Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Baptism for the Dead

Washington D.C. temple baptismal font.

In John 3:5 we read, "5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." How is a person born of the water? Baptism is the way that we can be born of the water. It gives us a fresh clean start, like being bathed. It is symbolic of rebirth. The baptism of Spirit spoken of occurs when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Jesus teaches us in this scripture that in order for a person to enter the kingdom of God, they must be baptized in these two ways. But what about those who died without a knowledge of Jesus Christ? That person too, requires baptism. Even the Savior was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness". Those who died without the gospel must have an opportunity to hear it, and to accept it, and to be baptized.

The scriptures teaches us that those who have died without the gospel can have a chance to hear and accept it.
"18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 1 Peter 3:18-20 So those who have died without the gospel, are given a chance in the hereafter to learn it and accept it. "6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." 1 Peter 4:6 In this scripture, particular mention is made of those who were disobedient during the time of Noah. Many people died in the flood. But through God's plan, these people have been given the chance to hear the gospel and accept it.

When teaching about, and making a case for reality of the resurrection, Paul said, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" 1 Corinthians 15:29 His point being, if there is no resurrection, then why are we doing baptisms for the dead? Clearly this was a practice in olden times. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said:
"Salvation for the dead was understood in the days of the primitive Christian Church, and to some extent baptisms for the dead continued to be performed until A.D. 379, when the Council of Carthage forbade any longer the administration of this ordinance and 'holy communion' for the dead" (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:163). Today, in the restored church of Jesus Christ, we once again perform baptisms for the dead in holy temples. Those spirits who are waiting in the spirit world are given the chance to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we perform baptisms in their behalf, they are given the freedom to choose to accept or reject that baptism. Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, " Some have misunderstood and suppose that deceased souls “are being baptised into the Mormon faith without their knowledge” 9 or that “people who once belonged to other faiths can have the Mormon faith retroactively imposed on them.” 10 They assume that we somehow have power to force a soul in matters of faith. Of course, we do not. God gave man his agency from the beginning. 11 “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,” 12 but only if they accept those ordinances. The Church does not list them on its rolls or count them in its membership." D. Todd Christofferson, “The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus,” Liahona, Jan 2001, 10–13

Many non-Latter-day Saint scholars believe that in 1 Corinthians Paul is denouncing or condemning the practice of baptism for the dead as heretical. This is a strange conclusion, however, since he uses the practice of baptism for the dead to support the doctrine of the Resurrection. In essence, he says, “Why are we performing baptisms in behalf of our dead, if, as some propose, there will be no resurrection of the dead? If there is to be no resurrection, would not such baptisms be a waste of time?”

"On the subject of baptism for the dead, one Latter-day Saint writer observes, “Paul was most sensitive to blasphemy and false ceremonialism—of all people he would not have argued for the foundation truth of the Resurrection with a questionable example. He obviously did not feel that the principle was disharmonious with the gospel.” 3 Robert L. Millet, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Aug. 1987, 19–21

Paul taught, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 1 Corinthians 15:19. But the message of the restored gospel is that we have hope not only in this life, but in the life to come. Those who have died without the gospel can still have the opportunity to receive the necessary ordinance of baptism.

Quote of the Day: Elder Henry B. Eyring

Elder Henry B. Eyring

“We should always put spiritual learning first. And that is why the Church has placed institutes of religion across the earth wherever young members are gathered in sufficient numbers. Their spiritual education . . . will shape the purpose and speed the process of their secular learning. . . .

“It is clear that our first priority should go to spiritual learning” (Education for Real Life [CES fireside for young adults, May 6, 2001], 2–3).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance

This talk was given many years ago, but Pres. Romney's message is timeless.

Marion G. Romney, “The Celestial Nature of Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Mar 2009, 61–65

I love the simple gospel truths as taught by the holy prophets, and I never tire of speaking about them. Since the beginning of time man has been counseled to earn his own way, thereby becoming self-reliant. It is easy to understand the reason the Lord places so much emphasis on this principle when we come to understand that it is tied very closely to freedom itself.

On this subject, Elder Albert E. Bowen said, “The … Church is not satisfied with any system which leaves able people permanently dependent, and insists, on the contrary, that the true function and office of giving, is to help people [get] into a position where they can help themselves and thus be free.”1

Many programs have been set up by well-meaning individuals to aid those who are in need. However, many of these programs are designed with the shortsighted objective of “helping people,” as opposed to “helping people help themselves.” Our efforts must always be directed toward making able-bodied people self-reliant.

Gullible Gulls
I clipped the following article from the Reader’s Digest some time ago. It reads:

“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …

“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.

“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.

“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?

“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”2

The practice of coveting and receiving unearned benefits has now become so fixed in our society that even men of wealth, possessing the means to produce more wealth, are expecting the government to guarantee them a profit. Elections often turn on what the candidates promise to do for voters from government funds. This practice, if universally accepted and implemented in any society, will make slaves of its citizens.

We cannot afford to become wards of the government, even if we have a legal right to do so. It requires too great a sacrifice of self-respect and political, temporal, and spiritual independence.

In some countries it is extremely difficult to separate earned from unearned benefits. However, the principle is the same in all countries: We should strive to become self-reliant and not depend on others for our existence.

Governments are not the only guilty parties. We fear many parents are making “gullible gulls” out of their children with their permissiveness and their doling out of family resources. In fact, the actions of parents in this area can be more devastating than any government program.

Bishops and other priesthood leaders can be guilty of making “gullible gulls” out of their ward members. Some members become financially or emotionally dependent on their bishops. A dole is a dole whatever its source. All of our Church and family actions should be directed toward making our children and members self-reliant. We can’t always control government programs, but we can control our own homes and congregations. If we will teach these principles and live them, we can do much to counter the negative effects which may exist in government programs in any country.

