Thursday, September 29, 2011

Modern-day Prophets Speak


Once again it is General Conference time! The Lord's prophet and apostles are going to gather for a worldwide broadcast and speak to us for two days! I can think of few other blessings more remarkable and more telling of our Heavenly Father's love for us than to have and hear living prophets who lead and guide us through these often perilous times. This weekend is a perfect time to ask questions and seek answers through the Holy Ghost as these men of God address us. I know that those who seek inspiration and direction will receive it either through the words of the prophets or the promptings of the Holy Ghost as the prophets speak. Pray and seek the guidance of the Lord. This is a wonderful time in which we live. I am forever grateful that God loves us, that He gives us living oracles so we may know better of Jesus Christ and know to what source we may look for a remission of our sins (see 2 Nephi 25:26). Tune in. It will bless your life.

Jeremy

For a more on this blog about General Conference, follow this link.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How does your church care for you and fulfill your needs in addition to your Word of Wisdom?

This is part six 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 six: How does your church care for you and fulfill your needs in addition to your Word of Wisdom?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

Over the years of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have greatly appreciated the opportunities for service, for there is no paid ministry. . . . Each family is visited monthly by priesthood home teachers, who care for their needs, and by visiting teachers from the women’s Relief Society, whose motto is “charity never faileth.” We also enjoy all kinds of physical, spiritual and social activity, and receive instruction on such subjects as personal and family preparedness, including home production and storage.

For those who fall on hard times due to unemployment or sickness, help is given to rehabilitate and reestablish. Such assistance comes from the general membership, who fast two meals each month and give the money to relieve the poor and the needy. Yes, the Lord does watch over us and counsel us and warn us through his appointed and ordained ministers. These teachings and inspired programs are now being shared with God’s children all over the world. 

My testimony:

When I was twelve years old, my mother had a baby who passed away one week later due to heart complications. My parents spent the week with my little brother at a hospital in a different state and my siblings and I were taken care of by close friends and family in the community. We were split up as to not place too much of a burden on any one household and the respective families fed up, housed us, took us to our ball games and practices, and otherwise provided for our needs. And these were not families without their own responsibilities and cares. Each had children of their own to take care of and jobs to attend. I stayed with my aunt and uncle who at the time had a son in rehab and since I was staying at their house, I went to the obviously emotionally taxing counseling sessions with them. My aunt and uncle could have easily just let my parents find someone else to take care of me, with justification that their family was experiencing deep trials of their own and just could not at that time handle another burden. But they did not. They saw my family’s need and with great Christian charity with no thought of their own trying circumstances, offered to help the best way they knew how.

In the meantime and unbeknownst to any member of our family including my parents, others came to our house, maintained our large yard, weeded my father’s very large garden, cleaned the house, and did many other things that I do not even remember. Our house and yard looked even better than it did when we all left. One man in our ward I remember actually fashioned a special sprinkler that would reach our entire garden in one swoop, a gift that my father uses to this day. When my brother passed away and my parents returned home, I don’t believe my mother cooked for weeks. With no exaggeration, people—the same people who just weeks before brought by baby presents and made food for us as a welcome home for the baby—provided each meal and continued to take care of our yard and house as much as long as they could convince my parents to let them. Such was the gracious outpouring of love and support during our family’s time of deep tribulation and sadness.

We live in a very close-knit community, overwhelmingly populated with diversely-talented Latter-day Saints. News of tragedies and needs such as the trial experienced by my family travels very quickly and the response to each situation comes with equal speed. Not too long ago, the father of a family in our community suffered a serious stoke that mostly incapacitated him. His wife works but in order to pay all the medical bills and otherwise alleviate the growing financial stress, the solution was to move from their mobile home and build an addition onto his mother’s house that would serve his new needs. Our ward (the congregation of Saints in our area) pulled together and through fund raisers and donations of their own time, talents, and energies, built the much-needed addition onto the mother’s house.

Our community is home to dozens if not hundreds of such stories and certain hundreds of examples of slightly lesser proportions; needed rent, a new roof, no insulation, hospitalization with full recovery and other sickness and injury, to say nothing of the daily lifting of arms that hang down and the strengthening of feeble knees of the lonely, tired, downtrodden, and overwhelmed. In each case, each person who offered their time, talents, and energy could have looked at their own lives with their own set of problems and justified not helping because they had too much on their own plate at the time but they did not. They realized that everything they had was from the Lord and they gave freely of everything with which the Lord blessed them, doing unto the least of their brethren that they may do it unto the Lord (see Matt 25:40).

