He Did Deliver Me from Bondage
Counsel With the Lord In All Thy Doings (Alma 37:37)-Part 1
by Colleen C. Harrison
Step Eleven: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, seeking the words of Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost that they might tell us all things that we should do, praying only for a knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. (2 Nephi 32:3; Alma 37:37; Helaman 10:4)
Principle Eleven: The mighty change of heart brings me an awareness of Christ’s living presence in my life through the gift of the Holy Ghost, as I learn to receive and believe the voice of the Lord in my own mind.
When I first heard the phrase “conscious contact with God” it sounded unfamiliar and a little jarring to my ear. I was used to hearing phrases like “living by the Spirit” or being “in tune with the Holy Ghost.” Eventually I came to realize that while the words were different, they captured perfectly the goal of the entire recovery process. The reason these Twelve Steps (or principles of truth) are so powerful to deliver us from addiction is very simple: they deliver us into conscious contact with God. The Steps are like keys. If we insert them into our hearts and minds, they will open the prison doors of shame, fear, guilt, anger, regret and sorrow that have kept us from feeling the Spirit of God and His love for each of us. These steps “liken” the principles of the gospel and the teachings of the scriptures directly to us and awaken us to our need to be involved with God.
.what [receiving personal revelation] means to us is that we need religious experience, we need to become personally involved with God..What counts in the field of religion is to become a personal participant in it.” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “How to Get Personal Revelation,” New Era, June 1980, p. 46, original italics.)
The Purpose of this Course of Study
By taking these steps and practicing these principles in our lives, we are doing “all that we can do” to demonstrate our willingness to cleanse the “inner vessel” and thus become a fit companion for the Holy Ghost. This course has taught us to turn our will and our life completely over to God, to be one with His holy mind and will. The Book of Mormon has taught us plainly that there are no exceptions to this requisite of going down into the “depths of humility” (2 Nephi 9:42) and needing a rebirth experience (Mosiah 27:25). It is required of everyone sooner or later.
Just how important is this conscious contact with God? According to President Benson, it is most important.
The constant and most recurring question in our minds, touching every thought and deed of our lives, should be, `Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ (Acts 9:6) The answer to that question comes only through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. Fortunate are those who so live that their being is filled with both. (Ezra T. Benson, Ensign, Dec. 1988, p. 2; emphasis added)
In a First Presidency message in the January, 1999 Ensign, President James E. Faust bore this powerful testimony of the importance of “conscious contact” with God:
Some time ago in South America, a seasoned group of outstanding missionaries was asked, “What is the greatest need in the world?” One wisely responded, “Is not the greatest need in all of the world for every person to have a personal, ongoing, daily, continuing relationship with Deity?” Having such a relationship can unchain the divinity within us, and nothing can make a greater difference in our lives as we come to know and understand our divine relationship with God and His Beloved Son, our Master. As Jesus said in the great Intercessory Prayer, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3).
We should earnestly seek not just to know about the Master, but to strive, as He invited, to be one with Him (see John 17:21), to “be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). We may not feel a closeness with Him because we think of Him as being far away, or our relationship may not be sanctifying because we do not think of Him as a real person. (President James E. Faust, January, 1999 Ensign, p. 2.)
It is essential that we acknowledge our great need, even our hunger and thirst for God. We are through with other, half-measures. They have availed us nothing-at least, nothing permanent. Now we’re here wanting what only God can provide, freedom from the bondage of our compulsive/addictive behaviors and victory over our worst enemies (our character weaknesses)-not by killing them, but by allowing the Lord to convert them into strengths (Ether 12:27).
And blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. (3 Nephi 12:6; emphasis added)
And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them. (3 Nephi 19:9; emphasis added)
My Heart Pondereth Continually-A Personal Confession
When I first attended a Twelve Step support group, I went because I was desperate for a place to admit that I was staggering under the weight of the sorrow and sin of addiction. I hoped that practicing these steps would relieve me of that weight and the yoke of heavy bondage. I have not been disappointed. Those things have been removed. Instead, another yoke has been placed on my shoulders-the yoke of being completely alive in Christ and filled with His joyful rest:
Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
I have become like Nephi when he said,
Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Nephi 4:16)
Today, I attend recovery meetings because I need a place where I can confess I am in such total need of the Lord that I must continue to pray always in my heart. I have finally come to realize that my only safety is in continuous conversation with Him.
