Thursday, December 9, 2010

Insights Into Joseph's Experience in "Translating" the Book of Mormon

1 Nephi 1:2 –Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

In this verse Nephi mentions the synthesis or at least the combination of the best qualities of two cultures. He tells us that he is going to be sharing the “learning” of the Jews, especially concerning their understanding of God, i.e. their theology and religious practices, but he is going to do it using a modified version of the hieroglyphic, picture-characters of the Egyptian–where one symbol or a short series of symbols could be translated into one or more sentences of our English language–even a whole paragraph–maybe more.

Insight: one of the “weaknesses” of the English language is that it takes so many characters to convey an image, because the characters (letters) themselves, taken alone, have no cognitive connection to the phenomenon they are trying to convey.

Insight: this is what constitutes “intellectualism”–this reliance on abstract symbols–letters and numbers for the conveyance of information–removed from the reality they represent. Thus the need for “book-learning,” for literacy, for the “reading,’ and “writing,” of marks that have no connection cognitively to the reality they convey.

Meanwhile, there has been and there still could be a language where a single character or even a single audible sound could convey much more intelligence in a very succinct way and thus convey a much more accurate “picture” to the receivers mind. They say one picture is worth a thousand words. It is possible, then, that one word or symbol even, that ignites a picture in the listener’s mind is worth the other 999 words.

I see that this is how so much English (once translated) was packed onto the gold plates. I see that Joseph only transcribed a portion of what was on the plates–besides the 116 pages that were lost.

I see that the process of “translation” was that of looking upon characters that conveyed pictures to his mind, accompanied by the literal voice of each of the still living prophets themselves, dictating to him through the Spirit of Revelation.

“I, Nephi . . .” I see that in a very real sense, Joseph was taking dictation from the prophet Nephi directly.

And now, I also see that the previously curious (and a bit embarrassing) stories of him looking into a hat while dictating represented his attempts to shut out all distraction and to focus his mind and attention on the revelations he was receiving. It was an attempt to shut out all interference to the whisperings of the Spirit, because through that gift he heard the words of the prophets, themselves.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Like Emerson, Many Still Find Traditional Forms of Christianity Discouraging

So many people are so discouraged with historic, traditional religious models. Joseph Smith’s father was one of them. It’s interesting to put that in perspective. I remember that Emerson was one of them too—as were most of the “transcendentalists.” I am left to ask and to wonder why they didn’t find the LDS religion to be what it was and still is—so much more than the traditional Christian religious models. But they didn't seem willing to look into it in any depth--and that even though Emerson all but described the restoration blow by blow in his address to the Harvard School of Divinity in July, 1838.

And so the dissatisfaction among many sincere, well-meaning people has continued in the nearly two centuries since Emerson's questioning cry:

In how many churches, by how many prophets, tell me, is man made sensible that he is an infinite Soul; that the earth and heavens are passing into his mind; that he is drinking forever the soul of God? Where now sounds the persuasion, that by its very melody imparadises my heart, and so affirms its own origin in heaven? Where shall I hear words such as in elder ages drew men to leave all and follow, — father and mother, house and land, wife and child? Where shall I hear these august laws of moral being so pronounced, as to fill my ear, and I feel ennobled by the offer of my uttermost action and passion?

And so it is with most people, nowadays, who are willing to acknowledge the need for a spiritually oriented, spiritually-minded life. They want to only refer to truth, wisdom, sanity, serenity, honesty, peace and other such inner-life experiences in a very broad, generic, generalized, nonspecific way. It is just so “politically incorrect” to get too specific about who or what it is that one considers the highest object of our spiritual reality and quest for “the highest in us.” Most people, nowadays, think that the highest in us has nothing to do with a “Supreme Being,” or “Higher Power,” or Source of wisdom or intelligence outside our own.

And yet, it can’t be denied that it seems that any and every human being apparently has the equal ability to “conjure up” (as disbelievers would accuse believers of doing) and tap into an inner source of truth, wisdom, sanity, serenity, honesty, integrity, and peace, no matter what their religious persuasion or even if they have none at all. All they have to do, it seems are these three things: 1) desire it; 2) believe it is there to be accessed; and 3) take some action to connect with it. That can be kind of disconcerting for those who believe that their way of having a spiritual life is the only right way. It can also be frustrating to them to see others of other religious persuasions or of no persuasion at all being blessed with these gifts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jesus Christ is God--the Eternal God--Up Close and Personal

November 27, 2010
5:30 a.m. I just read 3 Nephi 15. I opened “randomly” (TRUTH: NOTHING IS RANDOM, JUST AS THERE IS NOTHING THAT IS A COINCIDENCE.)

