Sunday, December 27, 2009

Latter-Day Hymns: O Thou, Before the World Began

O Thou, Before the World Began
1. O thou, before the world began,
Ordained a sacrifice for man,
And by th’eternal Spirit made
An off’ring in the sinner’s stead;
Our everlasting Priest art thou,
Pleading thy death for sinners now.

2. Thy off’ring still continues new
Before the righteous Father’s view.
Thyself the Lamb forever slain;
Thy priesthood doth unchanged remain.
Thy years, O God, can never fail,
Nor thy blest work within the veil.

3. Oh, that our faith may never move
But stand unshaken as thy love,
Sure evidence of things unseen;
Now let it pass the years between
And view thee bleeding on the tree:
My Lord, my God, who dies for me.

Text: William H. Turton, 1856–1938
Music: Frank W. Asper, 1892–1973

Quote of the Day: Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again … [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.”15 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 21–24

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scriptures in Chinese Available Online

The chinese translation of the scriptures is now available online. This includes: The King James Version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price. Click here to read the scriptures in Chinese online.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Condescension of God

The word "condescension", according to Miriam Webster Dictionary, means "Voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior." Usually in our culture today, we use the word "condescend" with regard to someone who thinks they are superior, but whom we view as on the same level as ourselves. But in the Book of Mormon, the word "condescension" is used as is described by Miriam Webster, to refer to one of superior rank who did lower Himself to our level.

The prophet Nephi was shown in vision, by an angel, the future birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. The angel said to him, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Nephi 11:16). Nephi replied, "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (v.17) He was then shown that the very God of heaven and earth would be born in to mortality. He also saw that He would go forth with great power and glory, and that He would heal the sick, and cast out unclean spirits. Nephi recorded, "32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. 33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. " (1 Nephi 11:32,33) He also saw the subsequent resurrection of the Savior, and His visit to the Americas.

The prophet Alma also was shown the future birth of the Savior some 80 or so years before His birth. He recorded what was told him by the Spirit: "10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." Alma 7 10-13

Both of these prophets was shown that the Lord Jesus Christ would come to earth and suffer at the hands of "inferiors", and live in lowly station, in order to provide the atonement for us all.

In speaking about this condescension, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught,

"Here we have a glorious thing. Here we have exalted, noble beings on a plane and status so far above our present circumstance that we have no way of comprehending their dominion and glory, and we have one of them, God our Eternal Father, through the condescension and infinite love and mercy that he has for us, stepping down from his noble status and becoming the Father of a Son after the manner of the flesh. We have that Son being born, that Son who was his firstborn in the spirit, who had like power and omnipotence with the Father. We have each of them performing a work that there is no way for us to understand as far as magnitude and glory and importance is concerned.
Now the greatest and most important single thing there is in all eternity—the thing that transcends all others since the time of the creation of man and of the worlds—is the fact of the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Lord. He came into the world to live and to die—to live the perfect life and be the pattern, the similitude, the prototype for all men, and to crown his ministry in death, in the working out of the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. And by virtue of this atonement, all things pertaining to life and immortality, to existence, to glory and salvation, to honor and rewards hereafter, all things are given full force and efficacy and virtue. The Atonement is the central thing in the whole gospel system. The Prophet said that all other things pertaining to our religion are only appendages to it. ... And so here we have a doctrine of the Divine Sonship. We have one man out of all eternity—one man among the infinite hosts of the spirit children of God our Father—who is born into the world, inheriting from an immortal exalted Father the power of immortality and inheriting, on the other hand, from a mortal woman—the best and most gracious and most noble mortal woman without question—inheriting from her the power of mortality. Now the power of immortality is the power to live. It is the power to elect to continue to live. The power of mortality is the power to die. And so here is one being who had a dual nature, who could elect to live or elect to die; and having made the election in accordance with the plan of the Father, having elected to separate body and spirit, then by the power of the Father, which is the power of immortality, he could elect to live again. As a consequence we have the redemption from death, the ransom from the grave; we have immortality for him and for us and for all men." Bruce R. McConkie, “Behold the Condescension of God,” New Era, Dec 1984, 35

Our Savior condescended to come to Earth and live among us. He not only suffered at the hands of mortals, but died at the hands of mortals. But He rose again the third day, and offers salvation to us all. Bishop Richard C. Edgley taught,

