Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Constitutes the True Church

This last week you all had a number of articles to read in addition to the article of the week. I hope that you got a chance to read them all; I understand that we are busy people with a lot of things to do. If you were only able read a couple of them, I hope that you read the ones from the "Open Canon" post because those were certainly the most important. If you didn't, go back and read them.

This week's article is entitled, "What Constitutes the True Church" and was given in the April 1977 General Conference by Delbert L. Stapley. Elder Stapley was called to be an apostle on October 5, 1950 until his death on August 19, 1978.

Elder Stapley speaks about the one true church very succinctly and is very straightforward. Some of my favorite quotes are:

There is no logic or reason to the proposition that inconsistent teachings and differing doctrines can bring about the same results. If truth comes from one source—God—how can it be so diversely taught?

We know that all truth does emanate from God and is therefore unchangeable, consistent, and unified. Consequently, not all Christian churches with their dissimilar teachings can provide a fulness of truth.

We must learn the truth for a surety and not merely suppose we are right. It is our responsibility to know—and by the aid of the scriptures and the Holy Ghost one can know without any doubt.

One cannot prayerfully study the scriptures without gaining the knowledge and testimony that there is only one way to exaltation. The scriptures point the way very clearly. It must be God’s way and not man’s way, for God has said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

The rewards are priceless for those honest in heart who seek the truth.

The doctrine taught in this article may be somewhat hard to swallow for some readers. However, the rewards are priceless for those honest in heart who seek the truth. The truth is found with God and His church, which is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not a haughty, ignorant claim, it is merely a call to those who seek the truth but simply do not know where to find it. I do not wish to start arguments yet as always I will love to discuss any questions that may arise as a result of this post.

We declare that the church of Jesus Christ has been restored in our time. His original church was lost to the earth by apostasy. Through Joseph Smith, the founding prophet called of God in this modern dispensation, new revelation has come forth from God that has restored the original doctrines and ordinances which belong to the church of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church. It has the fulness of the gospel and continuing revelation and is lead by living apostles and prophets who are called of God and who were given authority from Christ set up by Him for our blessing and benefit. And as always, the call is to find out for yourself, ask God in the name of Christ if it be right.

God hears and answers prayers. This I know.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Open Canon of Scripture

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9).

I have been debating for quite some time how to address the topics of prophets and an open canon of scripture. I cannot figure out how effectively to separate the two and I feel that a post that encompasses both of the subjects might be too lengthy for any of you to have the desire to read.

However, I found two articles that perfectly explain the concept of an open canon. These articles are the bulk of this post; they explain everything so well that I don't have much to say beyond what is said in these articles.

The first is a speech given by Elder Hugh B. Brown at BYU in 1955 entitled, “The Profile of a Prophet.”

The second is a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during the May 2008 General Conference entitled, “My Words … Never Cease.”

Both of these talks beautifully illustrate the concept of an open canon of scripture, that God speaks to man in our day, and that He continues to call prophets to lead us as He did in Biblical times. The concept is almost intuitive; God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He spoke and He speaks both to prophets for the benefit of mankind and to His children personally for their own benefit.

President John Taylor taught this of continuing revelation:

Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck. (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943], p. 34.)

Quite seriously, I don’t think that I even need to write anything further because the two articles and the quote above explain everything so well.

However, I am so grateful that the canon of scripture is still open.

I am grateful for a God and Father in Heaven who loves me enough to continue to talk to me and help me with my trials that are unique to me in this day and age.

I am grateful that He, through His modern prophets, clarifies ancient scripture and expounds on His doctrine laid out by the prophets in Old and New Testament times.

I am grateful that the Great Jehovah, even Jesus Christ, called Adam, Moses, Noah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others to preach the gospel, lead His church, and write their words that subsequent generations may benefit from them.

I am grateful that Jesus Christ Himself descended from His throne on high to live and die for me.

I am grateful that He called Peter, James, John, Matthew, Paul, and other apostles and prophets for the perfecting of the saints, that we may be instructed more perfectly (see Ephesians 4:11-14).