The Church has many programs and services that operate from the Church as a whole all the way down to the individual wards and branches. Fast offerings, tithing, and other donations are paid by the individual members of the Church and Church leadership decides how the money can best be used to bless the lives of the Saints and others in their communities.It is important to note that the Church’s welfare and aid programs help more than just the members of the Church. The Church’s humanitarian website explains everything about the projects in which the church is involved and updates are often included in the Church magazines.
The Church is present immediately after every major natural disaster, including but not limited to Louisiana (and other places devastated by hurricanes), Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, and a host of other places. The Church also has ongoing efforts to improve the lives of those in third-world countries and other under-privileged areas.


All of this is Christian charity—each person who helps a neighbor or donates to a larger cause in a country he or she has only heard of on TV. King Benjamin, a Book of Mormon prophet, taught of service, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). The Savior went about “doing good” (see Acts 10:38) during His mortal ministry and entreated all to follow His example, “I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;” (3 Nephi 27:21).

Indeed, the Church fulfills the needs of its members in many ways, both temporally and spiritually. And the charities and helping hands of the Latter-day Saints are not reserved for members alone, for this is the Church of Jesus Christ and He and His Father are no respecters of persons.

Jeremy

See also:
President Dieter F. Uchdtorf, "Providing in the Lord's Way," Ensign, Nov 2011, 53
Bishop H. David Burton, "The Sanctifying Work of Welfare," Ensign, May 2011, 81
  • "The work of caring for one another and being “kind to the poor” is a sanctifying work, commanded of the Father and divinely designed to bless, refine, and exalt His children."
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because of Your Faith,” Ensign, Nov 2010, 6
Bishop H. David Burton, “And Who is My Neighbor,” Ensign, May 2008, 51
Bishop H. David Burton, “Tender Hearts and Helping Hands,” Ensign, May 2006, 8

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If God loves us so much, why doesn’t He warn us about the evils of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs?

This is part five 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 five: If God loves us so much, why doesn’t He warn us about the evils of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs?


Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

So many of God’s children degrade themselves by becoming chemically dependent. He is concerned, and in the year 1833 he gave such a warning through the latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith. This health law is called the Word of Wisdom. Oh, that the world would heed this counsel from the Lord through a prophet, for a great part of crime, sickness, and unhappiness in the world is drug related.

My testimony:

The Lord revealed the doctrine and teaching called the Word of Wisdom from a revelation received by Joseph Smith recorded in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. In my experience, people know that Mormons don’t drink, don’t smoke, etc., but the Word of Wisdom also instructs us to eat healthy and describes what we should take into our bodies. I think that most agree with modern study and real-life examples that healthy foods in moderation are good and alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs have negative effects on the body and on society.

I have seen the negative effects firsthand with some of my family and friends and even negative effects across an entire nation. I know some argue that a little wine or a beer doesn’t do anything to them which is probably true; I’ve seen that too. But the Word of Wisdom was “given for a principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints” (D&C 89:3). Some may be able to handle one drink, others cannot. I’ve seen even the most controlled of people end up drinking more than they wanted to, planned, ever had previously, and suffer the obvious consequences. Each addiction begins with one trial. In the most recent General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

The battle over man’s God-given agency continues today. Satan and his minions have their lures all around us, hoping that we will falter and take his flies so he can reel us in with counterfeit means. He uses addiction to steal away agency. According to the dictionary, addiction of any kind means to surrender to something, thus relinquishing agency and becoming dependent on some life-destroying substance or behavior. . . . Satan knows how to exploit and ensnare us with artificial substances and behaviors of temporary pleasure. I have observed the impact when one struggles to win back control, to become free from destructive abuse and addiction, and to regain self-esteem and independence.”
 (“O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One,” Ensign, Nov 2010, 108).

The power of Satan is real and He uses addictive and destructive substances to lure us to give away our agency through addiction. Agency is the means by which we can choose to be happy and choose to do those things that enable us to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our families forever. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are harmful and detrimental to our spiritual and temporal health. No matter one’s perceived tolerance level, complete abstinence from these addictive substances is always the best choice.

Our bodies are gifts from God, a gift that Satan chose not to have and he does everything in his power to get us to abuse our bodies. Taught Paul, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are . . . For ye are bought with a price: therefore  glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” He continued, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:20; Romans 12:1).

