Tuesday, December 27, 2011

VIDEO--Are Mormons Christian?

The following is the story and testimony of Elder Gary J. Coleman, member of the Quorum of the Seventy.



For more information about the question "Are Mormons Christian?"
  • Topic: Mormon on lds.org. Contains videos and official Church answers to the questions, "Who are the Mormons," "What to Mormons Believe," and "What is different between the beliefs of Mormons and other Christian churches?" Great website, check it out!
  • "Are Mormons Christian?" A mormon.org FAQ with answers from members of the Church.
  • Church Apostle Answers Frequently Asked Questions from newsroom.lds.org. Video answers of questions such as, "Are you Christian?," "What is the role of Jesus Christ in your faith?," "Do you worship Jesus Christ in your Sunday services?," "In what ways are you similar to other Christians?", "In what ways do you differ from other Christians?" See also the transcript of the interview.
  • Are Mormons Christian? Post on this blog.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

VIDEO--Look to the Light



Remember this Christmas day the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. President Thomas S. Monson, the Lord's prophet in our day, taught, "To catch the real meaning of the 'spirit of Christmas,' we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the 'Spirit of Christ.'"1

Christmas is the time that we celebrate the miraculous birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. At this time perhaps most of all we are more mindful of the needs of those around us. We feel and express gratitude for our blessings, including our families and others in our lives. We are motivated to emulate the example of Him whose birth we honor this day.

Jesus Christ came into the world to show us the way back to our Father in Heaven.2 He alone was perfect in every aspect and He bids us to come and follow His example.3 Motivated by His great love for each of us, He suffered for our sins and our afflictions.4 He knows how to comfort and help us.5 His call to each of us is to come and take His yoke upon us, that our burdens may be light.6

I am forever grateful for my Father in Heaven and His Son. I am forever indebted to Jesus Christ for the matchless gift of His great atoning sacrifice. As I think on the eternal significance of the Atonement, I am motivated to lift up and serve those around me. Let us all lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees of our neighbors this Christmas season. Let us be the hands of the Savior to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters today and throughout the rest of our lives.

Jeremy

1. President Thomas S. Monson,  "The Best Christmas Ever," Ensign, Dec 2008
2. See 3 Nephi 27:13-16Doctrine and Covenants 76:40-43; JST John 1:7; John 14:6
3. See 2 Nephi 31:12; 3 Nephi 12:48; 27:21; Moroni 10:32; John 13:151 Peter 2:21
4. See Alma 7:11-13; Alma 11:40; John 3:16; 15:13; Ephesians 2:4-5
5. See Alma 7:12; Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-19; 62:1; John 14:27; Hebrews 2:18
6. See Matthew 11:28-30

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It Was A Miracle!


I hesitate to post an article of the week the week before Christmas on a subject other than Jesus Christ specifically. For years now I have passed over the birthday of the prophet Joseph Smith which happens two days before Christmas in order to not distract from the birth of our Savior. This year, however I am going to post an article by President Gordon B. Hinckley (1923-2008), prophet and fifteenth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In doing so, I do not distract from Christmas or take away any meaning or attention from the life of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, learning about the life of this servant of the Lord only accents the life of the Savior and better illustrates His eternal plan and love for us.

Jesus Christ said of His own life and mission, "And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me" (3 Nephi 27:14). For those who did not live at the time of Christ, God has called prophets to draw us unto Him. One prophets taught of his responsibility from the Lord, "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26).

Our day is no different. In 1820, Jesus Christ and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and called him to be the prophet to usher in the "dispensation of the fulness of times" (Ephesians 1:10) and restore the Church of Jesus Christ in these, the latter days. Joseph Smith's mission and calling was to establish once again the Church and fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, thus enabling us-the sons and daughters of God-to make the proper choices that we may return to live with our Father in Heaven.

In commemoration of the 200th birthday of the prophet Joseph Smith, President Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet, seer, and revelator and successor of Joseph Smith, wrote an article in the December 2005 Ensign entitled, "Joseph Smith Jr.—Prophet of God, Mighty Servant." Read this talk and find out more about the man who communed with Jehovah, Jesus anointed this prophet and seer!

Joseph's life was given in the service of Jesus Christ. His mission was to bring to light and knowledge of the Redeemer and His atonement all who wandered in darkness searching for truth. He talked of Christ, he rejoiced in Christ, he preached of Christ, he prophesied of Christ, and he wrote and proclaimed and published and died that we may know to what source to look for a remission of our sins.

Indeed, praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!

Jeremy

see also: josephsmith.net and Joseph Smith on this blog

Saturday, December 17, 2011

VIDEO--What Shall We Give?



"Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Friends remembered and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the "spirit of Christmas," we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the 'Spirit of Christ.'

"Then came that night of nights when the shepherds were abiding in the fields and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, announcing the birth of the Savior. You, with me, recall the words from Isaiah: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel' (Isaiah 7:14)—meaning 'God with us.'

