This week, I was in Kansas City (both the Missouri side and the Kansas side). Coming out here, I looked up and saw that the Church has a temple in Kansas City. The address brought up a location on my iPhone – I figured I was good to go. Can you see where this is going? Today, I called the Temple, making verifying the times, but ignoring the feeling of confirming the location (my iPhone already told me it knew where to go!).
I drove to the location and found … nothing. I called the Temple and was told that it was actually closer to Liberty, Missouri than Kansas City (my geography is horrible…I had no idea Liberty was nearby). She mentioned Liberty Jail as a close-ish landmark. With 15 minutes until the last session of the night, I knew I could make it. I decided to hit up Liberty Jail and see what that was like. I came out with some very strong spiritual impressions. I’ll summarize and then go into a little more depth:
- In trying to get to our spiritual goals, the preparation occurs way before our time to achieve the goal arrives. If we don’t prepare, we will miss the goal.
- We should not seek for pity during our darkest hours; God is not a God of pity.
- Earthly constraints cannot constrain spiritual growth.
- Revenge, animosity, hatred and anger are not traits we need when the world conspires against us.
- We can be happy with nothing
Ok – so, my goal was to get to the temple. More specifically, my goal was to get to the temple in time for a session. My poor attention to preparation meant that my goal was missed. In this life, we have a goal of making it back to the presence of God. But like my trip to the temple, there will come a time when we pass that point of no return: no matter what occurs after, it will be too late. That is what Alma meant in chapter 42, verse 4:
And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.
And further, the real reason that there is this point of no return (Alma 41:10-15):
10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in thebonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.
12 And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
13 O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
15 For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.
To tie this back to my trip to the temple: I didn’t really focus on where I was going. I didn’t study, I didn’t learn, I didn’t understand. When the time came for me to actually apply that knowledge, my lack of preparation bit me in the butt. When I finally did gain an understanding of where I needed to be, it was simply too late – I couldn’t magic myself to the temple, in fact the time had passed.
In our lives, if we spend it focused on wealth – at the expense of spiritual closeness with God; if we spend it focused on lustful activities – at the expense of learning how to properly love our spouse; if we spend it focused on destroying our physical bodies – at the expense of retaining a sharp mind, coupled with a healthy body. If we do these things, when we die, we lose our chance to gain the control and discipline we need. We lose the ability to be able to make decisions to bring us closer to God.
How many times has your life been in the dumps and you’ve sought for pity? I’ve done it. Joseph Smith did it. This was God’s response to Joseph (D&C 121:7-10):
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
9 Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
10 Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
God reminded Joseph of a few important things: (1) the adversity wouldn’t last forever, (2) eventually he would be on top, (3) there were still a few positives things going on, and (4) it could be worse.
I have read this scripture so many times, but today, standing near the rebuilt jail and having been out in the biting winter of Missouri, it struck me a lot harder. I felt that I could understand where Joseph was coming from. He wanted God to ride down and smack these people around. His prayer was answered, but his request was denied. We live in a society of pity partiers. You see it on the news, you probably hear it from strangers on the streets – or even your friends: someone is having a bad day and people should feel sorry for them. People should give them things to make them feel better. God, always knowing better, doesn’t work that way. His reminder is that our perspective needs to change. We need to look forward, not down or back. We need to remember that there is always something good in our life – even if it is only our relationship with God. It can always get worse, but our response will bring about a better result in the end.
Forget feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t do it for other people – you aren’t doing them any favors. Be positive, uplifting, encouraging.
Physical Constraints & Spiritual Growth
The Sister Missionaries that were at the Liberty Jail historical site talked about Joseph’s trials during the end of 1838 and the beginning on 1839. He was jailed in 2 different jails and during this time of being physically constrained, he had some incredible spiritual growth. Doctrine and Covenants 121, 122, and 123 were provided during this time. Joseph came to understand qualities about the Priesthood that had not been revealed before. He came to understand that God does care for him. He showed immense strength of character by staying true to God.