The promise we receive if we live according to this law of health—both abstaining from that which is harmful to our bodies and taking in that which is good—is found at the end of section 89:

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

The blessings from living the Word of Wisdom are inherent and God-given, temporal and spiritual. We receive health and shall run and not be weary, and walk and not faint. We also shall find great treasures of wisdom and shall be spared the destroying angel as were the obedient children of Israel (see Exodus 12).

Some substances we can take into our bodies have destructive powers, whether or not we believe it. The Lord in His infinite wisdom, mercy, and love has and continues to warn us against the evil of using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs in addition to teaching us what is healthy and good for the body. Of course living the word of wisdom does not guarantee a completely healthy life. Most everyone will get sick and some will suffer from disease and other debilitating illnesses and disabilities—we each face trials of one kind or another throughout life. However, the promises from God are very real and applicable to everyone who is obedient to His commandments (see D&C 130:20-21).

Our Heavenly Father loves us and desires that we treasure the precious gift He has given us of a mortal body.

Jeremy

See also:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Agency or Inspiration: A Guide to Making Life's Decisions


 

We are all faced with so many decisions each day. Some are of lesser consequence but some are of extreme importance to us personally and to our eternal salvation and happiness. A lot of us stress over jobs, where and what to study, how to deal with people and what to do in our relationships, and a multitude of other things.

In the midst of these life-changing decisions and stressors, the Lord has not left us comfortless or helpless. He who knows all things, who is omniscient and knows what is best for us, has given us the Holy Ghost that we may be directed for good. "Assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 8:1).

In an address given at Brigham Young University on February 27, 1973, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) taught about revelation and how the Lord directs us through the Holy Ghost. The talk, entitled, "Agency or Inspiration--Which?," explains the balance of being directed by the Lord and using our own God-given agency to make decisions. Taught Elder McConkie, "There's a fine balance between agency and inspiration. We're expected to do everything in our power that we can, and then to seek an answer from the Lord, a confirming seal that we've reached the right conclusion; and sometimes, happily, in addition, we get added truths and knowledge that we hadn't even supposed."

Elder McConkie quotes a number of verses from the scriptures which each explain a different part of how we are to both use our agency to make decisions and rely on the Holy Ghost for revelation. The verses I wish to highlight are these:

In these verses the Lord makes promises, explains the means by which these promises are fulfilled, and outlines the actions we must take in order to apply the promises to ourselves. The promises found in these verses are:
  1. that we shall receive a knowledge of whatsoever things we shall ask in faith (Doctrine and Covenants 8:1),
  2. that the Lord will direct us for good,
  3. and that we shall be lifted up at the last day (Alma 37:37).
The means by which He fulfills these promises are:
  1. that He will tell us in our minds and in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2; Alma 5:46),
  2. and that our bosom shall burn within us and we shall feel that it is right OR that we shall have no such feelings and have a stupor of thought that we forget the thing which is wrong (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9).
And the action points that we must do in order to experience these promises and their inherent blessings:
  1. ask in faith (Doctrine and Covenants 8:1),
  2. study it out in our minds (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8),
  3. use our own judgement and counsel between ourselves and the Lord (Doctrine and Covenants 58:25; Alma 37:37),
  4. be anxiously engaged in a good cause and bring to pass much righteousness (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27),
  5. keep the commandments,
  6. cry unto the Lord for all our support,
  7. let all our thoughts be directed unto the Lord (Alma 37:35-36),
  8. fast and pray with a purpose (Alma 5:46).
Lessons learned from the Jaredites

Elder McConkie also talks about a story found in the Book of Mormon in which a people were commanded to cross the sea before them in order to be led to a "promised land." From this account we learn of three ways in which they dealt with the challenges that faced them in crossing the ocean. We, too, can use these methods in dealing with the challenges and decisions that face us in our own lives. (See Ether chapters 2 and 3).

Their leader, known in the scriptures as the brother of Jared, was commanded to build barges, "that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands . . . ." When faced with this first challenge, the brother of Jared used the knowledge and skills and talents he had already acquired and developed to do as he was commanded and built airtight barges, "after the manner of barges which [he] had hitherto built."

The next two challenges the brother of Jared faced, he approached the Lord in prayer, saying, "O Lord, in [the barges] there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish."

In answer to the problem concerning air, the Lord simply gave the brother of Jared the solution, "Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood."

