Monday, December 29, 2008
I think this is the exact kind of process that my mind goes through each week when taking the sacrament. Every Sunday I think about things in my life that I need to change. I think about goals that I need to work on, and things that I would like to eliminate from or add to my life. Each week as I take the sacrament, I think about the sacrifice the Savior made for me so that I can overcome sin and weaknesses of character. Each week I make resolutions. Taking the sacrament not only helps me to think about what I need to change, but it reminds me of the sacrifice the Savior made for me. The greatest way to honor the Savior's sacrifice is to take advantage of it by repenting and making my life more aligned with His.
As we make our new year resolutions, and think about what we would like to change in our lives, let us remember the atonement of our Savior that made true change possible. Let us vow to remember him by observing the Sabbath. Let us rid our lives of those things that draw us away from Him, and fill our lives with those things that make us more Christlike.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
“Sacrifice is an amazing principle. As we willingly give our time and talents and all that we possess, it becomes one of our truest forms of worship. It can develop within us a profound love for each other and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through sacrifice our hearts can be changed; we live closer to the Spirit and have less of an appetite for things of the world.” Carol B. Thomas
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The most important meeting we attend is our "Sacrament meeting". It begins with a welcome by a member of the bishopric, followed by an opening hymn, and a prayer given by a member of the congregation. Next the bishopric member will discuss any Ward business, such as callings and releases of people from church assignments. Members are given the opportunity to show, by the raise of hand, whether they support that calling, or oppose it. Most people support these callings, but if, for example, you knew of some serious reason why that person should not be called, you could oppose it. When we raise our hand to support that calling, we are also saying that we are willing to help them however they need to do that calling.
Next comes the most important part of our meeting, which is the administration of the sacrament. The young men of the church are given the privilege of holding the Aaronic Priesthood which has the authority to administer the sacrament. The first ordination in the priesthood is that of deacon. Deacons pass the sacrament to the congregation. The next higher ordination is "Teacher". The teachers prepare the sacrament table. The next higher ordination is "Priest". The Priests bless the sacrament. They also have the authority to baptize.
The partaking of the sacrament is an intensely personal experience. An observer won't see much except for the priesthood brethren passing the sacrament. The main part of our sacrament is the internal worship of each member. It is a time for each person to think about their own life and how it conforms with the Savior's teachings. It is a time to reflect on His sacrifice and this gift that He has given to us. The broken bread is symbolic of His body, which he sacrificed on the cross and subsequently resurrected so that we all might be resurrected some day. The water is symbolic of his blood that was shed in the garden of gethsemane when He suffered for our sins and pains. We look at the taking of the sacrament as a renewal of the covenants we made at baptism. For this reason, non-members aren't encouraged to take the sacrament, since they haven't made those same covenants. The sacrament is the main reason we gather on the Sabbath.
After the administration of the sacrament, we listen to talks given by members of the congregation. They are often given assigned topics, usually based on talks given in our General conference, the scriptures, and from their own testimonies. Usually there is a youth speaker who speaks for about 5 minutes. Then there are usually two more speakers, with a rest hymn or choir performance in between. On the first Sunday of the month we have what is called "Fast and Testimony meeting". On that Sunday, we come fasting, and are given an opportunity to get up and bear our testimony to the congregation. This is all volunteer, and not prearranged. Anyone is welcome to get up and express their feelings about the Savior, the Gospel, and their testimony in general. The meeting ends with a closing hymn and prayer.
That would be enough for most people, but we go on for two more hours. :) The second hour is our Sunday school time. Each year we focus on a different book of scripture. The books we focus on are: Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants/Church History. The third hour we split up, the men going to Priesthood meeting, and the women going to Relief Society. We have a lesson from our manual, focusing on the teachings of the different prophets, studying a different prophet each year. We also take care of business related to our organization. The Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world. We strive to serve others and relieve their burdens. We have a monthly visiting program to visit each sister in the Ward every month. The men have a similar program.
While the adults are attending their meetings, the children (11 and under) attend "Primary" where they have a lesson with a teacher, and also sing songs and learn together as a group. The youth, (12-18) meet with their same gender friends of their same age group and also have a lesson.
Three hours might seem like a long time to attend church, but what we gain from attending church is the spiritual strength to combat the temptations of the world, and a stronger knowledge of the Gospel. We invite all to come meet with us. All are welcome. As the Savior said to those who asked where He lived, we likewise encourage those who ask about our worship; "Come and see"!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I have been thinking about what makes Christmas such a great time in our lives. I am old enough to remember many Christmases. They have all been glorious. But I have learned that it isn’t just the presents that make them great.
The Happiest Christmas of My Childhood
When I was a young boy, our family was terribly poor. Father had no job because he was going through law school at the University of Utah. He had a wife and three young sons. Grandfather and Grandmother knew that we would have no Christmas if we did not come down to the farm in Millard County. So all of our family took the train from Salt Lake to Leamington, Utah. Where the money came for the tickets, I will never know.
Grandfather and Uncle Esdras met us at the railroad crossing in Leamington with a team of big horses to pull the open sleigh through the deep snow to Oak City. It was so cold that the huge horses had icy chin whiskers, and you could see their breath. I remember how old Jack Frost nipped my nose, and the extreme cold made it hard to breathe. Grandmother had heated some rocks and put them in the bottom of the sleigh to help keep us warm. We were wrapped and tucked into some heavy camp quilts with just our noses sticking out. Accompanied by the tinkle of bells on leather straps on the harnesses of the horses, we musically traveled from Leamington over the 10 miles to Oak City, where our beloved grandfather and grandmother lived. So many dear ones were there that we could hardly wait to arrive. When we got there it was warm and wonderful and exciting.
In the corner of the living room was the Christmas tree, a cedar cut from the hillside pasture. It was already partially decorated by Mother Nature with little berries that helped give it a strong smell. Our decorations were popcorn strings made by pushing a needle and thread through popcorn. The strings had to be handled carefully or they would break and strew popcorn all over the floor.
We also had paper chains to put on the tree, made by cutting up old Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs with the paper links pasted together with flour paste. The sticky flour paste got all over our hands, faces, and clothes. I wonder why they didn’t put sugar in it! With cream it could also have been served for mush.
I do not remember any presents under the tree. Under the tree were popcorn balls made with strong, homemade molasses. When we bit into the popcorn balls, it felt like they were biting back.
