Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quote of the Day: Gordon B. Hinckley

“How godlike a quality is mercy. It is part of the endowment each of us receives as a son or daughter of God and partaker of a divine birthright. I plead for an effort among all of us to give greater expression and wider latitude to this instinct which lies within us. Let us show mercy to others by being more compassionate, gentler, filled with forbearance and patience and a greater measure of respect one for another.” ~Gordon B. Hinckley

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How Do We Get People to Keep Coming Back?

I attended a meeting tonight, and listened to a talk by a church leader who had the opportunity to meet with the inter-faith coalition in his city. They told him that they had heard about a temple open house being held in Utah, and wished that they had been able to attend the open house of the temple in their city. This church leader contacted church headquarters, and arrangements were made to take these inter-denominational leaders to a temple open house in Utah. At one point in the trip, they were taken to a BYU building for a meal, and noticed a chapel. They asked if they could look inside the chapel, to get an idea for what kind of chapels we have. This church leader of ours promptly took them in to the chapel to let them look around. These people of different faiths had many questions for him. One of the inter-faith council members noticed an organ and piano in the chapel and asked, "Is this all you have?" Our church leader said yes. I guess they were thinking we would have other musical instruments including drums and such. Another of the council members said, "I notice that you don't have any multi-media equipment in the back of the room." Our church leader responded that we do not use multi-media equipment in our chapels. Another of the council members picked up one of our hymn books and remarked, "You still sing these old songs?" Our church leader assured him that these are what we sing every week. Another council member asked, "Who preaches each week?" Our church leader responded that speakers come from members of the congregation. The council member then asked, "Are they any good?" Our church leader laughed and said, "Not always." Then the most telling comment of all came from a council member who said, "How do you get people to keep coming back?" I think there is great wisdom in the way things are done in our church. There is a great feeling of reverence that comes from singing simple hymns. There is great reverence that comes from quiet talks instead of loud flamboyant preaching. There is great wisdom in allowing members of the congregation the opportunity to prepare a talk on a given subject. They learn much from that experience. Being that our church has a lay clergy; one that does not get paid for their service, we are given a chance to strengthen our faith through serving. So in answer that poignant question, I would like to give my opinion on why people keep coming back. One of the reasons people keep coming back is that they feel the Spirit during our meetings. The Sacrament is the most important part of our meetings, but again, it is a very reverent, non-flamboyant ordinance that gives us a spiritual experience. The benefit of the sacrament ordinance is highly personal, and is a quiet, reverent moment for the individual. People keep coming back because coming to church strengthens them, and helps build their faith. I would like to personally invite those who are not of our faith to come attend one of our meetings. Everyone is welcome. It may not be the energized, highly excited experience that can be felt in the services of some other religions, but I believe that if you come prepared to worship on a personal and private level, you will feel the Spirit, and will understand what keeps us coming back.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why Church?

After reading this article about "Why Christianity Needs a Church", I decided to write my own post about this subject.

Some people don't like religion because they see the extremes in churches, and worry that people are being duped. I agree that there are some corrupt churches today. Some people are out there just to make money.

Because people do have a need for religion, they seek out the church that makes them feel the most comfortable. It doesn't take much to form a church as long as you have the energy to recruit members. It's always amazing to me to see how many churches can exist in the same city! People can shop for churches they way they might shop for a new cell phone. One acquaintance of mine is a lesbian. She found the teachings of one church to be unaccepting of her lifestyle, so she "shopped around" until she found a church with a lesbian pastor, who would accept homosexuality.

I have friends who have that "anti-church" attitude. They have been persuaded to believe that if they attend a church, they could be brainwashed. One friend told me that she attended a revival, and really got emotionally caught up in the fervor of the preaching by the pastor and started to cry. She felt that she was being emotionally manipulated through the music and preaching. As a consequence, she doesn't attend a church now.

