Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Unspeakable Gift

Today and this week we get to discuss and think about the third member of the Godhead-the Holy Ghost. This week's article is a talk by apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin in the April 2003 General Conference. Elder Wirthlin spoke about "The Unspeakable Gift" of the Holy Ghost and its roles.

In his talk, Elder Wirthlin states that some of us "'live far beneath our privileges' with regard to the Holy Ghost," and listed six reasons why:
  1. We are distracted by the things of the world
  2. We are spiritually deadened by sin
  3. We are spiritually lazy (hover in spiritual complacency)
  4. We offend the Holy Ghost by the type of entertainment we allow in our lives
  5. We do not spend enough time on the things of God

The companionship of the Holy Ghost is vital to our eternal progression and to our happiness in this life. This talk helps us recognize exactly why the Holy Ghost should be important to us and what we can accomplish together with the influence of the Holy Ghost.


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Essence of the Atonement

The following is a hymn found in the hymnal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As you read through the lyrics, think of what the Savior's Atonement means to you personally.

O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown, hymns #197

O savior, thou who wearest
A crown of piercing thorn,
The pain thou meekly bearest,
Weigh'd down by grief and scorn.
The soldiers mock and flail thee;
For drink they give thee gall;
Upon the cross they nail thee
To die, o king of all.

No creature is so lowly,
No sinner so depraved,
But feels thy presence holy,
And thru thy love is saved.
Tho craven friends betray thee,
They feel thy love's embrace;
The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

Thy sacrifice transcended
The mortal law's demand;
Thy mercy is extended
To ev'ry time and land.
No more can satan harm us,
Tho long the fight may be,
Nor fear of death alarm us;
We live, o lord, thru thee.

What praises can we offer
To thank thee, lord most high?
In our place thou didst suffer;
In our place thou didst die,
By heaven's plan appointed,
To ransom us, our king.
O jesus, the anointed,
To thee our love we bring!

Text: Karen Lynn Davidson- b. 1943
Music: adapted by J.S. Bach- 1695-1750
Hans Leo Hassler- 1564-1612

The whole song is powerful, from the first line through the last; however, today I want to focus on the last two lines of the second verse:

The very foes who slay thee
Have access to thy grace.

These lines capture the essence of the Atonement. No matter what you've done, no matter who you are, you have access to the grace of the Savior's great atoning sacrifice. From the smallest lie or complaint to the grossest moral sin including persecuting the Savior Himself, the Atonement covers all our mistakes and shortcomings. The Savior said, from the cross, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). How this statement shows His great mercy! Jesus Christ is hanging on the cross, nails in his hands, wrists, and feet; a cross of thorns on His head; and stripes from a whipping across His back, and He pleads for the forgiveness of those who did all of this to Him.

The very foes who slay thee have access to thy grace.

The apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us:

To all of you who think you are lost or without hope, or who think you have done too much that was too wrong for too long, to every one of you who worry that you are stranded somewhere on the wintry plains of life and have wrecked your handcart in the process, [the words of the living prophets call] out Jehovah's unrelenting refrain, "[My] hand is stretched out still." (See Isaiah 5:25; 9:17, 21.) "I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them," He said, "[and even if they] deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, . . . if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Hosts." (2 Nephi 28:32.) His mercy endureth forever, and His hand is stretched out still. His is the pure love of Christ, the charity that never faileth, that compassion which endures even when all other strength disappears. (See Moroni 7:46–47.)
-Prophets in the Land Again,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 104–7

The Atonement is for all; it is not too late. The Savior's call is to come unto Him and be perfected in Him, not become perfect and then come. All you need is the desire to rid yourself of the things that are keeping you from being truly happy and go from there. Pray and plead with the Father for the strength to overcome that which is holding you back.

The power of the Atonement is real. The joy and relief that comes from being cleansed through sincere repentance and the Atonement is miraculous. We are all children of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who is patient with us. He wants us to be happy and will help us as much as we let Him. It doesn't matter what we've said or what we've done; He just wants us to come back to Him. It's our choice.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Reminder...

Today out of curiosity I searched something along the line of "mormon beliefs" or something similar to see if my blog would come up on Google. It didn't, at least not on the first three pages and I got bored of searching any further. I was glad, however, to see that many of the sites that did come up were official Church sites and videos rather than anti-sites and other unofficial, detrimental sites. Of course a number of opinion sites did show up and I clicked on the link to one of them which brought up a very large discussion blog about Mormons and their weird beliefs. I generally try and avoid such sites since they tend to frustrate me with all the misinformed and sometimes downright ridiculous comments people make. Unfortunately, I did get sucked in (hence the reason I try and avoid such blogs) and after some time I decided to write a few words in response. As is the case most of the time, the "few words" turned into about 700... But I feel that my comments were hopefully good to some degree and so I will share them with you. It isn't anything that you haven't heard from me already but perhaps it will serve as a reminder of the purpose of this blog.