On Christmas Eve we all gathered around the woodstove, enjoying the warm comfort of the fire and the pleasant aroma of the burning cedar wood. One of the uncles gave the opening prayer. We sang carols and hymns. One of our aunts read of the birth of Jesus and of the “good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Grandfather and Grandmother then told us how much they loved us.
The next day was Christmas, and we had a glorious dinner. But before we ate, we all got down on our knees for family prayer. I was so hungry. Grandfather prayed for the longest time. You see, he had much to pray for. He prayed for moisture because there was a drought in the land, and the crops had been meager. The fall grain had been planted in the dusty ground. What harvest there was could not be sold for much because of the low prices caused by the Great Depression. The taxes on the farm were delinquent because there was no money to pay them. He also prayed for our large family, his cattle and horses, pigs and chickens, turkeys—he prayed over everything.
During Grandfather’s long prayer, my youngest uncle became restless and gave me an irreverent pinch, hoping that I would shout to make things more exciting.
For dinner we had a huge tom turkey stuffed with delicious dressing. There was no celery in the dressing because we had only the ingredients that could be produced on the farm. But the dressing had plenty of bread, sage, sausage, and onions. There was an abundance of potatoes and gravy and pickles, beets, beans, and corn. Because Grandfather could trade wheat to the miller for flour, there was always fresh baked bread. To stretch the food, we were encouraged to take one bite of bread for every bite of other kinds of food. We had chokecherry jelly and ground-cherry jam. For dessert we had pumpkin and gooseberry pie. It was all delicious.
Giving and Receiving Presents
As I look back on that special Christmas over a lifetime, the most memorable part was that we did not think about presents. There may have been some handmade mittens or a scarf given, but I do not recall any presents. Presents are wonderful, but I found that they are not essential to our happiness. I could not have been happier. There were no presents that could be held and fondled and played with, but there were many wonderful gifts that could not be seen but could be felt.
There was the gift of boundless love. We knew God loved us. We all loved each other. We did not miss the presents because we had all these glorious gifts. It made me feel so wonderful and secure to belong and to be part of all that went on. We wanted nothing else. We did not miss the presents at all. I never remember a happier Christmas in my childhood.
We all enjoy giving and receiving presents. But there is a difference between presents and gifts. The true gifts may be part of ourselves—giving of the riches of the heart and mind—and therefore more enduring and of far greater worth than presents bought at the store.
Of course, among the greatest of gifts is the gift of love. When I was called to the holy apostleship, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) gave me a kiss on the cheek. I felt his whiskers. It caused a flood of wonderful little boyhood memories of being held by strong arms and feeling Grandfather’s whiskers as he kissed me on the cheek.
Some, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, have a hard time loving anyone, even themselves, because of their selfishness. Love seeks to give rather than to get. Charity towards and compassion for others is a way to overcome too much self-love.
He whose birth we celebrate has told us that all of the law and the prophets is contained in loving God and our fellowmen. James called this “the royal law” (James 2:8). The Apostle Paul said, “To know the love of Christ … passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). In the First Epistle of John we are told, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 Jn. 4:7).
Anciently the three Wise Men came from afar to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. Would it not be marvelous this Christmas if we could personally give gifts to the Savior? I believe this is possible to do. Said Jesus:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. …
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:31, 34–40).
So as we help the sick and clothe the naked and attend to the stranger, we personally give gifts to our Savior.
Among these true gifts are some our family shared on that boyhood Christmas I told you about: the gift of peace, the gift of love, the gift of service, the gift of self, and the gift of faith.
All of us enjoy wonderful gifts from God which, if developed, can be enjoyed by others. At this Christmas season, so many of us have enjoyed the musical and literary gifts of Handel, Dickens, and many others. The sharing of these natural gifts blesses both the giver and the receiver.
This Christmas and every Christmas will be richer by sharing and enjoying gifts that cannot be held but only felt.
Many years ago I went to the hospital to give a blessing to a young man named Nick and his sister Michelle. Nick is a friend of mine and former home teaching companion, and his young life was threatened by a kidney disease. Nick had not been well for a long time. Nick’s older sister Michelle had offered to give him a precious gift to preserve his life: she offered one of her own kidneys.
The operation was successfully performed, but still in question was whether or not Nick’s body would accept this priceless gift from Michelle. You see, Michelle had given the gift not knowing if it would be accepted; fortunately it was. In like manner, our Heavenly Father has given us so many wonderful gifts not knowing if they would be accepted. He has offered us His peace, His comfort, His love. All we have to do to accept His gifts is to be obedient and follow Him.
There are so many problems facing us individually and collectively. Yet I have the simple faith that many, if not all, of them can be put into proper perspective by Paul’s sublime message to the Galatians: “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
The message of this season that is applicable throughout the year lies not in the receiving of earthly presents and treasures but in the forsaking of selfishness and greed and in going forward, seeking and enjoying the gifts of the Spirit, which Paul said are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).
With gifts such as these, I am sure everyone could feel as I did that wonderful Christmas so long ago when we had no presents to hold and play with. I would not have wanted to trade places with any prince of the world with his room full of toys. The gifts of love, peace, service, self, and faith so generously given made me feel so fulfilled. It made me feel that I must be somebody special to be part of so much love. I wanted nothing besides more of these wonderful gifts that couldn’t be handled nor touched but only felt.
Two days before Christmas we also honor the birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who is singular in importance in our faith (see D&C 135:3). To Joseph we owe the knowledge of the appearance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the priesthood, and the keys of the Restoration in its fulness.
As one of the special witnesses of Jesus and of the gospel restored to earth by God working through the Prophet Joseph Smith, I testify that the greatest gift of this or any other Christmas is the Atonement of Jesus as the Redeemer, the Son of God. Paul said this was a “free gift” (Rom. 5:15). It is a gift we cannot handle or touch, but we can feel the immeasurable love of the Giver.
Through this gift we can all find the pathway to eternal life. My testimony of this is sure, real, and absolute, as is my sacred testimony of Him. I invoke the blessings of God upon us all at this special Christmastime.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Home to Margaret back then was Two Hills, Alberta, Canada—a farming community populated largely by Ukrainian and Polish immigrants who generally had large families and were very poor. It was the time of the Great Depression.
Margaret’s family consisted of her mother and father and their 15 children. Margaret’s mother was industrious and her father was enterprising—and with all those children, they had a built-in labor force. Consequently, their home was always warm, and despite their humble circumstances, they were never hungry. In the summer they grew an enormous garden, made sauerkraut, cottage cheese, sour cream, and dill pickles for barter. They also raised chickens, pigs, and beef cattle. They had very little cash, but these goods could be exchanged for other commodities they could not produce themselves.
