learn how to receive communication from Him. You have to be purified through that difficult process of learning how to hear Him.
So I repeat. This post is not meant to be a step-by-step guide on how to see the Lord. Not only would this post be ridiculously long if I attempted to do that, but it simply wouldn’t prepare you enough. You have to do it yourself.
So what is the point of this post? I suppose the point of this post is to encourage you to pick up the hammer.
Why should I pick up the hammer?
There’s the obvious reason…picking up the hammer to start your stairway will help you eventually be able to return to the presence of your Heavenly Father. Now, there’s not really an adequate way to describe the happiness that could be associated with this kind of experience. So, if you want a taste of it, go find a way to invite the spirit more fully into your life. That’s about the best I can give you. So reason number one: pick up the hammer because it will bring joy into your life and what’s the point of living without joy?
Reason number two: this is the only way to get back to God; this is the only way to prepare for that experience. Whether you start that process in this life or the next, this is a process we all have to go through in order to enjoy His presence. I think sometimes we believe that things will just be different in the spirit world, but Christ sent missionaries to those who were not prepared to be in His presence. Make sure you start preparing here. Just because you’ve been baptized doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to enter the presence of your Father in Heaven when you die. That was only the beginning.
Another reason is because this world is getting scarier and darker and more confusing. It is getting so much harder to stay on track. It’s getting easier to doubt whether the church holds the truth. I remember wishing to have some kind of unmistakable experience that would give me a knowledge of the Lord, an experience that would make it so I would never again question my testimony. I wanted to be able to look back and pinpoint when my testimony had “arrived.” Unfortunately, that’s not really how the Plan of Salvation works. Testimony experiences are only meant to be steps; they were never meant to be a destination for our testimonies. I have had very few (like 2, maybe?) experiences where I prayed about something and had one of those warm, fuzzy moments. When I ask myself whether the church teaches true doctrine, I look at the ongoing conversations I have with my Father in Heaven through the medium of my blog, The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and so many other channels facilitated by the church. If the Lord is talking to me through the medium of the church, I’m feeling pretty good about moving in this direction. Picking up the hammer and learning how to learn directly from you Father in Heaven through the Holy Ghost will help you fight off Satan as we try to find our way back home.
Another reason is increased quality of life. As I’ve developed a relationship with my Heavenly Father, I have learned so much about what’s important to Him. I’ve learned how to clear away the unnecessary brush that only cluttered my life and made things harder. For example, I have (mostly) stopped putting myself down in a futile attempt to be humble. I learned that people can receive different answers to the same questions regarding personal situations, and both answers can be correct. I don’t have all the answers, but I have been able to shed so many misconceptions about what the gospel truly is. I have been able to learn where some of my beliefs were only partially true or where I might have been overemphasizing one aspect of the gospel at the expense of another. Where I once needed validation and the approval of others to know I was righteous, I’ve learned to be content with Heavenly Father’s view of me AND LET ME TELL YOU…IT IS EXTREMELY LIBERATING. All of this “enlightening” has only made me happier; it has made my life far more full. Picking up the hammer and learning from my Father in Heaven did that for me.
So you pick up the hammer because it’s the only way to actually return to Heavenly Father, it keeps your testimony strong, and you get rid of distracting and incorrect beliefs.
How do I pick up the hammer?
Picking up the hammer starts with a belief in Christ (or at least a hope for Christ). That sounds so simplistic and everyone always hears that, but let’s talk about what it really means. It means that you don’t have to put yourself down or believe that these teachings don’t apply to you. When you tell yourself that you’re not capable of entering the presence of your Heavenly Father anytime soon, what you’re actually saying is “Christ does not have the power to change or refine me.” You better believe that you are incapable of building those stairs by yourself; it was never part of the plan for you to do it. Building the stairs alone wasn’t Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C. Heavenly Father knows that’s impossible for each of us. You will never be able to become holy enough to entertain your Father in Heaven but that’s only true when you negate the Savior. So it truly does start with a belief. Believe that Christ can make that happen for you. Do not make the same mistake as the children of Israel by hardening your heart; have faith. Feel excited and full of faith and gratitude that Christ has enabled this process for you.
The next step starts with a question. Follow the advice of President Nelson and ask the Lord to show you how to open the heavens. Plead with your Father in Heaven to help you purposely start walking back towards His presence and then place yourself in a position to hear an answer. Read your scriptures. Do Come Follow Me. If you hear a phrase that sticks out to you, pause long enough for the Holy Ghost to continue communicating with you. Your stairs will look different than anyone else’s, and so this is where my advice ends. Now is when you pick up the hammer on purpose and start asking. The next step can only be given by your Father in Heaven. Do not be discouraged if it takes longer than you were hoping; instead, just trust that He knows what He’s doing. It does take a long time, but take comfort in the fact that even waiting is part of the process of returning back to the presence of God.
You are capable of entering the presence of God with help from the Savior, and you are capable of entering His presence sooner than you might think. It simply starts with picking up a hammer.