To the problem concerning light, however, the Lord did not simply give the brother of Jared a solution. Instead, the Lord replied, "What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?" With this challenge, the Lord expected the brother of Jared to come up with a solution and then ask for assistance, which is what the brother of Jared did. He found sixteen small stones that were transparent like glass and asked the Lord, "O Lord, thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they might shine forth in darkness; . . . that we may have light while we shall cross the sea."

In this story, the brother of Jared demonstrated three ways in which we can and should deal with our challenges and decisions.
  1. We go and do, using our own knowledge and skills and talents with which we have been blessed.
  2. We ask for direction and the Lord gives it to us.
  3. We ask for direction and the Lord expects us to be creative and resourceful, to use our skills and knowledge, and then come to Him with a solution before He will help us.
I close with the words of Elder McConkie:

"God grant us wisdom in these things. God grant us the courage and the ability to stand on our own feet and use our agency and the abilities and capacities we possess; then let's be sufficiently humble and amenable to the Spirit to bow our will to his will, to get his ratifying, confirming seal of approval, to get in our lives, in that way, the spirit of revelation. And if we so do, there's no question about the result: it's peace in this life; it's glory and honor and dignity in the life to come. Which may God grant for all of us."

We each face decisions and challenges that effect our eternal salvation and happiness. The Lord has given us the means to properly and effectively deal with each of these challenges and make the right decisions that will bring happiness and eternal life.

Jeremy

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How can God be just if baptism is essential and many die without knowing this?

This is part four 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 four: How can God be just if baptism is essential and many die without knowing this?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer to a friend and minister of another church:

“Is baptism essential?” I asked.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Do you believe God is just?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“Then what of those who died without baptism?” I inquired, and he indicated that he had often wondered about that. I asked whether he had overlooked Paul’s teaching: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:29.) The minister looked at me and quietly said: “Thank you for explaining that doctrine.” I was glad he had been enlightened but sad that he and so many others had failed to see before. Yes, our Father in Heaven loves all of his children and has provided a way for every one of them to return to him.

My testimony:

Baptism is essential as taught by the Savior Himself as he walked the roads of Palestine (see Matt 3:13-17; John 3:3-7) and we know from the scriptures that God is just and merciful (see Deut 32:4; Alma 42:15). Yet some die without the knowledge of the Restored Gospel and being baptized. Therefore, “For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6; see also 1 Peter 3:19). Jesus Christ then instated baptisms for the dead which operates through the power of the priesthood. Of baptisms for the dead, the Savior taught, “Now, the nature of this ordinance consists in the power of the priesthood, by the revelation of Jesus Christ, wherein it is granted that whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (D&C 128:9).

As members of the Church do their family history and discover the names of their ancestors who did not have the opportunity to receive the saving ordinances such as baptism, they can bring these names to the temple that they or other patrons may participate in the ordinances on behalf of those who have died. Others involved in family history that have too many names or cannot go to the temple to do the work themselves submit their names to the temple and other people may participate in the saving ordinances for them. Members of the Church age twelve and older can be baptized vicariously for the dead as taught by Paul in Corinthians.

It is was my privilege each week to go to the temple and baptize those who come to do baptisms for the dead in a font similar to the one pictured here. That part of my week was so wonderful for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the special spirit that is present in the temple. Everyone in the temple is a volunteer and is there because he or she wants to be and wants to serve others. Selfless service always invites the Spirit. In the baptistry a lot of the patrons are young people. How wonderful that part of the younger generation has the understanding and the testimony to willingly sacrifice a part of their time to come and serve by being baptized for people they don’t even know who lived in a different time and potentially on a different continent.  When the patrons come in with their own family names, a sacred and specific reverence is felt and a palpable spirit is present as sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces and nephews, and cousins participate in the saving ordinances in behalf of their kindred dead.

President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As our Savior gave His life as a vicarious sacrifice for us, so we, in some small measure, do the same when we perform proxy work in the temple for those who have no means of moving forward unless something is done for them by those of us here on the earth.” (“Until We Meet Again,” Ensign, May 2009, 112.)

Those who die without a knowledge of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and without baptism have the opportunity to accept the Gospel on the other side. As they learn of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and we do their work for them here on earth, they have the opportunity to accept or reject the baptism that we performed on their behalf.

