Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is God like?

This is part two 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 two: What is God Like?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

How wonderful that the Almighty God has identified himself to us through his beloved son, Jesus Christ. He has revealed himself as our Father in Heaven, who wants us, his children, to keep in touch with him while we are away from our heavenly home. Ask a little child to close his eyes and think of God and then describe him. Will he describe a spirit? No! He will tell of a loving, kindly faced, white-robed personal being. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul describes Jesus, in relation to God the Father, as “being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3).

My testimony:

This picture of the First Vision hangs on my wall. I think this is my most favorite Church picture; I have other favorites but this one is perhaps my most favorite. The first vision Joseph Smith experienced is so incredibly important to everyone on the earth for many reasons. We gained so many significant and fundamental truths from that first vision and from all the subsequent revelations; however, the very most fundamental truths we gained from his First Vision involve the nature God and His Son Jesus Christ.

When our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared, the world learned that God is like us, or rather, we are like Him, in that He has a body of flesh and bone and we are created in His express image. He is not a formless spirit or a floating idea. He is a glorified and perfected version of you and me. He is the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9) and our physical bodies are in His likeness. Our bodies are mortal and He is immortal, but through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all are promised that, “this mortal shall put on immortality,” (Mosiah 16:10; see also 1 Corinthians 15:54). We can all become like Him.

The world learned that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate and distinct beings, one in purpose and in goal but separate beings, Jesus Christ being the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world. What is God like? Look at Jesus Christ and God possesses all of the attributes Christ does—where do you think Jesus Christ learned how to act and how to live? God is loving, caring, and merciful to send His Only Begotten to the earth to live, suffer, and die and then live again so that each of His children may have the opportunity to repent and return to live with Him in exaltation forever (see John 3:16).

The world also learned, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake” (“An Address,” The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1929), 45). God and His son spoke to each of the ancient prophets as recorded in Holy Scripture, they spoke to Joseph Smith in that most sacred grove, and they continue to speak to each of his successors and apostles who lead Their Church.

I asked a few of my close friends and associates what they thought God was like. Below are a few things they said:

“God is perfectly loving, just, and merciful in a way that we cannot understand with our earthly minds.”

“God is love. I know it is cliché, but it is the first thing that came to my mind. Why else would He give us a sacrifice of His Son? Why else would He entrust us with His church, His power, His Holy Ghost, families, prophets, the gospel, everything? He loves us. More than anything, and He is working as hard as He can to get us back to Him. That is the bottom line. That thought is often what brings me comfort when I need it. Knowing that God is doing everything that He can to ensure my Salvation. Short and sweet. That sums it up for me.”

“God is a perfected human who experiences constant and perfect joy. Though the Old Testament describes God as ‘jealous’ and ‘angry’, He does not experience jealousy and anger as we define them. Although Jesus wept as a mortal on earth, His sorrow as a god is not sorrow as we define it or understand it. Combined in God are the seemingly opposite characteristics of perfect love and perfect joy. These are seemingly opposite to us because, in our experience, a loved one usually has great power to maliciously damage what joy we experience. Not so with God; no anger or sorrow or exasperation of any kind as we experience them frustrate His perfect joy. This even when His perfectly beloved children use their free will to defy Him with deliberate impunity or maim, cheat, enslave, and kill one another. He is beyond their power to affect His joy, and so will be all who desire to live forever as He does.”

“God is just like the friend you've always wanted, and is the friend you've always had.”

“God is like us. Or better said, we are like Him, except that He is perfect, and we are not. I believe God is a happy person. In fact, I believe He is the most joyful being that ever existed, and I believe that He wants each of us to be just as happy as He is. That is why He has done so much for us.

“I also believe that He is the most loving person that ever existed. He is our Father, and He loves us perfectly.

“God is also honest. That might sound obvious, but it seems that in our world, there are so many opinions on what God wants, and what He says, and even who He is. I know that God cannot lie, and if we ask to know the truth, eventually, He will show it to us, in His own way and His own time. He wants us to know Him. I know that we can know Him. Just like a best friend, the more time that we spend with Him, the better we will come to know Him.”

“To me God is every attribute that inspires happiness. He is the perfect father and a best friend who I'd always willing to give advice and love if we ask Him.”