I am grateful that the Bible was compiled and that the Lord preserved that sacred text for our day.

I am grateful that inspired men such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale withstood persecution and eventually became martyrs in order to translate the Bible into a language that the common people could read and understand.

I am grateful that Gutenberg was inspired to invent the press with moveable type, which made possible the printing and mass distribution of the Holy Bible.

I am grateful to the colonists who, under God, established the United States of America, a land of religious freedom where people are free to read the Bible and worship in a way they find appropriate.

I am grateful that Joseph Smith was born into a family that studied the Bible together.

I am grateful that he knew the Bible is the word of God intended to help man in life’s journey.

I am grateful that “at length [he] came to the conclusion that [he] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else [he] must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (Joseph Smith—History 1:13; see also James 1:5) so that he could know where to find truth and find out which church is the true church—namely the one Christ established when He lived on the earth.

I am grateful that in the spring of 1820, the morning broke and the shadows fled and God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph in answer to his humble prayer.

I am grateful that They restored Christ’s church in its fulness to the earth and restored the missing doctrines, calling apostles and prophets, restoring the keys of the priesthood, and giving us the Book of Mormon.

I am grateful that the Lord spoke to His children in the ancient Americas and that they wrote His words.

I am grateful that I have the words of the prophets of Israel, the words of the prophets in the Americas, and the words of the prophets today.

I am grateful that the keys of priesthood authority are passed down to each new prophet that we may all receive the saving ordinances of baptism and more.

I am grateful that God speaks to His prophets in these latter days.

I am grateful for the instruction and help the prophets give that I may know how to be happy and successful in this life, that I may keep an eternal perspective, and that I may have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (see D&C 59:23).

I am grateful that through the prophets I know that families are forever and that if I live according to the teachings God gives through His prophets, I may live together with my family for eternity.

I am grateful that the heavens are open, that God is and not was, that he speaketh and not spake.

Indeed, I am grateful for an open canon of scripture.

To all of you the invitation is extended to come, listen to a prophet’s voice. Find out for yourselves that God continues to call prophets in these latter days. Read their words and ask to know if they are from God, for by their fruits ye shall know them (see Matt 7:20). The Lord hears and answers prayers in every day and age and He will hear and answer yours.


Further reading:

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Great Things Which God Has Revealed,” Ensign, May 2005, 80

Charles Didier, “Man’s Search for Divine Truth,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 48

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104–7

Come What May, and Love It

As I was reading the blog of one of my good friends the other day and I came across this post. With her permission, I'm directing traffic to it.

Her post beautifully illustrates the power of God in helping us with any trial or tough situation. My friend explains how she was going through a difficult time, nothing as severe as loss of health, a job, or a loved one, but certainly difficult to her at the time. Our trials needn't be the worst trial anyone has heard of or the worst one we have ever experienced in order to qualify for the help of our Heavenly Father, that's one of the beautiful things about the Atonement. Sometimes just being alone, disappointed, or an accumulation of a number of lesser things is just too much and we don't know how to bear it. God the Father knows our pains and sufferings and He reaches out in each situation.

The words of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin helped her realize how to best act in order to endure this trial as to both learn from it and better herself in the process. The words of the Lord through the prophets and apostles have that power if we but turn to them in our times of need.

I am grateful that the Lord speaks to us in our day both through living apostles and prophets and though the Holy Ghost as we pray and seek guidance and comfort.


Broken Things to Mend

This week's article is based Jesus Christ's commandment to, "Come unto me" in Matthew 11:28 and other various places in the scriptures.

The article is a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, entitled, "Broken Things to Mend," and was given at the April 2006 General Conference. The link to the audio/video is here under the Sunday morning session.

I love how well Elder Holland explains how the Atonement applies to all who live upon the earth. He explains how we, no matter what our walk of life or situation, can come unto Christ, be perfected in Him, and be truely happy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sound Advice from a General Authority

This video was just brought to my attention. It fits very well with the topics of our recent discussions.

Elder F. Enzio Busche was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy 1 October 1977.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pray Always

The article of the week is "Pray Always," a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Here is the link to the audio and video.