We know there are some who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot become self-reliant. President Henry D. Moyle had these people in mind when he said:

“This great principle does not deny to the needy nor to the poor the assistance they should have. The wholly incapacitated, the aged, the sickly are cared for with all tenderness, but every able-bodied person is enjoined to do his utmost for himself to avoid dependence, if his own efforts can make such a course possible; to look upon adversity as temporary; to combine his faith in his own ability with honest toil. …

“We believe [that] seldom [do circumstances arise in which] men of rigorous faith, genuine courage, and unfaltering determination, with the love of independence burning in their hearts, and pride in their own accomplishments, cannot surmount the obstacles that lie in their paths.”3

Spiritual Self-Reliance
Now, I wish to speak of a very important truth: self-reliance is not the end, but a means to an end. It is very possible for a person to be completely independent and lack every other desirable attribute. One may become wealthy and never have to ask anyone for anything, but unless there is some spiritual goal attached to this independence, it can canker his soul.

The Church’s welfare program is spiritual. In 1936, when the program was introduced, President David O. McKay made this astute observation:

“The development of our spiritual nature should concern us most. Spirituality is the highest acquisition of the soul, the divine in man; ‘the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things.’ It is the consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the infinite. It is spirituality alone which really gives one the best in life.

“It is something to supply clothing to the [poorly] clad, to furnish ample food to those whose table is thinly spread, to give activity to those who are fighting desperately the despair that comes from enforced idleness, but after all is said and done, the greatest blessings that will accrue from the Church [welfare program] are spiritual. Outwardly, every act seems to be directed toward the physical: re-making of dresses and suits of clothes, canning fruits and vegetables, storing foodstuffs, choosing of fertile fields for settlement—all seem strictly temporal, but permeating all these acts, inspiring and sanctifying them, is the element of spirituality.”4

Doctrine and Covenants 29:34–35 tells us there is no such thing as a temporal commandment, that all commandments are spiritual. It also tells us that man is to be “an agent unto himself.” Man cannot be an agent unto himself if he is not self-reliant. Herein we see that independence and self-reliance are critical keys to our spiritual growth. Whenever we get into a situation which threatens our self-reliance, we will find our freedom threatened as well. If we increase our dependence, we will find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.

Thus far, we should have learned that self-reliance is a prerequisite to the complete freedom to act. We have also learned, however, that there is nothing spiritual in self-reliance unless we make the right choices with that freedom. What, then, should we do once we have become self-reliant in order to grow spiritually?

The key to making self-reliance spiritual is in using the freedom to comply with God’s commandments. The scriptures are very clear in their command that it is the duty of those who have, to give to those who are in need.

Lifting Others
Jacob, speaking to the people of Nephi, said:

“Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:17–19).

In our own dispensation, when the Church was only 10 months old, the Lord said:

“If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.

“And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support” (D&C 42:29–30).

The same month, the Lord referred to this subject again. Evidently the members had been a little remiss. They had not moved fast enough.

“Behold, I say unto you, that ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6).

It has always seemed somewhat paradoxical to me that we must constantly have the Lord command us to do those things which are for our own good. The Lord has said, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39). We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.

Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment, because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service.

Can we see how critical self-reliance becomes when looked upon as the prerequisite to service, when we also know service is what godhood is all about? Without self-reliance one cannot exercise these innate desires to serve. How can we give if there is nothing there? Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak.

There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not. The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process, both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by imparting of their surplus, participate in the eternal principle of giving. Once a person has been made whole, or self-reliant, he reaches out to aid others, and the cycle repeats itself.

We are all self-reliant in some areas and dependent in others. Therefore, each of us should strive to help others in areas where we have strengths. At the same time, pride should not prevent us from graciously accepting the helping hand of another when we have a real need. To do so denies another person the opportunity to participate in a sanctifying experience.

One of the three areas emphasized in the mission of the Church is to perfect the Saints, and this is the purpose of the welfare program. This is not a doomsday program, but a program for our lives here and now, because now is the time for us to perfect our lives. May we continue to hold fast to these truths.

Latter-Day Hymns: How Firm a Foundation

How Firm a Foundation
(I have adapted this hymn to poem form)

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

6. E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Text: Attr. to Robert Keen, ca. 1787. Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.

For the Strength of Youth: Family

36550, For the Strength of Youth, Family, 10

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).

Being part of a family is a great blessing. Your family can provide you with companionship and happiness, help you learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and help you prepare for eternal life. Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Do your part to build a happy home. Be cheerful, helpful, and considerate of others. Many problems in the home are created because family members speak and act selfishly or unkindly. Concern yourself with the needs of other family members. Seek to be a peacemaker rather than to tease, fight, and quarrel. Remember that the family is the most sacred unit of the Church.

Honor your parents by showing love and respect for them and by being obedient. Be willing to help in the home with chores that need to be done. Participate in family activities and traditions, including family prayer, family home evenings, and family scripture reading. These traditions strengthen and unify families. Set a good example for other family members.

Strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters. They can become your closest friends. Support them in their interests and help them with problems they may be facing.

Ephesians 6:1–3

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My View of Non-Latter-day Saints

I have been thinking about this subject lately, and wanted to express my feelings about it. I think so many times in the Christian world, people are measured by their beliefs. A person's "worthiness" is dependent upon the doctrine they believe. For example, my husband's coworker told my husband, "You are going to hell", because my husband believes in the principle of repentance. This man believes all Mormons are going to hell because our beliefs differ from his. In reality, how does God view Latter-day Saints? How does God view everyone?

I want to tell you about this man that told my husband he is going to hell. He is really a great man. He has, I think 5 children, that are homeschooled. His children are a legacy to his greatness as a father. They are wonderful children, very sweet and kind. This man is kind to others and often offers to pray for those who are ill or struggling. He is a good man. I'm sure in his way, he feels that by making statements such as he did, he is warning my husband of some future punishment.

In our religion, we do believe that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that all of the ordinances, including temple ordinances, and gospel truths that were lost to apostasy in ancient times have been restored today. We do believe we have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our church today. But does that make us more worthy? I wish it were that simple. I often tell people that it is just as difficult for us to live our religion as it would be for anyone else. Some members live it, others struggle with certain aspects. Clearly, being a baptized member of this church does not guarantee exaltation in the kingdom of God. It is only through faithfulness and repentance (both of which are made possible by the atonement of Jesus Christ) that we can be found worthy at the judgement day.