"Times change; years speed by; but Christmas continues sacred. Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved.

"If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must reach out for the Carpenter’s hand. With every step we take in His footsteps, we abandon a doubt and gain a truth.

"It was said of Jesus of Nazareth that He 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man' (Luke 2:52). Do we have the determination to do likewise?"

--President Thomas S. Monson

See "The Best Christmas Ever," Ensign, Dec 2008, 4–8

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pornography--No One is Immune


Recently I overheard a conversation about pornography. One of the participants of this discussion said that he was sure that some cases exist in which pornography doesn't destroy the viewer's life and family. Of course, he admitted, it wreaks havoc in some people's lives and isn't good, but he believes some people indulge in pornography and are fine.

I wish to today offer my opinion on the matter.

First, to make clear the Church's stance on pornography, I quote President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008):

"Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible, engulfing tide. It is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do. It will take from you your self-respect. It will rob you of a sense of the beauties of life. It will tear you down and pull you into a slough of evil thoughts and possibly of evil actions. Stay away from it. Shun it as you would a foul disease, for it is just as deadly. Be virtuous in thought and in deed."1

The link above contains numerous similar quotes, talks, and teachings from the Lord's servants in our day. The teachings of the Church are clear concerning pornography; it is evil, "highly destructive of divine potential, [and is] to be strictly shunned by children of God."2

That being said, there are commandments and rules and guidelines, "adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints," that are given to everyone even though a select few may be able responsibly engage in a particular activity and be okay. Example: perhaps one glass of wine at dinner would do one no harm and the person could perhaps go his or her whole life without drinking to excess or becoming intoxicated. I'm sure some one of you could produce an example of someone you know who may have accomplished this. However, the negative effects of alcohol as a whole vastly outweighs anything good that may come to the few who can drink in moderation and therefore the Lord commands all to abstain.

Pornography, however, is NOT one of the commandments adapted to the weak and the weakest of all saints. Pornography can and will tear down even the mightiest of men (and women) for it is "one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements."3 Indeed, as part of the higher law taught by Jesus Christ Himself while He was upon the earth we learn that, "whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart."4 Adultery is a non-negotiable commandment and "an abomination in the sight of the Lord."5 

The prophet of the Lord, President Thomas S. Monson said this:

"There may be those of you who are thinking to yourselves, 'Well, I’m not living all the commandments, and I’m not doing everything I should, and yet my life is going along just fine. I think I can have my cake and eat it too.' Brethren, I promise you that this will not work in the long run." Those who pursue such a lifestyle of trying to serve God and mammon will be left with, "all of the emptiness, darkness, and loneliness that Satan provides to those who believe his deceptions, illusions, and lies."6,7

Wickedness never was happiness.8 I do not believe that a soul exists on this planet who can indulge in pornography to any degree and remain true and steadfast in the gospel and to his family. Sooner or later his world and everything he holds dear will come crashing down and he will be left with the tears that inevitably follow transgression.9

The Atonement is the way back for any who have been caught in the trap of pornography. Forgiveness is real for those who's repentance is sincere. This I believe.

Jeremy

1. President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Some Thoughts on Temples, Retention of Converts, and Missionary Service," Ensign, Nov 1997
2. Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Salvation and Exaltation," Ensign, May 2008
3. President Thomas S. Monson, "Until We Meet Again," Ensign, May 2009
6. President Thomas S. Monson, "Dare to Stand Alone," Ensign, Nov 2011
7. See Matthew 6:24
8. See Alma 41:10
9. President Thomas S. Monson, "Preparation Brings Blessings," Ensign, May 2010

Thursday, December 15, 2011

VIDEO--The Real Meaning of the Spirit of Christmas

"To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the spirit of Christ." --President Thomas S. Monson

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

VIDEO--Kids and Christmas

"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:4)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Light in Their Eyes



There are, in my ward in Boise, two people who were recently baptized. They were introduced to the Church by caring friends in California and sought out the Church when they moved up to Boise to go to school. If you were to walk in to church on Sunday or in to any Church function at which they are present and glance across the crowd, you would have much difficulty figuring out who they were since they integrated with the members of the Church here in Boise so well. If you were then to ask me to point them out, I would point across the room and say, “See the dark haired guy and the blond girl that just radiate? That’s them.” Indeed, in talking to them, you would never guess that they, in fact, weren’t baptized members of the Church. Even before they were baptized, Claire and Ian were always shining, and they always radiated light and a contagious, genuine happiness.

You may simply contribute that happiness to their naturally optimistic personalities. Indeed, I did not know them before they gained testimonies of Jesus Christ and of His gospel of peace and hope and therefore I do not know what their personalities were like then. However, no matter their optimistic natures before they were introduced to the Church, I am confident that the light that shines from them is the light of the knowledge of the restored gospel and of a burning testimony of Jesus Christ and His great atoning sacrifice. These two friends have sacrificed much and gone through many trials in order to be baptized, including a general rejection by their own families. But they know the Church is true and they know that the key to true happiness is a life following Christ. And that knowledge and testimony sustains them and gives them happiness and a hope of a better future.

