Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of The Lord

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Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

March 20, 2003
Michael Bliss
Vice President of Administrative Services

Several years ago I was living in Flower Mound Texas. It was some time before I knew that there was actually a location called Flower Mound for which the town was named. The mound was just off one of the main roads in town. I had driven by it on many occasions. It was barely 50 feet high. Early one Saturday morning I climbed the mound. In doing so I found an interesting thing, when I stood on top of that mound I could see all the way to office buildings of downtown Dallas twenty miles away. I was so impressed how such a little elevation could improve the distance I could see. I found out later that the mound was used by the American Indians perhaps the Wichita or Comanche and later by cowboys and I could see why.

As I thought on the height of the Flower Mound I considered how similar that mound is to our spiritual perception. As we begin to follow the Spirit we begin to notice our vision of eternal things increasing.

A few years later we had moved to Utah. I was now a scoutmaster. I took my troop on a night hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos. The night was clear and beautiful. It was still dark when we made it to the saddle at the top. We could see lights from the Heber valley on one side and turn the other way and see the Provo valley and into the Salt Lake valley. We made our way to the summit at almost 12,000 feet. There we waited for the sunrise. It was spectacular. Now with light it seemed we could see forever.

As I prepared for this devotional, these two experiences dealing with mountains came to mind where height gave such an increase to my distance vision. And of course the comparison to following the Spirit and having a corresponding increase in vision of eternal things. Obtaining that view is critical to us arriving at our desired destination.

In the book "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, Alice is lost when she comes across the Cheshire Cat. Alice asks the cat, "Which path shall I take? The cat answers, "that depends on where you want to get to. "I don't much care where," said Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you walk," said the cat.

Direction is critical to our path on the mountain and to our path to eternal life. There are many like Alice who don't know or care where they are going. However, it would be a shame if any of us had the same attitude with all the helps that we have for our life's journey.

Nephi records in 1st Nephi a vision of his father Lehi. Desiring to know the things that his father had seen and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto him, Nephi prayed. In answer to his prayer, he was taken by the Spirit to an exceedingly high mountain. Here he sees the dream himself and learns the interpretation of that dream. One of the aspects of the dream was a path. Along the path was a rod of iron. This rod, Nephi learned is symbolic of the word of God. Today we have several sources for the word of God. We have the scriptures, the modern prophets and the Holy Ghost. This last guide is perhaps the most incredible. As a member of the Godhead, he can teach the truth of all things. He can guide our footsteps up the path and he is there to comfort us. The challenge is that as a God he is easily offended by sin. We cannot expect his guidance when we are partaking in activities that would drive Him away. His companionship is absolutely critical to our finding the proper path.

Just as Nephi was taken to an exceedingly high mountain to have his prayer answered so are we all invited.

(Isaiah 2:3, 5)

3 ...Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths...

5 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

One of my favorite stories in the scriptures is that of Moses in Moses chapter 1. Verse one has Moses also caught up to an exceedingly high mountain. Here he talked with the Lord face to face. The Lord showed Moses the workmanship of his hands and issued him a call. He taught Moses that he, Moses, was created in the image of God's Only Begotten Son. Then, the Lord showed Moses a vision of this world from the beginning to the end. At the conclusion of this glorious vision, he left Moses alone. Moses was physically drained from the experience.

At this point Satan comes tempting. Let's pick up here in the scriptures.

Moses 1:12

12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

Satan makes a point of calling Moses a "son of man." It is important to Satan to have us deny our divine parentage and accept that we are only sons and daughters of men. Moses immediately recognizes the ploy.

Look at verse 13

Moses 1:1313 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

Moses had been on the mountain top and had a clear vision of what is required of a person desiring to travel the path of God. He had experience with Godly things and used the Spirit to discern between good and evil. What person knowing he was a son of God with eternal potential would dash down from that mountain after Satan and risk losing his birthright? Moses certainly did not do it. As this interchange concludes Moses casts Satan out of his presence as all wise sons of God should do. This experience is in the scriptures for us to learn how important it is for us to believe and accept that we are sons and daughters of God. It also teaches us that where God and his posterity are is not a place for those things that are unworthy of God. And conversely, where Satan's enticements are, we should not be.

