Spiritual Direction

Jeremy,

I have read every word of what you wrote. And I am proud of you. Proud that you can speak these words to yourself. Proud that you have the courage to speak them to others. Proud that that you are here, proud that you have walked this road and made such astounding progress since the lowest of the low had you in its grasp.

You have arrived at the final frontier, the last great sacrifice that God demands of his sons when they truly seek him. That sacrifice is consecration, a complete turning of body, mind and spirit towards Gods purposes. Consecration, like sobriety, like conversion is not an event, but a process, and you are on the path. Consecration takes the mundane and makes it holy.

It takes that which is low, and base, even evil in us, and puts in its place new motivations that drive us to serve God and serve our fellow men, not because we want to receive in return, but because we are now designed to give. The will to bestow eclipses the will to receive, and we become like stars, always radiating, always bestowing, always shining a light that gives brightness where there is darkness and life where there was death. We begin to reflect God. This is the meaning of a saint.

A saint is a consecrated person. 

Saints are saints not because they are perfect, but because they are trying. The foundation of all spiritual progress, the source of all health, is the ability to bridle the passions and the impulses of our mortal nature. Importantly, bridling the passions is not the same thing as stamping them out. Absence of desire is not the goal. The goal is to elevate our mortal appetites to the fulfilling of immortal purposes.

Eating is a necessity, but eating without control makes us fat and dead. This is gluttony. Sleeping is essential, but sleeping without control makes us lazy, weak, and unaccomplished. This is sloth. Pleasure and comfort should be joys in life, but without control pleasure becomes addiction. This is pride.

Sex is the desire to seek unity with others and with the divine, the deeply ingrained impulse of creation. Without control, sex becomes a whirling tornado that does the exact opposite, wrecking relationships and making us anything but divine. This is lust.

When God begins to rewrite your story, these passions take on a new level. Again, they cannot and should not be stamped out, but they begin to march to the tune of a higher law. You learn to embrace hunger and control your appetite, withholding with the power of your will the ability to eat without real intent, and you begin to eat towards God.

You are the master, because you have utter and complete control over your appetite. Because you are comfortable spending time with hunger, when you eat your taste buds pick up every detail, and your food becomes delicious again. This is temperance. 
You go to bed early and you get up early.

You embrace the discomfort of having to leave a warm bed and face the difficulties of the day. You work hard and you labor until your days allotment of breath from God has been spent building up his kingdom in your life. Then, when your head hits the pillow at night, you are not being compelled by exhaustion, you are choosing with real intent to embrace sleep as a true pleasure. When your eyes close at night, you are filled with the satisfaction of knowing you have earned your rest. This is diligence. 

When you reject the opportunities to drink, to drug, to dull the senses with entertainment that can occupy but never satisfy, you learn to be. You learn to embrace what your life is presenting to you in that very moment. Perhaps it is the discomfort of boredom. Perhaps it is the pain of difficulties in life, in relationships. Perhaps it is the simple stress of daily living. But rather than cover them, you embrace this discomfort. You embody it, you live it, even love it.

You do this because when you have taken the time to truly experience discomfort, when you turn at the right time to a simple pleasure, as simple as a walk in the park or the sight of a sunset, you feel that moment with every fiber of your being, and you are truly satisfied. This is freedom. 

When you feel the urge to express sex, rather than crushing the urge by acting upon it or by trying to suppress it, you let it fill you up. You let that energy fill your whole soul, because that is the voice of God telling you to create, to connect, to help him bring to pass his purpose of filling and expanding creation. Sex is not a single part of the plan in Gods eyes, it is the very driving force.

The work and the glory of God is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. He does that by sending his children to earth, to fall completely ans sin darkly so that they might experience true and everlasting happiness and righteousness when they are brought back to him. His children get to earth through sex, but this isn’t just about reproduction.