We will find ourselves constrained in this life: it may be a lack of education, a lack of money, we may find ourselves without a spouse or without children. We may find ourselves in an undesirable career. We may have physical handicaps, mental handicaps. We may have made choices in our life that have narrowed down opportunities due to recklessness with the law. All of these constraints do not need to limit us spiritually. We can rise above them. We can go to God and find strength in him. Our salvation is not dependent on how successful we were in earning money, running a race, writing a book, or modeling clothes.
Our salvation depends on the kind of relationship we can cultivate with God. There is no force on earth that can disrupt that relationship.
Joseph was angry during this time. Can you blame him? The Missourians at that time were cruel and un-sympathetic. They were hunting and killing members of the Church. They were throwing people in jail without a legal foothold. With this attitude in place, God provided Joseph with this insight (D&C 121:41-45):
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase oflove toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presenceof God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
I love that scripture. God did not want Joseph to dwell or act in anger. In fact, if you need to reprove with sharpness, it is only because the Holy Ghost has given you the inspiration to do so. I cringe when I get on the Internet and read a story of a person that said something, acted in some way, and in general made an unwise decision. The masses descend on that person and tear them to shreds. A 16 yr. old girl once remarked that Obama should be shot. A stupid remark? Yes. But the remarks of people that were 15-20+ years older than her showed no sympathy. They showed no care or concern to correct and build up. They only cared to tear down. Our society treads on dangerous ground when we care only to destroy and not build up.
Section 123 contains a plea to the Saints to pursue justice through legal means and to bring to light that which is wrong. He did not command them to go trade nasty insults with their enemies. He did not encourage them to pick fights and bring them down.
We need more optimism. We need people that are willing to remember that no one is perfect. Failure happens. People will say, think, and do things that are unpleasant, not popular, and yes, even just plain stupid. But that doesn’t give us a right to beat them down. There was a story a few months back of a woman who made a crude gesture at a national war memorial. She put it on Facebook. It got around. People were upset. They found out where she worked. They said she shouldn’t be employed there because of that one mistake. Her employer acquiesced and fired her. What good did this do? None. It did no good. The people that were offended are still offended. It brought more hatred and anger into the world. Anger is a funny thing. It feeds and spreads quite easily. It does not build, but it does destroy. It can’t be satisfied. If you are angry, others must be made to be angry. Destruction and unhappiness follow. Like anger, happiness can also spread quite easily. It is hard to be satisfied too. If I am happy, I want others to be happy. The key difference is that happiness builds – it does not destroy.
If those people that were offended and angry let go of that offense and anger, it would have died. If they embraced happiness and forgiveness, the woman would have realized her mistake. She would have retained her job, stopping a spread of senseless destruction.
At the end of D&C 123, Joseph writes:
17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
It would seem after sections 121 and 122, the message truly sinks in for him (I wonder if I would have really ever gotten the message…). I saw the replica of the jail. It was not comfy. I’ve felt a bit of the cold Missouri winter, it is quite cold. For Joseph to have this kind of response is simply amazing.
As I stated before, we have the power to control our relationship with God, regardless of outside forces. The better the relationship, the happier and more cheerful we can (and will) be.
We are just not meant to go through this life sad and despondent:
D&C 61:36And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you;
3 Nephi 1:13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
Matthew 9:2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
D&C 78:18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
2 Nephi 2:25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
Our life is meant to be happy. Since physical characteristics aren’t evenly distributed (my 8 yr. old daughter throws better than me), money is not even distributed (
despite what the Democrats are trying to do), people live in homes of varying sizes, and more … if God wants us to be cheerful and happy, we clearly need to look elsewhere. What is that thing that will bring us happiness? As I stated before, it is that relationship with God. We can all have that relationship. Rich or poor, educated or not, strong or weak: all are given the same opportunity to build a solid, loving relationship with God.
I didn’t intend to have any real spiritual epiphanies tonight. I thought I would take a quick drive to the temple, attend a session, and go home. Instead, the Lord saw fit to allow me to understand better what his servant went through so many years ago. In that short span of time, he taught me that he loves me and cares for me. He showed me a new perspective on D&C 121-123. I intend to be more cheerful, positive, and uplifting. As counseled, I intend to endure my trials well.