So what about those who are not Mormon? I look at our sojourn in life as sort of a gathering time, and a proving time. We are here to gather knowledge and experience, and we are here to prove if we will live up to what we know to be true. People in all ages of time have been exposed to truth, and have lived the best they could. Some were baptized members of our church, but many, many who were worthy people were not. There are many people in the world who are not members of my church who have lived a much worthier life than I have. I might serve in my small way, but I will never match the charity and goodness of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was Catholic, and acted and lived according to the light and knowledge she posessed. If she were given more knowledge by God, I am sure that she would have lived accordingly, because that was her nature. But her entire life was given in service to God and others. What greater life could a person live? Her reward in heaven will be great, I'm sure. She knows the Master's voice, and will always follow.

One of our beliefs is that God will judge us according to what we have done in this life. We will then be given the opportunity to learn more. Through God's great plan, sacred ordinances can be performed in the temple for those who did not have the opportunity to receive them. The great, great grandfather from Europe who was a good, godly man, will be able to receive baptism through the efforts of his children if they perform that ordinance in sacred temples. All blessings will be made available to the faithful. But baptism in any church does not guarantee faithfulness.

So many religions look at religion as being between "us and them". But in reality, we are all on the same path, we should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service.” (Meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 February 1998)

How do I feel about members of other religions? I believe that we are all spirit children of God. Literal spirit children of God. That makes us all spirit brothers and sisters. In the pre-existence there was a war in heaven, and Lucifer and his followers were cast out. The rest of us came to this earth to experience mortality. I have been thinking lately that it is a blessing to have no memory of the pre-existence because I surely would mourn for those who were lost to Lucifer's cunning persuasion. So too, I want to help all of my spirit brothers and sisters in mortality to succeed in this test of life. I'm sure I will mourn over those that are "lost" to the wiles of the adversary. I want to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all so that they will enter this path of knowledge and light. Many are on the right path, many need more knowledge. Some, I'm sure, were more valiant than I was before this earth life. Some are more valiant than I am in this life. But I do believe that this is the restored gospel, so I will continue to try to teach others some of the knowledge that I have gained.

Marriage....it's that simple

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: How Do I Love Thee?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the Day: John A. Widstoe

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, March 22, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler Alma 11:42-44

Alma 11:42-44

42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

Scripture Mastery: Luke 24:36–39

Luke 24:36–39

36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

Some amazing truths are contained in this scripture. First of all, we have eye witnesses of the Savior's resurrection. If we were to include the testimony of this many witnesses in a court of law, that would be enough evidence to convict or acquit a person. But in addition to those in attendance that day, others also saw the resurrected Savior and bore witness that He lives.

The second great truth contained in this scripture is that not only did they see Him, but they felt that He is a tangible being. This teaches us that a resurrected body is one of flesh and bone.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scripture Mastery Matt. 6:24

24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Mammon in this scripture refers to money. I believe that when God said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me", He was referring to anything that takes a place of worship in our hearts. On what do we set our hearts? To what do we devote our time? When things become more important than our worship of God, then we cannot fully offer our hearts to Him.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mormon Messages: The Blessings of the Temple

This is a second response to HBO's "Big Love" program that will inappropriately air an episode about our sacred temple.

For the Strength of Youth: Education

36550, For the Strength of Youth, Education, 9

“Learn wisdom in thy youth” (Alma 37:35).

The Lord wants you to educate your mind and improve your skills and abilities. Education will help you to be an influence for good in the world. It will help you better provide for yourself, your loved ones, and those in need.

Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices to obtain learning. Education is an investment that brings great rewards. You live in a competitive world where a good education opens the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you.

Maintain an enthusiasm for learning throughout your life. Find joy in continuing to learn about yourself, other people, and the world around you. Study the words of the Lord, and continue learning about your Heavenly Father’s plan. Make seminary an important part of your total education.

D&C 88:77–80

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.
78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;
79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—
80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Have You Been Saved?

Dallin H. Oaks, “Have You Been Saved?” Ensign, May 1998, 55

What do we say when someone asks us, “Have you been saved?” This question, so common in the conversation of some Christians, can be puzzling to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it is not our usual way of speaking. We tend to speak of “saved” or “salvation” as a future event rather than something that has already been realized.

Good Christian people sometimes attach different meanings to some key gospel terms like saved or salvation. If we answer according to what our questioner probably means in asking if we have been “saved,” our answer must be “yes.” If we answer according to the various meanings we attach to the terms saved or salvation, our answer will be either “yes” or “yes, but with conditions.”

As I understand what is meant by the good Christians who speak in these terms, we are “saved” when we sincerely declare or confess that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. This meaning relies on words the Apostle Paul taught the Christians of his day:

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10).

To Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation in this teaching signify a present covenant relationship with Jesus Christ in which we are assured salvation from the consequences of sin if we are obedient. Every sincere Latter-day Saint is “saved” according to this meaning. We have been converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have experienced repentance and baptism, and we are renewing our covenants of baptism by partaking of the sacrament.

As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings. According to some of these, our salvation is assured—we are already saved. In others, salvation must be spoken of as a future event (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5) or as conditioned upon a future event (e.g., Mark 13:13). But in all of these meanings, or kinds of salvation, salvation is in and through Jesus Christ.

First, all mortals have been saved from the permanence of death through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

As to salvation from sin and the consequences of sin, our answer to the question of whether or not we have been saved is “yes, but with conditions.” Our third article of faith declares our belief:

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3).

Many Bible verses declare that Jesus came to take away the sins of the world (e.g., John 1:29; Matt. 26:28). The New Testament frequently refers to the grace of God and to salvation by grace (e.g., John 1:17; Acts 15:11; Eph. 2:8). But it also has many specific commandments on personal behavior, and many references to the importance of works (e.g., Matt. 5:16; Eph. 2:10; James 2:14–17). In addition, the Savior taught that we must endure to the end in order to be saved (see Matt. 10:22; Mark 13:13).

Relying upon the totality of Bible teachings and upon clarifications received through modern revelation, we testify that being cleansed from sin through Christ’s Atonement is conditioned upon the individual sinner’s faith, which must be manifested by obedience to the Lord’s command to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37–38). “Verily, verily, I say unto thee,” Jesus taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; see also Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37–38). Believers who have had this required rebirth at the hands of those having authority have already been saved from sin conditionally, but they will not be saved finally until they have completed their mortal probation with the required continuing repentance, faithfulness, service, and enduring to the end.

Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints who give this answer of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, “For we labor diligently … to persuade our children … to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).

We are not saved in our sins, as by being unconditionally saved through confessing Christ and then, inevitably, committing sins in our remaining lives (see Alma 11:36–37). We are saved from our sins (see Hel. 5:10) by a weekly renewal of our repentance and cleansing through the grace of God and His blessed plan of salvation (see 3 Ne. 9:20–22).

The question of whether a person has been saved is sometimes phrased in terms of whether that person has been “born again.” Being “born again” is a familiar reference in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. As noted earlier, Jesus taught that except a man was “born again” (John 3:3), of water and of the Spirit, he could not enter into the kingdom of God (see John 3:5). The Book of Mormon has many teachings about the necessity of being “born again” or “born of God” (Mosiah 27:25; see Mosiah 27:24–26; Alma 36:24, 26; Moses 6:59). As we understand these scriptures, our answer to whether we have been born again is clearly “yes.” We were born again when we entered into a covenant relationship with our Savior by being born of water and of the Spirit and by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We can renew that rebirth each Sabbath when we partake of the sacrament.

Latter-day Saints affirm that those who have been born again in this way are spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 5:7; Mosiah 15:9–13; Mosiah 27:25). Nevertheless, in order to realize the intended blessings of this born-again status, we must still keep our covenants and endure to the end. In the meantime, through the grace of God, we have been born again as new creatures with new spiritual parentage and the prospects of a glorious inheritance.

A fourth meaning of being saved is to be saved from the darkness of ignorance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and of the purpose of life, and of the destiny of men and women. The gospel made known to us by the teachings of Jesus Christ has given us this salvation. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus taught; “he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12; see also John 12:46).

For Latter-day Saints, being “saved” can also mean being saved or delivered from the second death (meaning the final spiritual death) by assurance of a kingdom of glory in the world to come (see 1 Cor. 15:40–42). Just as the Resurrection is universal, we affirm that every person who ever lived upon the face of the earth—except for a very few—is assured of salvation in this sense. As we read in modern revelation:

“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings …

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

“That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

“Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him” (D&C 76:40–43; emphasis added).

The prophet Brigham Young taught that doctrine when he declared that “every person who does not sin away the day of grace, and become an angel to the Devil, will be brought forth to inherit a kingdom of glory” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 288). This meaning of saved ennobles the whole human race through the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this sense of the word, all should answer: “Yes, I have been saved. Glory to God for the gospel and gift and grace of His Son!”

Finally, in another usage familiar and unique to Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation are also used to denote exaltation or eternal life (see Abr. 2:11). This is sometimes referred to as the “fulness of salvation” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:242). This salvation requires more than repentance and baptism by appropriate priesthood authority. It also requires the making of sacred covenants, including eternal marriage, in the temples of God, and faithfulness to those covenants by enduring to the end. If we use the word salvation to mean “exaltation,” it is premature for any of us to say that we have been “saved” in mortality. That glorious status can only follow the final judgment of Him who is the Great Judge of the living and the dead.

I have suggested that the short answer to the question of whether a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been saved or born again must be a fervent “yes.” Our covenant relationship with our Savior puts us in that “saved” or “born again” condition meant by those who ask this question. Some modern prophets have also used “salvation” or “saved” in that same present sense. President Brigham Young declared:

“It is present salvation and the present influence of the Holy Ghost that we need every day to keep us on saving ground. …

“I want present salvation. … Life is for us, and it is for us to receive it today, and not wait for the Millennium. Let us take a course to be saved today” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 15–16). President David O. McKay spoke of the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ in that same present sense of “salvation here—here and now” (Gospel Ideals [1953], 6).

I will conclude by discussing another important question members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked by others: “Why do you send missionaries to preach to other Christians?” Sometimes this is asked with curiosity and sometimes with resentment.

My most memorable experience with that question occurred some years ago in what we then called the Eastern Bloc. After many years of Communist hostility to religion, these countries were suddenly and miraculously given a measure of religious freedom. When that door opened, many Christian faiths sent missionaries. As part of our preparation to do so, the First Presidency sent members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to meet with government and church leaders in these countries. Our assignment was to introduce ourselves and to explain what our missionaries would be doing.

Elder Russell M. Nelson and I called on the leader of the Orthodox Church in one of these countries. Here was a man who had helped keep the light of Christianity burning through the dark decades of Communist repression. I noted in my journal that he was a warm and gracious man who impressed me as a servant of the Lord. I mention this so that you will not think there was any spirit of arrogance or contention in our conversation of nearly an hour. Our visit was pleasant and cordial, filled with the goodwill that should always characterize conversations between men and women who love the Lord and seek to serve Him, each according to his or her own understanding.

Our host told us about the activities of his church during the period of Communist repression. He described the various difficulties his church and its work were experiencing as they emerged from that period and sought to regain their former position in the life of the country and the hearts of the people. We introduced ourselves and our fundamental beliefs. We explained that we would soon be sending missionaries into his country and told him how they would perform their labors.

He asked, “Will your missionaries preach only to unbelievers, or will they also try to preach to believers?” We replied that our message was for everyone, believers as well as unbelievers. We gave two reasons for this answer—one a matter of principle and the other a matter of practicality. We told him that we preached to believers as well as unbelievers because our message, the restored gospel, makes an important addition to the knowledge, happiness, and peace of all mankind. As a matter of practicality, we preach to believers as well as unbelievers because we cannot tell the difference. I remember asking this distinguished leader, “When you stand before a congregation and look into the faces of the people, can you tell the difference between those who are real believers and those who are not?” He smiled wryly, and I sensed an admission that he had understood the point.

Through missionaries and members, the message of the restored gospel is going to all the world. To non-Christians, we witness of Christ and share the truths and ordinances of His restored gospel. To Christians we do the same. Even if a Christian has been “saved” in the familiar single sense discussed earlier, we teach that there remains more to be learned and more to be experienced. As President Hinckley recently said, “[We are] not argumentative. We do not debate. We, in effect, simply say to others, ‘Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it’ ” (“The BYU Experience,” BYU devotional address, 4 Nov. 1997).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers all of the children of God the opportunity to learn the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored in these latter days. We offer everyone the privilege of receiving all of the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.

