The Seeking Soul: A Pathway of Spiritual Growth

The Seeking Soul: A Pathway of Spiritual Growth

by Brad Flinders

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452596150
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 05/07/2014
Pages: 180
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range: 1 - 17 Years

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The Seeking Soul

A Pathway of Spiritual Growth


By Brad Flinders

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2014 Brad Flinders
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-9615-0



CHAPTER 1

SPIRITUAL LONGINGS


This all began in 1957 when I was born into a loving Mormon family in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was the third of four children, having two older sisters and a younger brother. My fond memories of those early days consist of playing with my best friend, Clay, as well as other friends in our suburban neighborhood. I had a joyous childhood. The day was never long enough, as we played endless games and engaged in whatever activities our young imaginations could summon. Some days it was just Clay and I; other times it would include several of the neighbor boys. We didn't watch much TV in those days but spent all the time we could outdoors, regardless of the season. We were always disappointed when our mothers called us in for the evening, ending our adventures when there was so much fun still to be had. In other words, we were regular boys.

My spiritual path really began in those early days as well. I remember that we had a thin hardbound book in our home narrated by the prophet Nephi, one of the main characters in the Book of Mormon. It must have been a children's version, because I remember reading it while I was still very young. There were no pictures, just text. The book was basically a simplified account of the early chapters in the Book of Mormon. I remember reading these stories and feeling great stirrings in my soul. I loved the prophet Nephi; I wanted to be just like him. This was more than just a passing phase. I thought about spiritual things continually. This was a burning desire deep within me.

As far back as I can remember, I had this longing inside. I would not have been able to articulate it back then, but looking back, I would describe it as wanting to know God. More accurately, I wanted to experience God. I wanted to have the experiences Nephi had. I wanted to be as good as him, as worthy as him. This, to me, was the ultimate experience of existence. To arrive at this state of spiritual accomplishment was definitely the goal. My soul thrilled at the thought of God speaking to me as he spoke to Nephi and other early prophets. I wanted to be that righteous.

Over the years, this desire would occasionally change form in some manner, but it would never leave me. It was a yearning that never seemed to be fulfilled. Sometimes it almost felt like a curse. It was always with me. Since I grew up LDS, the only way I knew to address this longing was through devotion to the teachings of the church. This was not so much an outward display as it was an inner feeling. I wanted to be obedient. I never really felt like I was measuring up, but this did not dampen my devotion in any way. I was determined and hopeful to have tangible spiritual experiences like the prophets of old. This was my greatest desire. I believed it was just a matter of worthiness.

When I was ten years old, my parents decided to leave Salt Lake City and move to a more rural area. A friend had told them about a small farm for sale. My father was familiar with the area because he had traveled through there as a boy. He had commented, as a young man, that he would love to live in this area some day. They bought the 72-acre farm for $300 an acre in 1967.

For me, the move was both exciting and sad. It was difficult to leave my wonderful friends in our little suburb of Salt Lake City. They were the only friends I had ever known, and Clay was my best friend; we were like brothers. Not having a choice, I reluctantly left, hoping that this new adventure would somehow replace the life I had come to know and love in our wonderful little neighborhood.

The move had its challenges, but it proved to be a vital part of my journey. Soon after we moved, I met a family who would have a profound influence on my life's path. I made friends with two brothers who lived a short distance from our farm. I'll call them Rob and Joel. Rob was a year older than I and Joel was a year younger. The three of us spent many happy hours together. We especially had fun each summer, camping in the nearby mountains and just goofing off like boys do. They became my dearest friends during a time when I was growing through many inner yearnings.

I spent many hours in Rob and Joel's home, becoming like another son to their parents. Theirs was a home of true religious devotion to the gospel. This resonated deeply with me. I especially loved being in their home on Sundays when they spoke often of spiritual teachings and experiences. Their father was particularly influential in providing many spiritual insights for me to consider. My favorite story, however, was the following account that I heard Rob and Joel's mother tell many times about her father William, who was still living at the time, and whom I had met on several occasions.

William had been converted to the Mormon Church in the early 1900s. He joined the church shortly after serving in World War I. The profound effect William had on my life came in the form of an experience he'd had as a missionary. Shortly after William had joined the church, he decided to serve a mission, which consists of going out and teaching the gospel message to others. In fact, he served two missions. While on one of these missions he was preaching with his companion in a particular town where they were not being very well received. They were told by some very angry people to get out of town and never come back. William, who—as his daughter put it—had no fear of man, was there the very next week, preaching to those same people. He was committed to sharing his message of truth. At some point in the sermon, William relates that someone in the congregation gave some sort of signal to the others, and they all stood up and began to move toward him. He could see that they had clubs and chains in order to inflict bodily harm.

What happened next was the epitome of what, in my mind, religion or spirituality was all about. In the moment when William's life was in peril, he was saved from the mob by an actual heavenly being. As this being entered the back of the room, the people in the room were frozen in time, and the heavenly being took William out of the building to safety. No one except William knew what had happened.