Margaret’s mother had friends with whom she had emigrated from the old country. These friends owned a general store, and the store became a depot for folks in the area to donate or trade surplus hand-me-down clothing, shoes, etc. Many of these used items were passed along to Margaret’s family.
Alberta winters were cold, long, and hard, and one particularly cold and difficult winter, Margaret and her sister Nellie noticed the poverty of their neighbors, the Kozicki family, whose farm was a few miles away. When the Kozicki father would take his children to school on his homemade sleigh, he would always go into the school to warm himself by the potbelly stove before returning home. The family’s footwear consisted of rags and gunny sacks cut into strips and wrapped about the legs and feet, stuffed with straw, and bound with twine.
Margaret and Nellie decided to invite the Kozicki family, by way of the children, for Christmas dinner. They also decided not to tell anyone in their family of the invitation.
Christmas morning dawned, and everyone in Margaret’s family was busy with the preparations for the midday feast. The huge pork roast had been put in the oven the night before. The cabbage rolls, doughnuts, prune buns, and special burnt sugar punch had been prepared earlier. The menu would be rounded out with sauerkraut, dill pickles, and vegetables. Margaret and Nellie were in charge of getting the fresh vegetables ready, and their mother kept asking them why they were peeling so many potatoes, carrots, and beets. But they just kept peeling.
Their father was the first to notice a team of horses and a sleigh packed with 13 people coming down their lane. He, being a horse lover, could recognize a team from a long distance. He asked his wife, “Why are the Kozickis coming here?” Her response to him was, “I don’t know.”
They arrived, and Margaret’s father helped Mr. Kozicki stable the horses. Mrs. Kozicki embraced Margaret’s mother and thanked her for inviting them for Christmas. Then they all piled into the house, and the festivities began.
The adults ate first, and then the plates and cutlery were washed, and the children ate in shifts. It was a glorious feast, made better by the sharing of it. After everyone had eaten, they sang Christmas carols together, and then the adults settled down for another chat.
Margaret and Nellie took the children into the bedroom and pulled from under the beds several boxes filled with hand-me-downs they had been given by their mother’s merchant friends. It was heavenly chaos, with an instant fashion show and everyone picking whatever clothes and footwear they wanted. They made such a racket that Margaret’s father came in to see what all the noise was about. When he saw their happiness and the joy of the Kozicki children with their “new” clothes, he smiled and said, “Carry on.”
Early in the afternoon, before it got too cold and dark with the setting sun, Margaret’s family bid farewell to their friends, who left well fed, well clothed, and well shod.
Margaret and Nellie never told anyone about their invitation to the Kozickis, and the secret remained until Margaret Kisilevich Wright’s 77th Christmas, in 1998, when she shared it with her family for the first time. She said it was her very best Christmas ever." Thomas S. Monson, “The Best Christmas Ever,” Ensign, Dec 2008, 4–8
Sunday, December 21, 2008
1 Nephi 11:13-21
13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!
The word that keeps going through my mind from these scriptures is the word, "condescension". The dictionary defines this word as, "1: voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior". It is very humbling to think that the very God of the universe came to this earth, was born in a stable, and then took upon Himself the sins and pains of His people. "11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." Alma 7:11,12
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
“It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons. The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject. They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham, 3 vols. in 1 , 16–17).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
11 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.
Amos 8:11, 12
Christ Himself had warned the disciples that the times ahead would be difficult:
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Paul taught the Thessalonians that a falling away would happen before the Lord would come the second time to the earth.
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
When will this apostasy occur if it hasn't already? Those who are watching the "signs of the times" know that many of the prophecies about what would precede the Lord's second coming are already coming to pass. But what about this prophecy? When will this apostasy occur, wherein men will search from sea to sea and not find the word of the Lord. We testify that it happened after the death of the apostles. That time in history is what is commonly known as "the dark ages". There were surprisingly few advancements and inventions during that time. Why would there be dark ages? When we take away the light of the world, then the world becomes dark. When the gospel is not found on the earth, then the world groans in darkness.
But Paul also spoke of a "restitution of all things".
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Clearly, we can't have a restitution of something that hasn't been missing. When will this restitution of all things occur? What will be restored? We believe that the restitution has already occurred. We believe that the gospel, in its entirety was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. We believe that the Priesthood power was also restored to Joseph Smith. We testify that this restitution has already happened in preparation for the second coming of the Lord.
It is a bold assertion to state that the Priesthood was restored to this church. But let us look at the history. After the death of the apostles, the Catholic church was formed. Many of the reformists did not feel that the Catholic church held the authority of God, and that the teachings of Jesus Christ had been changed. This led them to break off and start new churches. But did they have the authority; the Priesthood? How does one get the Priesthood authority? Anyone can go to the city offices and register a new church. But does that give them authority from God? Does a feeling alone guarantee that authority has been granted?
On May 15, 1829, the resurrected John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and layed his hands upon their heads. He bestowed upon them the priesthood of Aaron, which included the authority to baptize. Then one month later, Peter, James and John came and bestowed upon them the higher priesthood, the priesthood held by the great high priest Melchizedek. With this priesthood was restored the authority to act in God's name, as well as the authority to perform sacred ordinances.