I just opened (TRUTH: WAS GIVEN/LED/INVITED TO OPEN) to this chapter and therein was reminded/remembered (AS IN REJOINED) that Jesus Christ is the law and the light, and that it is in looking unto Him that I will be empowered and led in His way so that I may do even as He has done–endure to the end of my mission in this world. I am invited to remember Him always that I may have His Spirit to be with me.

He, even Jesus Christ, is the one who covenanted (TRUTH: CONVERSED WITH, COUNSELED, COMMANDED) Israel, and now He has entered into this veiled existence that we experience as “mortality,” and has revealed Himself to all who will have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart to understand. This is the God who gave the “law of Moses,” because the people in Moses day would not have their God speak directly to them. And now, here is that same God, come down from the mountain so to speak, come through the veil from the realms of eternal glory. This is the ultimate meaning of the “Good Shepherd,” who has come into the darkness of the wilderness–even the jungle of morality–that He might find us and rescue us. And you can be sure He will rescue us–all of us–without exception, with only one condition: if we will let Him.

And how do I “let Him”? I surrender myself to Him. I seek Him above and before I seek anyone else. I learn of Him (both about Him and most especially from Him.) I read what others have said about Him, I receive and listen to what they testify He has said to them. I take the leap of faith in Him that it takes to believe that He is the same today as “back then,” and that He seeks after me just as tenderly and persistently as He seeks after anyone–and I let myself hear Him in the stillest, smallest, tenderest, most kind (meek and mild) train of thought that enters into my mind. He is the Christ. The Holy Son of God. And He is come for me. Yes, of course–for everyone else too. But you see, as true as that is, it has no power to save me. Only if I am willing to embrace the truth that He has come for me–especially, personally, singularly for me, can I find the faith in Him that will motivate me to seek Him and trust Him and cleave to Him as a drowning child. Unless I am willing to become His child–the child of Christ (Mosiah 5), I will inherit, instead whatever lesser reality I am comfortable with and willing to enjoy See D&C 88:32.)

I am willing to enjoy coming unto Christ, today. I am willing to acknowledge no greater gift than Him. There is no other person that means more to me in all the history of the world, in all the history of my unfolding life story than Jesus Christ. None. Not father, mother, brother, sister, husband or children. None. They are all secondary to the amount of significance Jesus Christ holds in my life.

My Father in Heaven has given me to His Son and I am tired of being ashamed or afraid to say that out loud. That is the fire in my soul that I have been living in and trying to understand and own–all the while trying not to enjoy Him too much, lest I upset others who think that I am boasting of myself. But, I am not boasting of myself, but of God. I’m not saying I’m that good. I’m trying to testify of how good He is. And if telling you just how weak and mortal and imperfect and not-worthy I am–and yet how much He loves me and rescues me from myself at every opportunity I give Him–then I will include as much of my weakness in my story as you can stand to hear. I want nothing more than to testify that He is this kind and this patient and this loving and this willing to labor with even the weakest, even the least. I know, because I am one of them–the weakest and the least. And in 20 years of being aware of Him in this way, I have never known Him to fail to take me back as often as I turn back to Him and cry out for His mercy and His deliverance.

Today, I am willing to testify of Him as I know Him and let others know Him however they need to know Him, from whatever distance they need to stay from Him. I need Him just as up close and personal as possible. So much so that I have the feeling that in and through the Holy Spirit I am as one with Him–that I am “in Him,” and He is “in me.” Nothing less than that degree of trust in His goodness and His offer to save me–one hour at a time this whole day through, one day at a time for whatever time I have left on planet earth–is enough to keep the Liar’s legions at bay.
I need Him every hour–up close and personal–as one. And so, I hold nothing back from Him. Nothing. I give away (disclose) to Him all of my sins (feelings, thoughts, words and deeds of separation from Him.) This is the presiding train of thought in my mind all day–no matter what other activites or relationships I participate in outwardly during my day.

