Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Prophet Now Has Come!

"An event of great importance to the entire Christian world has taken place during this conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"A new prophet of God has been raised up for this present day!

"He is one in a line of inspired men divinely called to minister now and to bring a new revelation from heaven to every man, woman, and child who will hear.

"The appointment of this new prophet is of momentous import to every person who believes in God, and particularly to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in deep humility, but with great sincerity, that we make this solemn announcement to the world.

"Always when the Lord has had a people on the earth whom he has recognized as his own, he has led them by living prophets to whom he has given guidance from heaven."

This quote comes from a talk given by Elder Mark E. Petersen, apostle from 1944 until his death in 1984, in the October 1972 General Conference entitled, “Another Prophet Now Has Come!” This talk was given just after President Harold B. Lee was called to be the prophet and eleventh President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read this talk.

Hopefully each of you has read the post "Hear the Words of the Prophet," posted last week and you know about the exciting event to be held this weekend. General Conference is so exciting because the living prophet and apostles and seventies all gather and speak to the world for ten hours across two days! I wish that all would strive to understand the significance and importance of this semi-annual event, hence the most recent posts concern General Conference and living prophets.

Another prophet has come. He is speaking this weekend. Listen or watch General Conference.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hear the Words of the Prophet

What would you do if you heard that Moses (or any other prophet) had returned and was going to be speaking to the world for two days? Would you make sure you tuned using whatever means possible to listen? What if you knew that Noah was going to tell you how you can better deal with the natural, economic, and spiritual catastrophes of today? What if Paul were going to tell you what you should do today in order to live a happier life and better prepare for what the future holds? What if Peter, James, and John were to offer you comforting words from our Savior and reassure you that you have a Father in Heaven and that He loves you and looks after you? Would you listen? Would you make any sacrifice necessary to hear what they had to say?

“One important way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation. They in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer. The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures” (Preach My Gospel, 32).

Prophets, Apostasy, and Patterns

Since the creation of man, God has revealed His will through prophets (see Luke 1:70) for, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, save he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God called Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many others to be prophets and their words are recorded in the Old Testament. John the Baptist was called as a prophet to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus Christ was crucified, He called Peter to be a prophet and lead the church and his words along with the words of the other prophets and apostles are recorded in the New Testament. For the people on the western hemisphere God called prophets whose words are recorded in the Book of Mormon. Indeed, Heavenly Father shows His love for us by calling prophets “that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins” (2 Nephi 25:26; see whole chapter).

Of course, across the ages most people have not and today do not believe or give heed to the words of the prophets. People either individually or as a people reject the prophets. When enough people reject the prophets, this rejection leads to a general apostasy and the Lord ceases to call prophets for a time. The persecution, rejection, and death of Jesus Christ and of His chosen apostles and prophets led to the greatest apostasy in the history of the earth. For almost 2,000 years, God did not call any prophets, gave no one His priesthood authority to perform saving ordinances, and Jesus Christ did not head any Church on the earth. Many people sought after God and they compiled the teachings of the previous prophets into one book called which they called the Bible, meaning library or sacred books. Subsequent generations clung and continue to cling to the teachings of the prophets in the Bible as their only source of knowledge concerning God’s will.

The Great News for Our Day

However, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He called prophets and the wonderful news is that He continues to call prophets in our day. His arms of mercy are extended unto all those who believe in His name. When the circumstances were right, Heavenly Father once again reached out to His children in love. He called a young man named Joseph Smith as a prophet. Through him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth (see Joseph Smith—History 1).

This April marks the 180th anniversary of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On April 6, 1830, the Church was restored on the earth for the first time since the apostles’ deaths and subsequent general apostasy. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and They also called twelve apostles. Later, seventies were called and additional church organization was set up, including bishops, priests, teachers, deacons, and patriarchs. The organization of the Church today is as the apostle Paul described it in Ephesians 4:

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Following the death of Joseph Smith and with each of the subsequent deaths of the modern-day apostles and prophets, the Lord continues to call new men as prophets and apostles just as in days of old. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20).

General Conference

Let us return to the original question: What would you do if you heard that Moses (or any other prophet) had returned and was going to be speaking to the world for two days? Would you listen? Would you make any sacrifice necessary to hear what they had to say?