The name of our church, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" is significant because we believe that it is literally the church of Jesus Christ, restored to the earth. The term "latter-day saints" distinguishes us from the early church. In this church of Jesus Christ, you can find the same organization that existed in the early church with apostles and prophets leading and guiding the saints. You can find all of the ordinances that existed in the early church, including the temple ordinances. I testify that the restoration spoken of has occurred, and that this is the true church of Jesus Christ in these last days.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I think this video is well done, and gives us much to think about. As Pres. Benson says, we do not know when the second coming will be, but as the scriptures tell us, "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:"Matt. 24: 32. We are seeing the fulfillment of many of the prophecies of the Bible. Let us stand in holy places so that we will be prepared for that day, the time of which no man knoweth.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
"Elder Marion G. Romney stated: “Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.” This is a contradiction in terms. . . . Elder Romney continues: “The consequences of [mortal man’s] choices are of the all-or-nothing sort. There is no way for him to escape the influence of these opposing powers. Inevitably he is led by one or the other. His God-given free agency gives him the power and option to choose. But choose he must." James E. Faust
Sunday, December 7, 2008
"Count Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, statesman, and philosopher, held [this] opinion as to the possible future destiny of the "American religion" founded under the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Thomas J. Yates related an experience he had while a student at Cornell University in 1900. He had the privilege of meeting Dr. Andrew D. White, former president of Cornell and, at the time, U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Upon learning that Mr. Yates was a Mormon, Dr. White made an appointment to spend an evening with him, at which time he related an experience he had had with Count Tolstoy while serving as U.S. Foreign Minister to Russia in 1892. Dr. White visited often with Count Tolstoy, and upon one occasion they discussed religion. We quote from Elder Yates' account of this discussion, as related to him by Dr. White:
"Dr. White," said Count Tolstoy, "I wish you would tell me about your American religion.""We have no state church in America," replied Dr. White."I know that, but what about your American religion?"Patiently then Dr. White explained to the Count that in America there are many religions, and that each person is free to belong to the particular church in which he is interested.To this Tolstoy impatiently replied: "I know all of this, but I want to know about the American religion. Catholicism originated in Rome; the Episcopal Church originated in England; the Lutheran Church in Germany, but the Church to which I refer originated in America, and is commonly known as the Mormon Church. What can you tell me of the teachings of the Mormons?""Well," said Dr. White, "I know very little concerning them. They have an unsavory reputation, they practice polygamy, and are very superstitious."Then Count Leo Tolstoy, in his honest and stern, but lovable, manner, rebuked the ambassador. "Dr. White, I am greatly surprised and disappointed that a man of your great learning and position should be so ignorant on this important subject. The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of Heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this Church, nothing can stop their progress -- it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known."
(From The Improvement Era, February 1939 [vol. 42], p. 94.)
Because of his discussion with Count Tolstoy, upon his return to the United States Dr. White secured a set of the Church works and placed them in the Cornell University Library." (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp. 412-414)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
To both groups of people I would say, if God is real, then He is what we believe Him to be. He is all knowing, all powerful, merciful, kind and just. If the God that we believe in exists, then He can do anything. If God is all powerful, the greatest of all imaginable miracles is possible. That includes the creation, and doing so in whatever time frame was needed. If God truly exists, His power cannot be quantified by science, nor even comprehended by man. While man's understanding of science and physics is governed by proof and theorems, His understanding of all of heaven and earth is unlimited. If God really exists, then anything is possible, and men in all their greatest learning cannot even come close to His knowledge.
Why is it easy to believe that God could bless Moses with power to part the Red Sea, but difficult to believe that He could bless a modern Prophet to be able to translate ancient records. Why is it easy to believe that God spoke to the young child Samuel in Old Testament times, but difficult to believe that He spoke to a 14 year old Joseph Smith in these modern days? Why is it so easy to believe that Noah was instructed to build an ark, but difficult to believe the Book of Mormon account of how God instructed Nephi to also build a boat to sail to the promised land? Why is it easy to believe that Jesus chose apostles to carry out His work in olden days, but so difficult to believe that He could choose apostles to carry out His work in these modern days? Why is it so easy to believe that Moses and Elias appeared unto the Savior and His apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration, but so difficult to believe that Peter, James and John visited the Prophet Joseph Smith and gave him the keys of the Priesthood?
I say again that if God does exist, as we believe He does, none of these things are impossible. When Sarah laughed at the thought of being able to bear a child in her old age, the Lord said, "13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son." Genesis 18:13,14
For those who discount The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints because we believe in continuing scripture, continuing revelation, modern prophets, restoration of priesthood keys, and more, I would ask, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The question isn't whether or not He could bring these things to pass. The question is, how much do we believe?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"When we meet to learn the doctrines of the gospel, it should be in a spirit of reverence. It is about reverence and how it relates to revelation that I wish to speak.
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalm 46:10). And the promise, 'You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom' (D&C 36:2). . . .
"Irreverent conduct in our chapels is worthy of a reminder, if not reproof. Leaders should teach that reverence invites revelation" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 27–28; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 2122).
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
These extremists churches are an abomination and are missing the most crucial of Christ's teachings. In the Bible, Jesus taught, "2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." Luke 17:2
In the Book of Mormon we are also taught, "8 Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin;...." Moroni 8:8
Sunday, November 30, 2008
--"Regarding trials, including of our faith and patience, there are no exemptions—only variations (see Mosiah 23:21). These calisthenics are designed to increase our capacity for happiness and service. Yet the faithful will not be totally immune from the events on this planet. Thus the courageous attitudes of imperiled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are worthy of emulation. They knew that God could rescue them. “But if not,” they vowed, they would still serve God anyway (see Dan. 3:16–18). Similarly, keeping the unfashionable but imperative first and seventh commandments can reflect the courage which three young women displayed anciently; they said no with their lives (see Abr. 1:11)."
--"As to remedying our personal mistakes, we face no hindering traffic jams on the road of repentance. It is a toll road, not a freeway, and applying Christ’s Atonement will speed us along."
--"Brothers and sisters, though living in a time of commotion, we can stand in holy places and not be moved (see D&C 45:32; D&C 87:8). Though living in a time of violence, we can have that inner peace that passeth understanding (see Philip. 4:7). Perplexing things will still happen, but, like Nephi, we can still know that God loves us, a felicitous and fundamental fact which can and will sustain us through so much! (see 1 Ne. 11:17).
How can we know that God is aware of us and loves us? He tells us by the scriptures—likewise, by our honestly counting the blessings and bestowals of His grace in our lives. Most of all, He tells us by the still, small voice of the Spirit! (see Alma 34:38; D&C 78:17–19)."
Friday, November 28, 2008
As I read this quote, I was reminded that some of the problems we are experiencing today have been around for many years.
"Some years ago reference was made on a local editorial page to “a super-duper, eager-beaver atheist” who “does not like Christianity” at all, “and is out to destroy it. … In a national magazine [this atheist] is quoted as thundering from her ‘pulpit’: ‘Churches are leeches. …’
“Now that she has moved on prayer and Bible reading in U.S. public schools,” the editorial continues, “her next targets, it appears, are tax-exemptions for churches, ousting chaplains from the armed services and omission of ‘God’ in courtroom oaths, on money and in the pledge of allegiance.” (Norman Vincent Peale, Deseret News and Telegram, 3 July 1964.)
An article in a recent magazine advanced and argued the thesis that America is no longer “the Christian land of the Pilgrims.”
In distinguishing communism from the United Order, President David O. McKay said that communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and that it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land.