Each of us must to begin our accent on the Mountain of the Lord by believing in God the Eternal Father and in His Son Jesus Christ in whose image we are made.

I had an experience when I was young that left a testimony with me that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me and because he first loved me that I could trust and love him. The story is admittedly childish and personal.

Growing up few things were as important to me as sports. Not that I was ever very good. But I thrived in the competition and companionship they offered. Perhaps in some way they helped ease the pain of growing up without a father as mine was killed in Korea. One day when I was about 10, I prepared for a baseball game. I dressed in my uniform which was washed and ready. I pulled up socks which had been modified to rise high on the leg. I pulled on my hat with brim properly curved. All I needed was my baseball glove. It was a Wilson A2001, a baseball glove design that with some variation is still used in the major leagues today. I could not find the glove. Casual looking turned to intent searching and finally panic and tears. Unable to find my glove and with the time for the game approaching and my mother at work, I had no one to help me but to turn to My Heavenly Father in prayer. I offered that prayer amidst my sobbing. I told the Lord I had looked everywhere. I explained that I needed the baseball glove. I had molded it by dunking it in water with a baseball tied carefully inside. I pleaded that I played better with it. Then, the thought came to me that it was under the bed. Without looking, I explained that I had looked there several times. Again, I was prompted. I looked and to my surprise there in plain sight was the baseball glove. I still had time to make the game. I jumped on my bike and let the wind dry my tears.

As a young boy, I approached my Heavenly Father needing help and comfort. It came then and has since in experiences far more serious and important. But never has it been received any more personally. To me as a young boy this was a confirmation that there was a father in heaven who would help even me. I plead and he answered. I do not remember what happened in the game that afternoon but I have never forgotten the experience of needing help and receiving it through prayer. I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who heard a little boy's prayer and healed his broken heart. Many times since then, I have found comfort in that experience. And with confidence since then, I have often turned to Him for strength and guidance to climb my mountain knowing he is listening and willing to guide me.

In the scriptures, mountains are sometimes used in place of temples when no temple was available. Likewise, the word "mountain" is used to symbolize a temple. Preparations to get closer to God by climbing our symbolic mountain then must be the same as preparation to enter the temple.

Nephi, Moses and I all gave our experience with prayer. I am not an expert with prayer but I have been learning. Let me share some additional thoughts.

Prayer may be an unappreciated gift. Recently, I have signed up for a family cell phone plan. With all my children on the mainland and my wife and I here, we needed a way to keep in touch. On this plan, we can talk with unlimited minutes to those in our family who are sharing the plan. We, well, mainly my daughters and their mother, have found this a way to keep in constant contact. It has been so successful that when asked if she missed us one of my daughters she said no, I talk to them every day.

We are on the family plan with our Heavenly Father. He waits for us to use our plan and make contact. He set this plan up. He wants us to use it. There are no minute restrictions. We could all use it more.

May I just offer a suggestion? I know that some are uncomfortable with bible language but we have been taught that thee, thou, thine and such are opportunities for us to show respect. I cannot tell you why this shows respect any more than I can tell you why we kneel, close our eyes, and so forth. I do know that by so doing I am following counsel from those He has established and I show the Father the respect that I surely have for Him.

At a recent Sunday Night Temple Visitor Center Fireside, I think it was Atelaite Ratusaki who gave a beautiful prayer for the choir using the language of prayer prior to the performance. What is instructive to us is that English is not her native language. She is from Fiji. Yet she recognizes the need to learn not only everyday English but prayer English as well so that she can give the Father the respect He deserves and we should offer.

Language is becoming a lost art. It formally was used in a way that was beautiful and poetic. Now such use might bring ridicule or suspicion. On another scout troop trip we were on an overnight winter campout in the snow. That in and of itself was torture enough, however, we were tubing next to another troop, when I heard one of their scouts joyously expound on his last ride. He went on for many minutes and only used three words: "Oh," "Dude," and "Like." It went something like this, "Oh dude, like, dude!  Oh dude!  Like, oh dude!" What scared me was I think his companion understood him.