This is not a casual, half-hearted degree of need and of surrender to “always remember Him.” It is most literally the only life-line, the only defense, the only hope I have left.

There is a line in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, that just came back to my mind. It is part AA’s founding testimony: “Either God is everything or He is nothing.”

Here’s the full quote: “We had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else He is nothing. God either is, or He isn't. What was our choice to be?”

This is when you know you have finally come to your last bottom: When you know this is the only question you have left to answer–and you life hangs upon your answer. When you know you must either get this up close and personal with Jesus Christ or refuse rescue and die in your sins (a state of separation from God.)

I will no longer be ashamed of my “good conversations in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:16.) I bear this testimony of Him and His living reality revealed to me due to His merits and none of my own, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Reasons for Sharing My Story

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:   16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15 - 16)

February 13, 2010

8:41 p.m. Phil, my husband, is at the Saturday evening session of Stake Conference. I’m at home. I’ve felt bothered all day by some kind of “under-the-weather” feelings and when it was time to go, I was not able to honestly go with him.

I was able, though, to sit up in bed for awhile and enter a few more thoughts in my note-pad. Off and on during the day, I had been reading portions of John Eldredge’s book, Walking With God, and underlining, writing in the margins–and when the need to respond exceeded space in the margins–writing in my notepad.

Who is John Eldredge? Well, by the title of this book, you can probably guess that (whether he’s applied the ‘label’ to himself or not) he’s a Christian mystic. Remember the dictionary meaning of “mystic” is: The belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience. -- Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition.

And he’s a Christian mystic, as am I.

So that brings me back to what I started this blog to do: to “confess,” as is the tradition of Christian mystics, their “experience, strength, and hope”–all of which are grounded in their personal “conversation” with their Lord and Savior, with their Jesus. (Please take time to look up 2 Nephi 33:6 if the expression, “their Jesus” sounds too familiar to use toward the Christ, the Son of God.)

In the pages of John’s book that I’ve been reading, I’ve been listening to him model what I have learned in the lexicon of 12 Step recovery to call “taking his own inventory.” He’s been inventorying his motives for what he does in the service of the Lord (pp. 155-158.) He quotes Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16-18 as a precedent for being “rigorously honest” (more 12 Step wording) about his actions. Is he doing what he does for the Lord just to be seen of men? He asks some nail-ya-to-the-wall questions about the public display and persona he shows forth to others. I felt to ask these same questions of myself. I asked them “before the Lord.” I asked them “unto the Lord.” Specifically I asked them about my feeling so strongly motivated to do this public blog. (Not that I don’t have other places that I've posted in public. I’ve shared for years on the forums of Heart t’ Heart at and I’ve also posted some occasional thoughts “in public” on my personal blog at

So what is my motive, reason, purpose in putting my “voice,” my story, my experience, strength and hope “out there”? I mean out here in front of others. Am I trying to show off? Do I want people to admire me? Esteem me? Want me to be a part of their lives? . . . Now, you have to understand, those are all really significant questions for me to put before myself–and before you–because I do have all those vulnerabilities/weaknesses, thanks to the realities of my mortal birth and childhood. So, I have to name those possibilities out-loud and be honest with myself and others about their potential to be my motive for wanting to share my life story (for that is what I’m about to do here) and how I came to embrace this understanding of myself as a "mystic."

And after listing all those possibilities–getting them out in the open–admitting them to myself and to God–in my notebook earlier (and now admitting them to you, here), I cannot feel those are the reasons for why I’m here, keying this blog entry in and getting ready to post it. Here is the response from the depths of my soul that burns through my heart and bring tears to my eyes:

No, no. Those are not the reasons I’m doing this. I’m doing this for one reason and one only--to testify to others of the love of God. I’m doing this to invite others to awaken to the infinite love of God for each and all of us. I’m going this hoping that I can testify that God is truly this good and this patient and this available and this humble–in other words, He–Jesus Christ–is still just as hard at work on this commission He received from the Father as He has ever been, to bring as many of us Home as will allow Him to. We must allow Him to. We must take the mighty leap of faith  to believe that through the Light of Christ and through the Holy Spirit, who are even of one heart and one mind with our Father, we receive the Father's counsel to us--and that each of the Godhead communicate with us as one God. (See 2 Nephi 31:21, if that concept seems unfamiliar to you.)  And how often are They (as one) trying to communicate with us? Every second that we are willing to believe and receive–tune in to–Their efforts to get through to us.