Sex drives us to build nests to welcome new souls to this earth. It drives us to build up communities where the children of God can grow and be nourished. An exalted sex drive leads us to fatherhood, and fatherhood is more than having biological children. It means being a watchful guide, a disciplined leader, and a tender caretaker over those that God gives you to be your spiritual children. 

You channel that infinite power into creating, presiding, directing, providing, and being a wise and generous father. This is Chastity. 

You write about Todd with extreme reverence. He was God for you. Now you have matured to the level that he stood at when he reached out his hand and snatched you from the abyss. 

Of all the titles God has, and he has many, he has asked us to refer to him by a name that means more to him and should mean more to us than any other. He is our Father. 
Todd was God for you in that moment. God reached through his hands and spoke through his mouth to put you back on the path to happiness. Now it is time for you to let God do the same through you.

You have been where your children are. You have walked their path, you have carried their sorrows. Now you stand a few steps above them, you have matured, you have mastered, you have received a measure of light above them. Now turn, and stretch out the hand that was stretched out to you. Speak the words that your Father spoke to you, and the same words that one day your children will speak to their sons and daughters. 

Adopt them. Love them. Cherish them. Raise them to do good. Teach them that there is a God in heaven who loves them enough to save them. Be patient with their shortcomings. Catch them when they fall. Admonish them when they act against what they know.

Reach down and strengthen them when their knees are shaking and they are learning to walk. Be the father that you needed at their age in the process. One day they will write their stories, and when they write your name, a tear will come to their eyes, and a lump will come to their throats, as they write your name.

Jeremy:read:God.

I love you.

Words of the Elder

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Jeremy,
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One thing I know for sure is that if you were to make that call in a rage it would never bring you peace, but then again, neither would living without closure. The peace you are looking for will come to regardless of what your family does or does not do. That must be your goal, to reach conclusive harmony independent of what they choose to be.
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Your question is insightful. What do we do with the horrible truth? What do we do with a justified rage? It is all fine and well to say “love thy neighbor, and honor thy father and mother,” but then those people do something like this. What then?
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First, you cannot diminish or try to deny the fact that the rage is there. Sometimes good Christians try to bury emotions like these because they don’t feel like a christian should ever have them, but we do. We can’t just hope for them to disapear. Emotions, like energy, are neither created nor destroyed. They only change forms under certain conditions, and that is exactly what can happen to this last complex of work for you to do.
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It requires certain catalysts in order to break down a mass of pent up anger. You have to fill your soul with so much light that it forces the darkness into submission. Coming to peace with something as entrenched as this requires your own personal Gethsemane. When the spirit of Christ is at work, it can literaly break down the worst in our lives. The spirit of Christ comes to us in the form of truth, so we have to saturate our minds and hearts with it. We feast on the scriptures. We pray with an intensity we have never known. We meditate on things as they really are, as they really were, and as they really will be. We plead with God to do the real work for us.
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Then, slowly but surely, we start to feel our anger changing shape and flavor. It gradually undergoes a change from rage into strength. The storm becomes calmed. The huge tangle of emotions has been examined, undone, and ironed out into a clear vision. We realize that we haven’t cast aside the rage, we have transmuted it into something useful and not destructive to ourselves and others. When you can think of it all, all that they did, and all that they might yet do, with that calm inner strength, that reassurance that you are at total peace and they have no more power to effect you in any way, when you have achieved that firmness of mind not to be swayed in your resolve to maintain your peace, then you can do anything, even look them all square in the face, and whatever they do, whether they vomit up all their old bile over again, or beg your forgiveness, it would change nothing about how you feel in your own shoes.
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At that point you have taken the high ground. If they lash out, it is like a man shouting at the sea to stop producing the tide. You have united yourself with a force of nature, the creator of nature, and you cannot be stopped or swayed. They might choose to struggle with their own poison for the rest of their lives, but you will be free.
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As to what God thinks of you and your situation, if you fill your mind with enough light to dislodge this hurdle in your progress, his desires for you will be revealed so naturally you will hardly have to ask. Light shows us the pathway we need to travel. The light of spirit reveals the mind of God. God knows better than any of us what it is to endure injustice and shame. We took upon himself such a load of it that it defies human comprehension. There is no better source to go to learn to pass through it, because he knows it so well.
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My advice? Find peace. Take the high ground. Then you will not be asking for closure from them. You will already have closure regardless of what they say or do or think. Then, if you feel ready, in your mercy, you might give them one final chance to have closure, and if they refuse it you will pity them, but no longer hate them.
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Prayers,
Spencer

