When I was younger, I didn’t really warm up to the idea of worshipping someone. It made me feel uneasy when I thought of it. I think it’s because if we worship someone who turns around and abuses and neglects us in Pride, our inclination to worship turns into Envy or Fear. I don’t like to Envy people. I stay away from people I fear. And I don’t like to be treated with Pride either. And that happened all too often for me. When I admire someone’s strengths, gifts, or talents, I don’t want it to be about jealousy, fear, or shame that I don’t have what they have or that they are going to take advantage of me. I want it to be about appreciation, love, respect, and gratitude. And it usually includes learning from this person how to develop the same strengths, gifts, or talents.
Being able to evaluate accurately the strengths, gifts, and talents that others have is a strength in and of itself. How could we value them if we did not have the gift of spiritual sight and appreciation? And of what value are strengths, gifts and talents if they are not honestly accepted and appreciated by at least one other person?
I didn’t realize until a number of years ago that worshipping someone was an integral part of my happiness. I had come to a point in my life where I didn’t really admire anyone. I mean I admired certain qualities and characteristics of others here and there but there wasn’t any one person whom I just stood back and went, “Whoa, that is ultimate beauty!” No one really made my heart sing. I didn’t realize at that time that I wanted and needed it to sing more than anything else in the world. My focus was mainly on developing my own strengths, gifts, and talents and wanting to be appreciated for them. But regardless of many years spent on these goals, I was not reaching any kind of fulfillment. I have come to understand that not knowing well enough anyone with a sufficient level of the qualities I deeply admired was the cause of my non-fulfillment. But at the time, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just wasn’t happy. Waves of depression would sometimes wash over me for no apparent reason. And this became more frequent as time went by, no matter how much I tried to develop my own strengths, gifts, and talents.
It was around the years 2003-2004 (about 32-34 years old) when these questions and thoughts came frequently into my mind: “Who is Jesus Christ? You say that you worship him. You’ve taken upon you his name through baptism. But who is he? Do you really know what you worship?”
“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” ~John 4:22-23
“For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” ~JST John 4:26 (see footnote a)
That’s when I started studying him more directly. I made the New Testament a part of my daily scripture study. I had been reading “The Kingdom and the Crown” series by Gerald Lund, which helped me understand the New Testament much better. It gave me the background on the individual groups of people in Jesus’ society such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Publicans, Scribes, Lawyers, Priests, etc. These all can be summarized into the Jewish Leadership of his day. They were the Causes of the Jewish world masquerading as the Priesthood Leadership chosen by God. So with this foundational understanding, I was able to see much better what Jesus was up against. Seeing his opposition, enabled me to see his strength and all I could do was marvel at it. Whoa, that is ultimate beauty!
He was like a professional baseball player hitting home runs off of every curve ball he was pitched. Some people like to watch a lot of professional sports. And I will admit that it is quite enjoyable to watch the performance of individuals who have developed a high level of proficiency in a given talent. But to watch the performance of a Man-God who has developed a high level of proficiency in the talent of humanity—relationships, the soul, the life, how to handle the Tempter’s Pride and Envy without deviating from Confidence and Humility, and all that means the most to every living being on this earth—is the climax of my entire existence.
It was like reading a story about a character that inspired me to the point of changing my entire life. I saw Him going through trials that were intensely difficult and no one around him knew just how difficult they were. But I did. I knew he was the Son of God, the Savior of the World and many of those he came to save were treating him like dirt. I knew the behind-the-scenes story. I knew his value and saw how people should be listening to him. He came to heal them, teach them, warn them, and show them. But many treated him with disrespect, contempt or just completely ignored him. Many eventually had the gall to kill him. Yet they owed him their lives. And can you believe they had the TOTAL BLESSING of seeing him perform IN PERSON? IN PERSON!!! What lucky bums! And did they worship him? Oh, how I wish my life were in his days! I’m hoping that I was watching him from heaven and someday I will be able to remember it in all of its glorious details.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” ~John 8:56
“For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” ~Matthew 13:17
“And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.” ~Alma 13:25
“Dearest children, holy angels
Watch your actions night and day,
And they keep a faithful record
Of the good and bad you say.”