Language can also be filthy and repugnant. One day at lunch I was getting a hamburger when I was still working in Utah. As I sat to eat, some young men from a local high school sat next to me. One of the young men began a tirade loud enough that I could not help hearing. His speech was so filthy that I was about to get up and leave when he interjected "as I was coming back from seminary class." At this point, I looked at him and his eyes met mine. I knew that he knew what I was thinking. Here was a member of the Church whose language was that totally unbecoming anyone but especially a member and a priesthood holder. He let his eyes drop and I got up and left. He offended me, but more importantly, I know he offended the Holy Ghost and would not until he repented of that filthy mouth again have His companionship. I hope that no one that hears this will think that foul language will ever increase your stature one whit. Using such language will certainly restrict your access to and progression on the path to your mountain.

Companions to foul language are commonly drugs, sex and violence. I do not have time to more than mention these roadblocks to your mountain path.

Drugs are enslavers and desensitize your normal thinking and decision making. Once I had a boss that was a reforming cocaine addict. He became addicted while he was working at that company. People noticed and would talk about his actions when he was on drugs. He later confessed to me that he stopped because it became so expensive. He was spending thousands of dollars a day on his habit. But he told me that when he was on drugs he could think clearer and make better decisions. Nothing was farther from the truth. He was the butt of jokes and his decisions and counsels were generally ignored. Drugs are liars just as Satan is.

Violence is stupid. When was it decided that Christ's way to solve problems was to beat people up? In the pre-existence, two plans were proposed. One of the major differences was that one plan offered people the right to make their own choice or have agency. The other plan was a controlled, forced life. The later plan was rejected. Agency is a main principle in the Father's Plan. Violence is a way to inflict ones will and or punishment on someone else.

Christ teaches that we should forgive. He also teaches us not to be angry with our brother. He counsels us to be righteous in judgment. Violence, coercion, unrighteous dominion, anger, and contention are attributes that are found in the enemy of God

People say that Crystal Amphetamine may be the most addictive of drugs. It may be. But there is another behavior that is also addictive and may be even more destructive. Pornography has become this generation's plague. Many years ago my wife and I were tending a young man of about 12, while his parents were gone. As I picked up his room, I found a pornographic magazine. He came in as I found it and began screaming. He was embarrassed and frightened that I would tell his parents and fled the room and did not return for a long time. When he came back he did not want to look at me. At the time I smiled to myself at his reaction. I disposed of the magazine and did not tell his parents. Knowing the kind of young man that he became, he has probably never looked at such material again. Today I would not smile if I found such material. I would think of it like cocaine as a potential enslaver. If you are participating in this activity, stop now. If you have a roommate who views this, help him to stop. If you or they need help to stop then get it. Get it now. This is very, very serious.

It is not just someone you do not know anymore that is affected by this problem. I have had a friend lose his job for being unable to keep from viewing pornography on the internet at work. In another case, I sat in an excommunication of a student where pornography led to adultery. Another young man with four children became a victim of internet pornography. He gained a mistress and lost his job and family. Pornography is not an activity to be trifled with for fun. It is as deadly as an eternal cobra. Its venom will not only ruin your earth life but will most assuredly bring with its continued use the second death spoken of in the scriptures.

Many magazines that are considered main stream are using what is called "soft porn" to stimulate sales. One of these is Sports Illustrated with their swimsuit issue. I began reading SI when I was about 6 or 7 that was before they felt the need for the swim suit issue. For many years, almost out of nostalgia I have occasionally subscribed. When the swim suit issue would arrive, I would just toss it away. One time when one of these issues arrived my daughters and wife got it first. They decided to be my censor. When I arrived home, my issue of SI was waiting for me. I wish that I had saved it to show you. There were only about 6 pages left. It was a fun reminder of how inappropriate this issue was for a father and priesthood holder. We had a good laugh as a family but the lesson was not missed on me.