This conference talk comes from the most recent conference in October 2008. I believe that the majority of the readers of this blog listened to conference when this talk was given, but some of you didn't and those of you who did, I just listened to it online and remembering what Elder Bednar said was a wonderful experience.

Elder Bednar was ordained an apostle 7 October 2004.

I love this talk. Recall Alma's words to, "cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever." (Alma 37:37.)

Elder Bednar expounds upon this verse, clearly explaining the connection between morning and evening prayers, and all the prayers offered inbetween. Honestly, this talk is more for myself than for the readers of this blog, almost every line of this talk offers Godly insight into how we can better our communication with Our Heavenly Father.

The Lord hears and answers prayers.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Feeling the Love of Our Heavenly Father

A few nights ago, I was on my way home when a girl in my apartment complex came out of her apartment crying. We started talking and ended up walking around for about an hour. As we talked about what was bothering her, she told me that she knew that Heavenly Father loves her, that He is always there, and that He listens to her prayers. But then she asked, “but Jeremy, how can I really know that He listens and loves me?” Like many of us, she has been taught that Heavenly Father listens to and answers prayers. And she has a testimony that He lives and loves her. However, the trials she is experiencing were causing her to forget or at least doubt what she knows.

As I listened to her desperate plea to know, I thought of the words to the song we sang in primary when we were younger, “A Child’s Prayer.” The first verse begins with just that: a child’s prayer:

Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.

The second verse contains the sweet assurance of a loving parent:

Pray, he is there;
Speak, he is list’ning.
You are his child;
His love now surrounds you.
He hears your prayer;
He loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.

Each of us, no matter our age or walk of life sometimes reach out to Our Father in Heaven in this simple yet sincere childlike manner; life can be just plain hard. We may (and should), no matter our circumstance, come unto Christ and Our Heavenly Father in prayer. We are God’s children, He loves us, and we will feel His love surround us.

However, often our trials also surround us; our trials can be serious enough that they cause us to wonder the purpose of fighting, the purpose of even getting up and trying to go through another day, and we doubt sometimes that God is listening to our pleas.

My immediate response is that God always hears you and always knows what you are experiencing. However, as we discussed in the post, “The Healing Power of the Atonement,” “the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and faith” (Mosiah 23:21). One of the greatest purposes of this life on earth is to learn and grow—walking by faith and not by sight (see 1 Corinthians 5:7).

From the General Authorities

Ponder the following statements from the Lord’s modern-day servants:

Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy:

“Trials and tribulations take many forms: the death of a loved one, a marriage that is different than expected, no marriage, a divorce, a child born with a disability, no children, losing a job, parents who make mistakes, a wayward son or daughter, ill health. The list is endless. Why did God make allowances in His plan for disappointment, pain, suffering, and death? Is adversity necessary for one to build a Christ-centered life, to receive the image of God in his or her countenance?

“An understanding of the plan of salvation, of premortality, earth life, and life after death provides perspective. … Opposition, disappointments, pain, suffering, and death are necessary to protect agency and provide for spiritual development (see 2 Ne. 11). On the other hand, if life were limited to our mortal experience, adversity could not be understood. … Without an eternal perspective, there are no meaningful explanations for man’s inhumanity to man or for earthquakes, floods, or children with disabilities.

“We should remember that it was Satan who wanted an earth with no disappointments, no tests, no adversity, and no glory except for himself.” (“Living a Christ-Centered Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1999, 13.)

From a talk by President James E. Faust:

‘Dr. Arthur Wentworth Hewitt suggested some reasons why the good suffer as well as the wicked: “First: I don’t know. Second: We may not be as innocent as we think. Third: … I believe it is because He loves us so much more than He loves our happiness. How so? Well, if on a basis of strict personal return here and now, all the good were always happy and all the bad suffered disaster (instead of often quite the reverse), this would be the most subtle damnation of character imaginable.”’ (italics added, see James E. Faust, “Where Do I Make My Stand?,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 18.)