~Dearest Children, God Is Near You
In reading his story in the New Testament, I watched how he responded to all this. I saw how he didn’t force his identity upon them or force them to appreciate what he was doing for them. He just continued to do everything he was sent to do in love and compassion. Yet there were times when he censured certain people. He corrected them. But knowing him, I knew he was doing that out of love for them (like a good father would), not out of self-protection or Pride/Envy resentment. He knew the direction they were headed. He knew the hell they were going to live in for eternity if they kept going on that pathway. It was his eternal motivation to save them from living in that hell eternally while still allowing them to retain their agency.
With the gift of the Holy Ghost, I was able to liken his opposition to my own. I saw that people were still acting like the Jewish Leadership of his day. I was being thrown curve balls similar to the ones that he was thrown. It’s important to recognize this to be able to understand why I feel the way I do when others treat me with Pride/Envy—Abuse/Neglect (even when it is subtly and fiery-snake-ally done) and to know what I should do in response. So when I saw how Jesus felt about them and then how he responded to them, I was able to liken that to how I felt and how I could respond to them. This was the beginning of my escape from my prison. He showed me how to get out. He unlocked the door for me. His truth made me free.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” ~Numbers 21:8-9
“We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms.” ~Bonnie L. Oscarson
“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” ~Isaiah 42:6-7
Listen: “He Showed Me How” by David Archuleta
In 2006 (35-36 years old) when I started studying the structure of story, I remember seeing two distinct stories or structures emerging in my mind: The Pride Story and then His story (I think I called this the Truth Story). Subsequently, I’ve named it all kinds of other things like Desire Obtainment, Conflict Resolution, Paradoxical Living, Summarization and Expansion, Faith/Sacrifice/Confidence/Humility, Balance, the Heart Compass, the Zone, the Threshold, the Safe Place, Mercy—the balance between Justice and Time, the Covenant or Commitment, Steadfastness vs. Change, and the Servant—CPER X Days 1-7. These are all the concepts I write about. And it is all in efforts to describe the dynamic balanced nature of our Savior Jesus Christ that has been slowly but surely taking form in my mind. At one point I recognized I was actually studying the Atonement of Jesus Christ and he was showing it to me in a way I had never seen it before. The scriptures were the predominant text but then with all my endless questions, He took it and showed me himself from a perspective that was so amazingly beautiful that I couldn’t even believe someone this wonderful existed!
“Can’t close my eyes
I’m wide awake
Every hair on my body
Has got a thing for this place
Oh, empty my heart
I’ve got to make room for this feeling
So much bigger than me”
~“Can’t Take It In” by Imogen Heap”
“This constant contrast [the dynamic balance of her Son] before her eyes only deepened in the heart of Mary the ever-present impression of ‘all those matters’ [sayings], of which she was the most cognisant. She was learning to spell out the word Messiah, as each of ‘those matters’ taught her one fresh letter in it, and she looked at them all in the light of the Nazareth-Sun.” ~”The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim, pg 173
Wow, what a blessing for Mary to be able to see with her physical eyes our Savior’s choices, actions, mannerisms, reflexive behavior, and facial expressions! But it’s interesting to hear Edersheim describe what he believed the development of Mary’s relationship with her Son looked like. I believe we all have the potential to come to know Him, his inclinations, desires, impulses, and ways of thinking through the Spirit regardless of what age we live in. And when we do, I think it happens line upon line similar to Mary’s experience. I know that has been true for me.
I remember that on many days after I finished studying about him and had to go back to doing the dishes. I looked at the framed picture I had of him that was sitting on the windowsill above the sink and often said in my mind, “I know who you are.” And when I said this, I felt the worship. Feeling worship is something that can’t be faked. I can’t do fake. I have been censured for attempting fake worship. It makes me feel so gross. This worship was not fake. All my heart wrapped around him and I just shook my head in acknowledgment of his utter and complete beauty. Then something happened in return, which surprised me. I saw or rather felt him looking back at me. Now some people, when they are aware of your admiration, stick out their chin and walk away from you in Pride. They treat you like, “Ya that’s right. Worship me. But I won’t give you the time of day to notice who you are.” Other people will respond in Envy—just deny it when you compliment them or try to defer it. He wasn’t doing that.
There were two things he was doing. The first was he acknowledged my acknowledgment. He was telling me that what I was seeing was indeed the truth about him. And he wasn’t denying it. He wasn’t embarrassed because of my worship. He was accepting it and just standing there right in front of me receiving it full on. My admiration was pretty intense but he received it like it just fit into his puzzle perfectly. And wow, that just doubled my worship!
