Sunday, July 29, 2012

Arise and Shine Forth

I've spoken a lot recently of the shifting and changing values of society and also of the Lord's efforts to help us safely navigate this life in the midst and clamor of the world. The Lord has given us families, taught us how happiness can be achieved through family life, and even taught us the roles each of us plays in a family to ensure our success and joy. He has given us the scriptures and the words of the ancient prophets to show us the eternal principles do not change through time so we know how we must live to return to Him. He has given us the Holy Ghost of which Jesus Christ spoke in the Gospel of John chapter 14, that does, "teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:26-27). What a wonderful gift to help guide us in these troubling times! The Lord has also given us modern prophets who help guide us through our specific, modern challenges, remind us of the importance of our families and of keeping the commandments, and help us learn from the scriptures and liken the teachings of the ancient prophets unto ourselves.

The youth today are especially under the attack of the adversary. He knows that young people are more often easily influenced, that peers are a great tool in affecting someone's agency, and if he can tempt someone when they are young and trying to find where they fit in, they could develop habits that will keep them from happiness and the Lord's path for the rest of their lives.

How blessed we are to have modern and living prophets and apostles and leaders called of God and guided by Him to teach us the true and correct path to happiness and eternal life! The weekend previous to the most recent General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the prophet and women called to lead the Young Women organization of the Church gathered and spoke to all the young women worldwide. At this meeting, the Young Women leaders showed the following video:

Just think of how this video and the lifestyles (and clothing and hairstyles) portrayed in this video differ (oftentimes drastically) from how the world tells girls to dress and act:

The Young Women leaders are so inspired and are so very concerned for the well-being of the young people not only in the Church but outside the Church also. At this meeting, each of the women in the Young Women General Presidency spoke about how the young women can arise and shine forth. Sister Ann M. Dibb, counselor in the Young Women General Presidency taught, "Heavenly Father does not want us to look to the world and follow its ever-changing trends. He wants us to look to Him and follow His unchanging guidance. He wants us to live the gospel and lead others to it by setting the standard high." Although they addressed the young women of the Church specifically, I believe most of what they taught is directly applicable to each of us.

Ann M. Dibb
Sister Dibb also taught, "One of the greatest ways we can arise and shine forth is to confidently obey the commandments of God." If we are struggling with keeping the standards and commandments, Sister Dibb taught, "I encourage you to look for support within the gospel. . . . Pray. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father, who loves you. Use the gift of repentance daily. Serve others. And most important, listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost." ("Arise and Shine Forth," Ensign, May 2012, 117.)

Another counselor, Sister Mary N. Cook, taught of the duty the young women have to learn and work and be educated. "[God] has a work for you to do," taught Sister Cook. "To accomplish this work, you have an individual responsibility to seek learning.

Mary N. Cook
"Education . . . will open the doors of opportunity. As you follow the Lord's admonition to seek learning even by study and also by faith, you gain not only knowledge from your study but added light as you learn by faith." Sister Cook quoted a few prophets' counsel in gaining education and learning "marketable skills" and then said, "Young women, follow the advice of these wise and inspired prophets. Be a good student. Arise and shine forth in your schools with hard wotk, honesty, and integrity." Once again, we can all benefit from this counsel.

Sister Cook also taught of the importance and role of young women as future mothers. "We learn in 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World' that 'mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.' Providing an education for your children is part of that nurturing and is your sacred responsibility. Like the stripling warriors, who 'had been taught by their mothers,' (Alma 56:47) you will be the most important teacher your children will ever have, so choose your learning carefully. Bless your children and your future home by learning as much as you can now." ("Seek Learning: You Have A Work to Do," Ensign, May 2012, 120.)

Elaine S. Dalton
The president of the Young Women organization, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, taught that "as daughters of God, you were born to lead." She continued, "There is no more influential group standing for truth and righteousness in all the world that the young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Sister Dalton said the call to arise and shine forth "is a call to each of you to lead the world in a mighty cause--to raise the standard--and lead this generation in virtue, purity, and in temple worthiness. If you desire to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world." ("Now is the Time to Arise and Shine!," Ensign, May 2012, 123.)

I also found it interesting that each of the Young Women leaders spoke of the importance of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and His role in helping them achieve their divine potential. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is vital for each of us.

How blessed we are to have such great leaders such as these three women and a living prophet and apostles who speak the mind and will of God. They help us know the teachings of Jesus Christ are a beacon in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us and they teach us the true meaning of happiness-a meaning much different than that taught by the world.

May we each learn the importance of obedience and our responsibility in learning and leading.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mormonism 101: An Apostle's words to Harvard Law School

On March 20, 2012, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to a group of Harvard Law School students about the basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His address is all of fifteen minutes and covers the very key and core doctrines of the "Mormon" faith. (You can read the full address here.)