Learning of this experience changed my life. Here was a man whom I actually knew and could talk to (even though he was very elderly), whose experiences provided evidence that this spiritual path was real. All the feelings I had felt as a child were now magnified a hundredfold. More than ever, I wanted to have this experience, to somehow become worthy to experience God in a real and tangible way; to hear his voice, to see his face, to have a vision, see an angel. It didn't matter what form it came in; I just knew this was my ultimate goal. Every time I heard William's story, I would thrill inside to know that this had happened, meaning that a heavenly manifestation was also possible for me. Meeting this family had a profound effect on my spiritual life in many ways. It fueled the fire that I had felt since childhood regarding spirituality and God. I was now more determined than ever to achieve some sort of spiritual pinnacle in my life.

So my quest continued. As I grew through my teenage and early adult years, I became an avid student of early Mormonism. This came from the all-pervading desire that had never left since childhood. The LDS faith was the only form of spirituality I knew, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was God's true church. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding early Mormon history. I read such books as The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, The Life of Heber C. Kimball, The Discourses of Brigham Young, and The Life of John Taylor (all early church leaders). I read these books several times. I purchased the entire Journal of Discourses (twenty-six volumes) and anything else I could find pertaining to the early church. I studied these writings diligently, thrilling at the experiences of these early church members and leaders. I read about Wilford Woodruff (an early Mormon prophet) going to England and converting entire congregations of hundreds people to Mormonism, usually with a notable spiritual manifestation included in the experience.

There was so much evidence of the spiritual experiences I was longing for in early Mormonism but almost no evidence of these experiences in the current church. This only made me more determined to be diligent in my obedience to the teachings of the gospel. Even though I was outwardly a regular young man, on the inside I was dealing with this relentless drive. I remained ever vigilant in seeking for spiritual experiences. I was wholly devoted to my spiritual path.

CHAPTER 2

THE MISSION


As all faithful Mormon young men do, I submitted my papers to serve an LDS mission after graduating from high school. The call to serve a mission came in the form of a letter from the prophet of the church. I opened the letter with excited anticipation. I was to serve in South Africa for two years.

On December 9, 1976, my parents dropped me off at the LTM (Language Training Mission) in Provo, Utah, where I would spend the first two months of my mission learning to speak Afrikaans (the language of the Dutch descendants in South Africa). It was a tearful goodbye, since I would not be allowed to be in contact with my family for the entire two years, other than through letters. It must have been a difficult moment for my mother, but my parents believed in the gospel, and this was their way of showing their devotion through sacrifice.

My two months in the LTM would prove to be challenging but meaningful and rewarding. There were eight young men entering the LTM that day assigned to the Johannesburg, South Africa mission, all 19-year-old boys. Our charge was to not only learn to speak Afrikaans, but to memorize, word for word, all eight missionary discussions. These were lengthy lessons that would be utilized to teach people in the Afrikaans language. This was a grueling task. We studied all day, every day. I had never studied so hard in my life. We bonded together as a group, and we committed to learn all eight lessons before we left for Africa, which we did. All eight missionaries memorized all eight discussions word for word, and we actually knew what we were saying. We were the first group of South African missionaries to accomplish this. We were quite proud of ourselves.

In addition to spending many hours each day learning the language and the missionary discussions, I spent a significant amount of time reading the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants (Mormon scriptures). I read both volumes cover to cover several times during those two months. I loved these scriptures. I loved their stories and teachings; I loved everything I was learning from these sacred writings.

After two months in the LTM, which seemed much longer, we boarded our plane and departed for the mission field. Our hearts were full of hope and anticipation. On the flight between London and Johannesburg, we noticed that the flight attendants and pilot were speaking in a language that we couldn't understand. Imagine our dismay when we discovered they were speaking Afrikaans, the very language we had been studying for two months. Unfortunately, because of the accent and the speed with which they spoke, we couldn't understand a word they were saying.

Upon arriving in South Africa, I met the next person who would have a significant impact on my life. The mission president (the church authority in charge of all the missionaries) was an inspired man named Dale LeBaron, one of the more Christ-like leaders I had met during my experience in the church. President LeBaron was a man full of love and compassion, and he possessed a dedication and devotion that I admired greatly. He seemed to be truly in tune with God, and I came to trust him completely. He taught me many lessons and set a tremendous example of devotion and righteousness, those qualities for which I was still striving.

The day-to-day grind of the mission was difficult, as we spent almost all of our time knocking on doors, trying to interest people in our message. The difficulty was not in the hard work, but in the continual rejection. Conversation did not come easily to me and I had to work continuously at being in such a constant social environment. I was not much of a people person; I had always enjoyed the solitude of being alone. Now I was thrust into perpetual social interaction.

The endless effort of trying to convince people of something in which they were not interested was also difficult (I was overly sensitive to this), and the rate of success was quite low. Despite this struggle, I was driven by my devotion. I wanted to achieve what the early brethren had done; I wanted to convert hundreds. I worked hard every day and did my best to follow the rules and guidelines set by the mission president. I gave it everything I had.