So anyway. I thought I’d share with you my motives/reasons for showing up here on blogspot and leaving my blog open to anyone who might wander in and feel a familiar spark of longing grow a little brighter in their hearts–a longing to “Walk with God,” and talk with Him and be in “conscious contact” with Him as often as they can–being willing to accept and forgive their own imperfection. Being willing to trust that it is upon His “merits,” or in other words His worthiness and none of their own, that they can rely to understand why He would walk and talk with even a “ragamuffin” soul like themselves.

Well, enough for tonight. I hope you’ve been blessed with some thoughts–even a few words–that have touched your heart and ignited a pondering, prayerful train of thought “before God,” and “unto God,” and maybe even “from God.”  I thought I'd end with a couple of quotes from some hard core mystics (now remember the definition of a 'mystic' is someone who believes that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience.  And a Christian mystic is someone who is convinced that Christ's offer of at-one-ment begins right here, right now.)

"The greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in Heaven and of his Son Jesus Christ . . . is to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, seek him, cling to him, make friends with him.  Take a course to open a [channel] of communication with your Elder Brother or file-leader--our Savior. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourse, vol. 8, 339.)

"These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple.  It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another.  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345, italics original.)

Much love,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A "Mystic" Experience and Antidote for Depression--D&C 6:36

Early this morning, I received an email from a dear friend who spoke of the nearly constant challenge she has with depression.  In my "mystic" (predominantly spiritually-minded, spiritually oriented) way, I shared my experience and admitted the only Way I receive any strength and hope.  Here's my reply:

For me, I'm very aware that depression is the effort of negative spirits that I have to choose to ignore on the average of about once a minute if I'm "idling along."  This morning, I've been up about 1 hour and have made note (not at length) of about 10 temptations to think negative--in a "depressed" way.  Then the words came to my mind, "Temptations and sins which so easily beset me."  And I knew it was the Spirit of the Lord reminding me of those words.  They're Nephi's of course, from 2 Nephi 4.  And I felt/saw that they are the perfect words to describe the legions of evil (negative, discouraging, depressing, lying, truth-twisting) spirits and their constant effort to get to me.

Some people would define this as a physiological or psychological phenomenon, caused by chemistry or by past or current challenges in my temporal life.  I will not doubt that they (those various kinds of scientists) could trace the effect of this kind of spiritual influence in either of those ways, but I still cannot deny the witness of the Spirit of the Lord, of the Word, of the Truth to my soul that it is (at least for me) the effect of a spiritual phenomenon--whose name is "Legion."

What did I do to "deserve" this?  Nothing, except follow Christ into this "dark and dreary waste." (1 Nephi 8:7.) When will it be over?  It's over immediately, every time it happens and I look to Him in the thought, and receive His grace to get past that moment.  And then it has to happen again and then again and then again.  And as long as I keep turning each negative thought to Him, bringing the dark influence into the Light of His Spirit--it shrinks away and I am able to go on for another few minutes.  And that is my lot in life.  And it has seemed to get more necessary as the years have gone by.  And so I am left with the (by the world's standards) pitiful plight of needing to look unto Christ in every thought.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trusting God in ALL Things--Even Me

Wow!  We made it just in time--to Sacrament Meeting. The prelude music was still playing and the congregation's visiting was settling down to a low, comfortable, warm hum.  As any of you know who have ever attended a Mormon Sacrament Meeting, the fellowship between the members is part of what some would consider a "mystic union."  In a couple more minutes Brother B., our Bishop's 1st counselor stood up to greet us and begin the meeting.  As soon as the prelude music stopped so did the low hum of voices.  Only the voices of several small babies could be heard scattered throughout the congregation.

"Lord," I addressed my thoughts to Jesus directly, and felt His presence instantly--already with me.  "I'm so grateful to be here, dear Savior.  So grateful for the chance to partake of the sacrament's sacred--deeply mystical--symbolism."

"I'm grateful that you desired to come, Colleen.  And I'm grateful for your faith in my counsel to you to create a public blog where you can share your testimony of my willingness to converse with you--with all of you--as one friend would converse with another." 