Home Coming – Elder Christensen

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Photo: Temple – Spencer right in photo.

Here’s the story of my homecoming! Thanks for the challenge and for the trip down memory lane.
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November 22nd, 2016, came so much faster than I thought it would. My mission seemed to end as fast as it had begun. The last few days where a whirlwind. We had to make transfer calls, pack bags, prepare the area for the next elders, and all at the same time, I was trying to process exactly what it would mean to go through such a radical change.

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We had a final devotional in the Laurier Chapel, and we all took turns sharing the highlights of our missions. There was not a dry eye in the room. It felt so good and hurt so much all at the same time. The day finally did come, and on the way to the airport, it felt unreal, as if it where all a dream and I was going to wake up any minute. I couldn’t believe I was going to see my parents and my sisters again after years being apart.
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We arrived at the airport, and I shook hands and hugged the same Elders I had trained with in the MTC two beautiful years earlier. I still keep in touch with every one of these lifelong friends. When the plane took off, I looked out one last time at the Saint Lawrence river, and had to hold back my tears. It was as if I were leaving home all over again. My friends and my family were down there. People that I loved deeply and was so sad to leave. I was leaving wards and branches that had loved me and my companions, taking care of us, supporting us in our work, and becoming lifelong friends.

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The first flight seemed to go fast, and we landed for a connection in Chicago. My layover was over five hours, so I had a long time to walk around the airport. I had so much on my mind, that I alternated between walking around and sitting quietly in the waiting areas. I thought about going to see a little of Chicago, but I just felt like I was too engrossed in my thoughts to enjoy any of the sights there. I just sat there thinking about the life I was leaving and the life I was starting. I also felt so tired. I realized how much I had been running on adrenaline for my mission, especially during the last months.
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I was working so hard that I hadn’t even had a chance to get my hair cut. It was much longer than I would have liked, and it probably looked a bit sloppy. I was wearing the same trench coat that I wore on my first night as a missionary in Joliette Quebec, freezing clear down to my bones and wondering how I would ever survive in this place where I could not even speak the language. Today was cold like it had been then, the same time two years ago.
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Missionaries stick out like sore thumbs to other members of the church, and several times, people would come up and ask “Are you coming or going, Elder?” It felt good to be surrounded by community even in such a strange place. The hours ticked by in that airport, and I started realizing just how tired I really was.

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I was drained to the core. My body mind and spirit had gone to their limits. Now that I literally had nothing to do but wait, it was as if my whole soul finally breathed a sigh of relief. I wandered over to my terminal and sat down, feeling like a washed up piece of driftwood. I somehow felt like I still had energy, not tired enough to try and sleep, but I was just worn completely out. I felt totally emptied. I don’t remember how long I sat there, in that weird state.
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I was jarred back to reality by a voice asking “Elder! How are you?” I looked up to see a lady, clearly a member of the church, holding half a pizza in her hand. “Elder” she said “I can’t eat the rest of this, would you like some?” She had hardly touched that Pizza, and it was probably a lie, but suddenly it downed on me that I hadn’t eaten in hours, and I was so tied up in my thoughts that I hadn’t even realized how hungry I was.