"In the 34th chapter of Alma, Amulek testifies of the need for the Son of God to personally come down to perform the Atonement according to the great plan of the Eternal God. He explains that the Atonement must be “a great and last sacrifice,” not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast or fowl as was customary (see Alma 34:9–10). It had to be infinite, covering all transgression, all suffering, and it had to be eternal—applying to all mankind from the infinite beginning to the endless end. No, it could not be a sacrifice of man, beast, or fowl. It had to be a sacrifice of a God, even God the Creator, God the Redeemer. He had to condescend from godhood to mortality, and in mortality to sacrificial lamb. His gift of redemption, through His condescension, necessitated His suffering, exquisite pain, and humiliation." Richard C. Edgley, “‘The Condescension of God’,” Ensign, Dec 2001, 16

At this Christmas time, I am eternally grateful for the offering that our Savior has given to us. I am thankful for His sacrifice, willingly given. I am thankful that this free gift is available to all mankind. This is the true message of the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Light Unto All: A Christmas Gift

I like this video that features missionaries of our church who are from many different countries.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Confusion of the Nicene Creed

I have been thinking for some time about the Nicene Creed, which set the foundation for the beliefs of much of the Christian world. I don't know, but I think our church may be the only Christian church that believes that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct and separate beings. The belief that they are one being with shared substance is a belief that primarily came as a result of the Nicene creed.
The first time I read the Nicene creed, I pretty much just scanned it. I didn't read it carefully. My first impression was that there was a lot of good information in it. But after reading it carefully, I realized why our beliefs differ so much from the rest of the Christian world. Our belief in the nature of God is: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." We believe they are one in purpose, and make up the "Godhead", but that they are three distinct and physically separate beings. The Father and the Son have glorified, immortal bodies. The Holy Ghost has not, as yet, received a body, but is a spirit. This enables His spirit to communicate with our spirits.
But let's look at the Nicene creed itself. Here is the creed in it's entirety:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

I have several problems with the creed. Here are some phrases I find troubling:
1. "begotten, not made," Yes, Jesus Christ was begotten, the only physically begotten son of the Father. But why insert the phrase "not made"? He is the literal son of God, and was born to mortality.
2. "being of one substance with the Father" If Jesus Christ is one substance with the Father, then why did Jesus Christ pray to Him in the garden of Gethsemane? And if they are one substance, then how is it possible that He, "sits on the right hand of the Father"? If they are one being, then why would Stephen feel compelled to say, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. "? Acts 7:56. Some may say this is one of the "mysteries". I don't think the nature of our God should be one of the mysteries. We need to understand about the God that we worship. In addition, we are told in the scriptures that "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:" Romans 8:16 If we are actual children of God, and were created in His image, will we grow up to be a multi-person being? A child grows to be like it's parent. Some believe that God doesn't have a physical body either, but is spirit. If that were true, then why was it so important for Jesus Christ to resurrect His body?
3. Most Christian churches believe the Nicene creed view of God, yet the creed states, "And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Besides the fact that many non-Catholic churches hold these same beliefs, I have to wonder why an apostolic church has no modern apostles.

I think I'm a pretty simple person. I am not highly intellectual. But even I can see that there are confusing ideas in this creed. I don't say these things to criticize those who do believe them, but to start a discussion about the possibility that the Nicene creed was not inspired by God, but by the philosphers of the day. A well known LDS scholar, Hugh Nibley, had some very interesting things to say about the formation of the Nicene creed. I am including one chapter of his writings about the subject here. It is a little lengthy, but I feel it is well worth the read.

Prophets and Creeds
by Hugh Nibley

For a long time the world refused to look upon Mormons as Christians. Indeed most people still think of them as a tertium quid, unique and isolated from all other creatures. There is some justice in this viewpoint if one defines a Christian as one who subscribes to the creeds of Christendom, but the dictionary gives no such definition: for it, a Christian is simply one who believes in Christ, with nothing said about adherence to formulae describing his nature devised three hundred years after his death. The Latter-day Saints do not accept the ecumenical creeds because they were not given by the power of revelation but worked out by committees of experts. As we noted last week, the early church could not make too much of the inability of philosophers to discover the nature of God, yet the first and greatest of the councils, that of Nicaea, may be described without exaggeration as a philosopher's field day. Let us consider briefly a few steps that led to the formulation of the Nicene Creed.

It all began when Bishop Alexander of Alexandria "one day in a meeting of his presbyters and the rest of the clergy under him, theologized in a rather showy way (philtimoteron) on the subject of the Holy Trinity, philosophizing to the effect that in a triad was really a monad. Arius, one of the presbyters under his authority and a man not unskilled in dialectic give and take, . . . took the extreme opposite position just to show how much smarter he was (out of philoneikias) . . . and replied bitingly to the things the Bishop had said." Socrates, the historian, concludes a summary of Arius' speech on this occasion by saying, "Constructing his syllogism by this novel reasoning, he attracted everybody's attention, and with a small spark lit a mighty blaze."1 Now isn't this a perfect illustration of those very vices and follies for which the original Christians condemned philosophy? The bishop, philosophizing in a showy way, not seeking truth but just being smart, using technical terms—triad and monad—unknown to the scripture, is refuted by a clergyman carefully trained in that dialectic art which the early Fathers so abhorred; he too, animated not by love of truth but by a desire to outshine the bishop—such is the spirit in which the great investigation begins.