The Lord lives and loves each of His children. He is no respecter of persons—each has the opportunity to come and learn of him and partake of the Atonement unto salvation whether that opportunity is in this life or in the life to come. He is just and merciful. His work and His glory is to, “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Jeremy

See also:

Topic: Baptism on LDS.org
Topic: Baptisms for the Dead on LDS.org

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Finding Hope - 10th Anniversary of 9/11

A father's story of his experience working on the 85th floor of the north World Trade Center tower on 9/11.



Friday, September 9, 2011

What is the Book of Mormon?


From the beginning of time, God has established a pattern of speaking to His children on the earth. He reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets1 that we, the children of God, may know to what source to look for a remission of our sins.2 This pattern of working through prophets is seen among the ancient children of Israel in the Old Testament and among both Jew and Gentile in the New Testament. As God loves all His children and is no respecter of persons,3 He also called prophets in the ancient Americas who recorded His word and preserved it for us in a miraculous record called the Book of Mormon.4

In the centuries preceding Christ’s birth, the Holy Land was just as much of a territorial battlefield as it is today. Jerusalem was constantly being conquered or destroyed, with its inhabitants being carried away captive. Each time, the Lord’s prophets preached faith and repentance, urging people to live the commandments of God and the Law of Moses, and prophesying that if they did not repent, Jerusalem would be conquered or destroyed. One of these such prophets was Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem about 600 BC. As Lehi “went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard . . . the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them.” Lehi continued to preach unto them repentance and the people became so angry that, “they also sought his life, that they might take it away.”5

However, being warned by God of the evil intent of the people, Lehi took his family and a small group of others and fled Jerusalem. God led Lehi’s family through the desert and eventually to the sea where they built a ship and, under the direction of God, sailed to the “promised land,”6 known today as the Americas.

Once in the Americas, Lehi’s children divided in a power struggle, making two main groups: the Nephites who were righteous and obedient to the commandments of God, and the Lamanites who were bitter and wicked. The people explored, settled, grew, and started civilizations that waxed and waned and warred. Over the next thousand years God continued to call prophets among them as He has among all His children since the creation of the earth. Each prophet taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and preached faith, hope, charity, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and the blessings of obedience. They taught of the great plan of God, of the purpose of life, and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Of his own calling and purpose as a prophet, Lehi’s son Nephi wrote:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade out children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

. . .

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”7


While the Book of Mormon does contain a small part of the histories of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and also tells of two other groups of people who made their way to the Americas, the focus of the Book of Mormon is Jesus Christ and His dealings with them. The Book of Mormon does contain wars; mysteries; intrigue; the rise and fall of governments, economies, and great civilizations; antichrists; miracles; angels; and a continuous cycle of prosperity, pride, sin, downfall, humility, repentance, and prosperity. But more importantly the pages of the Book of Mormon contain the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As stated in the introduction to the Book of Mormon, “The crowing event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection.
It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.”8 Jesus Christ, as He had told His disciples in Jerusalem, visited His “other sheep”9 to work miracles among them,10 teach them His doctrine,11 testify of the truthfulness of the words of the prophets who had come before,12 and to organize his Church and call twelve to lead.13

Eventually, “wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.”14 At that time, the prophet-historian Mormon was put in charge of all the sacred records kept by the people since Lehi and his family left Jerusalem and, under the direction of the Lord, compiled and abridged the teachings that were most important and pertinent and helpful to us in our day, creating a volume of holy writ expressly for us in the latter days. The title page of the Book of Mormon states that the Book of Mormon was “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile . . .”15 thus the audience of the Book of Mormon includes everyone on the earth. Because Mormon is responsible for the compilation and abridgement of the teachings, the record is known as the Book of Mormon. However in an effort to alleviate confusion concerning the focus and purpose of the Book of Mormon, the real name is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Mormon passed the record, engraved on gold plates, to his son Moroni who added a few final words of his own, including his testimony of the truthfulness of that which was written on the plates. Like his father, Moroni saw our day and knew that the things which were written in the Book of Mormon would bless the lives of those who lived in the latter-days. Wrote Moroni, “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”16 He buried the gold plates in a hill to be preserved and come forth at a time the Lord saw fit to restore the fullness of His gospel. As Paul described it, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”17

Moroni’s final words contain an admonition and exhortation to all those who read the Book of Mormon:

“And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

“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.