Relying on that part of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the United States Supreme Court has ruled against Bible reading and prayer in public schools. By so doing, said President David O. McKay, “the Supreme Court of the United States severs the connecting cord between the public schools of the United States and the source of divine intelligence, the Creator himself,” who, of course, is the God of this land (Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1962, p. 878).
Now, of course, we all believe and wholeheartedly support the separation of church and state; but we must not let this wresting of the First Amendment, nor communism, nor atheism, nor any other anti-Christ influence, weaken our conviction that Jesus Christ is the God of this land nor diminish our determination to obey his laws. On such conviction and such obedience hang all our hopes so well expressed in Samuel F. Smith’s patriotic hymn:
Our fathers’ God to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
(Hymns, no. 115.)
That it may be so, I humbly pray."
2 Nephi 1:6,7
6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.
7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
38 That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
November 2008, Ensign
We have gathered together as one, we have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ, and we are Christians. One of the questions we would ask: why then, if we have that love of the Savior, would someone want to be an antagonist or to attack us?
Recently a group of bright, faithful young Latter-day Saints wrote down some of the most pressing questions on their minds. One sister asked, “Why doesn’t the Church defend itself more actively when accusations are made against it?”
To her inquiry I would say that one of mortality’s great tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. In such moments, we may want to respond aggressively—to “put up our dukes.” But these are important opportunities to step back, pray, and follow the Savior’s example. Remember that Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by the world. And in Lehi’s dream, those coming to the Savior also endured “mocking and pointing . . . fingers” (1 Nephi 8:27). “The world hath hated [my disciples],” Jesus said, “because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). But when we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.
To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.
The Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this courage throughout his life. Though he “suffer[ed] severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious” (Joseph Smith—History 1:27), he did not retaliate or give in to hatred. Like all true disciples of Christ, he stood with the Savior by loving others in a tolerant and compassionate way. That is Christian courage.
When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.
Through the years we learn that challenges to our faith are not new, and they aren’t likely to disappear soon. But true disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition.
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi was bound and brought before the evil King Noah. Although the king vigorously opposed Abinadi and eventually sentenced him to death, Abinadi boldly taught the gospel and bore his testimony anyway. Because Abinadi took advantage of that opportunity, a priest named Alma was converted to the gospel and brought many souls unto Christ. The courage of Abinadi and Alma was Christian courage.
Experience shows that seasons of negative publicity about the Church can help accomplish the Lord’s purposes. In 1983, the First Presidency wrote to Church leaders, “Opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is a lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create . . . interest in the Church. . . . This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us.”1
We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action.
As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord. Paul reminded the Corinthians that his preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Because that power resides in the Spirit of the Lord, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. As almost every missionary learns, Bible bashing always drives the Spirit away. The Savior has said, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me” (3 Nephi 11:29). More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—”love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). To be meek, as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, is “manifesting patience and longsuffering: enduring injury without resentment.”2 Meekness is not weakness. It is a badge of Christian courage.
This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened—and the devil laughs—when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with our Christian neighbors.
This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel, even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world. Yet even as we feel to speak the word of God with boldness, we must pray to be filled with the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29, 31). We should never confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit: overbearance (see Alma 38:12). True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.
As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be born in love and meekness. We should be like Edward Partridge, of whom the Lord said, “His heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile” (D&C 41:11). To be guileless is to have a childlike innocence, to be slow to take offense and quick to forgive.
These qualities are first learned in the home and family and can be practiced in all our relationships. To be guileless is to look for our own fault first. When accused, we should ask as the Savior’s Apostles did, “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22). If we listen to the answer given by the Spirit, we can, if needed, make corrections, apologize, seek forgiveness, and do better.
Without guile, true disciples avoid being unduly judgmental of others’ views. Many of us have cultivated strong friendships with those who are not members of our Church—schoolmates, colleagues at work, and friends and neighbors throughout the world. We need them, and they need us. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “Let us learn respect for others. . . . None of us lives alone—in our city, our nation, or our world.”3
As the Savior demonstrated with Herod, sometimes true disciples must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all. Once when I was golfing, I barely brushed up against a large cholla cactus, which seems to shoot needles like a porcupine. Thorns from that plant stuck all over my clothing, even though I had barely touched the cactus plant. Some situations are like that plant: they can only injure us. In such instances, we are better off to keep our distance and simply walk away. As we do, some may try to provoke us and engage us in argument. In the Book of Mormon, we read about Lehonti and his men camped upon a mount. The traitorous Amalickiah urged Lehonti to “come down” and meet him in the valley. But when Lehonti left the high ground, he was poisoned “by degrees” until he died, and his army fell into Amalickiah’s hands (see Alma 47). By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. It’s where we see the first light of morning and the last light in the evening. It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is. Sometimes others want us to come down off the high ground and join them in a theological scrum in the mud. These few contentious individuals are set on picking religious fights, online or in person. We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love.
In doing so, we follow the example of the prophet Nehemiah, who built a wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies entreated him to meet them on the plain, where “they thought to do [him] mischief.” Unlike Lehonti, however, Nehemiah wisely refused their offer with this message: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:2–3). We too have a great work to do, which will not be accomplished if we allow ourselves to stop and argue and be distracted. Instead we should muster Christian courage and move on. As we read in Psalms, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1).
Evil will always be with us in this world. Part of mortality’s great test is to be in the world without becoming like the world. In His Intercessory Prayer, the Savior asked His Heavenly Father, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). But even as the Savior warned of persecution, He promised peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). I testify that with the mantle of His peace upon us, the First Presidency’s promise will be fulfilled: “The opposition which may seem hard to bear will be a blessing to the kingdom of God upon the earth.”4
To my inquiring sister and all who seek to know how we should respond to our accusers, I reply, we love them. Whatever their race, creed, religion, or political persuasion, if we follow Christ and show forth His courage, we must love them. We do not feel we are better than they are. Rather, we desire with our love to show them a better way—the way of Jesus Christ. His way leads to the gate of baptism, the strait and narrow path of righteous living, and the temple of God. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Only through Him can we and all our brothers and sisters inherit the greatest gift we can receive—eternal life and eternal happiness. To help them, to be an example for them, is not for the weak. It is for the strong. It is for you and me, Latter-day Saints who pay the price of discipleship by answering our accusers with Christian courage.
I conclude by making the testimony of Mormon my own: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13). I bear my special witness of Him—that our lives can be everlasting because His love is everlasting. That we may share His eternal, unconditional love with our brothers and sisters everywhere, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
"Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", Ensign, Nov 1995, 22
"...the submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!"