It is not uncommon for participation in pornography to stimulate activities which are forbidden by God. Any one who thinks that petting, and fornication are not serious has not read the scriptures and the prophets or they do not want to understand them. The line is clear. In the scriptures there is no real distinction between fornication and adultery. Alma tells his son in Alma chapter 39 that his mistake was next to murder in its gravity.

(Alma 39:5.)

5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

I have heard of people who propose that is okay to do anything up to this deadly sin. But the scriptures say "or anything like unto it." (D&C 59:6)

Years ago a member of my stake presidency in the Lewisville Texas Stake told a story of cattle. He said that no matter where you build the fence the cattle will always go to the fence and push on it. Unfortunately, some people are like that. They want to go right to the edge. However, someone who values his eternal life will stay well within the safe bounds.

Paul teaches in JST 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

We learn from Paul that we are temples. The next time that we think about doing some of the things that we have discussed think about that. Also consider, what are you doing to the outside of your temple? Are you punching holes in it? Are you writing graffiti on your walls? What videos are you showing inside? What pictures are hanging inside on your temple walls? Is your temple filled with peace? Is it built to the Lord's plans or to someone else's?

If we are temples to the Lord, we can symbolically then also use a mountain to symbolize us. We can be mountains rising up to Him. The Savior tells us to be examples and uses a light on a hill as a teaching tool. He is speaking of us. Our testimonies shining from an elevated place so his other children who are seeking the truth can see the light and find the truth. How is our light? How is the height that it shown from?

I understand that President Shumway likes fishing stories, let me share this story with you then. I love to flyfish. Actually, love is too understated. I started flytying shortly after starting flyfishing. I have learned some important things about fish and flies. For those of you who know nothing of flyfishing a "fly" is a lure that is made with the hope of imitating a real insect. Generally, in slow water the artificial fly must be a very good imitation of the actual insect the fish are feeding on to get the fish to strike. However, in fast water a fly that may not look anything like the original. If it has about the right size and color, it will often be taken. I also learned the hungrier the fish are the less they care about the quality of the imitation. This same thing might be said of men. We when we stay in the mainstream of the church, avoiding the fast moving waters of the world we have a better chance at spotting the imitations of Satan. Fast crowds often land us hooked and struggling. In clear spring creeks, the fish are difficult to fool. We can become very difficult to fool if we will heed the warnings of inspired leaders, maintain a constant contact with our Heavenly Father and use his Spirit to guide us.

From this pulpit a few weeks ago, President Merrill J. Bateman taught us that our leaders have said, "Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife..."

Satan has an imitation for this relationship with one of his own. Unfortunately, today the waters are fast and the fish are hungry. Satan no longer needs to be careful how he dresses and floats this lure. He simply suggests it is fashionable to participate in intimate relationships. Those not participating are often ridiculed or excluded from popular groups. This type of behavior is not new.

(1 Nephi 8:27-28.)

27 And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

28 And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.

Even some members who had partaken of the fruit of the tree of life were ashamed when the world scoffed. But Nephi records concerning himself and others who had come to the tree...

(1 Nephi 8:33)

...they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

We must not heed the world but we should heed the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Satan will have a counterfeit for every point of the Gospel. To avoid being lost on forbidden paths, we need to stay in the mainstream of the Church and follow the iron rod; the scriptures, modern prophets and the Holy Ghost. Anyone who ignores or fights against these will surely be lost in the mists of darkness and lose the trail.

In the early days of the Church, Thomas B. Marsh was the president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Later experience would teach us that he would have been in line to lead the Church at the Prophet Joseph's death. Unfortunately, his wife was dishonest and he with pride defended her and eventually let the milk strippings strip him of the calling he held and blessings that would have been his. It seems incredible that for so little he gave up so much. Unfortunately, his case is not unique. Too often we sell our birthright for a meager mess of pottage.