The second was that he was admiring me back. He was appreciating my admiration. He was grateful that I was taking the time to know him for who he really was. And it did take time. Time and sacrifice of other things I could be doing and could be partaking of. He was thankful for my love. I could sense that it gave him Peace and Energy. To explain this in words doesn’t compare to the feelings that filled me during these sacred moments or to the Joy that was steadily increasing in intensity and sustainability in my heart over time. And this is what made the depression go away. This relationship and the development of it. It also is what filled me with the Desire to become more like him. It totally filled me with Charity. I had the capacity to love, to forgive, to sacrifice more than I had ever done before in my life. The anger that I had felt so predominantly in my heart as a reaction to my personal opposition went away too. It was total freedom!
“Whatever you do
I’ll do it too
Show me everything
And tell me how
It all means something
And yet [EVERYTHING] to me
I can see there is so much to learn
It’s all so close
And yet so far
I see myself
As [He] see[s] me
Oh I just know there’s something bigger out there[!]”
~”Strangers Like Me” by Phil Collins from Disney’s Tarzan
I’m not saying I was way far away from Him before. I had been reading my scriptures daily since I was 14 years old and praying daily since I was about half that age. I had been attending church since I was born and was baptized and received the Holy Ghost at age 8. I had been striving to apply what I knew of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for many years. I had received my temple endowments and was married in the temple. Yet I realize now that what I had needed throughout all the years of my life previous to this point was to COME CLOSER to worship, admire, and praise our Savior Jesus Christ to the point that my heart was satisfied. I had to put in the work to study him, to examine him more closely in the records we have of him. I had to say, “Whatever you do, I’ll do it too. Show me everything, tell me how.” I had to start attending the temple more frequently and learn from that higher-level “university.” That’s worship—finding out who he is and why he did what he did and then striving to implement the same way of living into our lives. That was the foundational process I needed to engage in consistently in order to obtain Sustainable Joy. The result of worshipping Him with all my heart, might, mind and strength, was the beautiful feeling that came and stayed in my heart so that nothing was more important to me than keeping it there.
“When we worship, we open our hearts to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our lives become the token and expression of our worship. My brothers and sisters, spiritual experiences have less to do with what is happening around us and everything to do with what is happening within our hearts. It is my witness that true worship will transform ordinary Church meetings into extraordinary spiritual feasts. It will enrich our lives, broaden our understanding, and strengthen our testimonies. For as we incline our hearts to God, like the ancient Psalmist, we “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: [we are] thankful unto him, and bless his name.” ~Bishop Dean M. Davies
So let’s break worship down to summarize the steps: The study and pondering of the life of Jesus Christ triggered my worship feelings—my admiration. And that admiration triggered our Savior’s reciprocal love for me. I could feel it, sense it. I became aware of it. That was amazing! That triggered my motivation to keep it there by learning how to respond to the opposition, blessings, and responsibilities in my life as he responded to his. It provided motivation to shut down the Pride/Envy Story. The two stories—His Confidence/Humility Story and Satan’s Pride/Envy Story—cannot reside in the same heart simultaneously. I have learned that if I fall short of spending the amount of time and depth I need to worship him, I lose consciousness of his love for me and my love for him. Subsequently, the Charity inside me for others wanes—the engine stops running so smoothly and sometimes even stops altogether. I must choose to sacrifice my time to study Jesus Christ consistently to the level that sustains me. I have learned to sacrifice other conflicting choices to do this. Worshipping Jesus Christ fuels the engine of Charity, which is the source of Sustainable Joy. I have found no other way to obtain fulfillment so utterly and completely satisfying.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
“Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
“Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
“Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
“Charity never faileth:”
~1 Corinthians 13:1-8
“I am acquainted with Church members who accept as true the doctrine and principles contained in the scriptures and proclaimed from this pulpit. And yet they have a hard time believing those gospel truths apply specifically in their lives and to their circumstances. They seem to have faith in the Savior, but they do not believe His promised blessings are available to them or can operate in their lives. I also encounter brothers and sisters who fulfill their callings dutifully but for whom the restored gospel has not yet become a living and transforming reality in their lives. We come to know the Lord as we not only believe in Him but also believe Him and His assurances.” ~Elder David A. Bednar