"Mormon" is a nickname; the real name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS for short.) Since the Church is Christ's church, the same church that Jesus Christ organized when He lived on the earth with apostles and all, the Church is perfect. The doctrines of the Church are perfect. The members of the Church are not. "Mormons," along with the rest of the human population, are not perfect. Some are overzealous, some do not live the teachings of Christ at all. "Weird" stories of people taking the doctrines of Jesus Christ and misconstruing them into "weird" things will always be found in every religion. These will be the stories you hear because we as humans share the rare/weird/exciting stories we know. I injured myself cliff jumping once and at the hospital and for weeks afterward I heard all kinds of stories about people almost dying or actually dying while cliff jumping. One would think that all who ever took up the endeavor of cliff jumping received some sort of life-threatening injury, that it is a ridiculous activity, and that anyone who took part in such an activity was just not thinking clearly when in actuality people go all the time and return unscathed. I had been dozens of time that summer even with no problems and have been since then.

My point is, yes, there are weird stories about Mormons that are absolutely true and there are "skeletons" that you may be able to dig up about things that even prominent members of the Church have done. However, these are the exceptions and they are "Mormons" who have done things, not the Church itself doing things. If you come across multiple members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doing something that you believe is strange such as paying tithing or not drinking coffee, then perhaps it is a doctrine or a teaching of the Church. I encourage you to either approach the person--generally, members of the LDS church are very open to talking about religion and the Church--or go to the source-the Church itself: --this site has everything and you can even search things such as "coffee," "priesthood," "life after death" or anything else and find teachings of modern-day prophets and apostles on each subject.

As in all things, the source is the best place to find information on any given subject rather than reading or hearing secondhand information that has passed through multiple filters.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church on the earth. It was restored by God and Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. Jesus Christ directed Joseph to the place the Book of Mormon (written on gold plates) was hidden, and then through the gift and power of God, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon into English. Through Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ revealed, restored, and corrected the doctrines that were lost, changed, or corrupted during the centuries after the death of the original apostles. Jesus Christ called new apostles and a prophet to lead His church today. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed Christ's church, not Joseph Smith's, not Moses', not Mormon’s. Jesus Christ is at the head, we worship God the Father and Jesus Christ and no one and nothing else.

Christ teaches us to come and follow Him, to be perfected in Him. All Christians should be striving toward this goal to become more like Christ and members of the LDS church are no different. I make my fair share of mistakes and would hate for someone to judge the entire LDS church from of some of the things that I have done in my life. Perfection does not come instantly and we all make mistakes along the path to perfection. The wonderful thing is, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can all repent and become clean and continue along the path that leads to eternal life with our families and our Heavenly Father. I am grateful for this plan and for this knowledge that brings me peace in this tumult of words and world of changing values.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Article(s) of the Week-Temples

This week I'm going to do something a bit different. First, read the temple post preceeding this post. Then, I'm going to link you to a page on the website about temples. On this page, there are seven articles by different apostles and General Authorities about temples. Each of these articles talks about the temple and the purpose of temples from a different angle. Since I can't expect you to read all seven articles, although that would be the best idea, go ahead and pick two and read them--one today and one sometime this week.


Temples- Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord

Today, throughout the state of Utah, no sacrament meetings or other regular Sunday meetings were held. Something rather unique happened instead; a temple was dedicated.

In the Salt Lake valley is located the newest temple in the Church; the Oquirrh (pronounced O'-kur) Mountain temple. Each time a temple is built, the public is invited to an open house, or a tour of the temple where they can learn about why we build temples and can see the beauty of the temples. I had the opportunity to go to the open house of the Oquirrh Mountian temple a couple times which was wonderful experience. Each temple is so beautiful and yet so simple. Nothing gaudy or excessively elaborate, yet so completely exquisite and perfect. Such detail and care are taken so that the each temple is truly the house of the Lord. Here is the link to a media tour that has pictures of the inside of the Oquirrh Mountian temple.