There are prophets and apostles in our day! They do speak to us and they are just as much apostles and prophets as Moses, Noah, Paul, Peter, James, and John. They tell us of the will of God. They teach us how we can better deal with the natural, economic, and spiritual catastrophes of today. They teach us what we should do today in order to live a happier life and better prepare for what the future holds. And they absolutely offer comforting words from our Savior and reassurance that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and looks after us.

The living prophet today is Thomas S. Monson. He has two counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf and together they make up the First Presidency of the Church. There is a Quorum of Twelve Apostles. There are multiple Quorums of Seventies. There is a Presiding Bishopric. These men are called the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The first weekend in April, Saturday and Sunday April 3-4, the General Authorities will speak generally to the world and specifically to the members of the Church. The introduction to this General Conference states that, “members and officers of the Church have come from all areas of the world to receive counsel and instruction from their Church leaders.”

Listening to or watching General Conference is very easy. For most of Utah and Idaho, Conference is broadcast on TV and on the radio. General Conference will also be broadcast to various church buildings across the world. But you can also watch General Conference a couple different ways online.

The counsel and instruction given to us at General Conference from the prophets and apostles is just as sacred and important as the counsel and instruction recorded in the ancient scriptures. What the modern-day prophets and apostles teach is even more relevant to us because they expound on the words of the ancient prophets and teach us how we can apply those teachings in our own lives. The teachings that we receive at General Conference and at any time the prophets speak to us throughout the year are the mind and will of God and help us gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I love listening to, watching, or otherwise participating in General Conference. I get so excited at the opportunity to listen to a prophet of God. I love the spirit I feel when they speak. The Spirit is always present because “by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 22:2). The Spirit testifies to any sincere soul within the sound of the prophet’s voice that that which the prophet speaks is the word of God.

Listen to General Conference next weekend. Come, listen to a prophet’s voice. Let the Spirit speak to your heart and testify of truth. Hear what the Lord has to say to you that you may be happy and prepared for what is to come, doing so will only bless your life.


Further readings:

Paul V. Johnson, “The Blessings of General Conference,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 50
Michael F. Watson, “His Servants, the Prophets,” Ensign, May 2009, 106-8
Jeffrey R. Holland, "Prophets in the Land Again," Ensign, Nov 2006, 104-7

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ

Each person has their own individual reason for either believing or not believing in God and everyone believes or does not believe in God each at different levels. However, some general themes run through many of those reasons. Some choose to believe because they were raised believing, have felt the Spirit and love of God, hope for a better life through their faith, and their faith sustains them. Some choose not to believe because of some trial that they encountered such as a death of a loved one and they convinced themselves that if a loving God existed, He would have saved them from such a trial. Some choose to believe because they encountered someone or something along the pathway of life that touched their hearts and they began to see that God does in fact exist. Some choose not to believe in God because they are apathetic and do not care enough to put forth the effort to believe in God; they do not understand the temporal and eternal significance of the existence of a loving Heavenly Father. Of course many other reasons exist, but it is with this last group in mind that I choose the article of the week.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk in the October 2009 General Conference entitled, “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.” I love this talk because Elder Hales beautifully explains all about why a testimony of God is so vitally important. Said Elder Hales, “Without God, life would end at the grave and our mortal experiences would have no purpose. Growth and progress would be temporary, accomplishment without value, challenges without meaning.”

He uses scriptures from each of the standard works, both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. He clearly illustrates that from the beginning of time all the way to today, prophets and many others have testified of the reality of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

I conclude with one final quote from Elder Hales, “Brothers and sisters, you may already know, deep in your soul, that God lives. You may not know all about Him yet and do not understand all His ways, but the light of belief is within you, waiting to be awakened and intensified by the Spirit of God and the Light of Christ, which you are born with.

“So come. Believe the testimonies of the prophets. Learn of God and Christ. The pattern to do so is clearly taught be prophets of old and prophets today. ... Gaining this knowledge is ultimately the quest of all God’s children on the earth. If you cannot remember believing in God or if you have ceased to believe or if you believe but without real conviction, I invite you to seek a testimony of God now. Do not be afraid of ridicule. The strength and peace that come from knowing God and having the comforting companionship of His Spirit will make your efforts eternally worthwhile.”