The "mighty blaze" mentioned by Socrates divided the Christian world into warring factions, and the Emperor Constantine wrote a strong letter to the heads of both parties. In this letter he says among other things, "These and such like technical questions . . . are simply a sort of parlor game (ereschalia) for the passing of idle time, and albeit they may be justified as providing a kind of training for the wits, they are best kept locked and confined in your own minds, and not lightly aired in public places nor foolishly permitted to reach the ears of the masses. For just how many people are there who can understand such advanced and extremely puzzling matters, or have any clear idea what they are about, or give a correct explanation of them? And even if someone should suppose that he could understand it easily, how many of the common people will he be able to persuade? Or who would be able to carry on a disputation in the subtleties of such technical questions without running an appalling risk? Therefore a great outpouring of words in such matters should be prohibited, lest the problem presently carry us beyond the depths of our own limited understanding, or we go beyond the limited training of those who listen to our teachings, who can no longer understand what is said, and out of this double defect the whole society necessarily fall into blasphemy or schism. While you wrangle with one another over minor, nay, utterly trivial matters, it is not right that God's numerous people should be led by your minds; in view of your disunity, such a thing is utterly wrong, absolutely improper."2 What a lecture to the leaders of the Church! And these were the men who were to make the creeds.

In the end, the emperor had to summon, as we all know, the great Council of Nicaea. While the gathering body of churchmen was waiting for the latecomers to arrive, some interesting preliminary discussions were held. These illustrate perfectly the spirit of the whole thing. We are told that a large number of laymen were there, experts in the art of dialectic, entering enthusiastically into the discussions on every side. "Meanwhile, not long before the general assembly was to take place, certain dialecticians were addressing the multitude and showing off in controversy. Great crowds being attracted by the pleasure of hearing them, one of the confessors, a layman with a clear head, stood up and rebuked the dialecticians and said to them that Christ and the Apostles did not give to us the dialectical art nor empty tricks, but straightforward knowledge preserved by faith and good works. When he said this, all those present were flabbergasted, and then agreed. And the dialecticians, hearing straight talk, became a good deal more sober and contained. Thus was abated the uproar which dialectic had stirred up."3 There were still clear heads in the church, but they did not belong to the men who were about to make the creed. They are represented here by an aged layman, a martyr—that is, one who had refused to deny the faith in persecution—a link with the real old church, who here appears among the squabbling doctors as a "nine-days' wonder" when he reminds them how far from the track of Christ and the Apostles they have come. They were abashed for the time, but not repentant.

Let us skip to the closing speech of the mightiest of councils. It was delivered, fittingly, by the emperor, "who was first to bear witness to the correctness of the creed," according to Eusebius in a letter to his own flock, " . . . and he urged everyone to come to the same opinion and sign the statement of dogmas and to agree with each other by signing a statement to which but a single term had been added—the word, homoousion." The emperor then proceeded to explain with much technical language that word (which had been agreed on in committee) and the final verdict that the thing was really incomprehensible. "So in such a manner," Eusebius concludes, "our most wise and most devout (eusebes, blessed) Emperor philosophized; and the Bishops by way of explaining the homoousios prepared the following statement." 4

In the statement that follows occurs an interesting admission: "We are well aware that the Bishops and writers of ancient times when discussing the theology of the Father and the Son never used the word homoousios." To allay the doubts of his flock Eusebius hastens to assure them that "the faith here promulgated . . . we all agreed upon, not without careful examination and according to opinions presented and agreed upon in carefully stated logismoi, and in the presence of the most devout Emperor." In other words, the committee had worked hard. All the trouble has been caused, according to this document "by the use of certain expressions not found in the Scripture. . . . Since the divinely inspired Scriptures never use such terms as 'out of nothing,' or 'that existed which at one time did not exist,' and such like terms; for it did not seem proper (eulogon) to say and teach such things, . . . never in times before have we thought it proper to use these terms." 5 The letter then proceeds to authorize the use of those very terms which it acknowledges to be unknown to the early Christians. Had God so changed his nature that he needed new terms to describe that nature? We left the word logismoi untranslated above, because Paul uses the very same word in 2 Corinthians 10:4—5 when he says that revealed knowledge, the Gnosis, invalidates or confounds all logismoi, that is, calculations of men. Now Eusebius takes comfort in the thought that the Nicene Creed is made up of carefully worded logismoi. You see how the foundations of doctrine had shifted from prophetic revelation to human reason. Latter-day Saints would regard such a change as fatal to the church, and in this they are in good company. For though conventional church histories pass over it in complete silence, the fact is that the early ecumenical councils of the church were viewed by the leading churchmen of the time and the general public alike as a most grave and alarming symptom. Let some of these men explain it in their own words.