Saturday, November 22, 2008
By Hildo Rosillo Flores
Ensign, Oct. 2007, 72–73
During a sacrament meeting in Piura, Peru, in 1972, a speaker who was discussing the importance of family history work kept looking at me. At the end of his talk, he surprised me when he announced, “I know that Brother Rosillo is going to do this work.”
I had been a member of the Church for less than a year, but I set a goal to get started on my family history—not because of what he said but because I felt a desire to do so. I obtained a four-generation pedigree chart and started by interviewing my parents and relatives to find out what they knew. Each time I worked on my family history, I prayed and asked the Lord for help.
To find the death dates of my maternal great-grandparents, I traveled to the town of Zorritos, in northern Peru, where they had been buried. The cemetery was on the outskirts of town, and most of the dead had been laid to rest in vaulted compartments.
I entered the cemetery and started looking, but I didn’t find anything. I then decided to go to town to ask a cousin if she was sure that our great-grandparents had been buried there. When she said yes, I told her, “Then I’m not leaving until I have those dates.”
I returned to the cemetery and began a methodical search, walking down every vault aisle and reading every inscription. I still couldn’t find their vaults, so I knelt and asked the Lord to help me. Then I searched again—but with the same results. I was tired, it was getting late, and I needed to leave so I could do other research I had planned.
“Well, I did my part,” I thought to myself. I would have to leave without accomplishing my goal.
Ready to leave, I turned toward the front gate. But just as I took my first step, I felt two hands take hold of my head from behind and turn it toward a certain spot. My eyes rested on a small, dirty headstone that was level with the ground. I looked behind me to see who had grabbed my head, but no one was there.
I walked to the headstone, lay on the ground, and cleaned off the inscription. With great gratitude, I read the information I was looking for: Isidro Garcia Rosillo, died August 1, 1934. Francisca Espinoza Berrú, died January 31, 1954.
My ancestors’ long wait to receive their saving ordinances ended in 1980. That was when my wife and I went to the São Paulo Brazil Temple to receive our endowments. At the temple I was sealed to my wife and baptized for my deceased loved ones.
As I entered the baptismal font, I remembered the small headstone at the cemetery. I went down into the calm waters knowing the Lord had guided my steps as I searched for my ancestors.
What they really need is a prophet of God. They need someone called of God to get guidance and direction for the church. We aren't talking about a good person who just leads according to his best ability, and inspiration from the spirit. A Prophet is much more than this. A prophet is the one to whom God reveals His secrets. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." Amos 3:7. Think of the direction that the prophet Moses received for the children of Israel. This was much different than the inspiration that we as individuals receive. The direction Moses got from God was monumental. It was miraculous. It was prophecy and revelation. The advantage to having "a" prophet, as opposed to "many" people who are inspired, is that there is more direct leadership. A prophet is called of God and holds all of the Priesthood authority to act in God's name. While we as individuals can receive revelation for our own lives, a prophet can receive revelation for the church as a whole. God's house is a house of order. To have many individuals getting inspiration for the direction of the church could be chaotic.
A church led by a prophet and apostles is the organization that the Lord himself established. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Ephesians 2:19,20. This kind of organization helps eliminate confusion. In addition, a prophet who receives revelation can give modern guidance for troubles and problems that occur anew in modern times. There are many happenings in the world today that cause the need for guidance. The Prophet can receive revelation as to what direction the church and its' members should move.
Most recently, our modern day prophet, Thomas S. Monson gave our church guidance about the subject of same sex marriage. We were encouraged to uphold the sanctity of marriage, and do all we could to support that cause. We have the free will whether or not to follow his council, but those of us who know the value of a prophet, listen when he speaks. We have the right to pray to God to receive our own testimony about whether ot nor he is a true prophet. We can also pray to know if his guidance is from God. We may not see in the immediate future the importance of the guidance he gives to us, but time has proven the value of a prophet. Through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Gospel was restored in these latter days. Through the prophet Brigham Young, the pioneers were led to a land where they could worship freely. Through the other prophets that have lived, we have received guidance on many subjects, and have seen many temples built throughout the world. The prophets have guided the church to become that stone that is cut without hands that rolls until if fills the earth. The gospel of Jesus Christ continues, under the direction of a modern prophet, to go to all the nations of the world. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this foundation. He leads the church through a living prophet. He reveals His will to a living prophet, who then leads the church to obey.
I close with the words of a famous latter-day saint hymn:
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, no. 19
1. We thank thee, O God, for a prophet
To guide us in these latter days.
We thank thee for sending the gospel
To lighten our minds with its rays.
We thank thee for every blessing
Bestowed by thy bounteous hand.
We feel it a pleasure to serve thee
And love to obey thy command.
2. When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness.
We’ve proved him in days that are past.
The wicked who fight against Zion
Will surely be smitten at last.
3. We’ll sing of his goodness and mercy.
We’ll praise him by day and by night,
Rejoice in his glorious gospel,
And bask in its life-giving light.
Thus on to eternal perfection
The honest and faithful will go,
While they who reject this glad message
Shall never such happiness know.
Text: William Fowler, 1830–1865
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
If you wonder about the statue that is on top of all of the temples, the significance comes from this scripture in Revelation.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
We believe that the angel spoken of was the angel Moroni who delivered the golden plates to Joseph Smith to be translated in to what is now known as the Book of Mormon. It is this Moroni who is depicted sounding the trump on top of our temples.
Press on, press on, ye Saints of God!
Ere long the resurrection day
Will spread its life and truth abroad,
Will spread its life and truth abroad.
Though outward ills await us here,
The time, at longest, is not long
Ere Jesus Christ will reappear,
Surrounded by a glorious throng,
Surrounded by a glorious throng.
Lift up your hearts in praise to God;
Let your rejoicings never cease.
Though tribulations rage abroad,
Christ says, “In me ye shall have peace.”
Christ says, “In me ye shall have peace.”
What though our rights have been assailed?
What though by foes we’ve been despoiled?
Jehovah’s promise has not failed;
Jehovah’s purpose is not foiled.
Jehovah’s purpose is not foiled.
This work is moving on apace,
And great events are rolling forth;
The kingdom of the latter days,
The “little stone,” must fill the earth.
The “little stone,” must fill the earth.
Though Satan rage, ’tis all in vain;
The words the ancient prophet spoke
Sure as the throne of God remain;
Nor men nor devils can revoke.
