Thursday, October 29, 2009

Charity


Recently we invited the missionaries to eat dinner at our house, and as is their custom, they shared a spiritual thought with us. This time, one of the Elders shared with us these verses from 1 Corinthians 13:

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I have thought a lot about these verses ever since, and thought about my own weakness in this area. I've especially thought about the verses that talk about how meaningless our actions are if they are done without charity. Usually when people think about the word "Charity" they think of giving money to "charities" or giving food and money to the poor. In fact, this scripture mentions giving to others, but it talks about how true charity is different from just giving to others. It says, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Think about that. If a person gave all their goods to the poor, just like charities do, but had not "charity", it profiteth them nothing. So clearly, charity is more than just giving to the poor.

If charity isn't just giving to the poor, and it isn't just being able to speak with the tongue of angels, and it isn't having the gift of prophecy, or great faith, what is charity? These verses written by the apostle Paul give us some ideas for how a person with charity acts, but don't really tell us what charity is.

One of the last prophets to write in the Book of Mormon gives us a great definition of the word charity. The prophet Moroni wrote, "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Charity, then, is the pure love of Christ.

Moroni goes on to teach, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." Moroni 7:47,48 This definition gives even more clarity to the verses in 1 Corinthians.

So the task for me now is to try more ardently to develop this love within myself. As I thought about this, the greatest of all spiritual gifts, I realized that it is usually my lack of charity that causes me to sin. It is when I have a lack of love for my neighbor that I gossip. It is when I have a lack of love that I criticize or get angry at others. When love is the motivating force, our view of others and the world changes. We begin to see others the way Christ sees them. It was that kind of love that enabled the Savior to suffer for the sins of all.

Verse 13 of the same chapter says, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Charity truly is the greatest gift we can pursue. The prophet Nephi wrote that it is "the most joyous to the soul." 1 Nephi 11:23. The prophet Brigham Young taught, "There is one virtue, attribute, or principle, which, if cherished and practiced by the Saints, would prove salvation to thousands upon thousands. I allude to charity, or love, from which proceed forgiveness, long suffering, kindness, and patience” (Brigham Young, Deseret News, 11 Jan. 1860, 353).

I hope that I can use charity as my new "lens" through which I view the world. I pray that I can develop this gift more fully, and truly begin to look at others the way the Savior did. I know that by changing myself, I may not change the world, but I will have, as explained by Moroni, become more like the Savior.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quote of the Day: Sheri Dew

This is one of my favorite quotes that I have framed and hanging on the wall in my home.

Sheri Dew:

"What are we willing to do, what weaknesses and indulgences will we give up, to have as our personal protector and guide the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? ....may each one of us resolve that nothing will stand between us and the spirit of the Lord."

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 32:1-3

2 Nephi 32:1-3

1 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?

2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?

3 Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quote of the Day: Elder Boyd K. Packer


Elder BoydK. Packer:


“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17 ).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Priesthood Keys

I mentioned in my last post about the "keys of the Priesthood". Some time back, I mentioned this phrase to another blogger who seemed to not understand its meaning. I thought I should try to explain for those who might not be familiar with this term.

When I received my calling as a seminary teacher, I was given keys to the building. Some of my keys open the seminary closet where our supplies are stored. One of my keys opens the church library so that I can have access to pictures and the copy machine. I also have a key that gives me access to another key which is shared by me and my fellow teacher. That shared key gives us access to the televisions and VCR/DVDs. Without these keys, my calling would be much more difficult to perform, and at times impossible to perform. Along with these keys is invested in me a certain level of trust; that I won't steal or damage any of the equipment. I am trusted to not share the keys with someone who is not trustworthy. Recently I attended a scout activity that was held in the room where I teach seminary. One of the Scout leaders asked to borrow my keys to get something from the library. I knew that he was trustworthy, and that he couldn't do his calling of scout leader well without access to the library, so I gave him my keys to use during the meeting.

This is much like the keys of the Priesthood. Throughout time, God has followed the same pattern with regard to Priesthood keys. He gives the keys (or authority) of the Priesthood to the Prophet, who can then bestow those keys upon those who need them. The only man on the earth that has the authority to use all of the keys of the priesthood is the prophet, although the apostles also hold all of the keys. When the Prophet dies, and a new Prophet is chosen, he is given that same authority over all of the Priesthood keys.

