Have You Ever Been Lost In The Woods?

Have you ever been lost in the woods and temporarily didn’t know how to get back to the road, or camp, or the parking lot where you left your car?  It is pretty disorienting, isn’t it.  Remember how confused you felt?  Do you remember how you felt when you finally figured out where you were and which way you should go to return to safety?  That is a pretty happy feeling, isn’t it?

Well, that is exactly how I feel most of the time about the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Long before I became a Mormon I had questions about religion that I simply could not answer.  And I couldn’t find anyone else who could answer them either.  Often my spiritual leaders would tell me, “You will just have to wait until you get to heaven and ask God.”  But some of my questions were about things I needed to know now, right here in this life.  Without some answers I didn’t know my way out of the woods.  I didn’t know which way to turn.  Who should I marry? What course of study should I pursue in college?  Do my mother and father really love me or are they just saying that because they feel it is expected of them?  Is there really a God, or is that something my clergymen are just telling me in order to be successful in their careers?  Why are some sins so hard to avoid?  How come others are so mean to me?  Why am I so unpopular at school?  Why am I so lonely?  Why do my teachers at school seem to hate my guts?  Everyone tells me that Jesus loves me, but how can I be sure?  I know that I am supposed to help others, but what if I can’t even help myself and I’m just hanging on by my finger nails?  If school is so important, why do I hate it so much?  And why does everyone up at school seem to hate me so much, especially the other kids?  How am I ever going to get a girl to date me when I know that dating me would instantly destroy her social life because everyone thinks I’m so weird?

I can still remember how awful it was before I became a Mormon.  But ever since I met the Mormon missionaries things have been enormously better, and that was over 43 years ago when I was still in high school.  They were able to answer almost all of my questions for me.  And when I read the scriptures with them, for the first time ever they seemed to make sense.  All the times before when I read them, they just seemed to be empty words that didn’t mean anything.  Or if they did, I didn’t know what the meaning was.  Sure I knew there was a God.  Somebody was listening to my prayers.  I could sense that in some mysterious way.  But I didn’t know anything about him.  I didn’t even know if Jesus was his Son or whether or not that even mattered.  What did God want from me?  Did he want anything?

I was so mixed up and confused.  I really was like a person lost in the woods.  I didn’t know which way to turn.  I did not feel safe in this dangerous world, and I did not know which direction to go to look for safety or some relief from my loneliness.  But meeting the Mormon missionaries, and the Young Women who introduced me to them, changed all that.  Everything has been much, much better since then.

I still have a difficult personality.  People who do not know me well, do not know how happy I am, or how positive I am about life, the universe and everything.  I love best those scriptures that talk about damnation, the wicked and hellfire.  Sure, I like all the luvy-duvy stuff too, but the scary scriptures are the ones I love most because they make it so clear where the danger lies.  And knowing where it lies, I can travel around it or in another direction.  Now I know how to stay out of trouble.  I know what kind of people might accept me the way I am and even help me become a better person.  And I can spot those I need to stay clear of because they will probably drag me down.  I know how to find a loyal friend because those who are loyal to God are loyal people, and they will be more likely to be loyal friends.  And I do not expect loyal friends among those who are not loyal to God or anyone else.

I am not a negative person, a person always predicting disaster and complaining about “how bad it is.”  I am just so happy to be able to spot the bad stuff for what it is.  How can it hurt me if I can see it?  All I have to do is keep the commandments of Jesus Christ with all my might, and everything will go well for me, either now or later.  But now at least I know what those commandments are.  And I know what sins to avoid and which ones are the most dangerous.  I am not nearly as gullible as I used to be or as easily deceived by others who do not have my best interests at heart.  This is good, not bad.  It is a great cause for rejoicing, not some evidence that I am an unhappy, negative person.  Finally, I am no longer lost.  I know which way to go.  I am confident that I can find my way out of the woods.  The pathway is clear.

Yes, I am an Iron Rod.  I love Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith almost more than words can express.  But I love them for pointing out the clear path for me.  My favorite book after the standard works is The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball.  He wasn’t even the President of the Church when he wrote that book.  I don’t think he was even in the Twelve.  But oh how I love that book.  It marked out a clear path for me to follow.  It told me in plain, easy to understand language what I needed to do to straighten myself out and get right with the Lord.  And it told me what I would receive as a reward if I did.  How wonderful it is to know which way to turn, which path to follow!  It just makes me so happy to know I am not lost any more as I was for so many unhappy years during my childhood.  Surely I am one of the most lucky people in the world because the Lord found me and answered my prayers by sending the Mormon missionaries to teach me.  I will be grateful to him all the days of my life because he has done this wonderful thing for me.  Never again will I have to be lost and confused like I once was.  I have found my way out of the woods.