President Kimball gave this insightful explanation:

“If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency. … There would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 77.)

During our sojourn on this earth, we must not get caught up in the world’s definition of life, success, and happiness. Instead, we must keep an eternal perspective. We must remember that we are here to prove to God that we will be righteous and that we will submit to His will that we may inherit all that He hath.

The Plan and its opponent

The plan of Our Heavenly Father is also called the Great Plan of Happiness. This plan gives us hope and helps us attain true happiness in this life and eternal happiness and joy in the life to come. The opposites of this plan, then, are disappointment, despair, and discouragement. Satan has many tools to cloud our eternal perspective and to persuade us to stray from the path. We know that he uses those tools to tempt us to break commandments, break the law of chastity or the word of wisdom, etc., and otherwise transgress the laws of God. However, I believe that Satan is just as content when we become discouraged or depressed as when we sin. Those feelings, the feelings of despair and discouragement, are contrary to the plan that Our Father has for us, the plan that brings us lasting happiness. If Satan can succeed in helping us become discouraged and depressed, I sure that he’s just as happy as when we give in to temptation and sin, small or large.

This knowledge should help us overcome depression and discouragement. Knowing that the feelings of doubt, despair, and darkness are only from Satan, knowing that he would have us feel that way, and knowing that God designed a plan that helps us feel optimism, happiness, joy, and love should help us shake the down feelings and embrace the actions that bring us true happiness.

Elder Richard G. Scott taught us to, “recognize that if you have feelings that you are not loved by your Father in Heaven, you are being manipulated by Satan. Even when it may seem very difficult to pray, kneel and ask Father in Heaven to give you the capacity to trust Him and to feel His love for you.” (“To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse,” Ensign, May 2008, 41.)

Our part

Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answers to thy prayers. D&C 112:10

In addition to prayer, some of the main things that God has told us to do to achieve this happiness include scripture study, weekly partaking of the sacrament, attendance of church meetings, and serving others. These actions help make up our defense against the adversary and against his power to influence us. As in my friend’s case, if you feel as though you are doing what you are supposed to and nothing is getting better, take a deeper look into your life and find areas for improvement. Perhaps you can study the scriptures longer or earlier in the day rather than right before bed when you are tired. Read the Book of Mormon more and focus on depth rather than distance. Look at your Sabbath day activities to see whether they are 100% conducive to the Lord’s day and whether they enhance or distract from your experience at Sacrament meeting. Find someone to serve; there are always people around you in worse situations, serve them. In serving others, you gain a new appreciation for what the Lord does for you, you forget yourself and how bad you feel and concentrate on others, and you develop a deeper love for God’s children, enhancing the love you feel from and have for your Heavenly Father.

The power of Satan is real, but so is the love of our Heavenly Father. Nothing you do will decrease that love your Father in Heaven has for you; God’s love is unconditional. However, our actions dictate how much we feel that love. He reaches our reaching. When we strive, He strives.
I offer one more help from an apostle and perhaps my favorite and most used quote. It is from President Boyd K. Packer:

“Life moves all too fast. When you feel weak, discouraged, depressed, or afraid, open the Book of Mormon and read. Do not let too much time pass before reading a verse, a thought, or a chapter.” (“The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign, May 2005, 6.)

To those of you who are weary, weak, or heavy ladened; discouraged, depressed, or despairing; lost, losing, or alone; remember the Savior’s call in Matt 11:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Remember to pray, for He is there; speak, for He is listening. You are His child and His love surrounds you. We may not receive answers immediately, and in my experience rarely are we delivered from our trials immediately, but He hears our prayers and comforts His children in their trials, this I know.


Further readings:

Elder Donald L. Staheli, “Achieving Your Full Potential,” CES Fireside, 2 March 2003

Richard G. Scott, “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 15–18

I Feel My Savior’s Love

1. I feel my Savior’s love
In all the world around me.
His Spirit warms my soul
Through ev’rything I see.

2. I feel my Savior’s love;
Its gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.

3. I feel my Savior’s love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.

4. I’ll share my Savior’s love
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.

He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior’s love,
The love he freely gives me.