Elder Holland's talk is very appropriately entitled, "Mormonism 101," because he clearly and simply teaches the core doctrines and attributes of the Church. A few things I wish to highlight:
  • "God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are separate and distinct beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. . . . Having affirmed the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that They were indeed 'one' in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love."
  • "That is our first testimony—of Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God, of the merciful and redeeming gospel He brought from the Father to the earth to share with all of God’s children, and of the church Christ established to be the vehicle for communicating those truths and offering those ordinances."
  • "In a vision which the young Joseph Smith described as being 'above the brightness of the sun,' God the Eternal Father and that same resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to him."
  • "Young Joseph Smith’s declaration in 1820 is our declaration today and forever—that there was a true church once in the meridian of time, in which Jesus Christ was the chief cornerstone and the personification of its divinity, with mortal men called as prophets and apostles to form a foundational footing around Him."
  • "Our next testimony is that after Christ’s ascension and with the death of those early apostles the church and its divinely ordained succession of priesthood authority was lost, taken, removed from the face of the earth."
  • "Divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization."
  • "Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, now lives, or will yet live so long as the earth shall last is a son or daughter of a loving and divine Heavenly Father. He is the God in whose image we were created."
  • "Because mistakes would be made in the course of that mortal education—sometimes horrible mistakes, wrenching mistakes, global mistakes—a Savior was provided in such a plan, one who would atone . . . for every individual transgression made by all those in that human family—the sins and sorrows, the disappointments and despair, the tears and tragedies of every man, woman, and child who would ever live from Adam to the end of the world."
  •  "The scriptural canon is not closed. . . . The Book of Mormon and other canonized scripture, as well as the role of living oracles, witnesses to the fact that God continues to speak."
This is but a fraction of what I originally picked to highlight so you must read the whole talk, for Elder Holland ties all of these points together and more so well.

The Church is true. Jesus is the Christ and is our Savior. God is our Father in Heaven and He has a plan that each of us, His children, may be successful and happy in this life and return to Him. Elder Holland is an apostle of the Lord.

People are listening to the Lord's servants, you should too.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

That the Lost May Be Found

"As you seek to live the gospel and doctrine of Christ, the Holy Ghost will guide you and your family."

In the most recent General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk entitled, "That the Lost May Be Found," in which he talked about how many people today are becoming lost and confused in the widening gap between the teachings of God and the shifting trends of the world. "Everyone loses his or her way at some point, to some degree. It is through the promptings of the Holy Ghost that we can be brought safely back onto the right path, and it is the atoning sacrifice of the Savior that can return us home."

Figuring your own purpose in life and then knowing where to go and what to do to be happy can be a difficult task in current world situations. Fortunately the Lord has given us prophets and apostles and also the Holy Ghost through whom He speaks that we may know what brings true and lasting happiness. The prophet Joseph F. Smith taught that, "There can be no happiness separate and apart from the home." "It is our homes and families that need reforming in this increasingly materialistic and secular world," said Elder Ballard. "A stunning example is the growing disregard for marriage here in the United States."

Elder Ballard goes on to talk about the growing number of children born to unmarried parents, the divorce rate, and the issues surrounding those who are less educated and have lower incomes. "Opposite of what many had thought," said Elder Ballard, "prosperity and education seem to be connected to higher likelihood of having traditional families and values." One very interesting thing that Elder Ballard discussed was the cause and effect of the correlations described above.

"The real question, of course, is about cause and effect. Do some sectors of our society have stronger values and families because they are more educated and prosperous, or are they more educated and prosperous because they have values and strong families? In this worldwide Church we know that it is the latter. When people make family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.

"And, of course, societies at large are strengthened as families grow stronger. Commitments to family and values are the basic cause. Nearly everything else is effect. When couples marry and make commitments to each other, they greatly increase their chances of economic well-being. When children are born in wedlock and have both a mom and a dad, their opportunities and their likelihood of occupational success skyrocket. And when families work and play together, neighborhoods and communities flourish, economies improve, and less government and fewer costly safety nets are required."

I think that's a very interesting thing to think about, yet one that I believe few really do. The family breakdown is truly causing a host of societal and economic ills and few seem to understand the correlation. However, we can reverse the trend. "Inequities are resolved by living correct principles and values," taught Elder Ballard. "The most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives. . . ."

So where can we look and to whom can we turn in this world of changing and shifting values, where that which brings true and lasting happiness is looked down upon and laughed at? Elder Ballard taught, "The Church is a mooring in this tempestuous sea, an anchor in the churning waters of change and division, and a beacon to those who value and seek righteousness. . . .

"The Church stands as an example of heart turning and as a catalyst for good in the world. Among Church members who are married in the temple and who regularly attend Sunday meetings, the divorce rate is significantly less than that of the world, and families remain closer and are in more frequent communication. The health in our families is better, and we live several years longer than the population average. We contribute more financial resources and more service per capita to those in need, and we are more likely to seek higher education. I point out these things not to boast but to testify that life is better (and much happier) as hearts turn toward family and as families live in the light of the gospel of Christ"

Families are where it's at. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives as equal partners, marriage first, then family. This is the natural order of things and what will bring us lasting happiness in this life and in the world to come. The Savior seeks those who are lost. He teaches that "none of us will ever be so lost that we cannot find our way again through His Atonement and His teachings."

Elder Ballard is an apostle of God. He teaches that which God would have us know. God loves each of us and desires our lasting happiness. As we seek to live the gospel, He will guide us through His Holy Spirit. What is lost can be found.