Reflections: Ye Came Unto Me

(Reposted from my page)

After being arrested due to some very poor decisions that I had made, I was embarrassed, ashamed, and upset at myself. I had never felt so alone.  I had been an active member of the church, a loving husband and father. And now I was in jail.

I worried that my family and friends would abandon me and that I would never see them again.  I did not feel worthy of their love or support. I relied on prayer and the Holy Spirit with an intensity that I had never experienced before.  I wanted so desperately to feel that I was still important in God’s eyes. I was living in an environment that did not encourage the presence of the Spirit, but I pleaded to feel His comfort. 

I am grateful to say that Heavenly Father heard my prayers and provided ways for me to feel His presence and grow personally and spiritually. He did this through members of my family and church members  who were willing to minister to me while I was incarcerated. Jesus Christ said, “I was hungered, and ye gave me meat . . . I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.” (Matthew 25: 35-36)  Prior to these experiences, I had thought of ministering to the sick and the hungry, but had somewhat ignored the last part of Christ’s teachings. Thankfully, others did not ignore His words, and they found ways to minister to me.

Since this life changing event occurred, I have received many letters that arrived at just the right moment with just the right message.  In some of my lowest moments, when I was feeling new levels of despair, I received letters or conference talks from people who had said they felt an impression that they should write me or send me that particular talk. 

There were also members of the church that sent me items such as scriptures, books by LDS authors, and material from the church’s 12-step Addiction Recovery Program.  Every time I finished reading something, it seemed that I would receive something else in the mail that would build on what I had just read. 

Some people chose to minister to me in person and came to visit.  It is difficult to describe how much joy those visits bring me. While in Liberty Jail, the prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “No tongue can tell what inexpressible joy it gives a man, who has been enclosed within the walls of a prison, to see the face of one who has been a friend.” (Joseph Smith, Jr., Letter, Liberty, MO, to Presendia Huntington Buell, Clay Co., MO, 15 Mar. 1839 ;in JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. C-1, between pp. 897—898)

I received visits from members of wards I had not lived in for years, including some of my past Bishops.  These people weren’t “assigned” to me, they simply followed the spiritual impressions they received. Many people later expressed that they had been nervous at first and unsure of what to write or say.  Fortunately they pushed through those uncomfortable feelings and allowed themselves to be led by the Spirit. There really was no “wrong” thing to say to me.

The blessings that have come into my life because of these ministering brothers and sisters cannot be numbered.  I know that God loves me and I am His son. I know that I can repent and make the necessary changes in my life. I have learned that the atonement applies to me, and I can be forgiven for my sins.  The service that those ministers give to me has allowed me to be in a place spiritually where I am now able to minister to others while serving my time in prison. 

It is important to point out that by ministering to me, there were also things they were NOT doing.  By ministering to me, people were not condoning my actions or approving of the illegal behaviors I had done.  They were not turning their backs on any victims of my crimes. They were simply ministering in the way that Christ wanted them to. 

I still have several years left in which I need to pay my debt to society, and I have lost my membership in the church.  Making the horrible choices that I did could have led me to abandon my faith and go even further down a destructive path, but thanks to the love I have felt from Heavenly Father through all those ministering to me, I have had my testimony strengthened and have felt my weaknesses turning into strengths.  I know that I can return to Him someday.

Lie #10 – Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are Too Busy to be Involved in Most Aspects of My Life

I have felt divine intervention in many major aspects of my life.  I felt guided in decisions regarding family and career choices. I feel I have served in callings, including my mission location, that were truly inspired.  However, when it comes to the smaller details of my life, I felt that those were in my own hands. Not only did this lead to the pride described before which doesn’t acknowledge divine help, but it allowed me to justify events in my life as not mattering.  It also prevented me from seeing the importance of seeking the Lord’s will in many decisions.

Elder Ronald Rasband has taught the truth regarding this topic: “Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another—if we are responsive to spiritual promptings.  Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives.” Believing this lie made me not notice these spiritual promptings. Elder Rasband continues and teaches us that Christ is in the small details of our lives as well as the major milestones.  Even our trials are guided by Him and are for our good as taught in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7: ” . . . if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 

Once I started becoming aware of this truth, I was able to identify the daily, if not hourly, interventions in my life.  Seeing that He cares for me that much and is that aware of my life, gives me new faith in the ability to seek His will and accept it, even if it goes against what I want or feel is best.  Realizing this truth helps me move toward being able to say and honestly feel the expression in Hymn #134 which says, “I believe in Christ, so come what may.” Their divine involvement in my life is just another evidence of the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us.

What are some ways you notice divine guidance in even the smaller aspects of day to day life?

Lie #6 – Confession is Always Sufficient Between Only The Lord and Me

From the time I was a teenager, I believed that it is just not necessary to confess to man. I doubted Bishops’ abilities to hold confidentiality, and I subscribed to the theory that only God can judge me.  But in reality, this was just a fear and rationalization. A fear of man and a fear of consequences. I rationalized that I didn’t actually need to tell anyone about my sins. That led to me never really addressing those sins and continuing to do them.  Holding to this belief also symbolized that I did not want to change my behavior. Now, of course, there are many times in our lives, daily actually, where repentance can and should be done with prayer and that alone is sufficient. But I know now that if any guilt or resentment remains, further repentance is necessary.  Due to my current situation, I have not yet been able to act on this new knowledge and confess to a church leader, so my testimony of this principle is far from complete.  Yet I recognize believing this lie allowed me to continue to justify my behavior.  It also allowed me to not be sincere in any repentance attempts. Colleen Harrison wrote, “As long as it is only to God that we do our confessing, we are still prey to the lie that if someone else, someone mortal, knew all about us, they would hate us or shun us in revulsion.”  We cannot allow our fear of man to exceed our desire to be clean again.

What thoughts do you have on the idea of confessing to man?