“And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.”18 19

The Book of Mormon is the word of God, a truth confirmed by the Savior Himself.20 It does not replace the Bible, but rather complements, upholds, and testifies of the sacred things written in the Bible. Any person on the earth can know of the truthfulness of the things contained in the Book of Mormon as directed by Moroni. I testify that those who do so will feel a familiarity and comfort with what they are learning as though they once knew the things they are reading. And I testify that those who do will notice a level peace and light come into their lives never before noticed and unattainable through any other means.

I challenge each of you to give the Book of Mormon a shot. Any questionable thing you may have heard about the Book of Mormon will be cleared up as you search its pages and gain a better understanding of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Do you want to get a hold of a copy of the Book of Mormon? Ask your LDS neighbor or co-worker, follow this link, or ask me, I’d love to get you a copy. (And it’s free.)

I love the Book of Mormon. I love the stories and the people and I love the clarity with which the doctrines are taught. I love the deeper understanding of the Atonement that the Book of Mormon provides. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He lived and died for us and that He lives again. The Book of Mormon and what it represents has shaped my life to what it is today.

The Book of Mormon is true, read it.

Jeremy

1.       See Amos 3:7
.
2.       See 2 Nephi 25:26.
3.       See Acts 10:34.
4.       God also calls prophets in our day, beginning with Joseph Smith in 1820. Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today.
5.       1 Nephi 1:19-20.
6.       1 Nephi 18:23.
7.       2 Nephi 25:23,26.
8.       Introduction to the Book of Mormon.
9.       John 10:16; see also 3 Nephi 15:21-24. To the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, Jesus Christ explains that the Jews did not understand what Christ meant when He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring.” The Jews thought He meant the Gentiles when, in fact, He meant the inhabitants of the Americas and even others (see 3 Nephi 16:1-3).
10.   See 3 Nephi 17:6-25.
11.   See 3 Nephi 9-28; C.f. manner of baptism 11:23-28; contention 11:29; the Gospel, i.e. faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost 11:32-38; the Sermon on the Mount 12-14; the ordinance of the sacrament 18:1-12; the importance of and manner in which to pray 18:18-21; meeting together as a church 18:23-24; tithing 24:8-11; name of the church 27:3-11; the purpose of Christ’s mortal life and the Atonement 27:13-17.
12.   See 3 Nephi 20:24.
13.   See 3 Nephi 12:1.
14.   Mormon 1:13.
15.   Title Page of the Book of Mormon.
16.   Mormon 8:35.
17.   Ephesians 1:10.
18.   Moroni 10:2-6.
19.   The Introduction to the Book of Mormon reiterates the promise given by Moroni: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
     “ Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.”
20.   President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “This gift [The Book of Mormon] was prepared by the hand of the Lord over a period of more than a thousand years, then hidden up by Him so that it would be preserved in its purity for our generation. Perhaps there is nothing that testifies more clearly of the importance of this modern book of scripture than what the Lord Himself has said about it.
     “By His own mouth He has borne witness (1) that it is true (D&C 17:6), (2) that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26), (3) that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8), (4) that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9D&C 42:12), (5) that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10), (6) that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11), and (7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).” (“The Book of Mormon—The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov 1986, 4.)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What does your church teach about family life?

This is part three 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 three: What does your church teach about family life?

*For the official teaching of the Church on the family and for the testimony of the living prophets and apostles, see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” pictured below.


Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

The strength and moral fiber of a nation are in its families, and any church purporting to be Christian must cherish family life, both as a precious, God-given heritage and as a priceless, promised inheritance. I shall be eternally grateful that our missionary teachers expanded our vision of family significantly. They encouraged us to gather our children around us night and morning in family prayer. We were then introduced to family home evening, an institution in Latter-day Saint homes throughout the world. It is indeed a great anchor and fortress to gather together at least one evening a week to discuss applications of gospel principles, have happy, healthful activity, develop talents within the family circle, and to pray together. We often reminisce about the family home evenings we have had over the years, but there is something to be prized even more. Although previously married “until death do you part,” we have now been married in a Latter-day Saint temple for “time and eternity.” Our family can be forever!

My testimony:


I

As I said in the previous post, one way I know my Heavenly Father loves me is His plan of happiness for us and our families. When sealed in His Holy Temples, family relationships are perpetuated beyond the grave. Think of the profound eternal significance of this doctrine and knowledge! Those who have lost loved ones—you will see your mother or father or sister or brother or grandparent again!

II

Families are the central unit in the plan of God; since before the foundation of the world families have existed. God is our Father, we are His spirit children and He wants us to return to live with Him forever. We should strive so that our family relationships on earth reflect the ones we had as a spirit family with our Father in Heaven. We must love, support, and raise our children that they are prepared and able to make the right decisions in this world of shifting and changing values.