As for me, I know that God is loving and caring because:

·         He gave me my family and has both shown me the way and provided me with the means to live with them forever
·         He gives me prophets and apostles
·         He gives me the Holy Ghost
·         He comforts me in times of need
·         He allows me to repent and try again—as many times as I need
·         He teaches me patience in His own divine way
·         He has placed so many good people in my path
·         He is patient when I fail to acknowledge my gratitude toward Him
·         He gives me the means that I may make my own educated decisions
·         He trusts me enough to allow me to make wrong decisions
·         He forgives me and teaches me how to do better next time
·         He trusts me to make the right decisions

I know that God is omniscient because:

·         He knows what is best for me and is patient as I learn to acknowledge it and trust Him
·         He created the perfect plan for each of us that we may become like Him, share in His happiness, and live with Him for eternity as perfected beings
·         He gives me tests and trials that, if dealt with properly, prepare me for greater things that I don’t see both in this life and in the life to come
·         He answers my prayers in His own way and in His own timing so that I learn and grow the most from the experience

In addition, I believe God has a sense of humor. I believe that He laughs and cries when we do something that merits either or both of those emotions. I believe that His one desire is that each of us returns to Him to share His eternal happiness and everything He does can help us toward that one goal (see Moses 1:39).

What is God like? He is like the best father who loves us perfectly, who always has the right thing to say in every situation, and who always acts in our best interests.


See also:

Topic: God the Father on LDS.org
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Grandeur of God,” Ensign, Nov 2003

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Meaning of the Cross for Latter-day Saints and the Symbol of Our Faith

This giant cross overlooks the beautiful city of Boise, Idaho. Although I am not familiar with the history and origin of this particular landmark and why it is allowed to stand overlooking the City of Trees, nor do my personal beliefs include displaying the crucifix, I kind of like it and what it, at least to me, represents. Firstly, the fact that the cross still stands in the midst of all the pro-against-all-things-that-remotely-resemble-anything-to-do-with-God-and-religion-but-we-do-it-in-the-name-of-tolerance activists is quite incredible. But secondly, to me the continued presence of the cross represents that people are tolerant and understanding enough to allow those to whom the cross does have some religious significance enjoy its presence and can appreciate it's historical significance as a landmark in the city of Boise. Way to go, Boise.

That being said, do some of you wonder why the Latter-day Saint churches and temples do not display the cross and why members of the Church are not encouraged to wear the crucifix as so many other Christian denominations?

In an article entitled, "The Symbol of Our Faith," (Ensign, April 2005, 3) President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) gave the following account of a conversation in which he explained the reason the Latter-day Saint people don't display the cross:

"Following the renovation of the Mesa Arizona Temple some years ago, clergy of other religions were invited to tour it on the first day of the open house period. Hundreds responded. In speaking to them, I said we would be pleased to answer any queries they might have. Among these was one from a Protestant minister.

"Said he: “I’ve been all through this building, this temple which carries on its face the name of Jesus Christ, but nowhere have I seen any representation of the cross, the symbol of Christianity. I have noted your buildings elsewhere and likewise find an absence of the cross. Why is this when you say you believe in Jesus Christ?”

"I responded: “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian colleagues who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the Living Christ.”

"He then asked: “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?”

"I replied that the lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship."

In this article, President Hinckley goes on to describe the ways we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, show our faith and devotion to Jesus Christ and why such faith in the Savior is crucial to each person on the earth. He concludes:

"As His followers, we cannot do a mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing His image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of Him whose name we have taken upon ourselves. And so our lives must become a meaningful expression, the symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the Living Christ, the Eternal Son of the Living God."

As I ponder the command to take up the cross of Jesus Christ (see Mark 8:34), I think of the admonition of Paul to become examples of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity (see 1 Timothy 4:12). In doing so we take up the cross of Jesus Christ and show our love and gratitude to our Father in Heaven.


*For another great article on this topic, read Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, "The Meaning of the Cross for Latter-day Saints," Ensign, July 2011, 26.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why doesn't God speak to us today?

This is part one 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 one: Why doesn't God speak to us today?

Elder Cuthbert's answer:

My wife and I grew up as teenagers during the Second World War, and this question often came to our minds. We felt strongly the need for God’s guidance then, as we do today in these challenging and perilous times. Anciently, through the prophet Amos, the Lord had declared, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7.) I never felt that revelations had ceased just because those already given had been bound into a book, the Holy Bible.

It was not until five years after the hostilities of war had ceased that I received the answer. God does speak again, through prophets, and revelation once more flows down from the heavens. These and many other wonderful truths enlightened our minds and lifted our souls as the missionaries taught us. How exciting to realize we are living in the latter days, “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21.) How wonderful to learn of another book of scripture, the Book of Mormon, revealed through a latter-day prophet as another testament of Jesus Christ.