If you have a temple near you then you understand how unique each of these buildings are. Often times I hear comments about how each temple stands out wherever it is situated. I recently had a discussion with a good friend about the Washington D.C. temple and how beautiful and prominent it is. I'm from Rexburg, Idaho and the temple that was just recently dedicated there is built on the hill overlooking the valley and can be seen from miles and miles away (pictured right). It looks much like the Oquirrh temple, just bigger and the exterior is white rather than tan.

The interior of temples is also quite beautiful. Although there are many rooms inside a temple, I wish to highlight three that are especially important to me. Each temple has a baptismal font, where vicarious baptisms for the dead are performed. Members of the church come and can be baptized in behalf of their ancectors who never had the opportunity. The revelation of this ordinance shows God's mercy and grace since baptism is essential to salvation not all who have lived on the earth have that opportunity.

Another room in the temple is the sealing room, where couples are married and sealed for time and all eternity. Some of you may have friends or family who are members of the LDS church and who have chosen to be married in the temple. You may wonder why being married in the temple was so important to them and even been frustrated that they chose to be married in a place that you were not allowed to go. I'm sure your friend or family member was very grateful when you were patient with their decision and supported them despite their decision to do something that you didn't understand. If a couple is sealed in the temple, they make a covenant with God and are married not "until death do you part" but for time and all eternity. This means that they can live with each other and their children forever, not just until they die. What a wonderful blessing! When you find the one you truly love and desire to spend you life with, you can know that you are married for eternity and you can live with the knowledge that your spouse and your children will be with you forever despite death.

The third and final room in the temple that I wish to highlight is called the Celestial room. The Celestial room is kind of the crowning room of the temple in a way. Everything in the temple is incredibly and deeply symbolic. As you go through the temple, you pass through a series of rooms representing the different kingdoms of glory (from the plan of salvation; I realize this may be a new concept and that we need to talk about this more.) The last room is the Celestial room, representing the highest kingdom, the place where God Himself dwells and the place we are striving to be after this life. It represents heaven, in a sense. In the Celestial room, we can simply sit in peace and quiet. The world is so stressful, so pressing, and we are bombarded by temptations and trials on every side. But in the temple and especially in the Celestial room, we are reminded why we are experiencing all of these trying things. If we do the things our Heavenly Father asks of us and hold out faithful to the end, we shall receive the peace that our Heavenly Father experiences, eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).

Temples are not only important, but essential to our salvation and exaltation. The reason that not everyone is allowed inside is not because the things inside are secret, but because they are sacred. Before the temple is dedicated, the world may pass through because the temple is merely a pretty building. But after the temple is dedicated by a prophet of God, as the Oquirrh Mountain temple was dedicated today by President Thomas S. Monson, it becomes a sacred house of the Lord. In order to preserve the sacredness, those who wish to go inside the temple must be worthy. Anyone may enter the temple, if they have gone through the preparation necessary to meet the standards the Lord has set. So my invitaiton to you is to come to the temple! Come see what is so wonderful about temples and learn for yourself why the Lord commands us to build temples! To those of you who are members, I remind you of the admonition of the prophets to get a temple recommend and go to the temple often. The blessings are just too great to miss simply because worldly things get in the way.

I love the temple. For me the temple is a sanctuary, a place that I may go to leave the pressures of the world for a while. I feel closer to God in the temple and I feel that in the temple answers to prayers come easier and more freely. The temple is the house of God, a place of love and beauty.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The analogy of the carrot and the egg

I love the Book of Mormon and the scriptures because we can relate all of the stories to our own lives and to our trials, experiences, joys, and concerns. With this knowledge of the power of the scriptures, we can turn to the words of the ancient prophets and learn God’s will for us and strengthen our testimonies that He loves us and that He speaks to us through their words.

I recently started the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon and a story in the first chapter really stuck out to me. As you read the story, focus on the reaction of the members of the church of God to the trials they experience.

19 But it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church of God began to persecute those that did belong to the church of God, and had taken upon them the name of Christ.

20 Yea, they did persecute them, and afflict them with all manner of words, and this because of their humility; because they were not proud in their own eyes, and because they did impart the word of God, one with another, without money and without price.

21 Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.

22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

23 Now this was in the *second year of the reign of Alma, and it was a cause of much affliction to the church; yea, it was the cause of much trial with the church.

24 For the hearts of many were hardened, and their names were blotted out, that they were remembered no more among the people of God. And also many withdrew themselves from among them.

25 Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them. . . .

27 And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.

28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.

We can divide the members of the church of God into two categories: the ones who followed the prophet’s counsel, did not react to the persecution, and bore with humility and patience their afflictions; and the ones who were proud and did not turn the other cheek, instead rejecting the prophet’s counsel and fighting back.