We invite all to hear this message, and we invite all who receive the confirming witness of the Spirit to heed it. These things are true, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

For the Strength of Youth: Gratitude

36550, For the Strength of Youth, Gratitude, 6

“He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” (D&C 78:19).

The Lord wants you to have a spirit of gratitude in all you do and say. Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life. Even in your most difficult times, you can find much to be grateful for. Doing so will strengthen and bless you.

In your prayers, before you ask for blessings, pour out your heart to God in thanks for the blessings you have already received. Thank Him for your family, for friends and loved ones, for leaders and teachers, for the gospel, and for His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can also express gratitude to the Lord by the way you live. When you keep His commandments and serve others, you show that you love Him and are grateful to Him. Express appreciation to everyone who helps you in any way.

Luke 17:12–19

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

From the LDS Newsroom: The Publicity Dilemna

SALT LAKE CITY 9 March 2009 Like other large faith groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes finds itself on the receiving end of attention from Hollywood or Broadway, television series or books, and the news media. Sometimes depictions of the Church and its people are quite accurate. Sometimes the images are false or play to stereotypes. Occasionally, they are in appallingly bad taste.

As Catholics, Jews and Muslims have known for centuries, such attention is inevitable once an institution or faith group reaches a size or prominence sufficient to attract notice. Yet Latter-day Saints – sometimes known as Mormons - still wonder whether and how they should respond when news or entertainment media insensitively trivialize or misrepresent sacred beliefs or practices.

Church members are about to face that question again. Before the first season of the HBO series Big Love aired more than two years ago, the show’s creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn’t be about Mormons. However, Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous. And according to TV Guide, it now seems the show’s writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies.

Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding. Last week some Church members began e-mail chains calling for cancellations of subscriptions to AOL, which, like HBO, is owned by Time Warner. Certainly such a boycott by hundreds of thousands of computer-savvy Latter-day Saints could have an economic impact on the company. Individual Latter-day Saints have the right to take such actions if they choose.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series. As Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve Apostles have both said recently, when expressing themselves in the public arena, Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves with dignity and thoughtfulness.

Not only is this the model that Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in his own life, but it also reflects the reality of the strength and maturity of Church members today. As someone recently said, “This isn’t 1830, and there aren’t just six of us anymore.” In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly. The Church’s strength is in its faithful members in 170-plus countries, and there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church.


During the Mitt Romney election campaign for the presidency of the United States, commentator Lawrence O’Donnell hurled abuse at the Church in a television moment that became known among many Church members as “the O’Donnell rant.” Today, his statements are remembered only as a testament to intolerance and ignorance. They had no effect on the Church that can be measured.
When the comedy writers for South Park produced a gross portrayal of Church history, individual Church members no doubt felt uncomfortable. But once again it inflicted no perceptible or lasting damage to a church that is growing by at least a quarter of a million new members every year.
When an independent film company produced a grossly distorted version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre two years ago, the Church ignored it. Perhaps partly as a result of that refusal to engender the controversy that the producers hoped for, the movie flopped at the box office and lost millions.
In recent months, some gay activists have barraged the media with accusations about “hateful” attitudes of Latter-day Saints in supporting Proposition 8 in California, which maintained the traditional definition of marriage. They even organized a protest march around the Salt Lake Temple. Again, the Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful. Meanwhile, missionary work and Church members in California remain as robust and vibrant as ever, and support for the Church has come from many unexpected quarters — including some former critics and other churches.
Now comes another series of Big Love, and despite earlier assurances from HBO it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show’s fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints.

If the Church allowed critics and opponents to choose the ground on which its battles are fought, it would risk being distracted from the focus and mission it has pursued successfully for nearly 180 years. Instead, the Church itself will determine its own course as it continues to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Original article printed here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why We Build Temples

Click here to read a former post about the statue on top of all LDS temples.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler March 11, 2009

3 Nephi 27:7-11

7 Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.
9 Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

It is interesting to think about the many different types of churches upon the earth. The Savior set up His church while he was on the earth. It was not a church of man, it was His church. He set up the organization with apostles and prophets to lead. He gave His authority and priesthood to lead the church. That same organization and Priesthood has been restored to the earth once more.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Scripture Mastery March 9, 2009

John 3:5
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

This is the scripture mastery that our youth learn, but for our discussion now, it might be helpful to back up a few verses.
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

This birth that Jesus spoke of was not the same as the birth of a baby. The birth Jesus spoke of is a spiritual birth. Baptism is symbolic of being "born again" spiritually.
Baptism is the gate by which we enter the kingdom of God. It is such an important ordinance that the Savior himself was baptized "to fulfill all righteousness". Being baptized by immersion is similar to being cleansed by bathing, but it is a spiritual cleansing. Baptism is what the Savior was speaking of when he said that a man must be born of the water.

But what about being born of the spirit? What was the Savior speaking of? After we are baptized by one holding the Priesthood of God, we are then confirmed a member of the church, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. The Holy Ghost gives us a baptism of spirit. When we receive this ordinance, we are then blessed to have the companionshop of the Holy Ghost, as long as we are worthy of it. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost." (History of the Church, 5:499).

Elder David Bednar said, "We were baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in the Spirit of the Lord, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17). (From this talk)

For the Strength of Youth: Agency and Accountability

This is part one of a series of posts spotlighting our youth handbook, "For the Strength of Youth". The booklet highlights 18 different values and subjects that are important for our youth to learn. This is the first of those values.

Agency and Accountability
36550, For the Strength of Youth, Agency and Accountability, 4

“Wherefore, men … are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27).

Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose right from wrong and to act for yourself. You have been given the Holy Ghost to help you know good from evil. While you are here on earth, you are being proven to see if you will use your agency to show your love for God by keeping His commandments.

While you are free to choose for yourself, you are not free to choose the consequences of your actions. When you make a choice, you will receive the consequences of that choice. The consequences may not be immediate, but they will always follow, for good or bad. Wrong choices delay your progression and lead to heartache and misery. Right choices lead to happiness and eternal life. That is why it is so important for you to choose what is right throughout your life.

You are responsible for the choices you make. You should not blame your circumstances, your family, or your friends if you choose to disobey God’s commandments. You are a child of God with great strength. You have the ability to choose righteousness and happiness, no matter what your circumstances.