In Bro. Marsh's case his wife led him to sadness and regret. For us, it may well be that our friends or a girlfriend or a boyfriend will tempt us to put aside our honor and break our covenants. Anyone who has us do anything that puts us at odds with the teachings of the Gospel and the companionship of the Spirit should be avoided until they repent and put their thoughts and life in order.

Sometimes traditions can be the lure that will keep us from our quest. Like many of you, I was a missionary and like many of you, I found that a major reason people would not make the leap of faith to accept the Gospel was tradition. I often heard investigators say "my father was a ___ and his father was a ____ so I guess I will stay a ____. If a tradition does not invite the Spirit and bring us to Gospel truth, it is wrong and should be discarded.

Long ago I heard the statement that one characteristic of a prophet is that he could keep a secret. When I heard that I was surprised. I have since learned how important that is as I have worked in ward and stake callings. I would like to add another quality for us to have. It is someone who keeps his or her promises. Think of the promises that we have made. We have been baptized and made promises to keep the commandments of Christ and follow him. Many have gone through the temple. Sacred covenants were made there including a covenant to be chaste. Temple garments are given to remind us of the covenants and to protect us.

Those attending this university signed a document that they would abide an Honor Code. By that word they were accepted into this University. But a few on and off campus seem to shout to me by their dress that they cannot keep their word. President McKay used to quote Emerson who said, "What you are sounds so loud in my ears I cannot hear what you say."  "Keeping our covenants is primary to our being able to maintain the relationship that we need, to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is also necessary to remain in good standing at the University.

We often run into situations where we have to make choices to follow the right way or the wrong way. Sometimes we rationalize that the wrong way is not really wrong it just isn't that good. Or that we can change sometime in the future and everything will be fine. Such rationalization may lead us down a path we don't really want to take.

A few years back my wife was at a gathering in Salt Lake City. The conversation turned to "R" rated movies. After some time one of the people there said, "I don't care what the prophet said, if I want to go to an "R" rated movie, I will." Such an attitude though not always expressed fills too many hearts. Rebellion against the word of God lost Lucifer and his minions their right to progress. We should never take lightly that our own personal rebellions might damn our progression. The Savior gave clear counsel on this, "my sheep hear my voice" and in the D&C "whether my voice or the voice of my servants it is the same."

Some of you have broken your promises, not kept your covenants. Some are yet participating in activities that are evil and wrong. A call to forsake that practice and return has been made often in the scriptures and by our modern prophets. There is a Heavenly Father who loves you, a Savior who loves you enough to suffer and die for you. There are leaders willing to help and love you back into full compliance with your covenants. They are praying for you. Come back. Repent and forsake your sins. Satan may tell you to wait. But Alma stated, "do not procrastinate the day of your repentance." Satan will suggest that there is happiness to be had in this experimenting. The Lord has stated, "wickedness never was happiness." At some point Satan may tell you that you are too far gone. You have made so many mistakes you are never going to make it back so be content to remain in sin. The Savior has said, Come Follow Me. I am the resurrection and the life though ye were dead yet shall ye live."

Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, "These sublime truths will enliven our consciences and stir our dimmed memories of promises made and vows taken, and at those very moments when we would otherwise be pulled from the path. These key truths, when kept before us, will lift our hopes and our eyes when we are downcast or in despair, and will lift our minds and thoughts from lower inclinations that are unworthy of who we are."

Back on the path we can again continue our accent to the Mountain. Keep in our mind the promises that we have made and the ones that, in turn, the Lord has made to us. We know he is truthful and the promises will be given. We also know that "I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say. But when ye do not what I say ye have no promise." President Monson in the December 2002 graduation here counseled us to look heavenward. We can ascend the mountain. We have all the necessary help. We have the capacity. We need only develop and nurture the desire. When we do, we can make our way to stand on the top of our mountain. Gazing into the eternities and looking to our Heavenly Father who waits for us on the Mountain of the Lord

I pray that we may all become mountains to the Lord. If so one day, there will be a mighty range of mountains all rising to praise Our Father and His Son.