Athanasius, one of the star performers at Nicaea, viewed with alarm the councils that immediately followed that one: "What is left to the Catholic church to teach of salvation if now they make investigations into the faith, and set up a present-day authority to give out official interpretations of what has already been said? . . . And why do the so-called clergy dash back and forth trying to find out how they should believe about our Lord Jesus Christ? If they had been believing all along they couldn't possibly be searching now for something they don't have!" Everyone is laughing at the Christian leaders, Athanasius says, and is saying, "These Christians don't know what to think of Christ!" which of course weakens their authority.6 "What is the use of all these synods?" he asks. "In vain do they dash hither and yon under the pretext that synods are necessary to settle important matters of doctrine, for the Holy Scriptures are sufficient for all that."7 (Note where Athanasius finds the court of last appeal—not in any episcopal see, but simply in the scripture.) "We contradict those who were before us, depart from the traditions of our fathers, and think we must hold a synod. Then we are seized by misgivings, lest if we simply come together and agree our diligence will be wasted; so we decide that the synod ought to be divided into two groups, so we can vote; . . . and so we render ineffective what was done at Nicaea under pretext of working for greater simplicity." 8 Could one ask for a better description of the strangely modern state of mind in which the early creeds of Christendom were hammered out—the zeal of the busy, self-important committeemen; the fussy, fuzzy preoccupation with procedure and busy-work; the urge to hold meetings come what may? "All these synods are unnecessary," Athanasius repeats, "and they are unnecessary because we have the Scripture; and if the Scripture is a subject of disagreement in the synods, then we have the writings of the Fathers. The men at Nicaea were not unmindful of this. . . . As for these other synods, they simply don't make sense, and they never get anywhere."9 And again: "Who can call such people Christians, or how can we speak of faith among men who have neither reason nor writings that aren't changing all the time, but to suit every circumstance are being everlastingly altered and reversed?" 10

We turn next to Athanasius' great western contemporary St. Hilary: "It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous," he writes in a famous passage, "that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make creeds arbitrarily, and explain them arbitrarily. . . . The homoousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by successive synods. . . . Every year, nay every month, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend those who change their minds, we anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other's ruin." 11 And later to the emperor: "The faith has been corrupted—is reformation possible? The faith is sought after as if it were something not in our possession. The faith has to be written down, as if it were not in our hearts. Having been reborn by faith, we are now being taught the faith just as if our rebirth had been without faith. We learn about Christ after we have been baptized, as if there could be any baptism at all without a knowledge of Christ." 12 Here the synods and creeds are depicted as a declaration of bankruptcy, a clear indication that the faith is lost, a frantic attempt to fill a vacuum. And the filling was to be done with words, the endless talk of the philosophers.

Speaking of an episode of the Council of Nicaea, the historian Sozomen wrote, "It would be hard to say which is the more miraculous, to make a stone speak or to make a philosopher stop speaking."13 But let us hear Hilary: "Since the whole argument is about words, and since the whole controversy has to do with the subject of innovation [i.e., the introduction of philosophical terms not found in the scripture], and since the occasion of the discussion is the presence of certain ambiguities, and since the dispute is about authority, and since we are quarreling about technical questions, and since our problem is to reach a consensus, and since each side is beginning to be anathema to the other, it would seem that hardly anybody belongs to Christ (or is on Christ's side) any more. We are blown about by winds of doctrine, and as we teach we only become more upset, and the more we are taught, the more we go astray." 14 What a commentary on Nicaea! "We avoid believing that of Christ which He told us to believe, so that we might establish a treacherous unity in the false name of peace, and we rebel with new definitions of God against what we falsely call innovations, and in the name of the Scriptures we deceitfully cite things that are not in the Scriptures: changeful, prodigal, impious, changing established things, abolishing accepted doctrine, presuming irreligious things."15 Here Hilary is not denouncing heretics and separatists. Like Athanasius, Eusebius, Basil, Chrysostom, Akakius, Eleusius, Phoebadius, and a host of lesser lights, he is depicting not the folly of the few, but, as he puts it, "the faith of our miserable age. . . . Last year's faith," he asks, "what is the changeful stuff that it contains? First it silenced the homoousion, then it preached it, then it excused it, then it condemned it. And where does that sort of thing lead to? To this, that neither we nor our predecessors were in a position to be sure of preserving any sacred thing intact."16 When men are left to their own resources, without the guidance of living prophets, even the great tradition will not preserve the true faith, for, as Hilary has just noted, men are not able of themselves to preserve that tradition.

We have quoted a few statements—by no means all the pertinent ones—of two of the most respected voices in Christendom, men who were present in person at the great councils of the fourth century in which the Christian creeds as we now have them received their definitive form. How these men miss the voice of the prophets! The fact that the church should hold councils to decide on basic doctrines centuries after Christ and the Apostles are supposed to have given these doctrines to the world greatly disturbs not only them but also, as they repeatedly tell us, the general membership of the church as well. The fact that those councils carry on their deliberations after the manner and in the artificial language of the schools of philosophy distresses them even more. Throughout the Middle Ages the ablest men labored mightily to comprehend and restate in intelligible terms those ever-illusive definitions of God, school succeeding school exactly as in the fourth century. The Reformation, striving to correct administrative abuses and restate moral principles, left the basic doctrines untouched, and to this day the whole Christian world, from the cool recesses of high-church Gothic to the torrid canvas of the revivalist, owes allegiance to the angry and perplexed churchmen of the fourth century. The long centuries have shown, and have shown exhaustively, that "man cannot by searching find out God." Unless dictated by God himself through revelation, any creed must necessarily be a compromise, to establish, as Hilary puts it, a treacherous unity in the false name of peace, and at the price of deliberately sacrificing truth. In the long history of the creeds, time has strikingly vindicated the prophets. If we are to have a creed, the living voice of prophecy alone can prescribe it, and in this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stands alone.


1. Socrates, Ecclesiastical History I, 5—6, in PG 67:41.

2. Ibid., I, 7, in PG 67:56—57.

3. Ibid., I, 8, in PG 67:64.

4. Ibid., also citing Eusebius' letter, in PG 67:68, 72.

5. Ibid., under heading Symbolum, in PG 67:76.

6. Athanasius, De Synodis, in PG 26:684.

7. Ibid., in PG 26:688.

8. Ibid., in PG 26:689.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., in PG 26:760. This is the summary.

11. Hilary, Epistle to Constantine II, 4—5, in PL 10:566—67.

12. Ibid., II, 6, in PL 10:567—68.

13. Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History I, 18, in PG 67:917.

14. Hilary, II, 5, in PL 10:566—67.

15. Ibid., II, 6, in PL 10:568.

16. Ibid., II, 5, in PL 10:567.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Spirit

What is Scripture?

A conversation on Looney's blog made me want to write more about the subject of scripture. What is scripture? How does scripture come to be?

It is very common in the Bible to read the phrase, "that the scripture might be fulfilled." Much of the Old Testament foreshadowed and prophecied what would happen in the New Testament times. Christ Himself often quoted scriptures as He fulfilled them. Here is an example of such a time:

16 ¶ And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. Luke 4:16-21

Being inspired to prophesy is part of what is known as revelation. The Lord reveals something to man that cannot be known by man otherwise. The scriptures are full of prophecies that did indeed come to pass. Isaiah was one of the great prophets that prophesied of the Savior. An example is found in this scripture about the atonement of the Savior:
"5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:6
The pattern God set in olden times was to reveal His word, and also to reveal through prophets things that would come to pass. Those prophets would then write those words. Those writings makeup what we today have as scripture. In our church, we believe that the same pattern is followed today. We believe that God speaks through a living prophet, and reveals His word to them. Those revelations are recorded, and added to a book of scripture we call "The Doctrine and Covenants". In addition, we believe that God also spoke to prophets in the ancient Americas, who also recorded those words in a book of scripture called, "The Book of Mormon". The Book of Mormon has this to say about scripture:
“Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever;

“For I command all men, both in the east and in the west and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.” (2 Ne. 29:7, 9, 11.)

One of the articles of our faith states: "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." (Article of faith 9) As those things are revealed, they are recorded, and become scripture.

The Bible went through much trial to be preserved. Through tireless efforts of some, such as the monks, many were preserved. But some scripture was lost. The Bible speaks of some books that are not present in our modern edition. The index to the LDS scriptures mentions these scriptures that are missing:
"The Bible itself speaks of other authoritative books of scripture including books of Nathan the prophet and of Jehu and Enoch, the prophecy of Ahijah, the visions of Iddo the seer, and even missing epistles of Paul (see 2 Chronicles 9:29; 13:22; 20:34; 1 Corinthians 5:9; Jude 1:14)."

