Sunday, December 25, 2016

This Year's Christmas Letter -- Encarceration and Redemption / Lloyd

December 2017
Merry Christmas, Jerome  
I planned to spend as much time as possible in CMC [California Men’s Colony] with you on Christmas Day but neglected to get authorization. Would you please send me a visitor’s form so I can get the process started. Here are some ideas I was hoping we could discuss in person Christmas Day in response to the concerns you expressed in your last letter.   
We received a Christmas card this year with this poem:
Life is like a garden of roses
There are blossoms and leaves all around
But with the beautiful blossoms
Are the thorns which also abound.

All of us have beautiful flowers
In our precious gift of life
All of us are given thorns as well
Which add complexity and strife.

Through the atonement of our Savior,
Whose birth we celebrate with joy,
Comes the enabling power to withstand the thorns
Find comfort and strength, as we, these powers employ.

May your garden have very few thorns next year
May it be filled with  beautiful blooms
May we give thanks to our creator and God
For the beautiful tapestry of His looms.

The many blossoms were listed first -- however, the subsequent list of thorns were show stoppers. 2016 was a tough year for that family.
My social media profile suggests a different emphasis and focus on life experience:
Wonderfully married since 1967, 9 children, 40+ grandchildren. Senior Psychiatric Technician at a maximum security, forensic psychiatric hospital, where I learned how extraordinary the depth & breadth of the human condition can be and the Atonement of Jesus Christ that permits us to experience so much of life (good & evil, virtue & vice, light & darkness, health & sickness, pleasure & pain) and yet return home safely to our Father, who is God. And He shall wipe away all our tears and give us understanding of all things mortal with compassion and joy.
For me it’s been more a process of experiencing many of mortality’s oppositions and contrasts -- both bitter and sweet, so I can return to God with greater intelligence, with having experienced both bitter and sweet and learned to choose the sweet and reject the bitter. Living with contrast may be the key to perception and understanding -- which to me is truth, or intelligence.
When we wander across lines of propriety into sin’s realm with its resultant pain, in effect we identify those essential areas of weakness that we ourselves need to comprehend and overcome in mortal life. The challenge is whether we will accept the unique and personal tutelage that Christ will set before us so we may fully learn from our experience while climbing to higher ground and greater intelligence and joy. Neither theoretical nor academic, intelligence is experientially confirmed reality.
So Jerome, I would ask you for introspection:
  1. Do you now walk in peace among your peers in prison?  Consider this comment from Mormon:
3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.
5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing” (BofM, Moroni 7)
  1. And, is Enos’s experience of God’s forgiveness your experience?
3 Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
4 And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
5 And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.
6 And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.
7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen. And many years pass away before he shall manifest himself in the flesh; wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
9 Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.
10 And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. I have given unto them this land, and it is a holy land; and I curse it not save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy brethren according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.
11 And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren [enemies], the Lamanites.
12 And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.” (BofM, Enos 1)
A peaceful walk with the children of men and a personal witness of God’s forgiveness are two essential standards of an open book exam that we aspire to understand and master before we find ourselves in front of Christ for real. If we find ourselves uncomfortable in a prison Psych Eval before secular clinicians, how will we feel standing unprepared before Jesus Christ. He may not be accusing, rather within the standard of his pure and glorious presence we will feel acutely the contrast of who we have become in mortality.
Therefore, trusting in Him now, are we willing to travel the uniquely tailored path which He sets before each of us that we might not wither and cringe in his presence at the last day?
“. . .  men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (BofM Mosiah 3:18-19)
Do we have unfailing faith in His overwhelming love for us individually, no matter what our choices have been thus far in life, knowing that His only desire is to bring us safely home. In summation, as Boyd K. Packer said:
“That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.
Then “the peace of God, which passeth … understanding” comes into your life once again. [Philippians. 4:7] Then you, like Him, will remember your sins no more. How will you know? You will know! [BofM, Mosiah 4:1–3].
Some years ago I was in Washington, D.C., with President Harold B. Lee. Early one morning he called me to come into his hotel room. He was . . .  reading Gospel Doctrine, by President Joseph F. Smith, and he said, “Listen to this!
“‘Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us [Family History and vicarious temple-saving ordinances]; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission. [Your forefathers depend on you to identify them and complete sacred vicarious temple-saving ordinances for them. Thus you can never be a throw away person.] ’”
“There is never a time,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.
And so we pray, and we fast, and we plead, and we implore. We love those who wander, and we never give up hope.
I bear witness of Christ and of the power of His atonement. And I know that “his anger kindleth against the wicked; they repent, and in a moment it is turned away, and they are in his favor, and he giveth them life; therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” [Boyd K. Packer, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness, Oct 1995]
So Jerome, are you prepared, even determined, to walk the road God sets before you -- be it continued custody at Coalinga Prison for now or released to your home, according to what He determines will be most helpful in enabling you to return safely home to Him? Surely you will never be a throw away son. But rather than giving you exempting privilege, count on Christ’s continuing personal attention, prescribing whatever it takes to get you there -- however difficult to pass through.
God watched Joseph’s brothers sell him into Egypt and then extended prison time to get Joseph just right. Scripture documents God’s pattern for schooling chosen sons -- why not those who are already in prison? He expects our undivided attention and peaceable walk even in prison. Believe it or not, it’s harder to demand that of us on the outside.
God’s not mean and vindictive, He just wants what we need from Him and He will keep at individuals until they get it right or they throw their hands up and cry “enough already.” He calls it “striving” with us; I call it “pestering.” But, it’s that simple, and it’s our call to keep at it or drop out angry and crying -- ripe for destruction.
We talked about Mormons’ understanding that if not the Celestial Kingdom then the Terrestrial or Telestial. But those Kingdoms aren’t booby prizes that someone just lands in when they fall short -- they are Kingdoms of indescribable glory and require personal cleaning up and qualification.
Remember, “Not until [Christ] has redeemed and saved [to some level of glory] every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission.” That is also our Father’s promise to all who kept their premortal first estate and qualified for a mortal body and coming to Earth. Those who threw in with Satan before Earth life forfeited any glory whatsoever or chance for joy.
And the qualification process for a level of Glory is achieved sooner in life when cooperating with Christ and in possession of a tangible body than in death without a mortal body -- in case you were thinking dropping out of the course (ripe for destruction) sounded easier.  We are never throw aways, but sons or daughters of God -- always accounted for, looked after and loved -- a wonderful reason for celebrating Christmas.

I look forward to visiting with you again, Lloyd

See: My Church Calling - Prison Ministry

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