I'm excited to announce that my new book, "Facing The Son", is coming out on August 1. Here's the introduction. I hope it sparks an interest.
Facing the Son
Facing the Son
DESERET BOOK COMPANY
The light of dawn signaled the morning of the Sabbath, but the glow of the sun meant nothing to him. From his seat at the side of the dusty road, the beggar felt the sun’s heat warm his back and just a hint of breeze touching his upturned face. For many years, he had sat in darkness, each day coming to this same spot of ground. Here he begged from the many passersby for his subsistence. His eyes saw nothing, but his ears followed the sounds of movement near him—sounds of animals and their masters, mothers calling after their children, and the shuffling of feet as people walked by.
He listened as a group of men approached. They stopped and spoke together about his blindness. He marveled at the words of one whom the others called Jesus, when they asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
In anticipation, the blind man leaned forward to catch the reply.
“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2–3).
He couldn’t believe it. Never before had the blind man heard someone teach such a thing, but the words rang true in his heart. He had not deserved this physical problem; he knew it. He had always known it. Yet now this man preached what he had felt from birth.
This Jesus, who called himself “the light of the world” (John 9:5), spoke kindly to the beggar as he stooped before him. The beggar heard the stranger spit in the dirt, and then he felt warm, wet clay cover his blind eyes. He drew back, not understanding but somehow not fearing this new stranger. He heard a crowd begin to gather as Jesus helped him to his feet and quietly gave him instructions to “go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:7).
The beggar, now urged forward by some new feeling inside, was assisted to the pool. A glimmer of hope pricked his heart, but still, he was uncertain what would happen as he entered the water.
The blind man did as he was commanded and washed off the clay. Instantly, the light of the sun met his eyes and filled his mind. Never before had he ever imagined such brightness. Familiar objects and people appeared foreign with their vivid colors and strange dimensions, yet these new sights brought him unbelievable joy. Tears of amazement and gratitude spilled down his cheeks. It was a miracle. His eyes had been opened.
I have always loved reading the New Testament story of how Christ healed the blind man. I have imagined what that day would have been like, what the man may have been feeling, and the compassion that must have shown on the face of Jesus. Having struggled with very limited eyesight throughout my life and finally gone completely blind in 2003, I have longed to receive such a healing.
As a college student at Brigham Young University, when I still possessed some vision in one eye, I was present in a religion class where we were told that the prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, was in the building next door. After class, if we waited outside, in an hour, we might catch a glimpse of him. When class ended, I was amazed to see that no one besides me had remained to see the prophet.
I sat in the sun—just waiting. It occurred to me that if I was the only one around when President Benson exited the building, perhaps I could not only see him but speak with him as well. I had read and heard of many modern-day miracles that had been done by the hands of apostles and prophets in our day. Was it possible that I could receive a miracle and, through the power of the priesthood held by this prophet, be healed? Would President Benson take time to give me a blessing? Would Father in Heaven cause my sight to be improved or even fully restored?
Now, perhaps this sounds a bit Pollyannaish, or even foolish, but I knew that God worked through His prophets and that such a healing, according to the will of the Lord and my faith, was absolutely possible.
Finally, when the doors to the building were opened, students seemed to come out of nowhere, clustering to see the prophet. I was pushed to the rear of the crowd, and I watched President Benson shake the hands of those in the front row. My heart was saddened as I saw my chance to speak with the prophet, and possibly be healed by him, pass me by.
However, as I joined the group in celebrating President Benson’s birthday by singing to him, the Spirit comforted me and taught me an unforgettable lesson.
It was not the will of the Father that I should be healed of my sight impairment. Understanding entered my mind, as it so often had before, through the words of a scripture. I thought and felt the power of Christ’s teaching to his disciples on that day when he healed the blind man so long ago, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3).
Instead of receiving complete healing, it was my mission to keep my sight impairment. I learned through the Spirit that as I struggled with my disability, others would see the help given me by the hand of the Lord, and this would help them seek Christ in their own lives. This was not the answer I had hoped for and wanted, but I gathered my courage and received strength to move forward.
Since that time, the passage in John 9 has given me purpose amidst my struggles. Yet that is not all. As I have studied this chapter in more depth, I have come to realize that the healing of the beggar was not the primary focus of the passage. The man who was blind served as a living lesson for a deeper truth—the need to overcome spiritual blindness in order to truly see what is important.
After the beggar was healed, he was taken before the Pharisees and questioned. Because Christ had healed this man on the Sabbath, the Pharisees charged him with breaking the law of Moses and condemned him of being of the devil. They totally missed the miracle and the power of the miracle worker. The Pharisees were blind to all but their own interpretation of the law. They could see with their physical eyes, yet they were blind—blind to what mattered most: Jesus Christ.
It seems so easy for me to diagnose the vision problem of the Pharisees. Why couldn’t they, why didn’t they recognize or focus on the Savior? Why did they see only the law and not the giver of it? Yet, I wonder how many times I do the same thing. How often do I allow other things, even personal feelings, to take my focus away from spiritual matters and ultimately from my Savior? Spiritually speaking, what is my visual acuity? Do I suffer from a spiritual blindness similar to that of the Pharisees?