So what can I say to those who don't believe in "church"? There are many who say that they can worship on their own. To them I say, "Yes, but when do you? When do you actually pray to God? When do you actually worship?" My guess is that if they don't go to church, they don't worship God. "Communing with nature" is not the same as praying. "Communing with nature" isn't even the same as worshipping God. And when do they actually learn about God? Do they actually read the scriptures? My guess is that they don't.

One of the prophets of the Book of Mormon wrote about why the people of his time went to church. He said, "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls." Moroni 6:5. Going to church helps us remember what we need to do and know concerning our eternal salvation.

Elsewhere in the Book of Mormon we read a sermon about why we should be baptized in to the church. King Benjamin said to his people, "Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" Mosiah 18:9-10 King Benjamin lists many of the benefits of belonging to the church:
1. to be called God's people
2. bear each other's burdens
3. mourn with each other
4. comfort each other
5. the gift of the Holy Ghost that comes to those who are faithful

Those are but some of the benefits of belonging to the church of God. For me, the weekly reminders about what God has done for us, and the education I get each week in church are great helps to me in my life. I feel buoyed up by the Spirit to help me resist temptations and attacks from the adversary.

I encourage those who have set their mind against religion to give it a chance. Try observing the Sabbath once a week, and see what it can do for your soul. Try worshipping God in a formal environment once a week, and see how much closer it will make you feel to God!

Friday, April 6, 2012

He is Risen

Conference Messages: What Thinks Christ of Me?


by NEIL L. ANDERSEN, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A reporter from a leading Brazilian magazine studied the Church in preparation for a major news article.1 He examined our doctrine and visited the missionary training and humanitarian centers. He spoke with friends of the Church and with others who were not so friendly. In the interview with me, the reporter seemed honestly puzzled as he asked, “How could someone not consider you Christian?” I knew he was referring to the Church, but my mind somehow framed the question personally, and I found myself silently asking, “Does my life reflect the love and devotion I feel for the Savior?”

Jesus asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ?”2 In the final assessment, our personal discipleship will not be judged by friends or foes. Rather, as Paul said, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”3 At that day the important question for each of us will be, “What thinks Christ of me?”

Even with His love for all mankind, Jesus reprovingly referred to some around Him as hypocrites,4 fools,5 and workers of iniquity.6 He approvingly called others children of the kingdom7 and the light of the world.8 He disapprovingly referred to some as blinded9 and unfruitful.10 He commended others as pure in heart11 and hungering after righteousness.12 He lamented that some were faithless13 and of the world,14 but others He esteemed as chosen,15 disciples,16 friends.17 And so we each ask, “What thinks Christ of me?”

President Thomas S. Monson has described our day as moving away “from that which is spiritual … [with] the winds of change [swirling] around us and the moral fiber of society [continuing] to disintegrate before our very eyes.”18 It is a time of growing disbelief in and disregard for Christ and His teachings.

In this turbulent environment, we rejoice in being disciples of Jesus Christ. We see the Lord’s hand all around us. Our destination is beautifully set before us. “This is life eternal,” Jesus prayed, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”19 Being a disciple in these days of destiny will be a badge of honor throughout the eternities.

The messages we have heard during this conference are guideposts from the Lord on our journey of discipleship. As we have listened during the past two days, praying for spiritual guidance, and as we study and pray about these messages in the days ahead, the Lord blesses us with customized direction through the gift of the Holy Ghost. These feelings turn us even more toward God, repenting, obeying, believing, and trusting. The Savior responds to our acts of faith. “If a man [or woman] love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”20

Jesus’s call “Come, follow me”21 is not only for those prepared to compete in a spiritual Olympics. In fact, discipleship is not a competition at all but an invitation to all. Our journey of discipleship is not a dash around the track, nor is it fully comparable to a lengthy marathon. In truth, it is a lifelong migration toward a more celestial world.