Now, focus on the results of the two opposite reactions. Those who were proud and fought back became hardened and many left the church. This created an increased trial for those who remained steadfast, for the faithful did not even have the support of their brethren who should have been a strength to them. However, some of the saints were steadfast and immovable regardless of the actions of their brethren or the persecutors. Instead of reacting adversely to the persecution, the saints spent their energy reacting as the Savior would have—serving their fellow beings. By reacting in a Christlike manner, the faithful saints were able to have continual peace again, notwithstanding their many persecutions.

This story brings to mind an object lesson or an analogy that I heard in a class last week at EFY, the youth church camp at which I’ve been a counselor this summer in between jump rope events. The teacher of this class, Lani Hilton, held up a carrot and a pot and asked what would happen if she put the carrot in boiling water. The answer, of course, is that the carrot would become soft. Then she held up a raw egg and asked what would happen if she put the egg in the boiling water. The answer was that, as we all know, the egg would harden. The two objects, put into the same environment, the same hard situation react in completely opposite manners.

How do we react to hard things? How do we react when sore trials come upon us? Do we think to pray? Do we rely on our Redeemer, on the merits of Him who is mighty to save? Or do we fight back, hardening our hearts, asking God why us, arguing that our trials are not fair, and questioning His love for us?

How we react to trials and afflictions depends greatly on our faith. President James E. Faust, an apostle, said:

It’s not so much what happens to us but how we deal with what happens to us. That reminds me of a passage from Alma. After a long war “many had become hardened,” while “many were softened because of their afflictions.” (Alma 62:41) The same circumstances produced opposite responses. The writer who lost so much was not able to draw from the well of faith. Each of us needs to have our own storehouse of faith to help us rise above the troubles that are part of this mortal probation. –“Where Do I Make My Stand?,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 18

Each of us needs to have our own storehouses of faith, meaning we need to know that trials do not equate to God’s lack of love for us or His nonexistence. We need to have the faith to trust in the Lord with all our hearts that He has everything under control and lean not unto our own understanding (see Proverbs 3:5-6). In Mosiah chapter 23, we learn:

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.

When we exercise faith in Him and do as He commands both in bad times and in good, we will have peace notwithstanding our persecutions. We shall have peace knowing that we are doing what the Lord wants us to do and therefore will be lifted up at the last day. We shall have peace because the Lord promised that if we keep the commandments, we shall abide in His love and our joy will be full (see John 15:10-11). And we shall have peace because we are living worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who is the Comforter (see John 14:26-27).

I think of the words of our Savior in John 16:33, “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.” I LOVE this verse because in it the Savior teaches us that all the things that He has spoken to us—all the words in all the scriptures—are to help us find peace in this life and understand that He has conquered the world! If we hold out faithful to the end, we shall dwell with God with our families! These things are true because the Lord God hath spoken them!

As we rely on the Savior and do the things we have seen Him do (see 2 Nephi 31:17), we grow and learn from our trials and afflictions. He has overcome the world. Nothing the world throws at us can compare to what He went through while on this earth that we may have peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. When we, in faith, focus on the bigger picture, we will be able to bear with patience the persecution that is heaped upon us.

Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, and more importantly, He lives that we may know to what source to look for a remission of our sins and for peace and comfort in our trials. The scriptures contain scores of stories that we can relate to ourselves and from which we may learn. I love the phrase, “if you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures.” I know that God speaks to us as we tell Him of our doings in prayer and as we strive to find solutions to our problems in the scriptures. We are all children of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants to help and bless us. Ours is the choice to harden our hearts and turn away from Him or to exercise patience and humility and allow the trials to soften our hearts so the Lord can mold us into what He wants us to become.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Be Thou An Example

This year at Especially for Youth (EFY), a youth camp put on by the church across America and various parts of the world, the theme is Be Thou An Example, a line from a verse in the Bible written by Paul to the apostle Timothy. The verse, found in 1 Timothy 4:12, is the most-quoted scripture by the current prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This week's article is a talk President Monson gave at the 2005 general Young Women meeting held in March entitled, "Be Thou An Example." Although the talk was given to the young women of the church, as we are commanded to "liken all scriptures unto us," the counsel found in this talk is applicable to every one of us. In the talk, President Monson calls 1 Timothy 4:12 our "battle cry" as the theme by which we should live in this world of changing values.

As we strive to be examples, as we live those standards the Lord has set that we know to be true, we will be able to not only withstand the temptations of the devil but to shine as a light to others who are struggling and help them know how to live in order to be happy.