Throughout my mission there were those converts who made the experience worthwhile and meaningful; there were those whose lives were changed through our message. There were people whom I came to love with all my heart. However, even though I was able to bring more people into the church than the mission average, I still felt like I had failed. I had not been able to convert nearly as many as I should have, had I been spiritually adept. In my own mind I was actually a failure as a missionary.

This is the level of absurdity my thinking had caused due to my inner devotion. I remember an interview with President LeBaron, who, at the time, could probably sense what I was going through. Toward the end of our conversation he looked at me and asked simply, "Elder, are you happy"? I answered, "yes President", but inside I thought, "Hell no!" How could I be happy when I was not able to be the spiritual person I should have become by now? After so much diligent prayer, study and devotion, it still wasn't enough. I must be unworthy. I must need to do more.

Consequently, my two-year mission ended with feelings of regret and disappointment. Fortunately, upon arriving home, I had the prospects of starting my college education and marriage (the next step in Mormon culture after a mission) to distract me from my spiritual path. I decided to just let it all go and move forward the best I could. It was a relief to be home.

CHAPTER 3

MOVING ON


After my LDS mission, I enrolled at Utah State University and began to pursue my teaching degree in music education. As I neared the end of my first year on campus, I met my future wife. I mention this because it was one of my first tangible spiritual experiences. The first time I saw her I knew I was going to marry her. This was not something that I hoped, or some infatuation or attraction; it was a simple matter-of-fact knowing from my soul. In fact, I knew I would marry her for at least two weeks before she even knew I existed, when I finally got up the courage to ask her out. This unexpected gesture from God was a welcome surprise.

After we did meet, I soon became a little discouraged; she was not immediately expressing the same feelings that I felt. She was dating two other guys named Brad at the time, so I was just another Brad in her life. When I would call her on the phone, she would ask which Brad it was. I began to doubt what I knew and to wonder if this was really going to work out. One evening as I was walking across campus, thinking about nothing in particular, I heard a voice tell me that she was indeed the girl I would marry. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was a voice in my head, an actual audible voice that I heard in my mind.

This was an astounding experience for me. It was also a much- needed confirmation, since, in my mind, I had to find the one person on this planet that I was supposed to marry; and in my case this was probably true. Because of the crazy path that lay ahead for both of us, she was definitely the person that I needed to be with. I doubt that any other companion would have stuck with me through it all. I have always been immensely grateful that this is the one aspect of my life that I didn't have to struggle with or wonder about, and believe me, it was the only one. There was never a question about whom I should marry.

I met my wife in May of 1980. We were married seven months later in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. The ceremony was performed by Marvin J. Ashton, one of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church. After we got married, we lived in the student housing on campus at Utah State University. I continued to pursue my degree, now only in my second year of school.

At this point in my life, my strong inner spiritual drive took the form of needing to start our family. While the Mormon Church teaches that family is paramount and that this should be the next step after marriage, this was something more. This was something that I felt the Spirit was pushing me toward in a very powerful way. We were not in a financial position to start our family, since I still had three and a half years before I would graduate with my degree. Nevertheless, I was determined to follow this conspicuous feeling and get our family going. I remember that after trying for three months we still weren't expecting, which I found quite distressing.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Seeking Soul by Brad Flinders. Copyright © 2014 Brad Flinders. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments, vii,
Preface, xi,
Introduction, xv,
Part One My Story, 1,
Chapter 1 Spiritual Longings, 3,
Chapter 2 The Mission, 8,
Chapter 3 Moving On, 12,
Chapter 4 New And Exciting Thought, 16,
Chapter 5 The Execution, 20,
Chapter 6 The Brave Prayer, 24,
Chapter 7 My Belief System, 31,
Chapter 8 Hearing God's Voice, 35,
Chapter 9 Spiritual Evolution, 42,
Chapter 10 Conclusions, 46,
Part Two The Ego, 51,
Chapter 11 Ego-Mania, 53,
Chapter 12 The Ego and Religion, 57,
Chapter 13 Ego Identity and the Thinking Mind, 60,
Chapter 14 The Gerbies, 69,
Chapter 15 Self Love, 73,
Part Three God, Religion and Non-Judgment, 81,
Chapter 16 In God We Trust, 83,
Chapter 17 Religion, 87,
Chapter 18 The Tree of Life, 92,
Chapter 19 The Expanding Consciousness, 95,
Part Four Trusting Life, 99,
Chapter 20 Learning to Trust, 101,
Chapter 21 Why Am I Here?, 105,
Chapter 22 No More Fear, 109,
Chapter 23 Letting Go, 115,
Chapter 24 Earth School, 119,
Chapter 25 The Flow, 124,
Chapter 26 Life, 128,
Part Five The Awakening Soul, 133,
Chapter 27 Waking Up, 135,
Chapter 28 Just Be, 141,
Chapter 29 Ever Evolving, 149,
Afterword, 153,
References, 157,
About the Author, 159,

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