Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Fist of God

An article shared on facebook reminded me of this story that I will quote below. First, my friends comment on the news article from Kate Kelly about how it's okay to leave the LDS faith if it doesn't spark joy ~ As I read it, I found it sad that she wants women "to follow their own hearts, aspirations, and dreams" (Doesn't mention following Jesus) and to "put your faith in yourself and in women" (not in Christ. She doesn't even mention the names Jesus or Christ in her article.)

From my friend's facebook wall ~
"What concerns me about this article has nothing to do with her stance on Mormonism. It's that it feeds our culture's idea that if something isn't constantly bringing you joy, you should discard it. If that were the case I would have scrapped my marriage, my children, my extended family, my job, and my religion long ago. Life isn't about being joyful all of the time. It's about being useful, compassionate and making a difference. And those qualities come from wrestling with difficult things and not bailing at the first sign of distress, regardless of your religious affiliation."

I totally agree with that! We are to see joy, but the greatest joys are found through the greatest trials, as the life of the Master should attest. That truth is very well illustrated by this story that I'm going to type up now, from the book "Journey to the Veil" by John Pontius - page 115 - 119


In 1997 I was working on a large wheat ranch in Idaho that my father had recently purchased. I needed a break from college and decided to help on this farm and then return to BYU. We had worked veyr hard to make this farm work. It consisted of 720 acres of sprinkler-irrigated land. We had installed new irrigation equipment, drilled new wells, replaced and rebuilt most of the original farm equipment, and worked like slaves day and night.

Normally you move the sprinklers every twelve hours. We decided to put a larger nozzle into the sprinklers and movet eh water every eight hours. This put the same amoun t of water on the field but let us cover more acreage. It took about three hours to move the pipes each time. We moved them at 6 am, 2 pm, 10 pm and then started over, sleeping between sets.

I promise there is a spiritual message coming....

The effect of this was that we couldn't attend all our church meetings. We were too busy moving water and trying to catch up on sleep. When we realized this, we fasted and prayed, and my father decided to turn off the sprinklers on Sunday. His reasoning was that if we did the Lord's work and kept His Sabbath holy, then He would work whatever miracle it took to make the crops grow.

This is a huge mistake normally. You can lose a million dollar's worth of crops by turning off the sprinklers just one day. Still, that Sunday morning we shut off the water and went to church. our neighbors urgently whispered to us that they had noticed that our water was off when they drove to church. When we told them why, they just shook their heads and walked away.

During this time, the ward was building a new chapel. We had small pieces of time between water sets, and we spent most of them working on the church. We paid a full tithe, fasted often, served and served, and held prayers together at the beginning of each work day before leaving to go home. We were on the most spiritual high I had ever experienced in the "real world" up to then.

The crops prospered. They were lush and full. People stopped, got out of their cars, and took pictures of our fields, because nobody had ever seen such an amazing stand of wheat in that area. Our neighbors incredulously asked us how we had done it.

It had been early fall when we shut off the water. Now the fields were golden, within a few days of being ready to harvest. We estimated we had seventy five bushels of wheat to the acre. The average for that area was fifteen to twenty. We rejoiced and praised God all day long. It was such a wonderful feeling to know that we had been obedient and that the Lord had rewarded that obedience with such an abundant crop, in spite of the apparent stupidity of turning off the water on Sunday.
I was sitting in the cab of a large John Deere combine. I had just repaired and greased it up. It was running with the front beater bar spinning in front of me. It sounded perfect. I was happy as I looked up, and being about twelve feet in the air, I could see all across the valley. At the northwest end, there appeared a small black cloud. I watched as it came our way. I turned off the noisy machine and shouted for my Dad and brother to look.

We stood there and watched as this black cloud approached. It was about a mile across; the rest of the valley was sunny. This little cloud hit the end of our first fields and began to hail. The stones were about one-half inch in size. Our farm was "L"shaped. The cloud went east across our fields, turned abruptly eft, and traveled up the other leg fo the farm. Just beyond our fields, the cloud broke up and dissipated. No other farmer's fields were affected.

It was the fist of God. In shock, we staggered out into the fields, and eery head fo weat was empty. The ground was a golden carpet of ruined grain. There was no way to pick it up off the ground fast enough before it would decay. We were devastated--financially, emotionally, and spiritually. We could not fathom why God would allow such a thing to happen.

I went home. There was nothing else to do. We were bankrupt. I went to bed and prayed and prayed, and I admit, I moaned and complained. It didn't seem fair. It actually wasn't fair.

During the night, I had a vivid dream. It was so real that I could feel the breeze on my face, smell the smells, and hear the world I was viewing. It was as Paul said, "Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannon tell." It was that real.

I was looking at a large farm. The fields were lush and perfect. The roads were lined with flowering bushes and ornamental trees. It was like a farm planted in the middle of a Disneyland park. I saw a large yellow machine in the distance and walked toward it. They were harvesting the wheat, and the hopper was rapidly filling with a golden stream of grain. The driver was hardly paying attention tot he machine; he was singing and dancing on his platform. There was no dust and very little noise. On the ground, there were a half-dozen women and as many men dressed in white. They were laughing and dancing right in front of the machine. Some of them were mere inches from the big threshing wheel.