Certain keys can be given to others as needed for their callings. The Prophet holds those keys necessary for the governing of the church. Included in those keys are the "sealing keys" that bind a husband and wife in marriage for eternity, not just until "death do you part". This same authority was given to Peter by the Savior. Jesus said, "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." (matt. 16:19) The Prophet can bestow those keys upon temple presidents and workers so that they also can have the authority to seal couples and families. It is interesting that this idea of "Priesthood keys" was well known in the ancient church, although many people today do not understand this term. I heard a talk once wherein it was told that Pres. Kimball had been visiting a museum and noticed a statue of Peter holding a key. Here is a picture of that statue by Thorvaldsen, followed by other art I found that depicted Peter holding keys.

























Clearly the ancients understood the term "Priesthood keys". These keys, as evidenced in the scripture I used above, were given to Peter. He was the chosen president of the church. After his death, and the death of the apostles, there was no one left with the authority to pass on those Priesthood keys to others. While many people, I'm sure, held the authority of the Priesthood, they did not have all of the keys, or authority. Those keys needed to be restored. The "sealing keys" were, as I mentioned in the previous post, restored by the prophet Elijah. This was foretold by the Savior, Himself: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things." Matt 17:11 The name "Elias" is Greek form of the name "Elijah". The name Elias is also a title for someone who is a "forerunner". This "restitution of all things" had also been foretold: "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 3:21

Today, the President of the church, Thomas S. Monson, holds all of the keys that were restored to the earth through Joseph Smith. Because the keys have been restored to the Earth, all of the ordinances are available to man. The temples of God can once again function and carry on the work of the redemption of the dead. I'm thankful to live in a time when the keys of the Priesthood are once again on the Earth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Mission of Elijah the Prophet: Turning the Hearts of the Children to Their Fathers

In Malachi 4:5 we read, "5 ¶ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:" This prophesy of Malachi's return has been long awaited by the Jews. Even today, they set a chair for Elijah at their passover. But why would Elijah return? What was his mission? We can go on to read the next verse. "6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

After Joseph Smith's first vision, some time went by without any further instruction from heaven. He wondered if his own weaknesses had made him unworthy of divine communication. He recorded: "after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one." (JSH 1:29) In response to this prayer, he was visited by the angel Moroni, who was a messenger from God. Moroni explained to Joseph that there was a record hidden in a nearby hill. Joseph recorded, "He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;" (JSH 1:34) Then Moroni began to quote the scripture from Malachi 4:5 that I quoted above. But then he went on to quote the next verse slightly different. He said, "And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming." JSH 1:39

What was the promise made to the fathers? What was so important that would cause the utter waste of the Earth if it didn't come to pass? President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: "What was the promise made to the fathers that was to be fulfilled in the latter days by the turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers? It was the promise of the Lord made through Enoch, Isaiah, and the prophets, to the nations of the earth, that the time should come when the dead should be redeemed" (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:154).

The plan of salvation was developed by God to provide salvation for all men. The Savior's atonement was the most crucial element in this plan. The plan called for ordinances such as baptism. Jesus, himself taught, "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," (John 3:5) A merciful Heavnely Father provided in the plan a way for those who died without the gospel to receive the ordinance of baptism. In the temple, we can be baptized for our ancestors who died without an opportunity to do this work for themselves.

In addition to the ordinance of baptism, the ordinance of "sealing" of couples and families as an eternal unit is also performed in the temple. The "sealing" of families is one of the important purposes of the creation of this Earth. Without these redeeming ordinances, our dead could not be saved.

The Priesthood keys of this ordinance were held by the prophet Elijah. On April 3, 1836, Elijah the prophet did return to the Earth. His purpose in coming was to bestow the "sealing keys" of the Priesthood upon the prophet Joseph Smith. When he came to him, he said, "14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors." (Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16)

Those keys have been bestowed upon every living prophet since Joseph Smith, and are still used today to perform eternal marriages, and the sealing of families as an eternal unit.

While there are those who still await Elijah's return, we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints testify that he has already returned, and that he brought the Priesthood keys necessary for the salvation of the dead. We do our geneology, and in so doing, we turn our hearts to our fathers. By doing vicarious baptism for our dead, we are fulfilling the promise made to our forefathers by God, that a way would be provided for the dead to be redeemed. I am thankful that the ordinances of the gospel are available to not only the living, but also to the dead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Temple Square, Salt Lake City

I found a really fun site that has panoramic pictures of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you go to this site, then scroll down, you can see different options. I suggest you look at the Christus statue panorama. :) Click here to go to the site.

Lifting Burdens: The Atonement of Jesus Christ

From Mormon Messages

Monday, October 19, 2009

Latter-day Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-40

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Quote of the Day: Ezra Taft Benson

“Grace consists of God’s gift to His children wherein He gave His Only Begotten Son in order that whosoever would believe in Him and comply with His laws and ordinances would have everlasting life.

“By grace, the Savior accomplished His atoning sacrifice so that all mankind will attain immortality.

“By His grace and by our faith in His atonement and our repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the necessary works that we otherwise could not do by our own power.

“By His grace, we receive an endowment of blessing and spiritual strength that may eventually lead us to eternal life if we endure to the end.

“By His grace, we become more like His divine personality.

“Yes, it is ‘by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ What is meant by the phrase ‘after all we can do’?

“‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort.

“‘After all we can do’ includes living His commandments.

“‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary.

“‘After all we can do’ means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving ‘succor [to] those that stand in need of [our] succor’ ( Mosiah 4:16 ), remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto Him ( Matthew 25:40 ).

“‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings, and treating others the way we would want to be treated” ( Come unto Christ [1983], 7–8).

Book of Mormon Ties to the Holy Land

In some ways I feel hesitant to post these kinds of articles because I don't want anyone to think that I am trying to "prove" the Book of Mormon. I believe that the only proof needed is an answer from God to a sincere prayer. The person who tries to build a testimony on logic and proof is someone who is building on a sandy foundation, and who will be easily shaken. But having said that, I do think that for those who already have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, this kind of research just cements in our minds what we already know in our hearts.

This is an article about some research done that shows a link between the design of temples in the Holy Land, compared with buildings in Mesoamerica. You can click here to read the article.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Crickets and the Seagulls

When I was in 7th grade, I took a choir class. The teacher found out that I was a Latter-day saint, and evidently did not like our church. He began to try to find ways to belittle my religion in front of the other students. Remember, this was a choir class, but one day he began to tell his version of the following story, even though it had nothing to do with choir. In his version, God did not help the pioneers. In his version, the miraculous events that happened were a common occurance. Being very shy at the time, I did not know how to respond. I hadn't found my voice yet. I said nothing to the class, although I did whisper to my friend that he was wrong. But now that I have my voice, I want to share this story, and also bear my witness that this was a miraculous blessing from God. This is a very famous story in our church history, because it shows one way that the early pioneers were blessed in their migration to the West. A monument stands today on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to remember this event.

"The pioneers were eager to harvest their spring crops, but late spring frosts killed some of the crops, and a drought killed more of them. Then crickets came and began eating everything that was left. The pioneers did everything they could think of to fight these insects. Some people tried to frighten the crickets away by making loud noises; others tried to shake them off the plants. Some chased the crickets into piles of straw and set fire to them, and some chased the crickets into ditches filled with water to drown them. No matter what the pioneers did, however, the crickets kept coming. They were everywhere—on the trees and fences and in the houses, beds, and clothing.

The pioneers were very worried. If the crickets ate all the crops, the people would have nothing to eat and would die from starvation. For two weeks the people fought the crickets and prayed for Heavenly Father to help them. The stake president finally asked the Saints to hold a special day of fasting and prayer. Susan Noble Grant, who was sixteen years old at the time, described what then happened:

“The answer to our fasting and prayers came on a clear summer afternoon.

“We were fearfully alarmed, for all of a sudden, circling above our … fields, appeared great flocks of screaming gulls. ‘A new plague is descending upon us,’ was our first thought. Down the gray and white birds swooped in hundreds, then in thousands, uttering shrill … cries as they pounced upon [the crickets]. … Then a strange thing happened. As soon as they had gorged themselves, they sailed over to a nearby stream, took a few sips of water, disgorged [vomited] and returned to join their screaming companions. All our people stood in wonderment! Our prayers were answered” (quoted in Grant, p. 446).

The seagulls came back day after day for about three weeks. They ate crickets until all the crickets were gone. The Saints knew their prayers had been answered in a miraculous way. They were grateful that their crops and their lives had been spared." “Lesson 41: The Saints Settle the Salt Lake Valley,” Primary 5: Doctrine and Covenants: Church History, (1997),238

Seagull Monument


picture from

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Religious Freedom


This article is lengthy, but I felt it was important to post it in it's entirety.








13 October 2009 Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech given at BYU-Idaho on 13 October 2009.



My dear young friends, I am pleased to speak to this BYU-Idaho audience. I am conscious that I am also speaking to many in other places. In this time of the Internet, what we say in one place is instantly put before a wider audience, including many to whom we do not intend to speak. That complicates my task, so I ask your understanding as I speak to a very diverse audience.
In choosing my subject I have relied on an old military maxim that when there is a battle underway, persons who desire to join the fray should “march to the sound of the guns.”[i] So it is that I invite you to march with me as I speak about religious freedom under the United States Constitution. There is a battle over the meaning of that freedom. The contest is of eternal importance, and it is your generation that must understand the issues and make the efforts to prevail.
I.
An 1833 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that the Lord established the United States Constitution by wise men whom he raised up for that very purpose (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). The Lord also declared that this constitution “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77; emphasis added).
In 1833, when almost all people in the world were still ruled by kings or tyrants, few could see how the infant United States Constitution could be divinely designed “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” Today, 176 years after that revelation, almost every nation in the world has adopted a written constitution, and the United States Constitution profoundly influenced all of them. Truly, this nation’s most important export is its constitution, whose great principles stand as a model “for the rights and protection of all flesh.” On the vital human right of religious freedom, however, many constitutions fall short of the protections that are needed, so we are grateful that the United States government seeks to encourage religious freedom all over the world.[ii]
II.
To illustrate the importance of basic human rights in other countries, I refer to some recent history in Mongolia, which shows that the religious freedom we have taken for granted in the United States must be won by dangerous sacrifice in some other nations.
Following the perestroika movement in the Soviet Union, popular demonstrations in Mongolia forced the Communist government to resign in March 1990. Other political parties were legalized, but the first Mongolian elections gave the Communists a majority in the new parliament, and the old repressive attitudes persisted in all government departments. The full functioning of a democratic process and the full enjoyment of the people’s needed freedoms do not occur without a struggle. In Mongolia, the freedoms of speech, press and religion — a principal feature of the inspired United States Constitution — remained unfulfilled.
In that precarious environment, a 42-year-old married woman, Oyun Altangerel, a department head in the state library, courageously took some actions that would prove historic. Acting against official pressure, she organized a “Democratic Association Branch Council.” This 12-member group, the first of its kind, spoke out for democracy and proposed that state employees have the freedoms of worship, belief and expression, including the right to belong to a political party of their choice.
When Oyun and others were fired from their state employment, Oyun began a hunger strike in the state library. Within three hours she was joined by 20 others, mostly women, and their hunger strike, which continued for five days, became a public demonstration that took their grievances to the people of Mongolia. This demonstration, backed by major democratic movement leaders, encouraged other government employees to organize similar democratic councils. These dangerous actions expanded into a national anti-government movement that voiced powerful support for the basic human freedoms of speech, press and religion. Eventually the government accepted the demands, and in the adoption of a democratic constitution two years later Mongolia took a major step toward a free society.
For Latter-day Saints, this birth of constitutional government in Mongolia has special interest. Less than two years after the historic hunger strike, we sent our first missionaries to Mongolia. In 1992 these couples began their meetings in the state library, where Oyun was working. The following year, she showed her courage again by being baptized into this newly arrived Christian church. Her only child, a 22-year-old son, was baptized two years later. Today, the Mongolian members of our Church number 9,000, reportedly the largest group of Christians in the country. A few months ago we organized our first stake in Mongolia. Called as the stake president was Sister Oyun’s son, Odgerel. He had studied for a year at BYU-Hawaii, and his wife, Ariuna, a former missionary in Utah, graduated there.[iii]
III.
One of the great fundamentals of our inspired constitution, relied on by Oyun of Mongolia and countless others struggling for freedom in many countries in the world, is the principle that the people are the source of government power. This principle of popular sovereignty was first written and applied on the American continent over 200 years ago. A group of colonies won independence from a king, and their representatives had the unique opportunity of establishing a new government. They did this by creating the first written constitution that has survived to govern a modern nation. The United States Constitution declared the source of government power, delegated that power to a government, and regulated its exercise.
Along with many other religious people, we affirm that God is the ultimate source of power and that, under Him, it is the people’s inherent right to decide their form of government. Sovereign power is not inherent in a state or nation just because its leaders have the power that comes from force of arms. And sovereign power does not come from the divine right of a king, who grants his subjects such power as he pleases or is forced to concede, as in Magna Carta. As the preamble to our constitution states: “We the People of the United States . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution.”
This principle of sovereignty in the people explains the meaning of God’s revelation that He established the Constitution of the United States “that every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78). In other words, the most desirable condition for the effective exercise of God-given moral agency is a condition of maximum freedom and responsibility — the opposite of slavery or political oppression. With freedom we can be accountable for our own actions and cannot blame our conditions on our bondage to another. This is the condition the Lord praised in the Book of Mormon, where the people — not a king — established the laws and were governed by them (see Mosiah 29:23–26). This popular sovereignty necessarily implies popular responsibility. Instead of blaming their troubles on a king or tyrant, all citizens are responsible to share the burdens of governing, “that every man might bear his part” (Mosiah 29:34).
IV.
“For the rights and protection of all flesh” the United State Constitution includes in its First Amendment the guarantees of free exercise of religion and free speech and press. Without these great fundamentals of the Constitution, America could not have served as the host nation for the restoration of the gospel, which began just three decades after the Bill of Rights was ratified.
The First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The prohibition against “an establishment of religion” was intended to separate churches and government, to prevent a national church of the kind still found in Europe. In the interest of time I will say no more about the establishment of religion, but only concentrate on the direction that the United States shall have no law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion.
The guarantee of the free exercise of religion, which I will call religious freedom, is the first expression in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. As noted by many, this “pre-eminent place” identifies freedom of religion as “a cornerstone of American democracy.”[iv] The American colonies were originally settled by people who, for the most part, had come to this continent to be able to practice their religious faith without persecution, and their successors deliberately placed religious freedom first in the nation’s Bill of Rights. So it is that our national law formally declares: “The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.”[v]
The free “exercise” of religion obviously involves both the right to choose religious beliefs and affiliations and the right to “exercise” or practice those beliefs. But in a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs, the right of some to act upon their religious principles must be qualified by the government’s responsibility to protect the health and safety of all. Otherwise, for example, the government could not protect its citizens’ person or property from neighbors whose intentions include taking human life or stealing in circumstances rationalized on the basis of their religious beliefs.
The inherent conflict between the precious religious freedom of the people and the legitimate regulatory responsibilities of the government is the central issue of religious freedom. Here are just a few examples of current controversial public issues that involve this conflict: laws governing marriage and adoption; laws regulating the activities of church-related organizations like BYU-Idaho in furtherance of their religious missions — activities such as who they will serve or employ; and laws prohibiting discrimination in employment or work conditions against persons with unpopular religious beliefs or practices.
The problems are not simple, and over the years the United States Supreme Court, which has the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the meaning of the lofty and general provisions of the Constitution, has struggled to identify principles that can guide its decisions when government action is claimed to violate someone’s free exercise of religion. As would be expected, most of the battles over the extent of religious freedom have involved government efforts to impose upon the practices of small groups like Mormons. Not surprisingly, government officials sometimes seem more tolerant toward the religious practices of large groups of voters.
Unpopular minority religions are especially dependent upon a constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion. We are fortunate to have such a guarantee in the United States, but many nations do not. The importance of that guarantee in the United States should make us ever diligent to defend it. And it is in need of being defended. During my lifetime I have seen a significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion in our public life, and I believe that the vitality of religious freedom is in danger of being weakened accordingly.
Religious belief is obviously protected against government action. The practice of that belief must have some limits, as I suggested earlier. But unless the guarantee of free exercise of religion gives a religious actor greater protection against government prohibitions than are already guaranteed to all actors by other provisions of the constitution (like freedom of speech), what is the special value of religious freedom? Surely the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion was intended to grant more freedom to religious action than to other kinds of action. Treating actions based on religious belief the same as actions based on other systems of belief should not be enough to satisfy the special place of religion in the United States Constitution.
V.
Religious freedom has always been at risk. It was repression of religious belief and practice that drove the Pilgrim fathers and other dissenters to the shores of this continent. Even today, leaders in all too many nations use state power to repress religious believers.
The greatest infringements of religious freedom occur when the exercise of religion collides with other powerful forces in society. Among the most threatening collisions in the United States today are (1) the rising strength of those who seek to silence religious voices in public debates, and (2) perceived conflicts between religious freedom and the popular appeal of newly alleged civil rights.
As I address this audience of young adults, I invite your careful attention to what I say on these subjects, because I am describing conditions you will face and challenges you must confront.
Silencing Religious Voices in the Public Square
A writer for The Christian Science Monitor predicts that the coming century will be “very secular and religiously antagonistic,” with intolerance of Christianity “ris[ing] to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes.”[vi] Other wise observers have noted the ever-growing, relentless attack on the Christian religion by forces who reject the existence or authority of God.[vii] The extent and nature of religious devotion in this nation is changing. The tide of public opinion in favor of religion is receding, and this probably portends public pressures for laws that will impinge on religious freedom.
Atheism has always been hostile to religion, such as in its arguments that freedom of or for religion should include freedom from religion. Atheism’s threat rises as its proponents grow in numbers and aggressiveness. “By some counts,” a recent article in The Economist declares, “there are at least 500 [million] declared non-believers in the world — enough to make atheism the fourth-biggest religion.”[viii] And atheism’s spokesmen are aggressive, as recent publications show.[ix] As noted by John A. Howard of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, these voices “have developed great skills in demonizing those who disagree with them, turning their opponents into objects of fear, hatred and scorn.”[x]
Such forces — atheists and others — would intimidate persons with religious-based points of view from influencing or making the laws of their state or nation. Noted author and legal commentator Hugh Hewitt described the current circumstance this way:
“There is a growing anti-religious bigotry in the United States. . . .
“For three decades people of faith have watched a systematic and very effective effort waged in the courts and the media to drive them from the public square and to delegitimize their participation in politics as somehow threatening.”[xi]
For example, a prominent gay-rights spokesman gave this explanation for his objection to our Church’s position on California’s Proposition 8:
“I’m not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people. . . . My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims.”[xii]
Aside from the obvious fact that this objection would deny free speech as well as religious freedom to members of our Church and its coalition partners, there are other reasons why the public square must be open to religious ideas and religious persons. As Richard John Neuhaus said many years ago, “In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalytic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb.”[xiii]
Religious Freedom Diluted by Other “Civil Rights”
A second threat to religious freedom is from those who perceive it to be in conflict with the newly alleged “civil right” of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.
We have endured a wave of media-reported charges that the Mormons are trying to “deny” people or “strip” people of their “rights.” After a significant majority of California voters (seven million — over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8’s limiting marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. At no time did anyone question or jeopardize the civil right of Proposition 8 opponents to vote or speak their views.
The real issue in the Proposition 8 debate — an issue that will not go away in years to come and for whose resolution it is critical that we protect everyone’s freedom of speech and the equally important freedom to stand for religious beliefs — is whether the opponents of Proposition 8 should be allowed to change the vital institution of marriage itself.
The marriage union of a man and a woman has been the teaching of the Judeo-Christian scriptures and the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture for thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights. The supporters of Proposition 8 were exercising their constitutional right to defend the institution of marriage — an institution of transcendent importance that they, along with countless others of many persuasions, feel conscientiously obliged to protect.
Religious freedom needs defending against the claims of newly asserted human rights. The so-called “Yogyakarta Principles,” published by an international human rights group, call for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity.[xiv] This apparently proposes that governments require church practices and their doctrines to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines or practices should be resisted by all believers. At the same time, all who conduct such resistance should frame their advocacy and their personal relations so that they are never seen as being doctrinaire opponents of the very real civil rights (such as free speech) of their adversaries or any other disadvantaged group.
VI.
And now, in conclusion, I offer five points of counsel on how Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves to enhance religious freedom in this period of turmoil and challenge.
First, we must speak with love, always showing patience, understanding and compassion toward our adversaries. We are under command to love our neighbor (Luke 10:27), to forgive all men (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10), to do good to them who despitefully use us (Matthew 5:44) and to conduct our teaching in mildness and meekness (Doctrine and Covenants 38:41).
Even as we seek to speak with love, we must not be surprised when our positions are ridiculed and we are persecuted and reviled. As the Savior said, “so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). And modern revelation commands us not to revile against revilers (Doctrine and Covenants 19:30).
Second, we must not be deterred or coerced into silence by the kinds of intimidation I have described. We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens and they are also the rights of religious leaders. While our church rarely speaks on public issues, it does so by exception on what the First Presidency defines as significant moral issues, which could surely include laws affecting the fundamental legal/cultural/moral environment of our communities and nations.
We must also insist on this companion condition of democratic government: when churches and their members or any other group act or speak out on public issues, win or lose, they have a right to expect freedom from retaliation.
Along with many others, we were disappointed with what we experienced in the aftermath of California’s adoption of Proposition 8, including vandalism of church facilities and harassment of church members by firings and boycotts of member businesses and by retaliation against donors. Mormons were the targets of most of this, but it also hit other churches in the pro-8 coalition and other persons who could be identified as supporters. Fortunately, some recognized such retaliation for what it was. A full-page ad in the New York Times branded this “violence and intimidation” against religious organizations and individual believers “simply because they supported Proposition 8 [as] an outrage that must stop.” [xv] The fact that this ad was signed by some leaders who had no history of friendship for our faith only added to its force.
It is important to note that while this aggressive intimidation in connection with the Proposition 8 election was primarily directed at religious persons and symbols, it was not anti-religious as such. These incidents were expressions of outrage against those who disagreed with the gay-rights position and had prevailed in a public contest. As such, these incidents of “violence and intimidation” are not so much anti-religious as anti-democratic. In their effect they are like the well-known and widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South that produced corrective federal civil-rights legislation.
Third, we must insist on our freedom to preach the doctrines of our faith. Why do I make this obvious point? Religious people who share our moral convictions feel some intimidation. Fortunately, our leaders do not refrain from stating and explaining our position that homosexual behavior is sinful. Last summer Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke these words to a BYU audience:
“We follow Jesus Christ by living the law of chastity. God gave this commandment, and He has never revoked or changed it. This law is clear and simple. No one is to engage in sexual relationships outside the bounds the Lord has set. This applies to homosexual behavior of any kind and to heterosexual relationships outside marriage. It is a sin to violate the law of chastity.
“We follow Jesus Christ by adhering to God’s law of marriage, which is marriage between one man and one woman. This commandment has been in place from the very beginning.”[xvi]
We will continue to teach what our Heavenly Father has commanded us to teach, and trust that the precious free exercise of religion remains strong enough to guarantee our right to exercise this most basic freedom.
Fourth, as advocates of the obvious truth that persons with religious positions or motivations have the right to express their religious views in public, we must nevertheless be wise in our political participation. Preachers have been prime movers in the civil rights movement from the earliest advocates of abolition, but even the civil rights of religionists must be exercised legally and wisely.
As Latter-day Saints, we should never be reticent to declare and act upon the sure foundations of our faith. The call of conscience — whether religious or otherwise — requires no secular justification. At the same time, religious persons will often be most persuasive in political discourse by framing arguments and positions in ways that are respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and that contribute to the reasoned discussion and compromise that is essential in a pluralistic society.[xvii]
Fifth and finally, Latter-day Saints must be careful never to support or act upon the idea that a person must subscribe to some particular set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for a public office. The framers of our constitution included a provision that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article VI). That constitutional principle forbids a religious test as a legal requirement, but it of course leaves citizens free to cast their votes on the basis of any preference they choose. But wise religious leaders and members will never advocate religious tests for public office.
Fragile freedoms are best preserved when not employed beyond their intended purpose. If a candidate is seen to be rejected at the ballot box primarily because of religious belief or affiliation, the precious free exercise of religion is weakened at its foundation, especially when this reason for rejection has been advocated by other religionists. Such advocacy suggests that if religionists prevail in electing their preferred candidate this will lead to the use of government power in support of their religious beliefs and practices. The religion of a candidate should not be an issue in a political campaign.
Conclusion
It was the Christian principles of human worth and dignity that made possible the formation of the United States Constitution over 200 years ago, and only those principles in the hearts of a majority of our diverse population can sustain that constitution today. Our constitution’s revolutionary concepts of sovereignty in the people and significant guarantees of personal rights were, as John A. Howard has written,
“generated by a people for whom Christianity had been for a century and a half the compelling feature of their lives. It was Jesus who first stated that all men are created equal [and] that every person . . . is valued and loved by God.”[xviii]
Professor Dinesh D’Souza reminds us:
“The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief.”[xix]
Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms. I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our “First Freedom,” the free exercise of religion.