His invitation is a call to daily duty. Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”22 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”23 We may not be at our very best every day, but if we are trying, Jesus’s bidding is full of encouragement and hope: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”24

Wherever you now find yourself on the road of discipleship, you are on the right road, the road toward eternal life. Together we can lift and strengthen one another in the great and important days ahead. Whatever the difficulties confronting us, the weaknesses confining us, or the impossibilities surrounding us, let us have faith in the Son of God, who declared, “All things are possible to him that believeth.”25

Let me share two examples of discipleship in action. The first is from the life of President Thomas S. Monson, demonstrating the power of simple kindness and Jesus’s teaching, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”26

Nearly 20 years ago, President Monson spoke in general conference about a 12-year-old young woman suffering from cancer. He told of her courage and the kindness of her friends to carry her up Mount Timpanogos in central Utah.

A few years ago I met Jami Palmer Brinton and heard the story from a different perspective—the perspective of what President Monson had done for her.

Jami met President Monson in March 1993, a day after being told that a mass above her right knee was a fast-growing bone cancer. With her father assisting, President Monson administered a priesthood blessing, promising, “Jesus will be on your right side and on your left side to buoy you up.”

“Upon leaving his office that day,” Jami said, “I unfastened a balloon tied to my wheelchair and gave it to him. ‘You’re the Best!’ it announced in bright letters.”

Through her chemotherapy treatments and limb-saving surgery, President Monson did not forget her. Jami said, “President Monson exemplified what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. [He] lifted me from sorrow to great and abiding hope.” Three years after their first meeting, Jami again sat in President Monson’s office. At the end of the meeting, he did something that Jami will never forget. So typical of President Monson’s thoughtfulness, he surprised her with the very same balloon that she had given to him three years before. “You’re the Best!” the balloon proclaimed. He had saved it, knowing she would return to his office when she was cured of cancer. Fourteen years after first meeting Jami, President Monson performed her marriage to Jason Brinton in the Salt Lake Temple.27

We can learn so much from the discipleship of President Monson. He often reminds the General Authorities to remember this simple question: “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus told the leader of the synagogue, “Be not afraid, only believe.”28 Discipleship is believing Him in seasons of peace and believing Him in seasons of difficulty, when our pain and fear are calmed only by the conviction that He loves us and keeps His promises.

I recently met a family who is a beautiful example of how we believe Him. Olgan and Soline Saintelus, from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, told me their story.

On January 12, 2010, Olgan was at work and Soline was at the church when a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Their three children—Gancci, age five, Angie, age three, and Gansly, age one—were at home in their apartment with a friend.

Massive devastation was everywhere. As you will remember, tens of thousands lost their lives that January in Haiti. Olgan and Soline ran as fast as they could to their apartment to find the children. The three-story apartment building where the Saintelus family lived had collapsed.

The children had not escaped. No rescue efforts would be devoted to a building that was so completely destroyed.

Olgan and Soline Saintelus had both served full-time missions and had been married in the temple. They believed in the Savior and in His promises to them. Yet their hearts were broken. They wept uncontrollably.

Olgan told me that in his darkest hour he began to pray. “Heavenly Father, if it be thy will, if there could be just one of my children alive, please, please help us.” Over and over he walked around the building, praying for inspiration. The neighbors tried to comfort him and help him accept the loss of his children. Olgan continued to walk around the rubble of the collapsed building, hoping, praying. Then something quite miraculous happened. Olgan heard the almost inaudible cry of a baby. It was the cry of his baby.