President James E. Faust (1920-2007), apostle and counselor to the prophet, once told a story of a friend who also noticed a light in the eyes of those members of the Church with whom he had come in contact. President Faust said:

“What was that light in their eyes which was so obvious to our friend? The Lord Himself gives the answer: ‘And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.’1 Where did that light come from? Again the Lord gives the answer: ‘I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’2 The Lord is the true light, ‘and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.’3 This light shows in our countenances as well as in our eyes.”4

We grow and develop that light as we embrace the things of God. As we strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ, we become converted to His gospel and the Spirit lives within us stronger and more frequently. We put off the natural man and become saints though His Atonement, allowing that light to shine unrestricted.5 The Lord said, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until that perfect day.”6 Jesus commanded us to “hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up--that which ye have seen me do.”7 As we cultivate that light and strive to be examples of the believers, His light will shine through us for the blessing of all those around us.

Remember the words of the Savior, “I am the light and the life of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”8 That promise is for all who desire to live in the light of His love.

Jeremy

1. Doctrine and Covenants 88:11; emphasis added.
2. Doctrine and covenants 93:2.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 84:46.
4. President James E. Faust, “The Light in Their Eyes,” Ensign, Nov 2005.
5. See Mosiah 3:19; 4:1-3; 5:1-5.
6. Doctrine and Covenants 50:24.
7. 3 Nephi 18:24.
8. John 8:12.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What is Faith?


Hi there,

My name is Meghan, and I'm one of Jeremy's Canadian jump rope friends and I'm also a Mormon. I had a Sunday School teacher explain that the General Authorities of today and even prophets of old, especially Jesus Christ, taught in parables so that people could better understand the principles of the gospel. She also told us that these parables are related to things they know well. She called on me in class, asking if I could relate anything to jump rope... It took me this long to think of one.

THE ARTICLES OF FAITH 4: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This fourth Article of Faith is wonderful because it so plainly illustrates the means by which we may receive our eternal salvation. I would like explain a little bit today about the principle of Faith. In the Bible in James 2:17 it reads, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Thus we are told that faith in Jesus Christ is more than merely believing in him, but it requires action on our part; a commitment to follow him and act in accordance to the example he provided us.

Christ taught by parables and so I decided to create a little parable myself relating the principle of faith to something which I know very well: rope skipping. One of my favourite events is Double Dutch Speed. This is a timed event in which there are two turners and one jumper.

The jumper moves their feet up and down as fast as they can in a sort of ‘jogger step’ and the turners must keep up with the jumper so as to make few to no mistakes. I love to turn, and if you ask my opinion, I would tell you that the turner’s job is the most important at any time that you are doing Double Dutch. After all… All the jumper has to do is jump!

Relate this timed event to our probationary state here on Earth. Make Heavenly Father the jumper, who jumps perfectly and never tires. You are one turner, and Christ is the other: “Judges ready, jumpers ready, set, go!” The event is under way and as you begin to turn the ropes, the jumper, in this case, Heavenly Father, enters and begins to jump. Right foot, left foot, right, left. You, Christ, and Heavenly Father start to gradually speed up until you all agree on a fast, yet steady and comfortable pace. As time passes, Heavenly Father continues to jump perfectly, but you, being imperfect, begin to tire. You can no longer feel your arms and they seem to only be moving by momentum. You want to give up because the pain in your shoulders is too much to bear but you hear a voice inside your mind urging you to know that if you stop turning that the whole event will fall apart. Just as you begin to slow your arms, you can feel Christ begin to speed up his turning on the other end. In so doing, he has made up the difference for your lack of speed and the event continues smoothly and without error until the clock runs out.

The principle of faith is modeled quite clearly in this analogy. The time represents the time we have on Earth; a time of testing, to feel both joy and pain, and to gain experience and return again to live in the presence of God. Heavenly Father is the jumper. He jumps perfectly and serves to represent the way to eternal life. If you, as a turner, can keep Him in the ropes for the duration of the event without causing a mistake, then you will be able to achieve your eternal salvation. The voice inside your mind is the Holy Ghost, providing you with personal revelation and a means to know what to do—to never give up. Christ is the second turner. He begins along with you, and when you tire and feel as though you have expended all of your energy and cannot turn any longer, he makes up the difference. He takes you the rest of the way after you put in all of your effort, “for [you] know that it is by grace that [you] are saved, after all that[you] can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

Thus we see faith in action. The only way for Heavenly Father to have made a mistake and the only way in which you could have lost your eternal reward would have been if you did not turn at all. Without the slightest movement on your end of the ropes, Christ could not have made the event even start. Simply raising your hands up to your waist allows the ropes to start moving if Christ turns them. As soon as you began to move your arm, you were demonstrating faith in Jesus Christ. You were proving to him that you trusted in his ability as a turner to make up for your shortcomings after you had done your very best.

“Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to them only who are of the law, but to them also who are the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” (JST Rom 4:16)

Eternal salvation granted by faith, works, and grace is a wonderful promise which is given to all those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who repent of their sins and take upon them his holy name by entering the waters of baptism. I urge every one to fall to their knees and pray that they might have faith enough to act when times get tough, that they might know that Heavenly Father loves them and that Christ yearns to help them to achieve their eternal salvation. I testify that faith and works are essential in our search for eternal happiness.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

You Matter to Him

How is the someone's worth determined? In the professional world, people are "worth" the value of their assets, i.e., the total value of their stocks and bonds, their bank accounts, their real estate, and the ability they have to create more. In the sporting world, athletes are bought and sold by teams who place a dollar value on their skills and abilities to increase the value of a franchise and fill seats. And in the world in which most of us live, our worth is determined by how well we keep up with the Joneses.

But these methods of valuation are not the Lord's methods. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf apostle and counselor to the prophet taught that, "the Lord uses a scale very different from the world's to weigh the worth of a soul." In his address given in the October 2011 General Conference entitled, "You Matter to Him," President Uchtdorf taught about the worth of souls and that, "a person's true value had little to do with what the world holds in high esteem." He continued, "you could pile up the accumulated currency of the entire world and it could not buy a loaf of bread in the economy of heaven."

President Uchtdorf also taught about the ways Satan uses the world's valuation of worth to distract us, either encouraging us to think that, "because of ability, birthright, or social status, [we] are set apart from the common measure of all that surrounds [us]," or encouraging us to, "focus our sight on our own insignificance until we begin to doubt that we have much worth." What matters to the Lord is that we are doing the best we can, that our hearts are inclined toward Him, and that we are willing to help those around us. And if we are doing the best we can, all will be well. President Uchtdorf concludes:

"Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.

"God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him."

This talk contains to many more wonderful teaching about our worth in God's eyes. Read it, accept it, apply it. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of us and desires our eternal happiness. If you do not feel that, make the necessary changes in your life so that this knowledge can give you lasting hope and happiness.

Jeremy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Power of Scripture


"Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

The above quote comes from an address given by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His address, entitled "The Power of Scripture," was given at the 181st semi-annual General Conference in October 2011.

Usually I share my thoughts and insights about the talk I feature each week. This week, however, I have nothing really to say. Elder Scott conveys his love for the scriptures so beautifully and completely that anything I say will just distract from his message.

Read this talk! In it you will find many wonderful teachings that will strengthen your testimony of the words of the Lord and broaden your understanding of the power of the scriptures. I love the scriptures and I add my testimony to the testimony of Elder Scott. Studying the word of the Lord through His prophets provides a foundation of support and truth that can be called on anytime, anywhere in a time of need.

Jeremy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Have to v. Want to


This past week at practice I had a conversation with a teammate that went something like this:

“Oh, I thought that you would be going with them to do the circus.” (Some of my teammates are leaving for a four-month cirque tour which will be super cool for them.)

“Nah, not me, not this time.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I’ve got other things I’m doing. And I really don’t like to work or jump on Sundays.”

“Oh, you’re not allowed?”

“No, I just don’t like to, I don’t want to.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you were Mormon or something.”

“I am. And...”

“Then you’re not allowed.”

“No. I can, I can do anything I want to, I have the ability to make my own decisions, I just don’t like to jump on Sundays and don’t want to; it’s not fun for me.”

This is a pretty cookie-cutter example of conversations I have had many times with many different people. Sometimes the conversations are regarding jumping on Sunday, sometimes they are regarding going to church, sometimes they are regarding reading the scriptures or praying or serving a mission or not drinking or a host of other things.

There are many things which I do or don’t do that many consider “out of the norm.” Always people ask if what I do is because I “have to,” or they just simply assume it’s because I “have to.” Quite the contrary. All the things I do that are church-related I do because I want to, because I feel and have learned through experience that they are important, and because I love to do them.

Keeping the Sabbath day holy

I don’t work on Sundays and I am getting better at not participating in other recreational activities on Sunday (aka jump rope). Jump rope is not a bad thing and spending that one extra day together with my jump rope friends on trips is nice, but not better than going to church and doing other things I enjoy on Sundays. Sundays are a day to set aside the things of the world and focus wholly on the things that matter most. A lot of the activities in which we participate throughout the week are not bad things. Indeed, school, work, play, and jump rope are necessary things not only to sustain life but to enhance it and help us lead fulfilling lives (yes, jump rope is necessary to life--ask any jumper you know.) But Sundays are different. The Lord commanded that we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, and through His prophets defined what that means.


Quite honestly, I really enjoy having that one day each week to do nothing other than concentrate on the Savior and others’ needs. It’s relaxing, it’s freeing, it’s stress relieving, it shows the Lord that He is first in my priorities, and it strengthens me to hold true to what I believe for another week. I have never regretted not jumping on a Sunday.

