The Lord told Samuel, “…Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as a manseeth; for a man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
In our attempt to align with God, we have become a measuring people. We use indicators as measuring sticks to tell us how well we are doing. We totally understand that the indicators are a bi-product of our efforts, and that we don’t treat people as the numbers we report. However, in our modern business and spread-sheet mentality, we naturally lean toward the numbers to tell us how we are doing.
Before you know it, our efforts become connected to the outward measuring stick as an indicator of inward commitments. Thus, we count the people in attendance at church, we collect monthly stats that indicate how the ward families are doing, we measure lessons taught to less-active/ non-members, etc. As we seek to satisfy the rationally expected statistics for our area, we strive to motivate one another to meet the “rational” quotas. Meetings turn into motivational speech’s. Rewards have been devised to “incentivise” positive behaviors. Hand-crafted cut-outs have been used to deliver messages more effectively. And if the numbers have improved, then the program spreads like a brush-fire in the hot, dry desert. Soon the entire ward is on-board, and the stake wants the program taught to every ward correlation meeting. Ward and stake conferences will be used as a launching pad, and we’re off to the races, so to speak.
Remember when writing testimonies in Books of Mormons were in? When was the last time your ward issued the invitation for everyone to read the Book of Mormon all the way through, before the end of the year? Pass-along cards was another tool recently added to our arsenal. As missionaries, we asked “golden questions” to identify golden contacts. In the end, as we compare “the numbers,” looking backwards, we call our work a marvelous work and a wonder. Yet, is that what God had in mind? I think that it is not. Our program mentality sounds more like looking upon the stature, as men see it, from the outward appearance.
My mom tells me that I have a negative connotation to my writings, that sound critical to the efforts of the saints. This one seems to look that way, doesn’t it? However the way you see it will identify you. My intent is to point to the part that “looks upon the heart.” To identify how it is that we can truly see the heart of the matter.
3 Nephi 21:11
“11. Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words… they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.”
“10. And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.”
We might say that God see’s into our hearts and know’s that we are doing our best. However, God responds by telling you how He judges a mans heart. We must remember that God judges you based upon His own will, not your “interpretation” of His will. God will be fair when dealing with ignorance, but there is a difference between those who cannot read His word and those who will not read his word.
The entire parable on faith in Alma 32: 28-4 points to God’s method of “looking upon the heart.” Here, the Word is likened unto a seed. Watering/nourishing the seed is how it grows. It is the consistent watering of the seed that is the indicator of faith. When we read the word of God to know the mind and will of God, we are watering/nourishing the seed.
The first phase only tells you that the seed is good (it swells and sprouts and begins to grow). We must continue to water/nourish the seed, or read deeply the word of God. Then the tree will gain deeper and deeper roots. It will also grow branches and leaves, until finally it will bear the fruit. The description of the fruit is symbolic as well. A hint in the description of the fruit is in v. 42: “…and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” That fruit is Christ.
Put plainly, when we plant the word in our hearts, we must nourish it constantly by reading the word. It will sprout and begin to grow, but don’t stop reading or the tree cannot grow. Continue to dive deeper and deeper. Turn your interests to it. Talk about it amongst whomever will allow you to do so without getting offended. Soon the seed will get strong root within you and branches will grow. Don’t stop seeking more of God’s mind and will because you have not yet obtained the fruit (Christ) yet. Then, after patiently waiting for the tree to bear fruit (amidst the temptation to cut it down because it hasn’t profited much for seven years), the fruit will appear. I am saying, Christ will physically come unto you, as He did the brother of Jared.
God looketh upon a mans heart. What He looks for is how well they take to the word. I have not experienced the fruit yet. I put all my eggs in this one basket based on my trust in the word. Although I have not yet had the savior personally visit me, in the past seven years I have recognized in my life, growing stronger and stronger, a root system in the word. I am starting to see budding branches, and feel my confidence waxing stronger and stronger. I have noticed a hunger and thirst after the words of Christ, when I never thought that scripture study could find interest in me. As we all do, I began fumbling to find any meaning. But today, I find it harder to avoid connecting situations to the scriptures.
It is the word that is the good news. It isn’t in my presentation style that makes the news good. The news is not a respecter of men (no discrimination). it may not be complimentary, and it may be hard to hear at first. However, it is a foundation upon which all who build cannot be moved. It is a message of hope.
Most times, we just don’t have any experience with the word, so we cast the seed by the wayside. Sometimes our heart is hard and the seed cannot gain root, so the best effort would be to remove the stones somehow. Other times our hearts are good, but it is so cluttered by the things of the world, or the thorns, that the things of the world make no room for the seed to grow and the thorns choke out the sprouting seed. No matter who we are, the condition of our heart is a choice that only we will be held accountable for. The atonement provides repair for each conditioned mentioned. Faith in Christ depends on your faith that the atonement can be applied for yourself to prepare your heart to receive the seed and grow and receive the fruit. It is by your fruits that you will be known. This could be translated to mean your personal visitations with Christ will identify who you are.
“3. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Life eternal seems clearly defined here as “knowing” God and Christ. It is detrimental for all of us to know what it really means to “know” God and the “know” Christ. My studies point to this meaning personally, face-to-face, knowing God and Christ. You choose how you will define it, and by so doing, you also choose how you will define the purpose to your life.
In conclusion, I am reminded of Joseph Smith’s experience in seeing into the 7th heaven. He saw his father and his older brother Alvin there. Joseph was confused because Alvin died before the gospel was restored and there was no temple work done for the dead at the time. He asked the Lord how it was so. The Lord replied, those who would have received the word if they had the chance to, received the blessing as if they had.
Although it might have started out sounding negative, I assure you that my heart has no desire to accuse the greatest nor the least of saints. My only intention is to drum up conversations of Christ amongst those I love so that I can learn more and we all can teach one another. My life is full of symbolisms. I want to remind my brothers that we are seven priesthood holders. Seven is symbolic of complete. When we have ascended, we are complete (the Greek word for complete is perfectos or perfected). We have enough to break through to the heavens and have the rights of our priesthood inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. As a family, we can make one another’s burdens light in discovering more of the word. Recently, I learned that one of my brothers birthday is just after the winter solstice, which is the time where light overcomes darkness, just as was Joseph Smith’s. What else points to us that we can do it? I’m sure that in each of our lives there is something. There is no such thing as coincidence. God knows us! We too have been born of goodly (Godly) parents.
We don’t make up our own way. We must submit to God’s way. We must know the mind and will of God. The time is at hand for us to “Hear the voice of the Lord,” and to “Awake! And Arise.”