You are also responsible for developing the abilities and talents Heavenly Father has given you. You are accountable to Him for what you do with your abilities and how you spend your time. Do not idle away your time. Be willing to work hard. Choose to do many good things of your own free will.

Matthew 25:14–29
14 ¶ For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Quote of the Day March 8, 2009

President John Taylor

“We ought to foster education and intelligence of every kind; cultivate literary tastes, and men of literary and scientific talent should improve that talent; and all should magnify the gifts which God has given unto them. . . . If there is anything good and praiseworthy in morals, religion, science, or anything calculated to exalt and ennoble man, we are after it. But with all our getting, we want to get understanding, and that understanding which flows from God” (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [1943], 277).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Scripture Mastery March 6, 2009

Matt. 16:15-19

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This scripture teaches several important points of doctrine. First of all, when the Savior asked Peter specifically, "..whom say ye that I am?", Peter answered that he was the Christ. Jesus then pointed out that this was not something that he learned from other people, but was personal revelation from Heavenly Father. This principle; revelation, is so important to the building up of the church, that the Savior said that it would be upon this rock, revelation, that the church would be built.

In addition to revelation, the Savior also taught Peter that he would give him the keys of the kingdom, or the Priesthood authority to guide the church. One aspect of this authority is that Peter then had the "sealing power", which includes the power to "seal" a husband and wife as an eternal couple.

As I was thinking about the "keys of the kingdom" today, I thought back to when my husband and I moved to China for 2 years. While we were gone, we enlisted a property manager to rent out our house. We gave him the keys of our house. We chose someone whom we felt we could trust, and someone whom we felt would do his job well. It was not his right to sell our house, or make any significant changes to it, but he could manage it for us. This is much like the authority given to Peter. He was given the authority to run the church, and also the revelation to know the Lord's will concerning what should be done. But it was not Peter's place to change the original structure or doctrine of the church, unless God so ordained.

Today we have a living prophet who also holds the "keys of the kingdom". He acts upon the principle of revelation to lead and guide the church. It is still Jesus Christ's church, and He stands at the head of it, but He gives the "keys"; the authority to the prophets to manage it. These keys also give them authority to carry out the different missions of the church. Some of the "keys" include the gathering of Israel, the mission of the redemption of the dead, and the sealing keys to bind families as eternal units. The same keys and revelation that Peter used to guide the church are again on the earth today.

Scripture Mastery

In our seminary classes, the students are given a list of 25 scriptures to focus on for the year. We study the entire book of scripture, but we especially want our youth to remember these scripture mastery verses. One year of seminary is spent focusing on the Old Testament, one on the New Testament, one on the Book of Mormon, and one on the Doctrine and Covenants, and church history. I want to start talking about some of the scripture mastery scriptures that our seminary students learn, and why they were chosen to be on the list. This year we are studying the New Testament.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Parallel Prophets: Paul and Joseph Smith

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Parallel Prophets: Paul and Joseph Smith,” Tambuli, Aug 1985, 6

If Paul was a prophet, Joseph Smith was also a prophet. The evidences that support Paul’s prophetic calling also support that of Joseph Smith.

Such a conclusion grows naturally out of a careful study of the lives of these two great men. This approach doesn’t assume, of course, that Joseph Smith was a carbon copy of Paul. Paul was not striking in person, whereas Joseph Smith impressed most visitors by his height and bearing. Paul was a missionary Apostle, whereas Joseph Smith presided over Apostles and generally directed missionary work instead of traveling to do it personally. Paul had the best education his culture could furnish, whereas Joseph Smith was raised in frontier poverty without training beyond junior high school skills.

But in spite of such wide personal differences, there are dramatic common denominators. It matters little that one spoke English, and the other Hebrew dialects and Greek, provided they both spoke as inspired by the Holy Ghost. Since we are addressing the question of their common calling, authority, and revelation, we are forced to go beyond appearances and come to inner spiritual realities.

First Vision
Both Paul and Joseph Smith had a “first vision.” Of course circumstances differed, but the vision near Damascus and the vision in the New York forest were orientations for these two prophets for a lifetime of service. Christ appeared to Paul after the Savior had personally opened that dispensation, but the Father and Son appeared to Joseph Smith to begin the dispensation of the fulness of times. Yet both visions included conversations with the resurrected Christ, and on both occasions, the prophets were told to change their course of life and await the Lord’s further instruction.

Many Christians who comfortably accept Paul’s vision reject Joseph Smith’s. However, they aren’t consistent in their criticisms, for most arguments against Joseph Smith’s first vision would detract from Paul’s Damascus experience with equal force.

For instance, Joseph Smith’s credibility is attacked because the earliest known description of his vision wasn’t given until a dozen years after it happened. But Paul’s earliest known description of the Damascus appearance, found in 1 Corinthians 9:1 [1 Cor. 9:1], was recorded about two dozen years after his experience.

Critics love to dwell on supposed inconsistencies in Joseph Smith’s spontaneous accounts of his first vision. But people normally give shorter and longer accounts of their own vivid experiences when retelling them more than once. Joseph Smith was cautious about public explanations of his sacred experiences until the Church grew strong and could properly publicize what God had given him. Thus, his most detailed first vision account came after several others—when he began his formal history.

This, too, parallels Paul’s experience. His most detailed account of the vision on the road to Damascus is the last of several recorded. (See Acts 26:9–20.) And this is the only known instance in which he related the detail about the glorified Savior prophesying Paul’s work among the Gentiles. (See Acts 26:16–18.) Why would Paul include this previously unmentioned detail only on that occasion? Probably because he was speaking to a Gentile audience, rather than to a group of Jewish Christians. Both Paul and Joseph Smith had reasons for delaying full details of their visions until the proper time and place.


The first visions of Paul and Joseph Smith underline the directness of their divine contact. Both prophets were literally in the presence of the resurrected Lord, and both received specific direction. Paul reported that he saw the Lord again on four other occasions after his initial vision, stretching through the next twenty-five years. (See Acts 22:17–21; 2 Cor. 12:1–4, inference; Acts 18:9–10; and Acts 23:11.) Joseph Smith reported that he saw the Lord several other times throughout the fifteen years after his first vision. (See, for example, D&C 76:22–24; D&C 137:2–3; D&C 110:1–10.) Neither prophet fell into the impostor’s trap of overclaiming such sacred experiences.