Attending church

One part of keeping the Sabbath day holy is attending church. This past spring, I had the opportunity to attend church in Germany. The family I was staying with-the wonderful Zeisslers-agreed to take me to the nearby town where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met, for which I was super grateful. When we arrived, the church building was locked and empty due to a regional conference of which I was not aware. I was certainly disappointed and on the drive home, the father, Armin, was concerned that there might be some negative consequence because I did not attend my church that day. Appreciative of his concern, I explained that my not going to church that day wasn’t the end of the world; I wasn’t going to get in trouble and no one was going to check up on me to see if I went to church, I just really wanted to go because church is something I look forward to every week.

I go to church because I love going to church. I love the companionship and the relationships I have with the people at church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels the same all over the world and I love that feeling. I love the feeling of church and I love learning. I treasure the opportunity to take the sacrament, and I feel great about the opportunities to serve.

Reading the scriptures daily

On another occasion, one of my friends commented how she noticed that I read my scriptures each night at jump rope camp. Apparently she observed me reading my scriptures every night before going to bed, often times after everyone else had gone to sleep since that was the only down time I had each day. She, too, phrased her comment using “have to” and I explained that I did not have to, but that I wanted to, that reading the scriptures is important to me. I explained that I strive to read my scriptures daily-even on tired jump rope days-because I love the things I learn. I love the insights that the Holy Ghost teaches me. And I need the strength I receive from reading the scriptures. I choose to live standards that do not line up with the world very well and maintaining those standards is can be difficult sometimes so I need all the help and strength I can get. I also strive to pray morning and night to thank the Lord for all the great blessings He has given me and to ask for the strength and the knowledge to accomplish what the day requires.

If ye love me…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have a bunch of rules the regulations that leaders enforce or that you are punished for not following. Of course, the Lord has commandments that we are required to live if we wish to receive all the blessings He wishes to bestow upon us, and those same commandments protect us from unnecessary hardship and pain. Church leaders teach those commandments and stress the importance of obedience to the Lord’s command. They help us when we are struggling and when they see us faltering in any of the commandments because they love us and they love the Lord. They know as do I that those who keep the commandments, “are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received  into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness . . .” (Mosiah 2:41).

We are also required to live those commandments if we wish to partake of the blessings offered by baptism and the holy temple. However, if I teach at a jump rope workshop next Sunday or compete at the National competition on Sunday or don’t go to church or forget to read my scriptures, no one is going to get after me nor will I be banned from attending church or anything. The Lord has blessed us with the divine gift of agency that we may choose. The prophet Jacob taught:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, according to the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27.)

Church leaders do take action if members break very serious commandments, especially if such actions affect other people. These more serious sins pertain to adultery, abuse, and embezzlement of Church funds and breaking other serious laws of the land. Consequences for such sins include loss of certain privileges and even potential loss of Church membership depending on what Church leaders feel is appropriate and what will help the individual the most.

Conclusion

I strive to live the teachings of the Savior for a few reasons. Firstly, I have seen how my life is better and more fulfilling when I regularly attend church, read my scriptures, keep the Sabbath day holy, and don’t drink or take other potentially harmful things into my body. Secondly, I have faith that the blessings and rewards of such a lifestyle will far outweigh the immediate gratification of not keeping the commandments. As much fun as the circus with my friends would be, I know staying true to what I believe is more rewarding. Thirdly and most importantly, I love Jesus Christ and I am grateful for everything that He has done for me. Jesus taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If for no other reason, we should desire to do as He asks because to show our love for Him and our gratitude for the great sacrifice He made in our behalf.

Remember the comforting, calling words of the Savior, “come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“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.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

And John taught that we learn of Him when we keep his commandments (see 1 John 2:3).

So no, I don’t do any of these things because I have to. I do each of them because I want to. I want to be an example of the believers, I want to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, and I want that comfort and rest promised by the Savior Himself to those who keep His commandments.

Jeremy

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stand in Holy Places--Words from a prophet


How blessed are we to have a living prophet on the earth today to lead us and to guide us through the storms of life! How blessed are we to hear from our prophet regularly, and to know God's will through him. President Thomas S. Monson (b. 1927) is the Lord's prophet. I love hearing his words and his stories; he sets a powerful example with his ability and willingness to receive and heed the promptings of the Spirit.

President Monson
In the October General Conference, President Monson spoke about the importance of prayer to our Father in Heaven and following inspiration from Him in an address entitled, "Stand in Holy Places." "Communication with our Father in Heaven--," taught President Monson, "including our prayers to Him and His inspiration to us--is necessary in order for us to weather the storms and trials of life."

President Monson spoke of the rapidly-evolving moral compass of society and about how, "behaviors which once were considered inappropriate and immoral are now not only tolerated but also viewed by ever so many as acceptable." He continued, "Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed they will not change."