For hours the neighbors frantically dug into the rubble, risking their own lives. In the dark of the night, through the piercing sounds of hammers and chisels, the rescue workers heard another sound. They stopped their pounding and listened. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. It was the sound of a little child—and he was singing. Five-year-old Gancci later said that he knew his father would hear him if he sang. Under the weight of crushing concrete that would later result in the amputation of his arm, Gancci was singing his favorite song, “I Am a Child of God.”29

As the hours passed amid the darkness, death, and despair of so many other precious sons and daughters of God in Haiti, the Saintelus family had a miracle. Gancci, Angie, and Gansly were discovered alive under the flattened building.30

Miracles are not always so immediate. At times we thoughtfully wonder why the miracle we have so earnestly prayed for does not happen here and now. But as we trust in the Savior, promised miracles will occur. Whether in this life or the next, all will be made right. The Savior declares: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”31 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”32

I testify that as you love Him, trust Him, believe Him, and follow Him, you will feel His love and approval. As you ask, “What thinks Christ of me?” you will know that you are His disciple; you are His friend. By His grace He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

We eagerly await the concluding remarks of our beloved prophet. President Thomas S. Monson was ordained an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ when I was 12 years old. For more than 48 years we have been blessed to hear him bear witness of Jesus Christ. I testify that he now stands as the Savior’s senior Apostle upon the earth.

With great love and admiration for the many disciples of Jesus Christ who are not members of this Church, we humbly declare that angels have returned to the earth in our day. The Church of Jesus Christ as He established it anciently has been restored, with the power, ordinances, and blessings of heaven. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.

I witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He suffered and died for our sins and rose the third day. He is resurrected. In a future day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ.33 On that day, our concern will not be, “Do others consider me Christian?” At that time, our eyes will be fixed on Him, and our souls will be riveted on the question, “What thinks Christ of me?” He lives. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

1. See André Petry, “Entre a Fé e a Urna,” Veja, Nov. 2, 2011, 96.


2. Matthew 22:42.


3. Romans 14:10.


4. See Matthew 6:2.


5. See Matthew 23:17.


6. See Matthew 7:23.


7. See Matthew 13:38.


8. See Matthew 5:14.


9. See Matthew 15:14.


10. See Matthew 13:22.


11. See Matthew 5:8.


12. See Matthew 5:6.


13. See Matthew 17:17.


14. See John 8:23.


15. See John 6:70.


16. See John 13:35.


17. See John 15:13.


18. Thomas S. Monson, “Stand in Holy Places,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2011, 83, 86.


19. John 17:3.


20. John 14:23.


21. Luke 18:22.


22. John 14:15.


23. Luke 9:23.


24. Matthew 11:28.


25. Mark 9:23.


26. Matthew 23:11.


27. Jami Brinton, letter to author, Jan. 27, 2012.


28. Mark 5:36.


29. “I Am a Child of God,” Children’s Songbook, 2–3.


30. From a discussion with Olgan and Soline Saintelus on Feb. 10, 2012; see also Jennifer Samuels, “Family Reunited in Miami after Trauma in Haiti,” Church News, Jan. 30, 2010, 6.


31. John 14:27.


32. John 16:33.


33. See Romans 14:11.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Conference Messages: The Doctrine of Christ

by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Our deepest gratitude and love to Sister Beck, Sister Allred, and Sister Thompson, and the Relief Society board.

We have seen of late a growing public interest in the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is something we welcome because, after all, our fundamental commission is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, His doctrine, in all the world (see Matthew 28:19–20; D&C 112:28). But we must admit there has been and still persists some confusion about our doctrine and how it is established. That is the subject I wish to address today.

The Savior taught His doctrine in the meridian of time, and His Apostles struggled mightily to preserve it against a barrage of false tradition and philosophy. New Testament Epistles cite numerous incidents demonstrating that serious and widespread apostasy was already under way during the Apostles’ ministry.1

The centuries that followed were illuminated by occasional rays of gospel light until, in the 19th century, a brilliant dawn of Restoration broke upon the world, and the gospel of Christ, full and complete, was once again upon the earth. This glorious day began when, in “a pillar of light … above the brightness of the sun” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16), God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, visited young Joseph Smith and initiated what would become a virtual flood of revelation linked with divine power and authority.

In these revelations we find what might be termed the core doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ reestablished upon the earth. Jesus Himself defined that doctrine in these words recorded in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ:

“This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

“And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

“… And whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. …

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (3 Nephi 11:32–35, 39).