Both prophets knew that they had authority to represent God. Their remarks are filled with the personal knowledge of their authority to speak for the Savior. When Paul was challenged, he answered: “Am I not an apostle? … Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Cor. 9:1.) And Joseph Smith declared: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. … I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (JS—H 1:25.)

Although both prophets were given great doctrinal insights, they avoided another trap common to impostors: they didn’t claim to know all the answers. Paul shattered the arrogance of the Corinthians by comparing human knowledge to the understanding of a child: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.” (1 Cor. 13:9.) And several of Joseph Smith’s statements regarding judgments and the Second Coming mirror his 1839 comment: “I know not how soon these things will take place.” 1

Both Paul and Joseph Smith were considered blasphemers by their contemporaries. Their sin? They had added to the traditional scriptures. For this “offense,” Paul was considered anti-Jewish, and followers of Joseph Smith today are labeled as non-Christian. But Paul and Joseph Smith were simply doing what every Jewish and Christian prophet had done: they were adding a personal witness to prior revelations and speaking God’s message for a new generation.

Paul demonstrated this continuity by standing before the Jewish high council and observing that he was on trial for believing what other Pharisees believed—the reality of the Resurrection. (See Acts 23:6.) The difference in his case was that he was bearing personal witness.

When the Corinthians challenged him on the Resurrection, he didn’t argue with them about the philosophical possibility. On the contrary, he answered their objections only after insisting that he and others knew for themselves, for they had seen. If there is no Resurrection, he said, “we are found false witnesses of God.” (1 Cor. 15:15.)

Similarly, during a meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in January 1840, at which Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified on behalf of Latter-day Saint reparations after the Missouri persecutions, Brother Rigdon spoke eloquently and at length on biblical evidences for the Restoration, but Joseph virtually sprang to the pulpit afterward to tell his personal experiences of how God called him, “bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed.” 2

The essential job of a prophet is to testify personally. And in the case of the prophets Paul and Joseph Smith, they did so on the basis of their eyewitness contact with Christ.

A Glance at Some of Their Teachings

Availability of revelation. The sharp distinction between clergy and the common man didn’t exist among early prophets and their contemporaries. From the point of view of authority and doctrinal revelation, the New Testament Apostles clearly had a special position of leadership; but from the point of view of sharing God’s inspiration, they invited all to be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and participate in the gifts of the Spirit. While correcting excesses, Paul encouraged the early Saints to “desire spiritual gifts” and seek to “prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:1.) He penned a most impressive perspective of the availability of revelation through the Holy Ghost to all people: the things of God can only be revealed “unto us by his Spirit”—that which searches “the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10.)

The parallel between Paul’s teachings and Joseph Smith’s is vivid. In a letter to his uncle, Silas Smith, who had not as yet joined the Church, he contended that the revelations to earlier servants of God were the history of religion, not religion. True religion demanded present communication with God. The great answers of God to biblical leaders were really invitations to seek those answers anew. Joseph asked his uncle, “And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did?” 3 No true servant of God teaches that the day of continuing revelation is past.

On a half-dozen other occasions, Joseph affirmed that he was a prophet, but added, in the words of Revelation 19:10 [Rev. 19:10], that everyone else who could gain a testimony of Jesus would also be enjoying prophecy, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” 4 That is, if all pay the price to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, all can be prophets. And he gave practical advice on how to identify these subtle but powerful spiritual promptings: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation,” he counseled. “… When you feel pure intelligence flowing unto you—it may give you sudden strokes of ideas.” 5

These parallel teachings show that true prophets do not seek to maintain professional status in an exclusive group, but to lead all to the same power that God has shared with them.

Man’s destiny. The revelations given to Paul and Joseph Smith tell us of our personal destinies. Nothing is more exciting than the brilliant scene of the three degrees of glory in Joseph Smith’s vision, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 [D&C 76]. The Christian world knows nothing of such degrees of glory—it believes only in a superficial heaven and a dismal hell. Yet Paul spoke of himself in humility as “a man in Christ” who was caught up to the “third heaven” to see glorious things. (See 2 Cor. 12:2–4.) And he compared the resurrection of the dead with “celestial” and “terrestrial” bodies, which differ in glory as the sun, moon, and stars differ. (See 1 Cor. 15:40–42.)

Paul and Joseph Smith’s teachings agree with each other—and differ from the Christian world—because they personally received true revelation. In Joseph’s words, “When any person receives a vision of heaven, he sees things that he never thought of before.” 6

Love. I know of few prophets who taught the meaning of love better than Paul and Joseph Smith. Indeed, the genuineness of their own selfless love confirmed the validity of their teachings on the subject.

It is hardly necessary to comment on Paul’s sketch of celestial love found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 [1 Cor. 13], or on his fatherly concern for converts—faithful or rebellious.

Joseph Smith’s life exhibits the same mature concern for others. For example, he could have escaped before being confined in Liberty Jail, but he would not do so for fear of reprisals on the Saints. 7 After their safety was assured by the dissipation of mobs and the beginning of the migration, he tried three jailbreaks, all of them creative, but only the last successful. And at the end, Joseph returned from the far bank of the Mississippi, observing that if his life was of no value to his people, it was of no value to himself. The historical documents surrounding this decision prove that he consciously placed himself in danger of assassination to keep angry troops from coming to Nauvoo to look for him and endanger his people. 8 Time and again Joseph placed his safety second, and the welfare of his family and the Latter-day Saints first.

There is substance, therefore, in his Nauvoo teachings on love. His comments before the Relief Society, though perhaps homely in expression, were godly in content: “The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more are we disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls, to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our back.” 9 Earlier he had written to the Twelve, who were leaving home to preach the gospel: “A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the world, anxious to bless the whole human family.” 10

Joseph Smith gave one of his most telling insights into self just weeks before his martyrdom. His statement that “no man knows my history” is his valedictory of love, linking his visions with his unlimited giving of self: “I have no enmity against any man … for I love all men, especially these my brethren and sisters. … You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot do it. I shall never undertake [it]. If I had not experienced what I have, I should not have known it myself. I never did harm any man since I have been born in the world. My voice is always for peace.” 11 Joseph is saying here that he knew marvelous things; therefore, he shared. Knowing that Joseph Smith and Paul sincerely loved, I cannot believe that either deceived.