Children’s Songbook, The Savior, I Feel My Savior’s Love, 74–75

Words: Ralph Rodgers Jr., 1936–1996; K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939; and Laurie Huffman, b. 1948

Music: K. Newell Dayley, b. 1939© 1978, 1979 by K. Newell Dayley. Used by permission.

Making copies for one-time church or home use permitted.

John 15:10–12

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Healing Power of the Atonement

Not long ago, a close friend texted me the following message:

I can’t do this by myself. I know that’s what the Atonement’s for, but i thought it helped the first time. It can heal the same hurt over and over?

I gave this friend some sort of incomplete and quick yet seemingly satisfactory response describing different ways the Atonement can work in our lives. With the permission of my friend, today I answer this question along with some other concerns more fully and with more thought.

Scriptural background

To begin, one must understand that the Lord never expects us to do anything by ourselves. He has comforted His people, including us, with the words, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5; see also Joshua 1:5). He is on our right hand and on our left. He knows how we feel, what influences us, what stresses us, and where our breaking point is. With this understanding, He is able to then comfort us, offer peace to a troubled soul, and help us grow and learn.

One way, the first and foremost way, and the reason Christ is able to constantly be with us and comfort us, is through the Atonement. Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother, suffered in the garden of Gethsemane such that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Can you imagine the level of suffering He experienced to bleed from every pore? Of course not! We cannot fathom what the Savior experienced! For hours, Christ took upon Himself each sin, transgression, trial, pain, affliction, and temptation that each of God’s children had felt and would ever feel and the pain was so great that He bled from every pore. Then, Christ experienced torture at the hand of the Romans and His fellow Jews, which culminated with His crucifixion on Golgotha. In relation to Christ’s suffering during the Atonement, Isaiah wrote:

3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

(Isaiah 53:3-5, 10)

Christ suffered for everything suffered by all. The prophet Alma the younger taught likewise in Alma 7:11-13:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

Aren’t these scriptures wonderful? Do not these words offer comfort to the soul? They do to me. When I was in Ukraine, I oftentimes met people who had lost hope and had suffered tragedies and lived lives with which I could not relate. I would share this scripture with them in hopes that they would begin to understand that all that is unfair in life is made right through the Atonement.

Help through the Savior and His Atonement

Now that we have a strong scripture base, let me return to my friend’s question.

The Atonement does not keep us company. The Atonement is the means through which the Lord keeps us company. Sometimes we have a hard time feeling Christ’s presence or taking comfort in the fact that He is always with us since we cannot see Him, nor have we ever met Him. But He is exists, He lives, He is a resurrected being and He offers real help. I’m sure all of you can recall a story you’ve heard about someone in dire need and them feeling the physical presence of the Savior. These types of stories oftentimes surface around Christmastime or deal with the time around when someone passes away; I’m sure some are fiction but I also believe some are real. Believe that Christ will help you. Believe that He can offer you comfort and solace that friends and family cannot by themselves. Only He and your Father in Heaven completely and truly understand you and your individual situation and therefore only they can offer complete help.

Often the Savior sends help in the form of other people, mortal “angels” on earth, if you will. He does not simply appear each time we call out to Him and make everything all better. No, this would frustrate God’s plan and our growth that comes through living by faith and not by sight. The Lord uses the experiences and wisdom of our friends and family, prompts and strengthens them so that they may help us through our trials.

Growing, learning through trials and the Atonement

Elder Richard G. Scott taught, “The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. Your progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether you welcome the experience or not. Trust in the Lord. Ask to be led by the Spirit to know His will. Be willing to accept it. You will then qualify for the greatest happiness and the heights of attainment from this mortal experience” (“The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 40–42).

I love the saying, “when life gets too hard to stand, kneel.” Do it. Get on your knees and offer a sincere, heartfelt prayer to your Heavenly Father. Thank Him for all of your abundant blessings, for they are many and they always outweigh your trials. Ask Him for the guidance, comfort, and strength required to overcome the particular obstacle with which you are dealing. Ask Him to help you learn from the experience so that you may grow and perhaps help others in times to come. As you reach out to the Savior, He will reach out to you. He requires us to make the first move, but His is instantly there when we do.