III

One of the greatest downfalls of our society is the breakdown of the traditional family unit. So many are trying to redefine and reconstruct the family. Let me be clear: a family is a mother, a father, and their children. No other definition of the family is from God and no amount of voting or popular opinion changes the truth for truth is defined by God and God alone. This I believe about the family: as long as we try to redefine the family and live contrary to what God teaches, our society will continue to degrade and crumble until we have nothing good left to hold on to. (See President Boyd K. Packer, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel,” Ensign, Nov 2010, 74-76.)

IV

Of course situations occur beyond our control that stray from this ideal: a woman may not marry, a couple may not be able to have children, a spouse may die or a divorce may be the only solution, children may stray, we each have our agency and no one makes perfect decisions. Each of these situations unfortunately happens with relative frequency. To those in less-than-ideal situations, all is not lost; in fact, you will not miss out on any blessings as long as you are keeping your life finely tuned to the principles and doctrines taught by the Savior. “Through your faith and righteousness and through His atoning sacrifice, all the inequities, injuries, and pains of this life can be fully compensated for and made right. Blessings denied in this life will be given in the eternities.” (See Atonement, True to the Faith, 2004, 20.) All that is unfair in life is made right through the Atonement of Christ.

V

I love my family. In my family I learned of gospel of Jesus Christ. I saw the gospel lived and I saw the inherent blessings received. Things haven’t been perfect and for a while I was the source of much of the discord that existed in my home. But as I continue to grow, I recognize and understand better how important my family is and how much of a vital, positive influence they have been in my life.

Jeremy

See also:

Topic: Family on LDS.org

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Sabbath and the Sacrament

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I have a lot of favorite things that happen on other days but Sunday is consistently a favorite for me. I just really enjoy going to church, I love putting all of the weekly pressures and responsibilities aside for a day and focusing instead on Jesus Christ and what it means to live His gospel. Of course I do many "spiritual" things throughout the week such as reading the scriptures and praying but Sunday I love to devote wholly to God and focus on and build that part of my life.

From the beginning of time God the Father and Jesus Christ have taught the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. The Old Testament records:

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3.)

Later, the Great Jehovah, even Jesus Christ gave the commandment to the children of Israel to, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy," for, "the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:8,11).

To hallow is to make or set apart as holy or respect or honor greatly; to revere (see Dictionary.com). God set apart and made holy the Sabbath day and commands us to respect and greatly honor that day.

In the April 2011 General Conference, Elder L Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk entitled, "The Sabbath and the Sacrament," in which he discusses, "three things the Lord requires of us: first, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments and third, to rest from our labors.

Keeping the Sabbath day holy is not merely going to church or spending extra time with family or not going to work or not participating in various recreational activities or not shopping. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is all of these and more. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a mentality, something that is prepared for throughout the week, and perhaps the best way to worship God. Elder Perry taught that the most important Sabbath-day activity is partaking of the sacrament. In addition to partaking of the sacrament, attending the rest of our Sunday meetings, abstaining from regular weekly obligations and recreational activities, and otherwise avoiding all things that may distract from our focus on the Savior, along with spending time with our families and spending extra time visiting those who may benefit from extra attention are the best ways to respect and honor the Lord's day. The Savior taught that we should do well on the Sabbath.

Elder Perry concludes his talk with his testimony, "I bear my special witness that the greatest joy we receive in this life is in following the Savior." Let us follow the Savior and remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. It is my ultimate witness that keeping the Sabbath day holy brings only happiness and peace.

Jeremy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Mormons Believe in Dinosaurs?


In my experience talking with people who are comfortable enough to ask about interesting beliefs they've heard about "Mormons," I've heard some interesting tales. Anything from having horns to all living in nine-story houses to blood sacrifices in the temple (what?) to more legitimate questions such as current practices of polygamy or not being able to drink caffeinated beverages. (None of the above are true ps...)

The most recent fallacy I heard was from a good friend who asked whether I believe dinosaurs once existed. I was a bit taken aback and gave some answer like, "Yeah, what? There are like fossils and stuff, of course dinosaurs are real... What? Yeah I believe dinosoaurs are real..." After which a few other false and super strange beliefs were cleared up and we carried on with practice.