When we think about the many creations of God, and about His ability and power, doesn't it seem limiting to say that His words would only be found in one book of scripture? Why would God speak to men of old, but not men of today? Why would God leave us to our own devices in a day when wickedness is increasing in the world? Some believe that the Bible is enough. But we believe in the "law of witnesses" that was practiced in Bible times: "15 ¶ One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established." Deut. 19: 15 Additional scripture does not take away from the Bible, but acts as a companion witness that Jesus is the Christ. Modern revelation does not detract from ancient revelation, but affirms that God still directs His people today.

I testify that God continues to speak today, and that scripture continues. Another article of our faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." (Article of faith 8) We also believe that more scripture could come forth, and that when it does, it will also testify of Jesus Christ. "39 ¶ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Festival of Lights

As we celebrate with Christmas lights, may we remember the one true "light of the world"; Jesus Christ. I hope you enjoy this video spotlighting the Washington D.C. temple.

Christmas Music Video: Do You Have Room For the Savior?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Alma 32: 13,16

Alma 32:13,1613 And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
16 Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Warnings From the Book of Mormon

I have written in the past about the purposes of the Book of Mormon, including to act as a second witness of Jesus Christ, and to clarify doctrine that has been lost, or misconstrued, but now I would like to focus on another very important purpose of the Book of Mormon, which is to give a warning to the inhabitants of the Americas. One of the main messages of the Book of Mormon, and one of the reasons why it was saved for our day, is that those who dwell upon this land can only enjoy the freedoms and blessings of it if they serve God. The Prophet Lehi taught his children: " 9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.
10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them." 2 Nephi 1:9,10 Lehi's descendants were the people who lived in the Americas when it was discovered by the Europeans. History shows that those people's land was taken away from them. The Book of Mormon traces that occurance to their apostasy.

This same promise about the Americas is reiterated in the book of Ether: "9 And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." Ether 2:9

Who can doubt but that the hand of God brought our forefathers to this country? Columbus himself wrote, "“Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but the Holy Ghost inspired me?”* He also wrote, "“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?” ( Delno C. West and August Kling, trans., The Libro de las profecĂ­as of Christopher Columbus (1991), 105.) This land is truly a land of promise, and those who live here are obligated to serve God who brought them here.

The Book of Mormon also teaches that those who are brought here are brought by the hand of God. "6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord." 2 Nephi 1:6 But there are obligations attached to the great blessing of living here. Columbus is a good example of someone who was led here by the hand of the Lord.

As I look around at our nation today, I still see many people who serve God and keep the commandments. But the growing tide of political correctness is now fighting against religion. Christians are criticized for their beliefs, especially with regard to the creation of this world. It is becoming increasingly unpopular in the political and academic arenas to be religious. But if we value this land, and cherish our freedom and prosperity, we must, as a nation return to God. The message of the Book of Mormon is that only by living worthy of the blessings of this free nation through serving God and keeping His commandments, can we prosper.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Mosiah 16:8

Mosiah 16:8
(Note: These verses were written many years before the Savior's birth)

5 But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God.
6 And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.
7 And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.
8 But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.

Church Videos

I discovered that the church website has videos available to watch. These include some cartoon type stores of the scriptures. Here is the link to the church videos. The cartoons ones are listed under "scripture stories". You can also watch conference talks through this same link. These would be a good alternative to watching television on Sunday. :)

Mormon Messages: In Sickness and in Health

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oakland Temple Visitor Center at Christmas

Last night I went with the youth to the Oakland temple grounds to see the Christmas lights. As always, the grounds look beautiful. We also spent some time in the visitor center, including watching a video there. I hope that those of you who live in the Bay area will take the time to visit the Oakland temple this holiday season. Every night there are free musical perfomances. This weekend, Dec. 4,5, there will be a free dance presentation, "Behold the Light". Event schedules are available at the visitor center.
What I loved most about visiting the grounds and visitor center was that it helped bring Christ back in to Christmas for me. The spirit felt on the grounds is wonderful, and I know that you will be glad you went. Please take some time to see one of the videos in the visitor center. One of them is "Luke Chapter 2", a 6 minute video. This is a great family outing, and a great way to start off the Christmas season!

These are images from inside the visitor center. The Christus statue is visible from outside through the large windows of the center. Copies of the Book of Mormon in many different languages are on display inside.

Inside an LDS Temple: Part 2

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Inside a Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

On the outside of every LDS temple are inscribed the words, "House of the Lord. Holiness to the Lord." For us, the temple is the most sacred building of worship. We believe it is the house of the Lord, where the Lord can come to dwell if He desires. We strive to keep ourselves worthy to enter so that no unclean thing detracts from the spirit that is present in the temple. This video shows some footage of an LDS temple, taken before it was dedicated. You will note the baptismal fonts wherein we perform baptisms for the dead.

Reflections of Christ Project by Mark Mabry

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Would Like My Athiest Friends to Know

I have several athiest friends that I have talked to about religion over the years. Most of them rely on science to explain every phenomena. In their mind, every religious feeling can be explained away by science. But there are some things I would like them to keep in mind before making a final decision about God. And by the way, most of them say there is no God, but then add, "If I saw God, or a miracle, then maybe I would believe." So I don't think they are so much athiests, as unconverted Christians. So I would like to speak directly to them.

First I would like you to know that I, and many of my friends, have had direct answers to prayer. I have prayed to find an item, and been shown in my mind where to look. And it wasn't in a convenient location, where anyone could see, it was pushed through the crack of the back of a drawer, so that it wasn't visible from the inside of the drawer. But I was shown that to find it, I needed to take the drawer out of the nightstand. I don't say these things to boast, but to show that unless you are willing to believe I am psychic, the only other explanation is God. Just this past Sunday, another friend spoke of a time that he prayed to find something he had been searching for in the lawn. A voice told him to look in his pocket, and that is where he found the item. You might say he was lying, but if the same thing happened to you, (and with faith it could,) you would have to accept that there is no point in lying. Lying doesn't help your own faith grow.

I have had feelings to prompt me to help others who were in need. I didn't know they were in need, but kept feeling they needed my help, so I stopped by. I have a friend who had this same feeling, only to find that the person was contemplating suicide. If this only hapened to me once in my life, I might could explain it away, but it has happened many times.

I have had the experience of being prompted to study or think about a certain subject, only to find that the lesson being taught in church was the same. Again, if this only happened once, I would think it coincidence. But as I have seen it happen again and again, coupled with a feeling from the spirit, I have no doubt that these thoughts came from God.

Most importantly, I have prayed for forgiveness, and have felt the sweet grace of God distilling upon my mind and heart, taking away my guilt, and helping me to change. I know God lives because I have felt Him. My faith has increased through these experiences. If I had seen God, my faith would not be as strong. Even miracles can be explained away. But when you develop a relationship of faith, your belief transcends physical proof.

While the unknown is uncomfortable, and not having proof or data for every thing we see is uncomfortable for some, surely everyone can admit that science isn't perfect. I think if we were shown in vision how the world was created, we would see that science can't even begin to explain it all. The same goes for spiritual experiences.

While I respect your right to disbelieve, I hope that you will think twice before discounting God all together. Just because there is no physical proof, doesn't mean He doesn't exist. And when you die, and find that your spirit still lives, and that God is real, I hope that you will turn to Him, and believe.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quote of the Day: Pres. Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson:

"The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page , is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.’

“The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon.

“Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament.

“He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83 ).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

“Live in Thanksgiving Daily”

By Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Ensign, Sep 2001, 6

Think for a moment, if you will, of someone you know who is truly happy. We’ve all met those who seem to radiate happiness. They seem to smile more than others; they laugh more than others—just being around them makes us happier as well.

Now think of someone you know who isn’t happy at all. Perhaps they seem 10 years older than they are, drained of energy—perhaps they are angry or bitter or depressed.

What is the difference between them? What are the characteristics that differentiate the happy from the miserable? Is there something that unhappy people can do to be happier? I believe there is.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this observation.

A long time ago in a faraway village lived a man who everyone did their very best to avoid. He was the type of person who believed that there was only one competent person in the world, and that one person was himself. Consequently, he was never satisfied with anything. His shoes never fit right. His shirt never felt comfortable. When his food wasn’t too cold, it was too salty, and when it wasn’t too hot, it was too bland.

If a field wasn’t sowed by himself, it was not sowed well. If he didn’t close the door, the door was not closed properly.

In short, he made a career of frowning, lecturing, criticizing, and mumbling about the incompetencies of every other person in the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the man was married, which made matters all the worse. No matter what his wife did, in his eyes it was wrong. No matter what the unfortunate woman cooked, sewed, or cleaned—or even when she milked the cow—it was never satisfactory, and he let her know it.

She tried very hard to be a good wife, but it seemed the harder she tried, the less she pleased him. Finally, one evening she could take no more.

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” she told him. “Tomorrow I will do your chores and you will do mine.”