"I'm pretty waffly about it, Lord.  I can't help but believe I'll catch a whole lot of flack for it.  I'm reminded of the man in Mark 9, who admitted his less than perfect faith.  And I'm grateful to know that I don't have to be perfect to receive and rejoice in Your Spirit and Presence."

"It's okay, Colleen.  Remember Helaman's son, Nephi, who I led to pray aloud on the wall of his garden, where others would hear him.  There is precident for what you are doing.  But more important--most important of all--I am calling you to this act of faith in me."

And shortly the Sacrament was served and the prayers were offered, addressing our Father in Heaven and declaring that by our partaking of the emblems of Christ's flesh and blood, we were willing to always remember His Son, Jesus Christ, that we might have His Spirit--the Spirit/Presence of Christ to be with us.

How grateful I am to know that this coming together of His heart and mind with mine is contingent upon His merits, and not my own.  How grateful I am to know that Joseph's words were prophetic beyond our wildest imagination when he stated, "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another." (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345.)  How grateful I am to know by my own experience the "character of God"--that just as He reveals in D&C 121:42, He uses only persusasion, patience, kindness, mercy and love unfeigned to influence those who come unto Him, seeking to be perfect in Him through the gift of revelation:  "And thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus." (Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151.)  I know by my own experience, experimenting upon the words of our prophets, that this is exactly what Moroni meant when he etched these words in gold--just before he sealed the plates up to wait until the Restoration would come:  "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him." (Moroni 10:32.)

The afternoon has passed away, and it is almost time to join Phil for a quick-fix Sunday dinner and a trip into Logan to participate in an LDS 12 Step addiction recovery group.  I'd like to end this post with just a few of the opening paragraphs of the personal testimony I shared in 1996 as part of my masters thesis.

In 1993, I was finishing a BA in English at Brigham Young University in Provo.  To say I was enjoying myself would be a serious understatement.  I had waited for over 23 years--since the late 1960s--to go back to school.  Sitting in class, listening to lectures, reading texts, writing papers--I felt like a person dying of thirst who had been dropped in an oasis.  And the conversations I had with the Lord turned my personal journaling literally into a "well of living water."


Entering my undergrad class in English Literature never failed to warp my sense of time. While I sat there, enthralled, an hour would go by in what seemed like five minutes. However, on the day I learned I was a mystic, time--instead of flying past--stood stark still, allowing me to be flooded with recognition of truth so powerful that tears spilled down my cheeks. I often seriously wondered what the other studentsBmost of them in their twentiesBthought of the old, gray-haired lady, who sat in the back of the class, so often in tears.

On that particular day, we were discussing the life of the English poet, John Donne. Through his poetry we traced his wild, lustful, bawdy youth, then his transformation in mid-life to what in his later years became a complete consecration of his life to God. Here was soul, like my own, who had tried the world's ways and found them vaporous, without hope and without substance. I felt the resonance begin. As someone who had spent only the last six of her thirty years as a Mormon actually converted to Christ, and not just to His church, I identified deeply with Donne's "Johnny-come-lately" metamorphosis. Then suddenly, I was pulled out of my reverie. The professor, speaking of Donne's degree of amazing--even mighty--change, had just used the word "mystic."

"By the time he died, John Donne had become one of the greatest Christian mystics in the history of English literature," my professor went on.  I cringed. Mystic? How could the professor use language like that in a BYU classroom?! Didn't he realize that in our culture the word "mystic" was an good as an epithet , a profanity?

But the witness of the Spirit of Truth would not let me ignore the fact that that part of my own soul that Elizabeth Barrett Browning spoke of as "the depths and breadth and height my soul can feel when reaching out of sight" identified with John Donne's poetry, filled as it was with such intense and passionate consecration to Christ. I could not deny that I felt in studying Donne's life transformation in later life.  I recognized it because it was the same transformation I had so recently experienced. I felt in Donne a kindred spirit--someone who, as President Ezra Taft Benson had once put it, "choose[s] to follow [Christ], be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again." (Ezra Taft Benson, “Born of God,” Ensign, July 1989, 2.)
Next:  Trying to Understand the Meaning of the Word "Mystic"

More to Come!

Just noticed the time!  Sacrament Meeting starts in 25 minutes and I've got to get a shower!  This is when living only 5 minutes from the church building really comes in handy. . . . Often late, slipping in the back, sitting in the "overflow."  Hmm.  Could this be my first confession?  Stay tuned for more.