The reason that we are not to conform to the teachings of society but cling to the teachings of Jesus Christ is so that we will be better equipped to deal with the storms of life, to learn from them, and to overcome them. By striving to have the gospel of Jesus Christ at our core and the love of the Savior in our hearts, we can effectively deal with all the challenges we face. The constancy of the Lord is, "something on which we can hold fast and be safe, lest we be swept away into uncharted waters." When we live in the world and not of the world, we stay clean and worthy of the influence of the Holy Spirit that we may receive strength from the Lord. "There is nothing which can bring more joy into our lives or more peace to our souls than the Spirit which can come to us as we follow the Savior and keep the commandments."

I know that the Lord hears and answers our prayers. I know from personal experience that only when I am striving to do what the Lord asks am I able to recognize and have the strength to heed His promptings. He is the way, the truth, and the light and the source of the greatest happiness and joy.

Jeremy

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teachings of Jesus


Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. Those who believe in Him are called Christians. All benefit from a deep and abiding faith in Him and in the power of His great atoning sacrifice. Jesus Christ taught many things about Himself. In order to understand who Jesus Christ is and how faith in Him will bless your life, you must read the scriptures, especially the words which He spoke of Himself.

In the October 2011 General Conference, the apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke concerning the "Teachings of Jesus." Using the words of Christ, Elder Oaks taught many truths concerning the Savior's works and mission. Jesus Christ:
  • is the Only Begotten Son
  • is the express image of God the Father's person
  • is the Creator
  • is the Great Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel
  • is the Life of the World
  • is the Light of the World
  • is the way to eternal life
  • was obedient and submissive to the will of His Father
  • is the great Exemplar
  • is the source of the priesthood power given to the apostles
  • guides us through the Holy Ghost
  • guides us by giving us commandments
  • challenges us to focus on Hum, and not on the teachings of the world
  • suffered and died for us, atoning for our sins and trials, enabling us to become clean through repentance and receive all that the Father hath.
So what think ye of Christ? Who is Jesus Christ to you? To me He is my Savior, the one through whom I can repent and become clean. He atoned for me and my sins and weaknesses and I am constantly grateful for the opportunity I have to repent and even more for how I feel throughout the repentance process. I love the words of the Savior Himself and through His prophets, living and dead. I love the temple and how I feel when I am in the house of the Lord. Do you get the idea? The feelings I have because of Jesus Christ make me truly happy, more so than any other feelings from any other source. He is the way, the truth, and the light. He is my friend.


Jeremy

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Polygamy



Let's talk polygamy.

In recent months on separate occasions people have brought up the subject of polygamy with me so I felt to sum up our conversations and hopefully help others who maybe do not understand about polygamy and the Church.

Overview

To begin, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not teach or support the practice of polygamy. “Mormons” who openly live polygamous lives are generally part of offshoots from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as the incidents all over the news a few years ago in Texas. Those people have their own modified version of the Church and are in no way affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) , fifteenth prophet and president of the Church in the latter days said:

“This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church.... If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church.”

In the early days of the Church, the Lord did reveal to the prophet Joseph Smith that some of the members were to practice polygamy. This was not a blanket commandment but specific instruction given to select people. Then, in 1890, the Lord revealed to the current prophet and president of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898), that the members of the Church were to no longer practice polygamy (see Official Declaration 1). Some struggled with the apparent “retraction” of the commandment and split off to create their own churches in which they could continue to practice polygamy. These are the churches that you hear about today when polygamy is discussed.

As we discuss the history of polygamy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a bit more in-depth, keep in mind that a certain degree of faith is required both to understand and to accept the reasons behind polygamy and why the Church no longer practices polygamy. Remember, our thoughts are not the Lord’s thoughts, neither are His ways our ways (see Isaiah 5:8-9). When God gives commandments or does things that perhaps we do not fully understand, we must trust in Him that it “shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7), for “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

History

The first time the Lord commanded plural marriage was not in the 1800s. In the Bible we read of people including prophets such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others who had multiple wives (ex. Genesis 16:1–3; 29:23–30; 30:4, 9; Judges 8:30; 1 Samuel 1:1–2). And, likewise there were times that God commanded not to live the law of plural marriage.

One potential reason for polygamy in the early days of the Church could stem from the persecution of the early Saints. In the early days of the Church, persecution was very intense. Members of the Church were driven from place to place, their property was destroyed, they were denied rights and privileges that were rightfully theirs as US citizens, and they were even killed. Political leaders upheld the mobs that persecuted the early Saints and the governor of Illinois even signed an “extermination order” in which he decreed, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary.” (Greene, John P (1839), Facts Relative to the Expulsion of the Mormons or Latter Day Saints, from the State of Missouri, under the "Exterminating Order", Cincinnati, Ohio: R. P. Brooks, retrieved 2006-12-31.)

Throughout this persecution, many women were left widows and children left fatherless. One benefit of plural marriage was the better care for all of the women and children who didn’t have husbands and fathers to meet their needs. This certainly isn’t the reason, nor did Joseph Smith ever give this as a reason, but it may have been a partial motivation behind the commandment.