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I gratefully accepted and we started talking. As it turns our, she was not only going back to Idaho, she was in my same stake. She knew a lot of my friends. She new Ashton Wise and her family, my stake president, and many others. We passed about an hour waiting there. Another man sat down next to us, and we somehow started up a conversation with him. As it turns out, he was a youth pastor, and we had a great talk about God with him.
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Finally, the plane was ready, and I started the last stretch of my ride home. It went so fast, and I will never forget the feeling of passing down over Boise, and seeing the spires of the Boise Idaho temple lit up in the night.
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We touched down, and I realized that my parents were on the other side of the door. This sweet sister who had stopped to talk to me asked “Are you ready for this?” I don’t remember what I said, I was too excited now. I passed through the corridor, and through the glass doors I saw my mother for the first time in two years.
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They opened and there was a huge shout as I was welcomed home by a crowd of friends and family. There were posters, there were balloons. Mom hugged me first, then Dad, then my sisters. My lips were really dry, because I smiled so wide that I actually split my lip. My uncle and aunt with my cousins were there too. We drove home, and we talked about so much. It was late at night when we pulled into our driveway.

As is tradition in our family, we knelt down to pray together before we all went to bed.

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My Dad said “Spencer, it is definitely your turn to say it.” I said it in French, and as I spoke to God in that language that I had grown to love, the language of my family in Quebec, my heart was breaking. I stared up at the ceiling for a while, in my own bed. One of my best friends, who was also just recently home from a mission, was staying the night, and I was grateful to have him there.
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It still felt weird to be alone, and besides that, I still wasn’t released from being a missionary, so the rules of having to be with a companion 24/7 still applied. We talked a little before falling to sleep. We reached the same conclusion. It had been a hard two years. It had also been the best thing we had ever done in our lives.
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The next day, I called president Christensen, (no relation, but my wonderful stake president) to let him know that I was home safe and that I could be released. He was out of town, so he sent one of his counselors to formally release me. Now, when a missionary is set apart to begin his service, it is a very important, private, and sacred occasion.
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The stake president, who reads directly from the assignment given by one of the twelve Apostles, lays his hands on the missionaries head, usually with his/her father and everyone else in the family who has been ordained to the priesthood. He sets you apart as a missionary specific to the area of the world where you have been called by inspiration to serve, and blesses you with all the rights, powers and privileges you need to teach the gospel, along with any other blessings he feels inspired to give you.

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A release, on the other hand, is much more direct, simple, and even abrupt. President Nelson, the counselor who released me, came over to our house. We had a short talk about my mission, and we enjoyed catching up on each others lives.
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He then said, “Elder Christensen, are you ready to be released?” I said something about being ready. His next words stung. He said: “Then Brother Christensen, acting under the authority of President Christensen, I release you from your obligations as a full time missionary.” I instantly felt different. There was a moment of silence. Then he quietly said, “Its time to take off your tag.” I did so. I stared at it for a few seconds with a deep sense of loss.

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That next Sunday I was asked to speak in church. Christmas was coming and that was the spirit that prevailed that day. There were so many reunions that I lost count. Friends and family had traveled long distances to be at this meeting where I would report my mission.
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My grandparents, uncles and aunts, and so many friends were there. the meeting was about to start, so I took my seat on the stand next to the other speaker and my father, who was also my bishop at the time. Suddenly, I see Ashton Wise, one of my best friends, walking up the aisle.
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I jumped down to hug her and thank her for being there, and I remember being shocked at how thin and small she felt. She had just come back from a mission herself, and I could feel the difference. She was tired too. She had lost weight, and had a touch of laryngitis, so she spoke with a froggy voice. I wanted to sit down and talk about her experience, but I had to speak, so she went to the audience. I honestly had prepared very little for this twenty minute talk.
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I had a few notes, but I didn’t look down much at all. After two years, I had plenty of material. I did my best. I shared the funny moments, and they laughed. I shared the miracle moments, and they cried. And I did too. It stung so bad to have to come home from a live spent in the service of something so much bigger than me. I shed many tears.
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That was the beginning of accepting I was home, and that I needed to find my new identity in the work , because the work was only beginning.