How can you and I improve our spiritual vision so that we can grow closer to the Savior?
I believe the sun can shed some light on this for us. After I lost my eyesight, I went through light withdrawals. I missed the sunlight in the clear blue sky, the sunrise over the mountains, and the beautiful colors of a sunset. Now, when I go outside, the only way I know if the sun is shining is if I feel it on my skin. I love to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on my face. There is a comfort in that feeling.
The sun can also provide valuable direction. I learned this in my mobility and orientation class that I attended after I first went blind. The goal of the course was for me to navigate safely and independently using a white cane.
In one lesson, I was taught that I can determine what direction I am facing by using the sun. Here’s how it works. If it were morning, and I felt the sun’s warmth on my right-hand side, then I would know I was facing north. Similarly, if I felt the warmth on my back, I would know I was facing west. This information can be vitally important to my navigation and safety.
Spiritually, we can also receive comfort and direction from the Son. If we can feel the warmth of the Son—the Spirit—then we know we are facing the right direction. However, if we aren’t feeling that warmth, we can be certain that we need a course correction. This information is vital to our eternal progression.
As we face the Son, and seek His light, you and I can gain access to real power. We can have a greater ability to “see” solutions to difficult problems, receive hope when life appears hopeless, obtain the enabling power of grace to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, receive forgiveness from sin, and gain strength to endure trials faithfully. We can do this incrementally each day as we seek and apply true principles to aid us in real, day-to-day experiences.
Let’s look at how an increased ability to see spiritually can affect us in a typical day’s experience. Each day, I interact with my children, and often my patience is tried. When I grow irritated at their whining, complaining, or arguing, and I let that irritation fester, then I am not facing the Son. I am allowing the light of the Spirit to be eclipsed. However, if I have an automatic plan to engage when I begin feeling such irritation, then I can more easily think, feel, and act with love from the unobstructed light source: Jesus Christ. This will help me handle the situation with more patience, in a Christlike manner and without contention—at least on my end. I will see more clearly because the darkness that comes from holding onto negative feelings is replaced by spiritual light and strength.
I invite you to try examining your own visual acuity—not your physical sight, for that is of lesser importance, but your spiritual ability to see. How is this done? I have found that spiritual vision may be easier to identify if I compare it to the different stages of physical vision I have gone through in my life.
At the age of seven months, I was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma—multiple tumors on the retinas of both eyes. This cancer was treated with radiation therapy, and my life and some vision were saved.
For the first eight or nine years of my life, I had limited vision in both eyes, but my retinas were very scarred, leaving me with blind spots in my field of vision. However, until I ran into something, I didn’t notice the blind spots. My mind adapted so that I just looked around them automatically.
When I lost the sight in my left eye, due to a cataract and calcification of my pupil, I depended solely on the vision that remained in my right eye. It was difficult to rely on less light than I had been used to, and I didn’t like the feeling of darkness. Then, when my left optic nerve died, it grew even darker, if possible, and it was like part of me was lost to a blank void. My world grew smaller and smaller.
With these changes came the need to make adjustments to help me utilize my remaining vision. For example, I turned my head to the left so that I could see what was in front of me and not just what was on my right-hand side.
I developed a cataract on the lens of my right eye when I was in high school, and surgery was required to improve my sight. My lens was removed and an artificial lens was put in its place. Consequently, everything appeared brighter. The cloudy lens had dimmed my vision, but I hadn’t noticed because the change had occurred so gradually. With the new lens, colors seemed brighter and more vibrant. I literally felt as though I had more light in my life.
Then, when I was thirty-two years old, the remaining vision in my right eye began to fade and I was diagnosed with more cancer. This time, the tumors were behind my right eye and had been caused by the radiation I had received as an infant. Despite many surgeries and even more faith and prayers, I lost my sight when it became necessary to remove my right eye in order to remove the cancer. I then was completely blind—left in absolute darkness. I was devastated.
At different times throughout our mortal lives, we may, depending on our faithfulness, experience differing degrees of spiritual vision. Clear vision requires that there be no obstruction to light. However, we are constantly bombarded by temptation and sin, which, if chosen or embraced, will obstruct our view.
I wonder if you and I get so used to these light-blockers that we begin to look around them, until that becomes so automatic that we don’t even notice them. Or perhaps we make small bad choices that don’t appear to change our vision but that, if not corrected, dim our sight. If we stray further and further from the Light—Jesus Christ—we can feel spiritually as I did physically when I lost all vision: left in darkness and despair. The light we previously enjoyed may seem lost forever.
If we honestly identify and properly treat those things that blind us spiritually, our focus on Christ will sharpen, and our vision will become clearer. Through the help of the Spirit and the power of the Atonement, we can improve our ability to see spiritually in this life and to make it through the difficulties and darkness of mortality.
As you and I seek light together, I know that the Spirit will lead you to actions appropriate to your own situation and spiritual acuity. I know that as we work to improve our spiritual sight, praying for the help and direction of heaven, darkness will retreat and we will move closer to the Light. For Christ is the only cure, remedy and healer of our spiritual vision. He has promised, “I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16, 19).