As persecution worsened, the Lord told the Saints to move west, to a place far away from persecution--the middle of the desert which is now known as the Salt Lake valley. There the Saints began to build a new civilization and enjoyed freedom from persecution because of their beliefs. Their joy was short-lived, however, as people in the east began to pressure President James Buchanan to raise an army to go west and fight the polygamists. As political pressure worsened, the US government under President Abraham Lincoln began to seize the property of the Church that the Saints worked so hard to build, threatening to take the sacred and beloved temples.

In 1890, the Lord revealed to President Woodruff that the members of the Church were to cease living the law of plural marriage and were, “to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land” (Official Declaration 1). Many members and leaders of the Church struggled with the retraction of this commandment (some leaving the Church and forming some of the various splinter groups discussed above), nevertheless the official stance of the Church from that day to now holds that polygamy is not a current commandment of God.

God’s command and the required faith

Earlier I said that in order to understand the reasons behind polygamy and it’s place in the history of the Church, a certain degree of faith is required. Many both inside the Church and outside have criticized that Church leaders caved and changed the commandment due to the extreme political pressure and outright persecution. This is false. The Lord Himself said, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; . . . whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38). He gives commandments and teachings when He wants, on His own timetable, and for His own purposes. He is not threatened nor influenced by man. “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it upstream, as to hinder the Almighty,” in His work and His efforts to bless His children (Doctrine and Covenants 121:33).

In order to understand or at least square with polygamy you must have faith that Joseph Smith (through whom the commandment was first given in our day) was a prophet of God and that God spoke to Him. You must also have faith that Wilford Woodruff (through whom the commandment was taken) was a prophet who also spoke with the Lord. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is lead by Jesus Christ and He requires of us our faith and faithfulness in following Him. Plural marriage was not the first hard commandment to understand or follow, nor was it the first time laws and commandments have been taken from the earth. Indeed, it was Moses’ second time down the mountain when He brought with him the Ten Commandments; the first time he brought with him the higher law which he used to destroy the golden calf his brother Aaron helped fashion and the Lord deemed the people not ready or worthy of a higher law.

Some months ago I was discussing polygamy with a very good friend who is not a member of the Church and whom I respect very much. After discussing much of what we have discussed above, she brought up a very interesting point that is the most logical explanation I have ever heard concerning the history of polygamy and the Church. She said that in her research of the topic, she had come to the conclusion that the Church leaders used the law of polygamy for the very survival of the Church. In the early days, polygamy was needed to grow the Church from the inside. Then, with missionaries being sent to spread the gospel abroad and the imminent threat of loss of property and freedom at home, the Church leaders stopped the practice of polygamy in order to continue the growth of the Church.

The Book of Mormon reads, “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save that he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the things which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). My friend made a very good point. And I also really appreciated her open-mindedness about the whole situation and her willingness to try to find the benefits of and potential reasons for the Saints’ living the law of plural marriage. I did, however, make clear in our discussion and I wish to make clear now that the decision to stop the practice of plural marriage was the Lord’s decision and not man’s.

The Lord took the law of polygamy from the earth for His own reasons and for His own purposes. The Saints were doing all they could to live according to the commandments given them by God through His prophets. They endured heavy persecution from day one and would have continued to endure everything if the Lord willed it. The government could not and cannot stop the work of the Lord, no one can. If it was God’s will that His Saints continue to live the law of plural marriage, He would have grown the Rocky Mountains or placed eternal blizzards in the mountain passes or done whatever you can imagine to prevent the coming of armies and the fall of His people, His Church, and His temples. He parted the Red Sea, He placed a pillar of cloud before the children of Israel by day and a pillar of fire by night, He walked on water, and He calmed the storms. He could have done anything to make possible the Saints’ living His commandments.

Conclusion

But He did not. This time He chose to take the commandment from the earth. I do not understand everything related to the law of plural marriage. In fact, I understand very little about that law and it’s place in Church history. But I do know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know that each of his successors including Wilford Woodruff and Thomas S. Monson, who is the prophet today, were and are men of God who speak the mind and will of our Heavenly Father. Whether by the Lord’s voice or by the voice of His servants the prophets it is the same.

I echo the words of the prophet Alma and say that it, “may suffice if I only say,” that the commandments of God are given, “for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round” (Alma 37:12).

The Lord does what He needs to bless the lives of us, His children. His work and His glory is to bring to pass our eternal life (see Moses 1:39). He loves each one of us and hopes that each of us makes decisions to come unto Him through the atoning sacrifice of His Son and return to live with Them again. I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves me and cares about me enough to call prophets that I may know how to successfully navigate this world of changing and shifting values. I love the Lord and I know that He strengthens me in my efforts to keep his commandments.

Jeremy

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Your Source?


In light of the potential republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many are discussing "Mormon" doctrine and much misinformation is circulating on blogs and other social media conversations.