I began to fear for their lives when I suddenly understood. The machine could not hurt them. It was against he laws of "nature" as they existed in this world. The machine never broke down or needed repairs. It just worked flawlessly.

I began learning things--more like remembering them, as if I had always known this place. Their world existed without opposition. The rains came exactly on time. There were no weeds, no insects, and everything they tried to do was successful. these people had grouped together to own and operate this farm. They were very wealthy because oft he abundance of their harvest. They were dancing to praise God and to rejoice in their continual good fortune.

I realized that the beautiful park-like plants and flowers grew there spontaneously, just because the people enjoyed them. In my mind's eye, I saw them moving a house-sized boulder so they could farm there. One man put his hand on the rock, and it slid across the ground with a great noise. he expended no more effort than pushing a child on a toy trike. By divine decree, the stone could not resist him.

I became aware of every other aspect of this world. They could do anything--or nothing. They could not get hungry or could or become sick. If they wanted to sit by a pool and sip syrupy drinks, they could do that forever, If they wanted to build an empire of factories and become obscenely wealthy, they could do that too, and they would succeed--by divine decree, they would succeed. Nothing would oppose them. There were no taxes and no laws except one; they could not harm, injure, cheat, or hurt anyone or anything.

I was thinking this was the celestial kingdom and was beginning to ache to be there. A voice interrupted my thoughts and said, "No, this is the telestial kingdom."

I was flabbergasted, but more information flooded into my mind. These people had lost their ability to sin, to hurt, to injure, or to even disobey the law. They were free to do anything else, but they couldn't disobey. I mean, it was impossible. If they attempted, they would find it impossible, just like the big machine couldn't injure the girls dancing right in front of it. They had lost this part of their agency.

I then realized that these people weren't living as couples. They didn't marry. They had friends and lived with them as they chose, bu they were not able to be sexual, and these associations of friends were both large and small, but they were not intimate.

They could not participate in governing because there was no government. Their leaders weren't even from this world, and their decisions were not subject to disobedience. It was simply impossible. They could not vote. They had vast choices in what they could do, but zero agency to disobey the law. There was no punishment, because there was no ability to disobey. I realized then that this was similar to what Satan had promised to do just before the war in heaven.

I noted that there were no children, anywhere. There was no priesthood, no authority, and nothing that resembled faith, because they could plainly see the miracles of God everyday of their lives.

At this point I was thinking that if this were the telestial kingdom, it wasn't too bad at all; as a matter of fact, it sounded quite wonderful, especially after the catastrophic loss of our farm just hours before. I remember thinking this would be an acceptable outcome for my life--but then something inside me rebelled. "No! I want to make it to the celestial kingdom."

Then the same voice returned to my mind. "In order to enter the celestial kingdom, you must be willing to submit to My will, and to endure whatever experiences you need in order to qualify for that kingdom." I suddenly realized that the loss of our farm was one of those experiences. It wasn't random, and it wasn't a punishment. I couldn't imagine why, but God knew we needed that experience, as unjust and unfair as it seemed at the time; if I wanted the greater reward from life, I needed to stop complaining and murmuring and just submit. Somehow this harsh pathway was the right one, and it led to the celestial kingdom, not just to a nice farm where it never hails or snows.

Shortly after those events, we lost the farm. I helped my father and mother pack up and move to Alaska. I had relocated my family to Rexburg and was working to earn tuition to return to college. My wife and I had almost nothing; it was three years lost. One morning, I awake and "knew" we had to go with Mom and Dad to Alaska. I hated the idea. I had other plans. My wife had a dream that night as well, and she also "knew" we had to go. We both cried as we packed our few belongings and turned north.

Alaska has been a fertile field for me. You have read my blogs about my father being the first Wasilla bishop. He rose to every occasion, activated and baptized hundreds of people, and sealed his own eternal joy.

As for me, moving to Alaska gave me a chance to write, publish a few worthwhile things, raise a family, make too much money, and cleanse my soul. It also was the only path that could have filled my would with the fire-hardened faith that now illuminates my way and has gifted me with such sweet and eternal assurances. I "know" it was where I needed to be. It was harsh, and it was far more challenging that I could have ever imagined, but I thrived.

I marvel that it all began sitting in a threshing machine, watching the fist of God change the direction of my life. Praise the Lord.


My closing thoughts - yes, man is that he might have joy (2 Nephi 2:25) but the greatest joys come by our losing our lives and turning our will over to God, not seeking to save our lives (Matthew 10:39). Let God take control, and if that leads down a long, lonely, bumpy road or up a difficult and steep mountain, we can trust in Him that it will give us the experiences and lessons we need. And, though it might not give sparks of joy in the moment, it will be for our eternal good in the end. We need to trust God and turn our lives over to him, keeping his commandments and seeking go do HIS will, not our own.
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