The Real Measure
by Truman G. Madsen
It is often said that there is no measure, no index of the spiritual. We can mark its effects. We can calibrate external action, reaction, inaction. But we have no way of applying a slide-rule to the depths of a man’s soul.
This is largely true as we view others. It is largely false as we view ourselves. There are Divine counsels and promises which, when combined with human examples, become tests of our spiritual stature. They are revealing.
In this spirit of self-scrutiny, we pose the following questions:
Have you sat in mild indifference and then, illumined, been “constrained to acknowledge” the manifestations of the Son of God? Have you replaced, as did Alma O. Taylor, the halting words of youth, “I believe because others believe,” with the fervent words of maturity, “I know though all others may doubt.”
Is your testimony alive? Have you recently expressed it or heard others express theirs in a way that kindled you as it did the modern Twelve (“like fire shut up in our bones.”) Can you distinguish it from feeling-tones; for example, responses to sunsets, musical harmonies, or the beauty of a child’s face. Is it not also clear that all perception, spiritual or sensate, is richer because of it?
Have you taught or testified when your words carried a sense of inevitability, grounded in a Someone more than you? And were there those who apprehended so that, as promised, you could “understand one another and both were edified and rejoiced together.”
What is the timbre of your voice when you say “Amen” to a public prayer or sermon? Or when you sing unique Mormon hymns like “O My Father,” or “The Spirit of God like a Fire?”
What of your prayer life? Are the Father and the Son intimately near as you kneel? Unmistakably, do you ever break out of the subjective circle, aware, at least sometimes, of the Spirit that dwells in both mind and heart? And have you don’t ever what Heber C. Kimball (according to his family) did always: “He never ceased praying until he felt the Spirit of God burning in his bosom. He often remarked that a prayer was never heard, under ordinary circumstances, unless such was the case.”
What of the sacrament? How long since in the process of covenant-making you have been fully present in remembering? And remembering what? Could you be counted with Melvin J. Ballard? “I am a witness that there is a Spirit that attends the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot. You feel the wounds on the spirit being lifted.”
What of your intellect? Is your memory, your imagination, your clarity and aptness of thought, your capacity to “stretch as high as the utmost heaven” enhanced “through Him that enlighteneth your eyes and quickeneth your understandings?” Are you learning by “both study and faith” “line upon line?” And does the glory of truth begin to permeate you with the hope that you may one day testify, as did President Joseph F. Smith, that “doubt and fear have been absolutely purged from me.”
Have you known what Joseph Smith calls “flashes of intelligence” or “sudden strokes of ideas” which may range from the subtle intuition that you are to be called upon to pray to the impress of a crucial direction in life? Are you moved by the Prophet’s admonition to John Taylor that the principle of revelation could become a “fountain within you” and that one could thus eventually become “perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Is yours the kind of personality that warms and lifts? Could you say to a friend out of affinity with the Master, “If I could always be with you I could cure you?” (Joseph Smith did.) Will there be a tribute from any of your associates that, like Brigham Young, you were “able to comfort and soothe those who are depressed in spirit, and always make those with whom he associates so happy?…for the light of God is in him, and others feel the influence.”
Finally, how intimate and ultimate in you is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
Do you recognize that all the “tests” above are different ways of saying that He is the alpha and omega of spiritual life? This is the “testimony of Jesus.” It is He through whom “the life and the light, the Spirit and the power (are) sent forth by the will of the Father.”
How much of your service is wearisome and fitful? Have you learned, as the Prophet said, that “when a man is reigned up continually he gains in knowledge and power.” Do you exhaust to the limit your own energies and thus merit the Spirit which “leadeth to do good” which overcomes fear and “a grudging spirit.” And have you found what Christ approved in Nephi, son of Helaman-“unwearyingness.” Do you feel, with Wilford Woodruff, that for all men of God it is the Spirit that has “nerved them up in their spirits with fortitude and borne them up against every opposing influence.” And that “This has been the case in every dispensation when this light and power have been enjoyed by the children or men.”
Is the most thrilling truth within you the knowledge that you are Sired, as He was, in the Divine likeness? To attempt to imitate His First-Century acts if futile until we seek His Twentieth-Century Powers which enable us to be “partakers of the Divine nature.” As he told Joseph Smith in our time, “all those who are begotten through Me are partakers of the glory of the same.”