Nor men nor devils can revoke.
All glory to his holy name
Who sends his faithful servants forth
To prove the nations, to proclaim
Salvation’s tidings through the earth.
Salvation’s tidings through the earth.
Text: Eliza R. Snow, 1804–1887
Music: George Careless, 1839–1932
31243, Hymns, Though Deepening Trials, no. 122
Saturday, November 15, 2008
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
13 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
14 Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
Friday, November 14, 2008
SALT LAKE CITY 17 September 2008 For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and many others, the biblical apostle James’ definition of pure religion is more than a platitude. It is an extremely practical way to approach personal, family and community challenges. James’ understanding of this principle is expressed in this way: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Latter-day Saints take this interpretation of pure religion very seriously. Being a person of faith is something you do within the context of a world full of suffering, not just what you say or believe. Genuine and frequent charitable acts, though, are not enough on their own. They need to be enacted by individuals who are trying to live morally upright lives, or are striving to keep themselves “unspotted from the world.”
This parallel approach to faith-inspired personal devotion and service to others is not unique to Mormons. People the world over share this philosophy, as is evident in the lives of many Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Jews and adherents of other religious traditions. The common thread is a respect and love for God that spills over to a respect and love for His children. Such reverence for the Creator and His children motivates many across the faith spectrum to seek to do His will in all things — both personally and interpersonally.
Many Latter-day Saints feel this desire to reach out to the downtrodden — James’ widows and fatherless — and find that the two elements of his pure religion exist in a symbiotic relationship. Learning Christ’s teachings and reading about the way He conducted Himself motivates individuals to look for ways to engage with others the way He did. And serving those in need functions as a refining process — humbling the server, bringing her or him closer to Christ and His example.
This relationship between personal discipleship and communal responsibility is not only brought to life in the experiences of those providing assistance to the poor and the needy. Within the Mormon paradigm, the recipients of charitable service require temporal assistance first and foremost. Once they receive that initial urgent support, they can then be encouraged and helped to acquire skills and confidence to become self-reliant. This then allows them, over time, to not only provide for their own needs and those of their family, but also to become providers of support and hope to yet others. Pure religion, then, is the marriage of inward-looking, soul-searching self-improvement to outward-looking, soul-lifting efforts to improve the situation of others.
There are no proselytizing strings attached to Latter-day Saint charitable and humanitarian outreaches to those in need. Many recipients of service, though, are so inspired by the example of those who reach out to them that they decide to extend their newfound upward temporal momentum to their personal spiritual journeys.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Some protestors made threats about burning down the temple. I might caution them that God might allow them to do this so that His judgements could then come justly down upon them. I know that for Christians, to tempt God is a silly idea. But for those who know not God, they can't imagine the consequences for such behavior.
When we were campaigning for the elimination of same sex marriage, those in favor of it asserted that we were guilty of bigotry and hate crimes. But it is clear that by targeting our church, which was only one of many in a coalition of churches, they are guilty of the very thing of which they accused us. I read that something like 75% of the black population in California voted in favor of Prop. 8. It's interesting that those opposed to Prop. 8 aren't attacking the black population because of their support of this proposition. Is it now politically correct to attack Mormons? And what about the Catholics, and Baptists, and Jews, and other religions that also supported the elimination of same sex marriage?
So I put the question out to you. Why do you think the opponents of Prop. 8 are targeting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with their protests?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Many people have caught the "geneology bug". We in the church refer to it as the "Spirit of Elijah". Malachi 4:5,6 says,
"5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
Many people are feeling their hearts turning towards their forefathers in fulfillment of this scripture. The Jews today still set a chair at their passover feast in expectation of Elijah's return.
Elijah held the higher, "Melchizedek Priesthood" which contains the sealing power to bind families as an eternal unit. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Elijah appeared with Moses to bestow these keys up on Peter, James, and John. As mentioned, Elijah held the keys of the sealing power, while Moses held the keys of the gathering of Israel. In latter days, Moses and Elijah both returned to visit the Prophet Joseph Smith and restore these same Priesthood keys to the Earth. Today in sacred temples, families are sealed together as eternal units to carry out the mission of Elijah. In addition, missionaries are sent throughout the world to gather in dispersed Israel to carry on the mission of Moses to gather Israel.
If you are interested in doing your own geneology, there are several tips that can help you get started. First of all, start by writing down the information that you already know. Start with yourself, and go back as many generations as you can. Next talk to your family members and ask questions about your deceased relatives.
Years ago, my husband and I visited Puerto Rico to research his family genenology. Through our interviews with distant family members, we were able to piece together enough information so that his sister was later able to find records to confirm the information we had gathered. I testify that as you work to find your kindred dead, angels will help you and assist you to find the information.
After you have gathered as much information as possible, you can begin to search public records to find more details. You might try using our church geneology website to help you. Click here to visit our family search website. In addition, you may want to visit a local geneology library at one of our Stake centers in your city. You can find a meetinghouse near you by clicking this link.
As you start to search your geneology, you will find a feeling of closeness to your ancestors, and you will feel you have gotten to know them better. You will feel that your heart has turned toward them. You will better understand the mission of Elijah the prophet.
By Alessandra Maria Pereira de Paula
Ensign, Jan. 2008, 72
While watching a documentary on the Amazon jungle, I learned that missionaries from various religions had taught the Native Americans about Jesus Christ. I began to wonder about the salvation of the millions of their ancestors who had never heard about Jesus, the gospel, or saving ordinances like baptism. If the Savior came for the salvation of all humankind, why had so many throughout history been excluded from His glorious message?
I searched for answers in the Bible, but I couldn’t find anything suggesting that the Old World was even aware of the civilizations in the Americas. No pastor, priest, or Bible student could answer my questions.
One day I was moved by a hymn I heard. I learned the hymn in my own language, Portuguese, and as I struggled to translate it into English, I remembered that my Latter-day Saint neighbor, Jesuina, often received American missionaries in her home. I asked her if the missionaries could translate it for me. The next day they left a translation with a short note that read, “It was a pleasure to be able to help you. One day we would like to meet you.”
When I met the missionaries a week later, they invited me to visit their church. But I did not like Mormons. Members of my family and leaders of other churches I had investigated criticized them, calling them a dangerous sect. They made many absurd criticisms that I believed to be true. One rainy Sunday shortly thereafter, however, I awoke with a great desire to visit their church—to repay them for their kindness but also out of curiosity. During the first meeting, people went to the pulpit and testified they knew that the Church and the Book of Mormon were true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Somewhat disturbed, I left the meeting and went to Sunday School.