Notes
[i] Robert Debs Heinl Jr., Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 1978), 141.
[ii] Final Report of the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States, 17 May 1999, 6–7, 30–65. The International Religious Freedom Act, adopted in 1998, 22 USC 6401 et seq., established an office of international religious affairs in the U.S. State Department headed by an Ambassador at Large and the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom. Both of these bodies submit annual reports that assess the status of religious freedom under international standards worldwide and help encourage better implementation of commitments countries around the world have made to respect this fundamental right.
[iii] The information about events in Mongolia was obtained from correspondence with President Odgerel and from Mary N. Cook, former senior missionary and wife of Richard E. Cook, the first mission president in Mongolia.
[iv] Final Report of the Advisory Committee, 6.
[v] 22 USC 6401(a).
[vi] Michael Spencer, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse,” The Christian Science Monitor, 10 Mar. 2009.
[vii] E.g., John A. Howard, “Liberty: America’s Creative Power,” Howard Center, 22 June 2009, 6.
[viii] “In God’s Name: A Special Report on Religion and Public Life,” The Economist, 3 Nov. 2007, 10.
[ix] E.g., The Six Ways of Atheism, which was advertised “to absolutely disprove the existence of God, logically and simply,” was sent free to leading universities and public libraries in all major English-speaking countries in the world. Press release, 26 May 2009.
[x] Howard, “Liberty: America’s Creative Power,” 6.
[xi] Hugh Hewitt, A Mormon in the White House? (Washington DC: Regnery, 2007), 242–43.
[xii] Karl Vick, “Gay Groups Targeting Mormons,” Salt Lake Tribune, 30 May 2009, A8 (Washington Post story).
[xiii] “A New Order of Religious Freedom,” First Things, Feb. 1992, 2; also see Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983).
[xiv] The Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 21 (Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2006).
[xv] “No Mob Veto,” New York Times, 5 Dec. 2008.
[xvi] M. Russell Ballard, “Engaging Without Being Defensive,” BYU Commencement Address, 13 August 2009.
[xvii] Among the advocates of this position are Kevin Seamus Hasson, The Right to be Wrong (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005); Douglas Laycock, Anthony Picarello Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008); and Michael J. Perry, “Liberal Democracy and Religious Morality,” 48 DePaul Law Rev. 1, 20–41 (1998). For examples of this kind of advocacy, see What’s the Harm? ed. Lynn D. Wardle (University Press of America, 2008); and Monte Neil Stewart, “Marriage Facts,” 31 Harv. J. of Law & Pub. Policy 313 (2008).
[xviii] John A. Howard, Christianity: Lifeblood of America’s Free Society (1620–1945) (Monitou Springs, Ohio: Summit Press, 2008), 57.
[xix] “How Christianity Shaped the West,” Hillsdale College, Nov. 2008, Vol. 37, No. 11, p. 5.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Christopher Columbus