My testimony:

God absolutely speaks to us today. He speaks to us individually through the Holy Ghost and collectively through His prophets. As we converse with the Lord through prayer and seek to know His will through careful study and pondering of the scriptures, He blesses us with His Spirit and gives us guidance, comfort, and answers. I love the process of receiving revelation and help from the Lord. He speaks to each of His children differently, but He does speak if we are willing to listen.

God also calls prophets and apostles in our day. Said He, "I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven and gave him commandments;” (D&C 1:17). Joseph Smith was a prophet of God! Our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared to him! When Joseph was martyred, God called another prophet and continues to call prophets and apostles today. President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s current prophet and He leads His church through President Monson. If you have not heard the prophet speak, you have to. The Spirit will confirm in your heart that you are listening to a prophet of God, the experience and knowledge is incredible. Click on this link for the prophet’s most recent words.

The canon of scripture is open. The Lord did not cease speaking when the Bible was compiled. He has always spoken through the Spirit to His children in every age. He spoke to prophets on the American continent for hundreds of years and inspired the prophet Mormon to compile those teachings into a book that would be preserved for our day. The book is called the Book of Mormon and it is my favorite book. The Lord showed Mormon our day so that he would know what to include in the Book of Mormon that would help us specifically with our modern-day trials (see Mormon 8:35; Words of Mormon 1:1-9). Each time I read the Book of Mormon seeking help from our Father in Heaven, I find verses and stories that pertain to me and my specific situation. I love when the Lord speaks to me through the scriptures.

Yes, the God does speak to us in our day. He has revealed additional scriptures through means such as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. He continues to call prophets in our day beginning with Joseph Smith in 1820. And He speaks to us through the Holy Ghost when we pray and study His words through His prophets.

This is one way the Lord shows His love to His children and how I know He loves and cares about me.


See also:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What’s the Difference? Ten questions to ask any Latter-day Saint.

In October 1985, Elder Derek A. Cuthbert, a member of the Seventy, gave a talk entitled, “What’s the Difference?,” (Ensign, Nov 1985, 24). In his talk, Elder Cuthbert told a story about LDS missionaries in England who knocked on his door and who had answers to questions that his own church did not. The answers he received led to his wanting to know more about the Restored Gospel and his eventual baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He testified, "My life was changed, along with my dear wife’s, as we met with the missionaries, asked questions, and prayed to know the truth."

Knowing that others would have similar questions, he listed ten of the more pressing questions he asked the missionaries and the answers that he had found. The questions are:
  1. Why doesn’t God speak to us today?
  2. What is God like?
  3. What does your church teach about family life?
  4. How can God be just if baptism is essential and many die without knowing this?
  5. If God loves us so much, why doesn’t he warn us about the evils of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs?
  6. How does your church care for you and fulfill your needs in addition to your Word of Wisdom?
  7. Why do you send missionaries all over the world, when most churches concentrate on third-world countries?
  8. What is your understanding of the purpose of life?
  9. How do you know the answers you have given are true?
  10. How can I know for myself that what you teach is true?
The answers which he gives to these questions are simple, straightforward, and grounded in the doctrine set forth by the Lord through His prophets in the scriptures.

He concludes, "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, . . . I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

This post will be followed by ten additional posts containing my testimony concerning each of these ten questions.

I add my witness that the Lord works through His living prophets to guide us in these latter days. All the answers you will ever seek to all the questions you will ever have are found in their words and in the scriptures which are the words of the ancient prophets. Try it.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Fundamental to Our Faith

What do Mormons believe? What comes to mind when you think of Mormons? In my conversations with people over the years, I have heard some outlandish things but mostly I have found that people simply don't know or understand what we believe as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In February 2010, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at Harvard Law School in an address entitled, "Fundamental to Our Faith," later excerpted and reprinted in the Church's magazine the Ensign. Elder Oaks spoke on three "clusters of truth" which he presented as "fundamental premises of the faith of Latter-day Saints. These truths are:

  1. The nature of God, including the role of the three members of the Godhead and the corollary truth that there are moral absolutes.
  2. The purpose of life.
  3. The threefold sources of truth about man and the universe: science, the scriptures, and continuing revelation—and how we can know them.
Read over these premises and learn why the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the way they do. My life is everything it is because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and because Jesus Christ works through His living apostles and prophets today.

Elder Oaks concluded, "As an Apostle I am called to be a witness of the doctrine, work, and authority of Christ in all the world. In that capacity I bear witness of the truth of these premises of our faith."