If you're smart, you'll understand that not everything you read online is true. For example, I read one article entitled, "Romney isn't Christian, and That's All Right," on Bloomberg.com makes ridiculous claims as to why members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aren't Christian. People, the Church is called The Church of Jesus Christ, where's the confusion? In contrast, I also read an article from The Economist simply entitled, "Mormons Are Christians," which does a much better job representing what the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe. However, even in that article, not all the sources cited-though cited as "LDS sites"-are official Church sources, so once again, be careful.

Really, I just feel that if you want information about something, go to the source. If I want to know what Rick Perry is all about, I'm going to go to his website and get information from the source, from him. If I want to know about Obama's latest policy, I'm not going to simply Google it and click on the first hit, oblivious of the source whether it be from an opposing party or not. And if I want to know Verizon's coverage area, I'm not going trust an AT&T commercial and vice versa.

So why, then, would anyone settle for what Bloomberg or The Economist or CNN or Fox or Mormonhaters.com or any blog--including mine--says about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why not go to the source? The Church has ample, easy-to-access information available on several official websites. (Oh, look, the links are listed right there on the right!)

"Come unto me all ye that labour
and are heavy laden."
As for the question of Christianity and Mormons, this blog discusses that topic here, here, and here. The Church's discussion page discusses it here. But for those who are still wondering, Mormons are Christians. Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed "Mormons" because we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center of everything we do, teach, and strive to live. Indeed, the Book of Mormon itself says of those who wrote it, "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26).

The source for the remission of our sins, the only source, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is only in and through Him that we are saved--through the cleansing power of His Atonement.1 He is the central figure in the plan of our Heavenly Father and the cornerstone of my faith. I know that He lived and died, and lives again and that He will once again return to the earth. And, though I am far from perfect, I strive to do as He did, to love and serve, to come unto Him. Yes, I am a Mormon and I am Christian.

Jesus Christ will come again!
Jeremy

1. References from the Holy Scriptures:*

*These are just a few of many teaching of Jesus Christ and His Atonement found in the scriptures. To say nothing of the words of the modern-day apostles and prophets.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Promptings, Revelations, and Directions from the Spirit



The promptings, revelations, and directions from the Spirit never cease to amaze me. A while back one Sunday at church, the teacher of the missionary preparation Sunday school class did not show up and the class was left without a teacher. The responsibility of the class then fell on me. I have a strong testimony of the mission prep class; what is taught in that class is so vital and helpful to the Church and to the members of the class and I didn't want to just have them go to a different class for a day so I opted to teach the class myself.

Without a plan, I went into the classroom praying for inspiration and guidance from the Lord that I may be able to facilitate a lesson for the 45-minute class. I had previous lesson plans in my scriptures from when I taught that same class the year before and I began to review those in hopes that one would stand out and give me at least a starting point for a discussion. Nothing did. We prayed, we reviewed Doctrine and Covenants 4 that the members of the class were challeged to memorize, and we started. As I opened my mouth, I was prompted to share a certain scripture and then ask for questions. That sparked a discussion filled with other comments and questions and as we searched the scriptures for answers and shared experiences, the influence of the Spirit was strong and all were edified. Soon the class was over. As the potential full-time missionaries were leaving, I was humbled and my heart was filled with gratitude for the help I received and the Spirit we felt as we discussed the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to better share His great message.

I love the scripture recorded in the 100th section of the Doctrine and Covenants that reads, "speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts . . . .

"For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea in the very moment, what ye shall say."

And then the promise:

"And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say."

That promise was fulfilled in that small missionary prep class in Boise, Idaho that day. I went in to that class not knowing beforehand what I should say but with faith that as I asked what the Lord would have the members of that class know, I would receive and all would be "edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:22).

His promises are true.

Jeremy

Friday, October 14, 2011

How can I know for myself that what you teach is true?

This is part ten of a ten-part post. Elder Cuthbert of the First Quorum of the Seventy suggested ten questions which members of any church might ask our missionaries or any other member of the Church.


Question number ten: How can I know for myself that what you teach is true?

Elder Cuthbert's answer:

To all who ask this question, the promise found in the Book of Mormon is powerful, true, and of eternal significance.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:4–5.)

Yes, my dear inquiring friend, we will add to the truth you have, for God speaks again through prophets. He has revealed himself to man in modern times. It is possible for families to be forever, for God has restored the sacred temple ordinances for the living and the dead. Furthermore, he has given us a health law, a welfare program, and a missionary system. He has revealed the purpose of life and has given us the Holy Ghost that we might testify to others and know for ourselves that this is the living Church of the living Christ, and that he speaks through a living prophet, even our beloved President Spencer W. Kimball. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

My testimony:

I do not have much to add to that which Elder Cuthbert has said. Ponder the things that you have read and then do as Moroni exhorted in the Book of Mormon, that is, ask God if these things are true.

I know that if you ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost will testify to your heart that these things are true. You can know the purpose of life. You can know how to be successful. You can know how to be truly happy. You can know how to ensure that your family relationships are eternal.

Try it. The blessings are indescribable.

Jeremy