"Christopher Columbus’s personal study of the Bible greatly increased the influence of the Holy Ghost in his life. Two millennia before Columbus, Nephi prophesied: “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land” (1 Ne. 13:12). President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “We interpret that to refer to Columbus. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of God wrought upon him.” 10 Columbus himself declared: “With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail and he opened my will to desire to accomplish the project. … This was the fire that burned within me. … Who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit … urging me to press forward?” 11
President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), a counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Columbus was inspired to penetrate the ocean and discover this Western continent for the set time for its discovery had come; and the consequences which God desired to follow its discovery have taken place. … We believe it was a preparatory work for the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
“This Church and Kingdom could not have been established on the earth if [Columbus’s] work had not been performed.” 12 " Arnold K. Garr, “Preparing for the Restoration,” Ensign, Jun 1999, 34

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virtue:: For Such a Time as This (Esther 4:14)

Our Young Women's program in the church encourages each young woman to memorize and recite as a group each week the following theme. This theme highlights some attributes that the young women strive to develop. Each young woman in the church sets goals to work toward developing each trait. Recently, the attribute "virtue" was added to this theme. The following video discusses the importance of virtue in the life of a latter-day saint young woman.

THEME:
We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith
Divine Nature
Individual Worth
Knowledge
Choice and Accountability
Good Works
Integrity and
Virtue.
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

1.Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 9:30, 39, 51,52

30 But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.

39 O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.

51 Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness.

52 Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night. Let your hearts rejoice.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 33: 10,11

2 Nephi 33:10,11

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

BYU: Serving Abroad















I once again saw a clip on BYU television for a wonderful service project that was given by the BYU engineering department. They created playground equipment that would generate energy to be stored in a battery to be used to light their classroom. I really wish I had this kind of ability to bless the lives of others! You can click here to read the whole story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

General Conference October 2009

This weekend is the 179th semiannual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can view it on cable, on the BYU television channel, or by going to the church website. Click here to access the church live video streams. Many languages are available.

What we members love about general conference is that it gives us an opportunity to hear talks given by our church leaders, in particular the Prophet and his counselors. I encourage all to watch as much as they can this weekend.

TIMES:
Saturday: 10:00 am Mountain time, 2:00 pm Mountain time
Sunday: 10:00 am Mountain time, 2:00 pm Mountain time

"Music and the Spoken Word" with the Mormon Tabernacle choir, will precede the Sunday morning session.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For the Strength of Youth: Dress and Appearance

For the Strength of Youth: Dress and Appearance.


“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the
Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . The temple of God is holy,
which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17).


Your body is God’s sacred creation. Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.

Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient.

Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do ot cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

Someday you will receive your endowment in the temple. Your dress and behavior should help you prepare for that sacred time. Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. If girls or women desire to have their ears pierced, they are encouraged to wear only one pair of modest earrings.

Show respect for the Lord and for yourself by dressing appropriately for Church eetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week. If you are not
sure what is appropriate, ask your parents or leaders for help.

27 "And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely." Alma 1:27

from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which can be found by clicking here.