When the teacher mentioned scriptures or stories from the Bible, I was eager to participate. But when she spoke about the Book of Mormon, I remained quiet and pensive. Why another book if we already had the Bible? Before I left, the teacher thanked me for my participation and then surprised me by giving me her copy of the Book of Mormon.
When I returned home, I went to my room, knelt on the floor, and began a sincere conversation with Heavenly Father. I told Him that I felt something special about the Mormon Church but that I didn’t want the adversary to delude me. I prayed that He would help resolve my confusion and show me which church was true.
Afterward I felt a great desire to read the Book of Mormon. I prayed again for strength and direction. During my prayer, I felt a strong and good feeling—an interior warmth. I knew I was not alone at that moment. A thought came instantly into my head: “Read the book!”
I opened it and began reading. Before I had finished the introduction, tears began running down my face as the Lord revealed to me the mystery of the Native Americans. The Book of Mormon seemed prepared especially to respond to my concerns. I felt great joy to have my questions answered. It was as though the ancient Americans had spoken from their graves to tell me about their lives and to testify that they also knew Jesus and that He had suffered for them as well.
Amazed with my discovery, I sought out the missionaries and listened to their lessons. On Easter Sunday, March 31, 1991, I descended into the waters of baptism—the best decision I had ever made.
I feel immensely grateful to Heavenly Father for His mercy and great wisdom. I know that He is just, that He has not forgotten any of His children, and that He is eager to reveal His plan to all humankind. I know that the Book of Mormon is a sacred book. It is true.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
The Church calls on those involved in the debate over same sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.”
---Information from: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I'm not sure why our church in particular is being targeted, seeing that we were part of a multi-church coalition. I for one can say that I felt no coercion to donate money to the campaign. Many members did donate money, but many didn't. Many members helped with the grass roots movement, but many didn't.
I have seen news reports where the organizer of the protest said that she will send a post card to the president of our church in the name of each person who donates money to the No on 8 campaign. This much I can tell her; no amount of post cards, no amount of media pressure, no amount of anger and hatred will cause this church to ever revoke our stand on homosexuality or same sex marriage. Just as we will never back down on our belief of the ten commandments, we also will never back down on our stance about same sex marriage. The world may waver in it's moral values, but the church of God will not. We love and accept the sinner, but not the sin. We will be tolerant of what others believe, but we will not accept what is contrary to the commandments of God.
Update: This from the Catholic church:
SACRAMENTO 7 November 2008 (This news release was issued by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento) The following statement was released today by Bishop William Weigand, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento and former Bishop of Salt Lake City, in response to attacks on (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for supporting California's Proposition 8, defending the traditional definition of marriage:
"Catholics stand in solidarity with our Mormon brothers and sisters in support of traditional marriage — the union of one man and one woman — that has been the major building block of Western Civilization for millennia.
"The ProtectMarriage coalition, which led the successful campaign to pass Proposition 8, was an historic alliance of people from every faith and ethnicity. LDS were included — but so were Catholics and Jews, Evangelicals and Orthodox, African-Americans and Latinos, Asians and Anglos.
"Bigoted attacks on Mormons for the part they played in our coalition are shameful and ignore the reality that Mormon voters were only a small part of the groundswell that supported Proposition 8.
"As the former bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, I can attest to the fact that followers of the Mormon faith are a good and generous people with a long history of commitment to family and giving to community causes.
"I personally decry the bigotry recently exhibited towards the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — coming from the opponents of Proposition 8, who ironically, have called those of us supporting traditional marriage intolerant.
"I call upon the supporters of same-sex marriage to live by their own words — and to refrain from discrimination against religion and to exercise tolerance for those who differ from them. I call upon them to accept the will of the people of California in the passage of Proposition 8."
SOURCE: Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Reverently and Meekly Now
by Joseph Townsend
Reverently and meekly now,
Let thy head most humbly bow,
Think of me, thou ransomed one;
Think what I for thee have done.
With my blood that dripped like rain,
Sweat in agony of pain,
With my body on the tree
I have ransomed even thee.
In this bread now blessed for thee,
Emblem of my body see;
In this water or this wine,
Emblem of my blood divine.
Oh remember what was done
That the sinner might be won.
On the cross of Calvary
I have suffered death for thee.
Bid thine heart all strife to cease;
With thy brethren be at peace.
Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be
E'en forgiven now by me.
In the solemn faith of prayer
Cast upon me all thy care.
And my spirit's grace shall be
Like a fountain unto thee.
At the throne I intercede;
For thee ever do I plead.
I have loved thee as thy friend,
With a love that cannot end.
Be obedient, I implore,
Prayerful, watchful, evermore.
And be constant unto me,
That thy Savior I may be.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, expanding on the phrase "the truth shall make you free," wrote:
"..Free from the damning power of false doctrine; free from the bondage of appetite and lust; free from the shackles of sin; free from every evil and corrupt influence and from every restraining and curtailing power; free to go on to the unlimited freedom enjoyed in its fulness only by exalted beings" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:456–57).
My sister wrote about this subject recently. She questioned why we are careful not to take medications with bad side effects, but how many people take harmful illegal drugs without learning of the consequences that can result. As we discussed this topic today in seminary, one student told of a television show she saw that portrayed a man in the hospital with lung cancer. A woman came along and said, "Didn't you read the caution on the box?". (referring to the cigarette box) Sometimes we can read on the label about harmful side effects. But as we discussed to day, we thought about other types of sins that don't come with a warning label. Here are a few warning labels that I would like to see.
ADULTERY: Caution, this sin could destroy your marriage and family.
DISHONESTY: Caution, this habit can cause you to lose your own personal integrity, as well as the trust of those around you.
GREED: Caution, any amount of greed can cause you to forget the blessings that you have already received.
BACKBITING and GOSSIPING: Caution, backbiting and gossping cause disunity and hatred among groups of people. You may also notice that they are communicable, and will find others begin to do the same for you.
STEALING: Caution, stealing not only undermines the integrity of the thief, but causes prices to be raised so that even innocent people have to pay higher prices to offset the cost of the items stolen.
Although the commandments may seem restrictive to some, they actually free us from the bondage of sin. Jesus said,
"28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 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.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Some may feel that they are yoked and bound to commandments in a suffocating manner. But the Savior has encouraged us that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Keeping the commandments is much easier in the long run than breaking them.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.