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7 Responses to Have You Ever Been Lost In The Woods?

  1. Michael says:

    I have learned that the Iron Rod gave me the power to see from the past, present, and future. This is something peculiar that I have never experimented when I was in the Iron Rod room.

  2. Michael says:

    I know the suffering is good because these trials and tribulations molds you to be Christlike for whomsoever is willing to lay his life for the Lord and the gospel will be sit at the right hand of Jesus in his glory forever and ever.

  3. Michael says:

    I was not lost in the woods, but came directly to the highest kingdom of God. I kept the commandment of God since my childhood. I have never used drugs, alcohol, youth activities, and fornication. What I have done is being a Devout Christian suffering for the sake of Christ. I have given my life to Jesus, for my friends and the church. I have been so much blessed by God that he has given me back my life, again. Sometimes I get mad because of the sin of the world. Sometimes I plead the Lord to change the world so in order the Kingdom of God may go forth. I believe I am happy to do good, but I will be not happy when there is so much wickedness and so much shedding blood in other nations. Being a devout in Christian as an missionary of Jesus going to preach the gospel warning them the time has come. I was guarded by the angels of God since I came up to heaven. Even there were so much storms, and tempest but the Spirit guided me that I will not get lost. This is what I have learned from the Iron Rod. That’s what I have gotten the hints.

  4. Thank you for the information on Miracle of Forgiveness. I don’t know where I picked up the idea that President Kimball wrote it before he was a member of the Twelve. I just know that it was the best book I ever read about actually putting into practice the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a great how-to manual and fills a very important place in the literature of the restored gospel. I hope that future dispensations will include it, or at least parts of it, in some future canon of scripture.

    I was aware that the phrase “life, the universe and everything” came from Douglas Adams novels. But I didn’t mean anything by that. I just find it a useful phrase to describe what we talk about in any good, wide-ranging conversation. I read Adams novels many years ago and enjoyed the humor. However, I never made any attempt to understand them on any deeper level than a few good laughs. I don’t read novels for philosophy or religion. I read the scriptures and the sermons of the modern prophets for that. Movies and novels I enjoy simply as entertainment.

  5. Gary says:

     

    John,

    Like you, I consider myself to be an Iron Rod man. Also like you, I love Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith. To borrow a metaphor, “As giants to pygmies are they when placed alongside [those] who now traduce them with slighting word and contemptuous phrase.” (Ezra Taft Benson quoting J. Reuben Clark, Jr., speaking about the U.S. Founding Fathers in This Nation Shall Endure, p. 23.)

    As a side note, Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness was published 26 years after he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve and only four years before he became Church President. When the book had been in print nearly twenty years, Church President Ezra Taft Benson said:

    “We would admonish all of you to read and reread President Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness. The sooner you can read it, the greater blessing it will be for you.” (Ensign, Sept. 1988, p. 2.)

    My wife and I had already read the book. However, on the Prophet’s recommendation, we read it again as a family.

    By the way, did you intentionally quote Douglas Adams (“life, the universe and everything“) in your article?

  6. My first two children are daughters 26 and 24 years of age respectively. They both married in the temple at the age of 20 to faithful men who are as devout as I try to be. I could not be more pleased with how they have turned out so far, or with what fine men their husbands are.

    My son does not seem to be as committed to the gospel as his parents and two sisters. He chose not to go on a mission, and so far has also not chosen to go to college or even work a full-time job. He is 22. He tells us that he goes to Church regularly, but as I’m sure you know, that could mean almost anything. If he is not true and faithful, I hope that he becomes more so as he grows up and learns more about life.

    Still, there are plenty of children of good parents who decide on a different path from that blazed by their parents. And my wife and I may have made some mistakes along the way. I don’t know of any way to go back and correct them now. Hopefully the Lord will be as merciful to me as many tell me he is. I grew up thinking of God as a hard man to please, just like my earthly father was. He was virtually impossible to please. I cannot think of another man more in need of a loving father’s mercy and forgiveness than I am.

  7. Matt Thurston says:

    Nice post John. The Mormon Church is great at pointing out where “all the bad stuff” is, and pretty good at explaining how best to avoid it. Between JFS and BRK, and SWK’s MoF, you’ve got a lot of bad stuff to sift through. I’m curious, have you embraced all of the Church’s advice on what constitutes “bad stuff” with equal fervor, or have there been times when certain “bad stuff”, when you heard about it, didn’t seem so bad?

    Also, if I’m not prying too much, I’m curious about the personalities of your children? Are they “iron rod’s” through and through like you? If not, have you had any difficulties teaching them between bad and good, right and wrong?

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