Grace and works. Isn’t it odd that the saved-by-grace-alone tracts seldom quote Christ and the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus closed the Sermon on the Mount with the warning that hearing (or reading) his sayings without doing them would produce a moral catastrophe similar to the house that collapsed because it wasn’t built on a solid foundation. (See Matt. 7:24–27.)

In half a dozen letters, Paul listed the moral sins that will keep one from God’s kingdom if not repented of, concluding on one occasion with these words: “I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21.) What could be better proof of apostasy than the change of Christianity from a religion of action—based on a belief in the redemptive grace of Christ—to a religion of belief alone?

Joseph Smith also taught the importance of grace, mercy, and the love of the Savior. “And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true,” he taught. “And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true.” But, consistent with the teachings of the Savior and of Paul, Joseph Smith also taught the principle of responsibility: “Sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength.” (D&C 20:30–31; italics added.)

There is no such thing as easy salvation, and Joseph Smith consistently taught a salvation based on successfully controlling one’s body for good. Like Paul, he taught that unrepentant evil would not be ignored on the day of judgment. He appealed to all to put their lives in order and to “deal justly before God and with all men—then we shall be clean in the day of judgment.” 12

The doctrine of the importance of works in no way diminishes the role of the Savior’s redemption. Where do we find a more poignant telling of Jesus Christ’s atoning suffering in behalf of mankind than in the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit … and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink …

“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:18–19.)

Through Joseph Smith the same gospel taught by Paul was restored, with its sweet assurance of forgiveness on condition of repentance and its promise that each believer who obeys the commandments can, through Christ, rise to perfection.

Personal Spirituality and Sacrifices
The personal spiritual qualities seen in both Paul and Joseph Smith are impressively similar. Both men trusted deeply in God. Paul’s mature letters refer to constant prayers for the Saints and his hope that they will pray for him. The great miracle of being freed from prison by an earthquake came in the midst of the prayers of Paul and his companion. (Acts 16:25–26.)

Similarly, Joseph Smith’s letters, diaries, and Nauvoo speeches are interspersed with prayers for the blessings of God upon his work and upon the Latter-day Saints. These are not staged references, but the spontaneous appeals of a sincere man. His closeness to the Lord is also emphasized by his private letters to his wife, which were written with no thought of publication. To cite only one of numerous examples, in 1832 he wrote to her of a delay in returning home, mentioning his heartfelt prayers to God for forgiveness and blessings, and speaking of God as his friend and comfort: “I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me, only to do his will.” 13

Sacrifices for the work characterize the missions of both men. When the Corinthians doubted the Resurrection, Paul simply asked them why he would live a life of discomfort, risking his life every hour for something not true. On one occasion, he listed some of the adversity he had suffered in his ministry:

“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

“Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24–28.)

Joseph Smith also proved his sincerity by sacrifice. Writing to the Church during unfair arrest attempts that kept him in hiding in and out of Nauvoo for months, he also looked back: “The envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life … and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation.” (D&C 127:2.) Indeed, although the Prophet didn’t summarize all his trials, any historian could easily take Paul’s format and adapt it to Joseph Smith’s life, as Joseph himself did in Liberty Jail in alluding to his lifetime burdens. (See D&C 122:5)

For instance, a number of times professing Christians leveled guns at him with the threat of death. Once he was beaten, tarred and feathered, and left unconscious. Twice he was endangered by stagecoach runaways when on the Lord’s business. He took back roads and waded through swamps to escape his enemies. He endured years of inconvenient travel on land for the kingdom, as well as risking many steamboat journeys on waterways. He faced years of unjust legal harassment, which made his own home unsafe, and he was imprisoned for a long winter in a filthy jail on unverified charges. Through all, he maintained the responsibility of leading the Church, worrying, praying, and planning for the welfare of his family and his fellow Saints.

Why did Paul and Joseph Smith do these things? Because they positively knew the truth of the gospel, the Resurrection, and the Judgment. Joseph explained that his lifelong persecutions for telling his visions made him feel “much like Paul—There were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise … though they should persecute him unto death. … So it was with me.” (JS—H 1:24–25.)


Both Paul and Joseph Smith had predicted safety in earlier persecutions, but they accurately predicted their own deaths. In Paul’s final letter, he wrote: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Tim. 4:6.)

From 1842 Joseph Smith had said that his work was virtually through and that he could die at any time. In 1844 he agreed to be arrested, bluntly telling Governor Ford in several letters that the legal process was a pretext “till some bloodthirsty villain could find his opportunity to shoot us.” 14 Contemporary journals record Joseph’s forebodings on the way to Carthage, and Willard Richards recorded the Prophet’s words in Carthage on the day of the martyrdom: “I have had a good deal of anxiety about my safety, which I never did before—I could not help [it].” 15 His non-Mormon lawyer recalled that Joseph said on the morning of the martyrdom “that he should not live to see another day, so fully was he impressed with the belief that he would be murdered, all of which proved true.” 16

As we read Joseph Smith’s teachings and Paul’s letters, we can see the commitment of each prophet. Both were men consumed with a mission. Of his work, Paul said, “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16.) With the same conviction of urgency, Joseph Smith said: “If I had not actually got into this work, and been called of God, I would back out. But I cannot back out—I have no doubt of the truth.” 17

These two prophets, who had stood in the presence of Jesus Christ, knew the urgency of each day and the work of eternity going on around them. Their lives testify eloquently to the truth of their message—and of their callings as prophets."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

Elder Henry B. Eyring“When we see life as it really is, we plan for a time and a place for all of those things. There will come crises when there does not seem to be enough time. There will be many instances when one thing crowds out another. But there should never be a conscious choice to let the spiritual become secondary as a pattern in our lives. Never. That will lead to tragedy” (Education for Real Life [CES fireside for young adults, May 6, 2001], 3).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Words of Modern Day Prophets and Apostles March 1, 2009

Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
"God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!"
(Its Service, Not Status, That Counts, Ensign, July 1975, 7).