I add my testimony to his and to all the prophets’ that God lives, that He loves us, and that belief and testimony in Him will both sustain and carry us through life and “bring [us] the greatest joy [we] will ever have.”


Sunday, March 14, 2010

To Acquire Spiritual Guidance

"Father in Heaven knew that you would face challenges and be required to make some decisions that would be beyond your own ability to decide correctly." That's life. We face tough decisions numerous times throughout our sojourn on this earth. These decisions may seem at times impossible to make on our own using our own limited knowledge. These decisions may have an effect on loved ones who are close to us and therefore weigh more heavily on our minds as we set out to make the best decision. The comfort in all these situations is that our Heavenly Father set up His plan in this manner.

The article this week is a talk given by the apostle Elder Richard G. Scott in the most recent General Conference. The talk is entitled, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” and here are the links to the video on Windows Media Player and Quicktime Player.

Elder Scott continues, "In His plan of happiness, He included a provision for you to receive help with such challenges and decisions during your mortal life. That assistance will come to you through the Holy Ghost as spiritual guidance. It is a power, beyond your own capability, that a loving Heavenly Father wants you to use consistently for your peace and happiness."

The greatest gift God has given us in this life next to agency--the actual ability and power to choose for ourselves--is His power and influence to help us use that agency in the way that is most beneficial to us. That power and influence comes through the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost.

Essentially, not striving to recognize and invite the spiritual guidance freely offered by our Father in Heaven is like a professor offering to help anyone with any question on your final exam yet not asking him. The help is there, the final is too hard for us to do alone, learn to acquire spiritual guidance! Of course answers and guidance take time to recognize and require clean hands and a pure heart but the recognizing is part of the learning process and the Atonement helps us have clean hands and a pure heart.

Elder Scott concludes, "I bear solemn witness that as you pray with all the fervor of your soul with humility and gratitude, you can learn to be consistently guided by the Holy Spirit in all aspects of your life. I have confirmed the truthfulness of that principle in the crucible of my own life. I testify that you can personally learn to master the principles of being guided by the Spirit. That way, the Savior can guide you to resolve challenges of life and enjoy great peace and happiness."

The words spoken by this apostle of the Lord are true.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts

I'm a giant fan of everything music. I think life should have come with a soundtrack and I frequently create my own because everything in life is so much better when music is playing at least in the background. Although I have my favorite musicians, bands, and genres, I believe that one should have at least a small appreciation and understanding of all kinds of music. That being said, I even went to an opera the other night which is a little out of my music realm but the whole experience was fun and completely worth it.

I've also been to what I believe to be my fair share of concerts in an assortment of venues and have seen all sorts of different crowds that accompany each different genre. Music has a powerful effect on the way people act. I often choose the music I listen to based on my current mood and how I want to feel. Something about music has a great effect on our attitudes, actions, and moods whether for good or for bad.

In all of my musical journeys and experiences, I've learned that nothing can compare to or trump the positive influence of inspirational and sacred music. Music written with the express purpose and intent of worshipping God and Jesus Christ-and I'm talking about hymns, not contemporary songs about Christ with modern or popular beats-has such a profound power to invite the Spirit and inspire us to do good.

Sacred music, church music, hymns, whatever the name, plays a very large role in my life. Whatever mood I may be in and whatever music may be able to either perpetuate or calm my moods, I always fall back to the hymns when I am in need of comforting, taking a deep breath and calming down, or help to overcome dark feelings. In the words of President Spencer W. Kimball, prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1973-1985, and his counselors, "Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace" (First Presidency Preface, Hymns, 1985, ix).

The article featured this week entitled, “Inspiring Music—Worthy Thoughts,” is found in the Jauary 1974 publication of the Ensign and was written by apostle President Boyd K. Packer. This article talks about the role of music in our lives and the influence music can have both good and bad.

The words of President Packer are true and, if heeded, will help each of us be happier and better withstand temptation.

God does not expect us to listen exclusively to church music, indeed, we should learn much about all kinds of good music and we should gain an appreciation for those who use their talents for good. Just remember that music is powerful. It is a great influence in our lives in either a positive or negative way and we choose what that influence will be as we choose what music fills our lives.