Monday, December 29, 2008

New Beginnings

I was thinking today about the coming new year, and the resolutions that will be made. Most people want to set a goal for some kind of fitness program. Many people set weight loss goals. I was pondering about this phenomenon, and how we all seem to look at the new year as a new start. Why is it that we feel that January 1st is the time to change? Couldn't we just as easily pick any month of the year and set new goals? Something about the new year makes us review our life and want to make changes.

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

Quote of the Day

Once again, I shamelessly stole this quote from Neverbored. :)

“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

Visit Our Church Meeting

I thought it might be interesting for you if I detailed a typical Sunday service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our church has a very standardized curriculum, and schedule, so no matter where you go in the world, you will find this same format, and you will find the same curriculum. Most congregations will be on the same lessons on the same day, although this does vary slightly, depending on when they have their own Stake meetings. In our Church, the smallest organized congregation is called a Branch. The next biggest is called a Ward. A group of Wards (with a specified number of members) is called a Stake. A group of Stakes is called a Region. A group of regions is called an Area. There are leaders supervising each of these groups, the top leaders being the first presidency of the Church, with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. With that explanation out of the way, let me describe a normal Sunday in a typical Ward.

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

A Christmas with No Presents

James E. Faust, “A Christmas with No Presents,” Ensign, Dec 2001, 2–6

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).

True Gifts
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

The Best Christmas Ever

"In the early 1930s, Margaret Kisilevich and her sister Nellie gave a Christmas gift to their neighbors, the Kozicki family, which was remembered by them all their lives and which has become an inspiration to their families.

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

Music For Christmas

I'm not sure why, but I couldn't put this video directly on my blog. But this Christmas time is made more special by listening to Handel's Messiah. Click here to listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform "For Unto Us a Child is born"

Book of Mormon Sampler Dec. 21, 2008

I have been thinking about this scripture this morning. In the Americas, the prophet Nephi was shown a vision of the future, when the Savior would be born.
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

Free Religious Videos

Our church has produced many beautiful videos about our Savior. To request a free copy, please click this link. I recommend at this Christmas season that you request either, "Joy to the World" or, "Lamb of God". "Mr. Krueger's Christmas" is also a wonderful video to watch during this holiday, and you can request a free copy at the link provided above. You may also request a copy of "The nativity" by clicking this link.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Testimonies of Members

Glenn Beck is a popular political television show host. He is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even if you don't agree with his politics, please watch this video about his conversion.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Words of Modern Day Apostles and Prophets December 15, 2008

Elder John A. Widtsoe
“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 [1960], 16–17).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Restoration of All Things

I have been thinking lately of the many scriptures that talk about the apostasy. In our religion we believe that this apostasy occurred after Jesus Christ died and was resurrected. He had given the Priesthood power to his disciples to carry out the work of the gospel, but with time, each of them were killed. This time had been prophecied by Amos:
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.
Acts 20:29
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.
Acts 3:20,21
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

Gods Words Never Cease - Jeffrey R. Holland

I have included the text to this talk on my video before, but I love the way Elder Holland speaks, and this talk is one of my very favorite. His testimony is powerful.

LDS Church Leaders preparing us for the 2nd Coming of Christ

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

Words of Modern Day Prophets and Apostles Dec. 9, 2008

I shamelessly stole this quote from Neverbored. :)

"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

Tolstoy's View of Mormonism

Thanks to Kuretti for pointing me to this interesting story.

"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

How Much Do We Believe?

Lately I have been thinking about talks I have had with athiests. They believe it is foolish to believe in God. But when I talk to them about prophets, or modern scriptures, they find these beliefs incomprehensible. I can understand how people who don't even believe in God would find these beliefs even more difficult to comprehend. But lately I have been thinking about those who are Christians, who also find these things incomprehensible.

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

Words of Modern Day Prophets and Apostles Dec. 3, 2008

Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

"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

Child Witches - Nigeria

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