This is our message, the rock upon which we build, the foundation of everything else in the Church. Like all that comes from God, this doctrine is pure, it is clear, it is easy to understand—even for a child. With glad hearts, we invite all to receive it.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9). This is to say that while there is much we do not yet know, the truths and doctrine we have received have come and will continue to come by divine revelation. In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. Some rely on the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and their creeds. Others place primary emphasis on the reasoning of post-apostolic theologians or on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.2

In 1954, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., then a counselor in the First Presidency, explained how doctrine is promulgated in the Church and the preeminent role of the President of the Church. Speaking of members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he stated: “[We] should [bear] in mind that some of the General Authorities have had assigned to them a special calling; they possess a special gift; they are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, which gives them a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teaching of the people. They have the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. Others of the General Authorities are not given this special spiritual endowment and authority covering their teaching; they have a resulting limitation, and the resulting limitation upon their power and authority in teaching applies to every other officer and member of the Church, for none of them is spiritually endowed as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Furthermore, as just indicated, the President of the Church has a further and special spiritual endowment in this respect, for he is the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the whole Church.”3

How does the Savior reveal His will and doctrine to prophets, seers, and revelators? He may act by messenger or in His own person. He may speak by His own voice or by the voice of the Holy Spirit—a communication of Spirit to spirit that may be expressed in words or in feelings that convey understanding beyond words (see 1 Nephi 17:45; D&C 9:8). He may direct Himself to His servants individually or acting in council (see 3 Nephi 27:1–8).

I cite two illustrations from the New Testament. The first was a revelation directed to the head of the Church. Early in the book of Acts, we find the Apostles of Christ declaring the gospel message only to Jews, following the pattern of Jesus’s ministry (see Matthew 15:24), but now, in the Lord’s timetable, the time had come for a change. In Joppa, Peter had a dream in which he saw a variety of animals lowered to earth from heaven in “a great sheet knit at the four corners” (Acts 10:11) and was commanded to “kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). Peter was reluctant since at least some of the animals were “unclean” under the law of Moses, and Peter had never violated the commandment against eating such. Nevertheless, the voice said to Peter in his dream, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15).

The meaning of this dream became clear when soon afterward, several men sent from the Roman centurion Cornelius arrived at Peter’s lodging with a request that he come teach their master. Cornelius had gathered a sizable group of relatives and friends, and finding them expectantly waiting to receive his message, Peter said:

“God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. …

“… Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

“But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:28, 34–35; see also verses 17–24).

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

“And they [who accompanied Peter] were astonished … because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“… Then answered Peter,

“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:44–47).

By this experience and revelation to Peter, the Lord modified the practice of the Church and revealed a more complete doctrinal understanding to His disciples. And so the preaching of the gospel expanded to encompass all mankind.

Later in the book of Acts, we find another somewhat related illustration, this time showing how revelation on matters of doctrine may come in a council setting. A controversy arose about whether circumcision required under the law of Moses should carry over as a commandment in the gospel and Church of Christ (see Acts 15:1, 5). “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider … this matter” (Acts 15:6). Our record of this council is certainly incomplete, but we are told that after “much disputing” (Acts 15:7), Peter, the senior Apostle, rose up and declared what the Holy Spirit had confirmed to him. He reminded the council that when the gospel began to be preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, they received the Holy Ghost just as had the circumcised Jewish converts. God, he said, “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:9–11; see also verse 8).

After Paul, Barnabas, and perhaps others spoke in support of Peter’s declaration, James moved that the decision be implemented by letter to the Church, and the council was united “with one accord” (Acts 15:25; see also verses 12–23). In the letter announcing their decision, the Apostles said, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” (Acts 15:28), or in other words, this decision came by divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.