In Ukraine, I experienced trials unlike any that I had before experienced or have since experienced. However, I knew that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do at that point in my life and that the Lord was stretching me, teaching me, and testing my level of faithfulness. With this mindset, I did not pray that I could get out of the trial immediately; instead, I prayed that the Lord would help me learn exactly what He was trying to teach me so that my trials and hardships weren’t in vain. Most of the time, the Lord sent the Holy Ghost to help comfort me and strengthen me through my trials. I gained a deep testimony that the Lord hears my prayers and that although He doesn’t remove our trials, He helps us through them that we may be stronger in the end. Today, this testimony helps me deal with my new trials that come with each stage of life.

Cleansing and forgiveness

The Atonement heals. When you are wronged, when you wrong someone, when life simply gets the best of you, the Atonement helps you overcome. But when you are over it, get over it! Do not dwell on the matter, do not sink into a well of self-pity and refuse to let go. Let go! Christ forgives and forgets (see D&C 58:42-43), and we must do the same.

In subsequent conversations with my friend, I learned that one source of frustration was that this particular trial kept coming up. My friend understands the Atonement and how it works in our lives; my friend prays, strives to live righteously, and relies on the Savior for help through this trial. Yet this trial continues to arise although each time it seems to be over and my friend tries to move on.

Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life. I do not minimize how hard some of these events can be. When the lesson you are to learn is very important, trials can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining focus of everything you do. Your life can and should be wondrously rewarding. It is your understanding and application of the laws of God that will give your life glorious purpose as you ascend and conquer the difficulties of life. That perspective keeps challenges confined to their proper place—stepping-stones to further growth and attainment” (Ensign, Nov 2006, 40-42).

If you are dealing with a problem that continues to resurface, as is my friend, and you are continually or at least periodically dealing with the same issues, the Atonement works in those cases too. You may not be able to forget since you are reminded every so often. You may not be able to be fully healed because some other person or party continually opens the wound time after time. In these instances, and this is not doctrine, this is merely my opinion, the Atonement works to offer you comfort, peace, and perhaps avenues of escape. The Atonement can dull the effects of the affliction, so that each time you are not as susceptible to be hurt. If you are continually seeking help from the Lord as to what you should do and how you should act or react, in His own time, the Lord will rid you of the trial and the cleansing power of the Atonement will take full effect. However, Christ does not take away our agency, He never will. Therefore, the Lord will not always stop the people causing you this pain, but He will help you deal with it, strengthen you where you stand, and teach you much.

Strive to keep your lives in order that you may be worthy of the Spirit and of the Savior’s help. Forgive those who trespass against you. Harboring ill feelings toward anyone is not one of the ways to overcome a trial and feel the love of the Lord. The Lord commanded that we forgive all men with no added stipulation that the opposite party had to feel any sort of remorse or act in restitution. As we strive to keep this commandment to forgive all men, especially those who trespass against us repeatedly, we will reach new levels of spirituality, learning, and will become more Christlike. Remember that Christ never hated those who persecuted Him. He never held a grudge. Remember what He asked of the Father from the cross? Christ experienced the worst way to die in conjunction with experiencing pain and suffering that would have killed the rest of us. He experienced all this at the hands of the people he loved, taught, and healed. Yet, despite of what the Jews did to Him, one of His final recorded statements was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This is the ultimate example of forgiveness. If Christ can forgive in that situation, we can forgive in all other situations. And as we forgive, we feel more closely the presence of the Savior.

Keep in mind that as we grow and become stronger and able to withstand and handle more, Christ will try us more. Because we dealt with something once does not mean that we passed that test and are finished. We must endure to the end; not endure to the end of one trial and live unencumbered for the rest of our lives, but endure to the end of our lives, proving to God that we will remain faithful in whatever circumstances in which we may be placed. In my experience, as we grow and as our testimony deepens, our trials reach new levels also. Yet keep in mind that as we will not be tempted above that which we are able to bear, we will not be tried above that, which we are able to bear. The Lord makes ways that we may escape, that we may be able to bear it (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).

How to act, and react

Remaining optimistic throughout our trials is hard, especially if we are constantly dealing with the same trials over and over. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s mother taught her children “come what may, and love it.” Of this counsel Elder Wirthlin said, “How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
“If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness.” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28.)

I believe that although a trial or affliction could exist for the duration of our lives, it will become lessened as we rely more on our Savior and allow the Atonement to take over. Recall the story of the prophet Alma and those who believed his words as recorded in Mosiah chapters 23 and 24. Alma and his people lived exemplary lives. Alma taught them that “every man should love his neighbor as himself, that there should be no contention among them” (23:15). And the people of Alma lived this way. However, their righteousness did not mean that they were free from all trials and tribulation. From chapter 23:

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.

The people of Alma were taken into bondage and made slaves by those who were at one time Alma’s friends and colleagues. The story continues in chapter 24:

10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.

The Lord loves us. He suffered and died for us. He never forgets us or forsakes us. We may deal with numerous different trials at once, or we may deal with the same trials repeatedly throughout our lives, but all these things shall give us experience, and shall be for our good (see D&C 122:7). Just as the people of Alma remained faithful, put their trust in Him, had their burdens lightened, and were delivered in the Lord’s due time, even so will we also have our burdens lightened and will be delivered when the Lord sees fit if we are but patient and faithful.

In the end, we may take comfort with these words from Our Savior:

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

I love my Savior Jesus Christ. I do not fully understand the Atonement or how it works but I do know that it does. I know that He reaches my reaching; I feel His love particularly when I feel alone and discouraged and my prayers are prayers of desperation and pleading. I am so grateful for everything that He has done, that my Father in Heaven has done, and for everything that They continue to do for me. They understand perfectly how we feel all the time. Jesus Christ experienced all of it. They ask that we remain faithful, that we practice patience, that we lift and help others, and that we continually strive to become more Christlike. By doing this, we are naturally happier because our understanding and our eternal perspectives are expanded. The Lord loves you, of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Related articles:

Richard G. Scott, “The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 40–42

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 26–28

Gene R. Cook, “Receiving Divine Assistance through the Grace of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1993, 79

Dallin H. Oaks, “He Heals the Heavy Laden,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 6–9

The Standard of Truth

The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecution may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, until the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.

Joseph Smith

History of the Church 4:540

The Sacred Nature of Temples

A number of emails have circulated and various Facebook groups have been created in protest of the upcoming episode of "Big Love" to be aired on HBO. TV Guide supposedly reported that this Sunday's episode will involve what the writers understand to be Latter-day Saint temple ceremonies.

I will give my opinion about the matter, but the point of this post is to direct your attention to the Church's official statement regarding the show. This is the official stance of the Church regarding this and other related issues and any conflicting views by members of the Church are simply their opinions.

Here is my view. In short, I strongly disagree with HBO's decision to air the episode. The events that transpire in the temple are sacred and holy and to have men set them at naught is offensive.

I do not know the source of their information, but that which HBO will air is sacred to us and to the Lord. Therefore, the person or persons from whom HBO received their information must be former, unhappy members of the Church who are no longer friendly with the Church and its teachings. Given the circumstances and the sources, I am positive that their version of these sacred ceremonies will not be altogether accurate and will certainly not be portrayed in the correct manner for a number of reasons. One, it's showbiz, the "inspired by a true story" and other types of related shows are always doctored up to entertain in order to make money. Events are exaggerated, attitudes altered, and drama either overemphasized or comletely invented in order to make the story sell. Therefore, I'm sure the episode this Sunday will contain exaggerated and schemed-up events in order to play on viewers' emotions, just as TV shows and movies are supposed to do. Two, given the sources, viewers cannot guarantee that what they see is completely correct and unbiased. The best source for information about something is the thing itself. The best source of information about an organization is the organization; about a person, the person or authorized biographies of the person; of a place, the government of the place, etc.; not second- or third-party sources, especially sources who are bitter or have a reason to misrepresent the entity.

In our day and age, we want to know mysteries and we want to know about "weird" things that are going on in our world. The natural man thrives on knowing and criticizing things that are foreign or things that he does not understand. Temples are sacred, the things that go on inside of them are not public, and people are intrigued to know what kind of "strange things" might be happening. When any entity finds out that what goes on in the temple doesn't reflect any rumors they've heard, the entity will make up things in order to satisfy and not disappoint the audience.

The Church invites all to come to the temple, see what is inside, make the covenants with the Lord, and receive all that the Father hath. Please, come to the temple. I spent two years of my life and my money in Ukraine inviting people to come unto Christ and to the temple. No worthy person who has taken the necessary steps and made the necessary covenants with the Lord is denied entry to the temple. The Lord would be beyond happy if all His children came to the temple.

Temples are not secret, the ceremonies are not secret, they are sacred. Therefore the necessity exists to protect the sacred nature of the temple. Visiting the temple is the highlight of my week, the temple is so peaceful and the Spirit is so strong. By preserving the sacredness of the temple the Church is able to provide a bit of heaven on earth, a place that we may go and be apart from the stresses and pressures and temptations of the world.


The Ministry of Angels

I apologize to the hundreds of you who frequent my blog and get up early Monday morning expressly to read the article of the week as soon as possible...

However, this week's article is unique and well worth the wait. It is by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, entitled "The Ministry of Angels," given at this last General Conference in October 2008. A few weeks ago I featured one of his talks in the article of the week. Once again, hearing Elder Holland speak enhances the experience so here is the link to the video. I don't know how to embed videos off the Church website or perhaps it's not possible, but you can find this talk under the heading "Saturday Afternoon Session."

With the restoration of the priesthood of Aaron, or the Aaronic Priesthood, by John the Baptist to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, came the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (see D&C 13). Repentance and baptism are straightforward and with those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood have the power and authority to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. The phrase that is usually left alone and often misunderstood is "the keys of the ministering of angels." I've been in Sunday school classes once in a while where the meaning of ministering of angels has been discussed, but I've never heard anything concrete from a General Authority. This talk defines ministering angels very well and very clearly; Elder Holland defines the ministering of angels as "rich doctrine and rich history."

I love this talk and I am grateful for the angels in my life, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. I know that God watches out for us and does so as He sees fit, in His own manner.


Friday, March 6, 2009

How Firm A Foundation, Hymns no. 85

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

6. E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Text: Attr. to Robert Keen, ca. 1787.
Music: Attr. to J. Ellis, ca. 1889
Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.

Related Scriptures:
Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2-5; Helaman 5:12

More Hymns

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Purifying Power of Gethsemane

I only have a few words introducing this talk. "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane" is the most powerful talk I have ever heard; Elder McConkie gives such a powerful witness of the Savior and of the power of His great atoning sacrifice.

Included below are the videos of this talk and I strongly urge each of you to watch this talk as well as read it. Feel free to follow along with the words or just read to words later, but I encourage you to watch the videos and listen to Elder McConkie's voice. Do not worry about the words he speaks so much as the feelings you get while he speaks. Elder McConkie was an apostle of God and his testimony rings true. The Spirit testifies to the hearts of those who listen to this talk with an open mind and a desire to know the truth. I've listened to this talk a handful of times and each time I get the reaffirming feeling that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that Jesus did, in fact, suffer both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross on Calvary.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie was called to be an apostle 12 October 1972. He gave this talk in the April 1985 General Conference and then passed away less than two weeks later.

Bruce R. McConkie was an apostle of the Lord. He spoke the words God gave him. Jesus Christ is our Savior, I am eternally grateful for the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. Although I do not fully understand how, I do know that we are cleansed from sin through the Atonement and through our strivings to become like Him. All that is wrong in the world is made right through the Atonement. Listen to the words of His apostle. Feel the Spirit testify to you that the words Elder McConkie speaks are true. Act on those promptings and feelings.