These [ideas] are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle of the gospel-to know that we may converse with him as one man with another. (Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, Ehat and Cook, p. 357)
To remain free of my addictive behaviors, I must, just as President Faust stated in an earlier quote, “have a personal, ongoing, daily continuing relationship with Deity.” Every day I must be willing to get up early, to use the scriptures, personal prayer and journal writing as tools to make conscious contact with God. And from there I must be willing to walk through my day’s activities picturing the Savior by my side, counseling with Him in all my doings, looking to Him in every thought.
At first I was suspicious of this process. It seemed too simple: I always remember Him; He is always with me in Spirit. But as I have experimented upon His word, I have found He will do even as He promised:
I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation. (D&C 8:2-3)
To keep this spirit of revelation, my life must be a continuous walk with the Lord. I must get up every day and set my feet anew on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). And even as these travelers, I need not walk along in silence. In the thoughts of my heart, I find a sweet communion with Him. He answers my questions, stills my fears, comforts my sorrows and regrets. He continually reveals to me the meaning of my life-its hours and its days. Feeling His presence in my heart and perceiving His words in my mind does not distract me from my mortal commitments or obligations, but guides me in all things and enhances my willingness to participate in everyday life, free of my addiction.
Often as I go through my day, I actually picture myself walking those hot, dusty, rocky roads of Judea with Him. He has become a familiar companion and friend. His presence doesn’t paralyze me with awe and unfamiliarity as I had thought it would. I am intent on my journey, watching the road before me, but very aware of His patient, tender presence, ever ready to give me counsel if I am humble enough to ask for it.
Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. (Alma 34:19)
And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts. (Mosiah 24:12)
As children in the gospel, three years old or thirty, we face a challenge when presented with the goal of having personal prayer even twice a day. But when we have seen enough of this life to know the truth about our own need for constant interaction with the powers of heaven, the following entreaty of Alma begins to make sense to us:
Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you. (Alma 34:27; emphasis added)
Revelation Makes Up for Any and Everything Else
I, Nephi,.having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God. (1 Nephi 1:1; emphasis added)
How generous and considerate and loving our God is! Note how He did not bury the secret to making it through this life deep in the middle of some voluminous amount of scripture, where we would have to scratch and scrape to find it. He put it right in front of us, in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon. Listen once more to Nephi tell you and me the exact formula, the exact “how-to” for being able to live a life filled with affliction and yet still know that we are highly favored of the Lord: “Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God”-in other words, having been able to obtain and retain an open channel of revelation. That is what I believe Nephi meant when he said he was “highly favored of the Lord.”
My God hath been my support; and He hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness. (2 Nephi 4:20)
You see, to be “highly favored of the Lord” does not mean, as much as we would like it to, to have a life of “vanilla” peace (as we discussed in the last lesson). Nor does it mean to have a life of wealth and comfort. (Note the words “afflictions” and “wilderness” in that last quote from Nephi.) It does not even mean to have a family that hangs together no matter what (remember, Nephi’s didn’t either).
To be “highly favored of the Lord” means one thing and one thing only to Nephi and all others who have known the experience. It is to have the gift of personal revelation. It is to have the “lights on,” so to speak, through the “night” of this life. It means to walk this mortal journey with a flashlight, and occasionally even a floodlight, illuminating our way. And since, as the saying goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” we can be sure that no people have ever walked in greater darkness or have ever had more need of “further light and knowledge” than we do at this point in the earth’s history. We are no longer simply in the Saturday evening of time; we are entering the darkest period known on earth-the dark before the dawn. We need not be in despair, however, if we walk in the light and with the light, even Christ.
Wouldn’t you, after some honest thought, agree with this statement: I could get through anything if I just knew what God wanted of me, and that He was there for me. There is a perfectly simple formula for having that very blessing:
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. (Helaman 3:35; emphasis added)
It isn’t the events of this life that make it a trial, a confusing mystery; it’s having our “faces covered.” The obstacles on this course don’t make us stumble, fall, crash, and burn, over and over-it’s trying to negotiate the course blindfolded that does it.
So why don’t we open our eyes and awaken to God? We’re don’t have to be blindfolded, you know.
Hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view. (Mosiah 2:9)
A better analogy would be that we are sleeping-stumbling around half-asleep, afraid to open our eyes for fear of what we’ll see (our own weaknesses and powerlessness); we’re the ones who choose to be blind. As soon as we’re ready to look, He’ll begin to show us the lessons, the reasons, the principles behind all this. As soon as we’re ready to listen, He’ll start to explain.
Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing-unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God. (Alma 26:22)
Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. (Helaman 12:23)
Anyone who has come to recognize the voice of the Lord as a direct teacher, through the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, will never lack for what to do, if he or she will but believe and receive His word (2 Nephi 32).
So if personal revelation makes up for everything else and can get us through everything else, are we ready to “suit up and show up” for class (life) each day to receive it? Are we willing to get up early and get in conscious contact with Him?
How do you do that? You take the first three steps every morning of your life. (1) I’m powerless to know the right things to do this day, but (2) God knows exactly what the right thing is for me and for everyone, so (3) I’ll turn my will and my life over to Him and trust in Him in all things this day-including His power to direct my life. I will trust His voice to me. I will pray-not for this thing or that thing, for I do not know if this or that is the best policy. I will pray only for a knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out.
Revelation Must be Personal to be Permanent
.that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves [to search and study and receive personal revelation]. (The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 238)
The people were depending on the Prophet and hence were darkened in their minds?! Did I hear that right? Aren’t we supposed to rely on the prophet in all things?
I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation.Break not the spirit of any person, but guide it to feel that it is its greatest delight and highest ambition to be controlled [directly] by the revelations of Jesus Christ; then the will of man becomes godlike.and God shall reign within us to will and do of his good pleasure. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 9:150, emphasis added.)
I once heard the saying “A good mother works herself out of a job.” In other words, a good mother teaches her children “to fish” for themselves and does not keep them dependent on her for their ability to live. So it is with a good prophet: he will do everything he can to “work himself out of a job,” to encourage and train up a whole people capable of sustaining the kind of relationship he has with the Lord.
When the fact was brought up to Moses that others besides himself were receiving revelation in the camp of Israel, he expressed his and God’s opinion on the issue plainly.
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11:29)
We talk about latter-day prophets; we think in terms of prophets who tell the future destiny of the Church and the world. But in addition to that, the fact is that every person should be a prophet for himself and in his own concerns and in his own affairs. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “How to Get Personal Revelation,” New Era, June 1980, p. 46)
And if this wondrous circumstance were to come to pass, and all the Lord’s people were prophets, would that mean there would then be no need for a prophet to preside and direct the whole church? Of course not! As long as there is an organized church upon the earth, there will be order in the kingdom; and all true prophets (see the definition of prophet in the Bible Dictionary) will recognize and uphold the prophet, as no doubting, wavering, slumbering member could.
And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith. (Jarom 1:4; emphasis added)
It is God’s goal to have a “peculiar,” “redeemed” people (Deuteronomy 7:6, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9), a people whose absolute conversion to Him and His way of life is based in undeniable spiritual experiences, even as Nephi’s. But first we must believe that God can and will do these things, even for us.
For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot. (1 Nephi 11:1; emphasis added)
First, we must believe that God can and will make these same things known even to us. And after we believe, then we must desire Him to do so.
I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. (1 Nephi 10:17; emphasis added)
And once believing and desiring, we must also be humble and willing enough to ask. Apparently Laman and Lemuel’s lack of light was due to their prideful, stubborn, negative estimation of themselves and God.
And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us. (1 Nephi 15:8-9; emphasis added)
Fortunately for all of us, Enos did not have that same prideful resistance to desiring and asking diligently for himself.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again. (Enos 1:4-5, 10; emphasis added)
The second half of this chapter will be posted next week.
He Did Deliver Me from Bondage can be found at most LDS bookstores or purchased online at www.rosehavenpublishing.com
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