These same patterns are followed today in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The President of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him (see, for example, D&C 138). Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see, for example, Official Declaration 2). Council deliberations will often include a weighing of canonized scriptures, the teachings of Church leaders, and past practice. But in the end, just as in the New Testament Church, the objective is not simply consensus among council members but revelation from God. It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.4

At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.”5 President Clark, quoted earlier, observed:

“To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk. …

“… The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.”6

The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed the Savior’s central role in our doctrine in one definitive sentence: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”7 Joseph Smith’s testimony of Jesus is that He lives, “for [he] saw him, even on the right hand of God; and [he] heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (D&C 76:23; see also verse 22). I appeal to all who hear or read this message to seek through prayer and study of the scriptures that same witness of the divine character, the Atonement, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Accept His doctrine by repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then throughout your life following the laws and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As our Easter celebration approaches, I express my own witness that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, the very Messiah of ancient prophecy. He is the Christ, who suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, was buried, and who indeed rose again the third day. He is the resurrected Lord, through whom we shall all be resurrected and by whom all who will may be redeemed and exalted in His heavenly kingdom. This is our doctrine, confirming all prior testaments of Jesus Christ and stated anew for our own time. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

1. See Neal A. Maxwell, “From the Beginning,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 18–19: “James decried ‘wars and fightings among’ the Church (James 4:1). Paul lamented ‘divisions’ in the Church and how ‘grievous wolves’ would not spare ‘the flock’ (1 Cor. 11:18; Acts 20:29–31). He knew an apostasy was coming and wrote to the Thessalonians that Jesus’ second coming would not occur ‘except there come a falling away first’; further advising that ‘iniquity doth already work’ (2 Thes. 2:3, 7). “Near the end, Paul acknowledged how very extensive the falling away was: ‘All they which are in Asia be turned away from me’ (2 Tim. 1:15). … “Widespread fornication and idolatry brought apostolic alarm (see 1 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:3; Jude 1:7). John and Paul both bemoaned the rise of false Apostles (see 2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2). The Church was clearly under siege. Some not only fell away but then openly opposed. In one circumstance, Paul stood alone and lamented that ‘all men forsook me’ (2 Tim. 4:16). He also decried those who ‘subvert[ed] whole houses’ (Titus 1:11). “Some local leaders rebelled, as when one, who loved his preeminence, refused to receive the brethren (see 3 Jn. 1:9–10). “No wonder President Brigham Young observed: ‘It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood’ (in Journal of Discourses, 12:69).” In the course of time, as Elder Maxwell expressed it, “reason, the Greek philosophical tradition, dominated, then supplanted, reliance on revelation, an outcome probably hastened by well-intentioned Christians wishing to bring their beliefs into the mainstream of contemporary culture. … “… Let us [too] be wary about accommodating revealed theology to conventional wisdom” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 19–20).


2. Apostles and prophets such as Joseph Smith declare God’s word, but in addition, we believe men and women generally and even children can learn from and be guided by divine inspiration in response to prayer and study of the scriptures. Just as in the days of the ancient Apostles, members of the Church of Jesus Christ are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, which facilitates an ongoing communication with their Heavenly Father, or, in other words, personal revelation (see Acts 2:37–38). In this way, the Church becomes a body of committed, spiritually mature individuals whose faith is not blind but seeing—informed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that every member speaks for the Church or can define its doctrines but that each can receive divine guidance in dealing with the challenges and opportunities of his or her life.


3. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?” Church News, July 31, 1954, 9–10; see also Doctrine and Covenants 28:1–2, 6–7, 11–13.


4. The required preparation and qualifications for council participants are “righteousness, … holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, … faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; “Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:30–31).


5. Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:265.


6. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Church Leaders’ Words,” 10. Of the story his father told him about Brigham Young, President Clark further wrote: “I do not know if this ever happened, but I say it illustrates a principle—that even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ “How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Church Leaders’ Words,” 10).


7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 49.

Mormon Messages: God Will Lift Us Up

He is Risen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mormon Messages: A Special Witness, Elder Holland

This is a true apostolic witness from a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles.