A Place to Ponder
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Used by permission of Liz Lemon Swindle. Picture available through Repartee Gallery.

Chapter 11

"More Oil And An Even Brighter Light"

A Moment To Ponder

(Reflective Questions and Self Evaluation)

*These questions should be answered a second time after reading this chapter.

  • What are you holding on to that is slowing down your eternal progression?
  • What are the blessings of letting go of the things that hurt your spiritual health?
  • What are the blessings of total forgiveness?
  • How does one show true gratitude to God?
  • How does one show appreciation for the restoration of all truth?
  • How would the Lord have us feel each day?

The ending point of the "Road to Exaltation" is found on the highest of peaks over looking all of the earth. It is there where perfection abides; it is there where eternal joy resides. Filled with perfect light, love, and truth, the destination is the greatest hope of every follower of Christ.

The freeway leading there helps one select which kingdom they will choose in the end. The heavenly highway will be traveled by every human being born to this planet. Each will spend his or her days of probation, deciding when to travel it, or when to stop.

Deep in the dark valley below, thousands wait their turn to start their journey. Hundreds of thousands are on the road now and will be for a lifetime. Each day continuing the trek they commenced earlier, they decide how much closer they will come to their goal of celestial heights.

Most will stay and be satisfied with the valley or rolling hills. The hike is long and tiresome, so many will lose hope. A select few will find themselves at higher elevations, where the road narrows to a trail. Climbing and enduring, they will not stop until their eternal goal is met.

While on this interstate highway to eternity, countless lessons will be learned. Those teachings will be invaluable to the souls desiring to reach the lofty peaks of perfection so far away.

Consider the story of Harold who traveled the "Road to Exaltation," and the lessons that he learned that were necessary for his exaltation.

Read the Short Story: "Heavenly Trek and Handcarts"

This modern day parable, contains several lessons. There are many kinds of rocks. Each mortal being has rocks to which he or she clings. These rocks consume their time and effort. Blinded by the illusion of the comfort the rocks offer, they fail to perceive the stifling affect it has on their eternal progression. This false sense of value placed in worldly standards or aspirations, often leads to the spiritual bondage from which we all seek to escape. When one is stuck in earthly mud by rock-filled wagons, they are hindered in their ability to move forward and upward. Burdens are made light and freedom is found when something other than rocks are gathered.

There are many who want God's help, but not His direction. Sometimes they rigidly seek answers and solutions from high places expecting a heavenly manifestation. They simply do not understand that often God's assistance is delivered in the form of gentle instruction or the charitable assistance from those around them. Unexpectedly, this help may come from a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child, a friend, or a fellow saint. God working through earthly angels is common. If one is sensitive to spiritual promptings, prayers will be answered in unanticipated ways. Then, one must put their shoulder to the wheel and do all that they can to honor that subtle guidance. Most often that inspiration will be accompanied with a counsel of sacrifice. Something must be given up, in order to be replaced with something of greater value.

In times of distress, it is hard for ourselves to see what may be obvious to others. In most cases, pride, "that great traitor to mankind," is the culprit inhibiting our progression. How it blinds one! It is humility which becomes man's saving grace. Humility opens one's spiritual eyes to see the full vision. If mortal man will receive, accept, and live wise counsel from those who are inspired, he will complete his mission in a pleasing manner unto the Lord. And, his burdens in times of trial will be lightened.

In Harold's story, he did just this. Harold was a good man. He never did anything bad to speak of. Yet, his progression was halted. The rocks holding Harold back represented "the hurt" that he held in his heart most of his life. The hurt affected his ability to fully live the commandments of God. Harold finally learned that "letting go" of the hurt was the catalyst for moving forward spiritually. He could now become a consecrated disciple.

Once he let go of the hurt, the commandment to "forgive all" was fulfilled. Harold finally forgave in the same way the Savior forgives. And then he was washed clean of his sins, purified, and then sanctified.

There are scriptures that speak of the commandment to forgive. They define the frequency of forgiveness as well as quantity of forgiveness.

"Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith." (Luke 17:3-5)

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22)

Read: D&C 64:10

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you." (Matthew 6:14-15)

Harold was now perfect in forgiving others. With the hurt gone, the painful memories would disappear. And, now that Harold "forgave completely," the Lord could forgive his trespasses completely. What a wonderful thing it is to be forgiven completely!

Being forgiven is fundamental to being purified. We know that our forgiveness starts with repentance, and ends with being cleansed. Once purified, man can move into the process of becoming sanctified.

Read: D&C 1:31-32

Forgiveness puts a special oil in our lamps. This special oil brings forth an even brighter light that makes us celestial beings.

Forgiveness: to forgive is to pardon, excuse, or remit an offense. Forgiveness blesses one with amnesty, absolution, and remission.

What an incredible and amazing blessing forgiveness is! It truly is remarkable and liberating! What freedom it offers! It is a miracle!

It is indescribably glorious that the Savior can offer this gift and pardon to every living soul who chooses it. As mentioned in an earlier chapter, it is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that it is made possible. Accepting this absolution, and remission of sins from our Redeemer is a choice. The requirements of these cleansing powers of the Atonement, have been made clear by the Great Jehovah. One must simply keep all of the commandments, and love the Lord with all of their heart, might, mind, and strength. And, they must forgive their fellowmen.

Through proper repentance and authorized baptism one receives a remission of their sins. They are cleansed and purified. In that moment they stand blameless before the Lord, forgiven of all of their sins and trespasses. The sins are forgotten, as if they were never committed.

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . ." (Isaiah 1:18)

Read: D&C 58:42-43, D&C 1:32

Heavenly Father knows that his children are imperfect and will make mistakes. Yet, the Lord has created a way in which they can stand pure before Him despite their weaknesses. Through continual repentance and a renewal of the baptismal covenant during the Sacrament, they can recommit and stand blameless before Him. There is a power in forgiveness that transcends our understanding. It bestows a confidence, a strength, and a spiritual energy to keep us trying, and to "not give up!"

No unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God, and all are commanded to be perfect. Every living soul must progressively become better in order to inherit celestial glory, and live in God's presence.

Certainly, the goal one day is to have no need of repentance, having attained perfection.

We have spoken of faith, hope, charity, and the behaviors of celestial beings. This process of becoming as the light of the sun was described in Chapters 2-4. In this chapter we have added to that process "full forgiveness." To receive a brighter light and become as Christ is, we must learn to completely and fully forgive.

In addition to being forgiving, all who desire a brighter light must be filled with gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude: The state of being grateful or thankful. This feeling of contentment originates in
an unconditional favor or benefit from another.

In today's world, gratitude is vague and rarely seen. A wonderful scripture found in the New Testament illustrates gratitude:

"And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." (Luke 17:11-19)

This one Samaritan leper understood the origin of the miracle and where it came from. For the miracle of healing, he returned to worship and adore the source of truth and light which made him whole.

As described by President Gordon B. Hinckley, gratitude is a "divine principle." ("With All Thy Getting, Get Understanding", Ensign August 1988). Gratitude demonstrates a lack of pride and a spirit of meekness. It acknowledges God's hand in all things, and seeing the bounteous blessings that often go unnoticed.

President Thomas S. Monson has said, "Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings." ("Finding Joy In The Journey", Ensign November 2008)

Appreciation: A sensitive awareness, admiration, honor. or recognition of worth. The act of a special love or care for something (as in cherish.) To admire something of excellence or of great value.

A short story about a man illustrates both gratitude and appreciation.

This noteworthy report I heard on a TV news station. The account was given of a very successful business man. He had started an asphalt company some thirty-five years earlier. This once small family business grew into something quite substantial. The man had worked very hard all of his life. It was now time to retire. The family agreed that they would sell the business. This business owner had concerns. There were a large number of employees. What would happen to them if they sold?

The owner was a humble man. He acknowledged that his success was not his own. There were several employees that were faithful, diligent, honest, and hard working through all those years. These loyal employees stuck with their business owner through good times and bad times. He appreciated them. He felt gratitude for their shared lives and successes.

The business was sold. I believe it went for somewhere around 140 million dollars. The owner pondered over this fortune. I supposed he prayed about it too. What would he do with this mass of wealth?

Upon receiving this enormous some of money, he paid his tax. He donated some to charity. And then he decided to keep only 10 million dollars in profit for himself. His words were interesting. To paraphrase, "We have lived good all of our life, not extravagant, but comfortable. Ten million dollars will more than take care of our future needs."

He then did something quite extraordinary! He gifted the remaining profits to his employees both past and present. Upon calculating the number of years of service and the individual contribution to the company's success, he rewarded each employee with a substantial bonus check. To some it would be a retirement account, and to others financial freedom. Nobody was forgotten. All who had contributed and worked for the company were rewarded.

Here was a man who knew the meaning of gratitude and appreciation! His act blessed the lives of everyone that worked by his side through many years. He did not forget them, their loyalty, their devotion to the company, their hard work! He did not keep 100% of the spoils for himself. He shared with his fellow beings. I believe his was a celestial act that will be recorded in heaven.

It is interesting that this man did what our Heavenly Father will do. Our Father will one day bless and reward us if we work by His side to achieve His eternal purposes. He will share His success with us, those He loves!

How many years of service and demonstrated devotion will we give Him? How loyal and true to Him will we be? What better way to show gratitude and appreciation to Him than by keeping His commandments, and serving Him all the days of our lives?

This chapter was titled "More Oil And An Even Brighter Light." These three elements, forgiveness, gratitude, and appreciation put us on the fast track to increased light and understanding. Perfection comes quicker when these elements are present. The "Road to Exaltation" is then traveled with a lengthened stride and a quickened pace.

Forgiveness meets the demands of repentance. Repentance brings a cleansing. Cleansing allows one to have a clear mind and unobstructed spiritual vision. The recipient of this gift can hear the promptings of the Spirit resonate louder and clearer in their ears. Decisions to "choose the right" become easier, and well-directed.

Gratitude demands humility. Humility eliminates the barriers of pride. The recipient no longer fears man, but seeks to please God no matter what the consequences. Humility allows a spiritual perspective where one can accept the challenges of life. Thus, hardships become blessings that mold the soul's character to possess spiritual integrity and honesty. The trials of life are perceived as blessings that strengthen and refine. This new found spiritual enlightenment of gratitude opens the door to have an intimate and personal relationship with God.

Appreciation becomes a catalyst for action. Feelings of gratitude are converted into a behavioral commitment. The humbled servant's desire to honor and respect deity is manifested through obedient performance. Appreciation of the divine plan and associated eternal blessings are internalized. A burning desire to repay the unwarranted debt of the Atonement is kindled. The power of Heavenly Father's love penetrates into the very core of the benefactor's heart. That love and feeling is now reciprocated through service and good works. "True appreciation means bringing glory to God and returning to Him with honor."

Perhaps clarity has been achieved as to why these three elements have been added to faith, hope, and charity. This author sees them as critical factors in attaining Exaltation. They bring a positive, happy, and fulfilling outlook to this earthy sojourn. They help one to realize that behind every challenge is a blessing. Affected followers of Christ can now understand that opposition brings opportunities for growth. With these builders of character (forgiveness, gratitude, and appreciation), come the blessing and the ability to follow in Christ's footsteps.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12