Here's the deal: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are different in some, if not a lot, of ways. The apostle Peter referred to the early saints as "a peculiar people," (1 Peter 2:9) and that is what we are. We don't drink, not just not excessively but not even a beer to relax or a glass of wine with dinner. We don't smoke and we don't drink coffee, no matter how early our day starts. Instead, the Lord counsels us to, "retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:124). We don't curse, we don't mark our bodies with tattoos or excessive piercings, we don't wear revealing clothing, and we are taught to live a law of chastity, forbidding all sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage and complete fidelity within marriage.Why? Because, as the apostle Paul taught, our bodies are temples and sacred gifts from God.
My little bro and his wife.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy for the temple of God in holy, which temple ye are" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). We get married to the love of our lives without first moving in together, and, in some cases, members of the Church more children than the national average. And that because families are the core unit in God's plan and when marriages are sealed by the priesthood of God in His holy temples, family relationships become eternal. We marry in the temple without fanfare and at the risk of exclusion of those close friends and family who may not be worthy or able to attend the temple so that we can be sealed for time and all eternity and not just until death do you part.

We strive to keep the Sabbath day holy which means we try not to work on Sundays, we attend our Sunday church meetings (three hours at a minimum), we don't participate in sporting events, go shopping, or engage in other normal daily activities on Sunday. Indeed, we strive to treat Sunday as a different day, not just another day of the week or an extra day to play or lounge around. Sunday means something to me. Sunday is "a day appointed unto [us] to rest from [our] labors, and to pay [our] devotions unto the Most High" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:10).

As part of always striving to keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9), members of the Church are counseled to stay away from TV, movies, music, and other media that does not uphold the standards by which we live. This includes a lot of if not most movies (including those with "just that one bad part") and a lot of popular TV shows and songs. We are to stay away from those places and avoid being in environments that are not conducive to the Holy Ghost, even if we ourselves are not necessarily doing anything wrong.

In addition to those "peculiar" things that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't do, there are a lot of things that we do that may seem peculiar. We study the scriptures daily, pray individually and as a family, and more than just a quick, "help me God" in times of absolute need. We make sacrifices, personal, career, or otherwise, for our families or that we may have families. As discussed above, we go to church and do certain things on Sunday in order to pay our devotions to God. Each member of the Church also has additional responsibilities other than simply attending church meetings as there is no paid ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Which means additional time throughout the week being spent on Church duties and making sure each of the members of the Church in our area is watched over and taken care of.

And then there are all of the "Mormon culture" things too. Married early, big families, game nights, ice cream, Eagle scouts, church activities with lots of casseroles and jello perhaps. Everyone being related to someone in Utah if not actually from Utah themselves, BYU, wedding receptions, you can probably name many more than me since I live it and I think most of my life is pretty "normal." And of course some peculiar cultural things are not doctrinally founded but unfortunately exist nonetheless.

Of course, no one who has ever walked the earth is perfect save Jesus Christ. Which means that you will encounter members of the Church including myself who do not live according to every doctrine and principle of the gospel. I strive, as do most of the members of the Church, to follow the example of the Savior and do as the Lord commands. But I often fall short, I give in to peer pressure or to the natural man, but I strive to do better next time. Therein lies the key to success and the purpose of life. The Savior atoned for the sins of all mankind and He forgives us and helps us as we fall and get back up to try again.

Amidst all of these peculiar things that are real, you don't need to buy in to all the crazy things you may hear, even if you find one member of the Church who does it. As with all things, look to the majority before you stereotype. In addition, the doctrines of Jesus Christ do not dictate beliefs concerning every single thing ever to be addressed. Whether or not Pangea once existed or whether man walked on the moon or the timing of the end of the world has no significant bearing on our eternal salvation. The Lord and His servants the prophets are much more concerned with teaching us to love our neighbors as ourselves and instruct us on the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end of this life that we may have eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God (see Matt 22:36-39; 2 Nephi 25:23-26; 31:1-21; Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

That being said, please, if you have any questions or concerns or things you kind of want to clear up concerning the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please ask, regardless of how ridiculous they may sound. I do not, of course, criticize the questions asked about our faith and would much rather address and clear up the most ridiculous of beliefs than to have you continue thinking they may be true.

Yes, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a peculiar people. And I like it.

Jeremy

See also:
President Boyd K. Packer, "A Defense and A Refuge," Ensign, Nov 2006
Elder William Grant Bangerter, "What's Wrong With Being Peculiar?," Liahona, Mar 1983