What of the “fruits of the Spirit?” Have you glimpsed, at least, the love for God that, in Nephi, was “unto the consuming of my flesh.” Have you encountered the love from God which the Prophet said is “peculiar to itself but it is without prejudice” caring, not just even, but especially, for the most ugly and miserable of men? And does its scope blend kinship, compassion, and desire to serve? Could you, finding a prized possession stolen, say as did “President George Albert Smith, “Oh, I wish I could have given it to him. Then he wouldn’t be a thief.” Do you know, with Orson Pratt, that such love is not willed but bestowed through the Spirit; that it becomes unconditional, and that such love, the perfect love of Jesus Christ, is the only abiding insulation against false Christs.
These are they whom our living Prophet saw in vision, following the Redeemer, the tint and radiance of whose countenance was beautiful to behold. Arched over them were the golden words: “These are they who have overcome the world are truly born again.”
In our own time enlightened men and women do walk the earth. Others will write in their diaries that they were “incomparably godlike,” and that, as Lydia Knight records, their faces shone “like the mellow radiance of an astral lamp.”
They will answer, as we must answer, the final question, asked by the ancient Alma:
Can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
Is a spiritual gift operative in your life? Said the Prophet Joseph Smith: “A man who has none of the gifts has no faith and he deceives himself is he supposes he has.” Do you recognize in experience this continuing touch of the Spirit? For example, in the gifts of discernment, of healing or being healed (both in mind and body), the testimony of the Son of God, the gift of wisdom, or of knowledge, or the gift to teach? And do you know that intelligence is always associated with these powers; nothing about them is “unnatural or indecorous.”
To what level does your patriarchal blessing reach in your life? Can you recollect the time you received it and recover any of the spirit of the occasion? Do you in quiet moments ponder it? Does Karl G. Maeser’s phrase, “paragraphs from the book of our possibilities” rest upon you with a sense of mission so that, as President Heber J. Grant exemplified, “you “dream nobly and manfully” and prepare ceaselessly? Do you ever think of Heber C. Kimball’s faith that you can “write your own patriarchal blessing” under inspiration, for, saith the Lord, “No good thing will I withhold…”
In receiving the priesthood by ordination or an office or calling in the Church has your awareness been heightened of that power emanating from the glorified Christ, compared to which J. Reuben Clark testified, “the hydrogen bomb is a mere tiny firecracker.” Has what Orson F. Whitney described as “liquid fire” or what Stephen L. Richards called “an essence of force and power” moved in to you? Were you then, or in later ministrations, “quickened in the inner man?”
What is your habitual pattern under temptation. Do you, in the rising tide of malice, or anger, or lust find yourself fighting a sham batle, knowing you will yield? Has this ever been reversed? Have you begun trembling under weaknesses, then reached for “The Stone of Israel?” Has His Spirit, infusing your own spirit, given you victory over your misdirected drives and led to authentic expression?” He that trembleth under my power” says the Redeemer, “shall be strong.” One may move, as Brigham Young witnessed, from being “full of evil passion” to feelings “as calm and gentle as the zephyrs of paradise.” Do you realize with Parley P. Pratt, that the religious life does not repress feelings? Instead it “increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies them” leading to greater (not lesser) enjoyment.
Is fasting of any efficacy with you? Do you go beyond passive refusal of food and drink to the active unity of mind and spirit reaching upward through your soul stresses? Whether or not you were conscious of immediate intervention, has there not resulted as for Susa Young Gates, “a feeling of infinite trust and reliance?” Have you learned that when bodily cravings are in harmony with the spirit the body itself has new power? Thus Eliza R. Snow says, “refreshing influences upon one affect the other.” In modern revelation a synonym for “fasting and prayer” is “rejoicing and prayer.”
What of your thoughts? Do you shrink from the revealed image of the All-Seeing eye of the Christ who is “the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart?” When thoughts boil up from your weaknesses-little lurid thoughts-do you turn them out whether of human or of hellish hue? And are you learning to find sufficient light to derive kernels of truth or good?
How do you deal with dark days? Do you struggle under depression? How petty or profound are the apparent causes? Have you felt increasingly, with Jedediah M. Grant, “not to fret myself. It has taken me a great while to arrive at this point, but I have obtained it in a measure. I thank the Lord for the bitter as well as for the sweet…I want the Saints to live in a way that they can feel happy all the time, and then we shall enjoy the Holy Spirit.”
2005 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.