I've known a few returned missionaries who have worked as trail-walkers for the Anasazi Foundation. The Foundation is a unique wilderness therapy program for troubled teens, based in Arizona. It's for teens who have run away from home, or who are addicted to drugs, or who have severe emotional or social problems. Basically the troubled teens are taken out into the wilderness for 2 - 3 months, and like Henry David Thoreau, they emerge from the woods a little more level-headed. I've heard from personal anecdotes that the Anasazi Foundation really does help a lot of families heal. The work that goes on in the wilderness with trail-walkers is often more effective than counseling, or medication, and it's almost always more effective than incarceration.
From the "About Us" section on their website:
The Anasazi Foundation was started by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The founders were BYU students who enjoyed taking survival classes. They realized that being out in nature for a long period of time is good for the soul. I've learned that first-hand, too. Being out in the wilderness helps you to realize what's important and what's not.
You can learn more about the Anasazi Foundation from their website.
I don't think it's a coincidence that many spiritual leaders go alone into the wilderness to receive enlightenment and revelation. Moses climbed a mountain. Buddha sat under a tree. Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before he started his public ministry. Joseph Smith had the First Vision in a grove of trees. Jacob was alone in nature, with a stone as a pillow, when he had his vision of a ladder with angels going up and down. Enos prayed on a hunting trip, in the wilderness. Catholic convents and monasteries are usually built in very remote locations. Notice a pattern? It seems that few grand spiritual experiences occur in the middle of a big city, surrounded by so many distractions and workaday concerns, and surrounded by so many. In nature, you see God's creation all around you. You see the sun set, the sun rise, the inescapable weather, the animals, and the rhythms of the natural world. In nature, you see the fingerprints of God everywhere.
Jesus had this to say about distinguishing true prophets from false prophets:
Matthew 7: 16 - 18 "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit."
I think this scripture is useful is distinguishing good churches from bad churches. If a church is sowing seeds of discord, if it's leading people into spiritual complacency, if it's condoning sin, if it's brainwashing its members, if it's misusing tithing funds, then it's a bad church. If a church is encouraging love, peace, faith in Christ, obedience to God's commandments, and inspiring people, and creating an environment in which the power of God is made manifest, then it's a good church.
So, Matthew 7: 16 - 18 provides good guiding principles for distinguishing between true prophets and false prophets, and between good churches and bad churches. However, prophets, as well as churches, are neither all good or all bad. In this world, the wheat and the tares grow side by side. Sometimes the wheat looks like the tares, and vice versa. Life is tricky.
There are some good fruits of Mormonism, and there are some bad fruits of Mormonism. You can read about the bad fruits of Mormonism on angry ex-Mormon websites. But this blog is mostly about the good fruits of Mormonism. And the Anasazi Foundation is good, tasty fruit.
Let's partake of the delicious, spiritual fruit. Let's stay LDS.
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