“But you can’t do my chores,” the man replied. “You don’t know the first thing about sowing, hoeing, and irrigating.”

But the woman was adamant. And on top of that, she was filled with a righteous anger that frankly astonished and frightened the man to the point where he didn’t dare disagree.

So the next morning the wife went off to the fields and the man began the domestic chores. After thinking about it, he had actually convinced himself he was looking forward to it. Once and for all, he would demonstrate to his wife how things should be done.

Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan. In fact, nearly everything the man touched turned into disaster. He spilled the milk, let the pig get into the house, lost the cow, burned the dinner, and ultimately set the house on fire, narrowly escaping with his own life.

When his wife returned, she discovered her husband sitting on a pile of ashes, smoke still rising from his clothes. But the woman wasn’t the type to rub things in. She helped him up, wiped the soot from his beard, fixed him a little something to eat, and then prepared a bed of straw for them to sleep on.

From that day forward, the man never complained about anyone or anything else for as long as he lived.

What do you suppose this story teaches us?

For one thing, it teaches that those who complain make their own and others’ lives miserable. The story also teaches humility. It reminds us that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It teaches us not to judge others until we walk in their shoes for a while.

In addition, the story illustrates a quality that the Roman orator Cicero claimed was “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Plancio, 54 b.c.). It is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance of this virtue, there is happiness. Where there is an absence of this virtue, there is often sadness, resentment, and futility.

The virtue I am speaking of is gratitude.

In our story, it was the absence of gratitude that made the man miserable. His inability to appreciate others caused him to be critical of their efforts. Not only did he not empathize with them, he could not allow himself to acknowledge their contributions.

The disasters that confronted him surely made him humble, but, more particularly, they made him appreciate and be grateful for his wife.

Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable.

You might be surprised to know that gratitude is a commandment of the Father. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things” (D&C 59:7), the Lord has commanded in these latter days. Even further, He has admonished that “in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:21).

In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Isn’t that a wonderful thought to live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? less stressful? less angry? more spiritual?

President Joseph F. Smith proclaimed: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 263).

Earlier I asked you to think of someone you knew who was truly happy. Think of the person again, if you will, and grade on this principle: Does he or she live in thanksgiving daily?

Now think of someone you know who is unhappy or resentful. Does this person live in thanksgiving daily?

It is difficult to even imagine a resentful person who is grateful or a grateful person who is resentful. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said:

“Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief. …

“Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without it there is arrogance and evil” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 117).

I believe that many people are unhappy because they have not learned to be grateful. Some carry the burden of bitterness and resentfulness for many years. Some pass their days as though suffering a deep sadness they cannot name. Others are unhappy because life didn’t turn out the way they thought it would.

“If only I had money,” some might say to themselves, “then I could be happy.”

“If only I were better-looking.”

“If only I were smarter.”

“If only I had a new car, a college degree, a job, a wife, hair that wasn’t so frizzy.” (Or, in my case, if only I had more hair or I were 12 inches taller.)

If we only look around us, there are a thousand reasons for us not to be happy, and it is simplicity itself to blame our unhappiness on the things we lack in life. It doesn’t take any talent at all to find them. The problem is, the more we focus on the things we don’t have, the more unhappy and more resentful we become.

Over the course of my years, I have met thousands of people. I have dined with the prosperous as well as the poverty-stricken. I have conversed with the mighty and with the meek. I have walked with the famous and the feeble. I have run with outstanding athletes and those who are not athletically inclined.

One thing I can tell you with certainty is this: You cannot predict happiness by the amount of money, fame, or power a person has. External conditions do not necessarily make a person happy. The Brethren who have had assignments in poorer countries report that despite the abject poverty, the people are very happy. The fact is that the external things so valued by the world are often the cause of a great deal of misery in the world.

Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, are usually among the world’s happiest people. And they make others happy as well.

Years ago Elder J. Golden Kimball (1853–1938) of the Seventy was traveling with one of the presiding Brethren in southern Utah. In those days meetings often didn’t have a time limit; they went on as long as the speaker wanted to speak. For those of you looking for something to be grateful for, perhaps I’ve just given you one idea.

One fast Sunday they had been preaching nearly all day. Everyone was hungry, especially Elder Kimball, who felt that he “was pretty nearly dead.”

Finally, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, the presiding Apostle turned and said, “Now, Brother Kimball, get up and tell them about the Era.”

The Improvement Era magazine had just been launched, and the Brethren wanted to encourage subscriptions. Elder Kimball approached the pulpit and then, after a short pause, said, “All you men that will take the Era if we will let you go home, raise your right hand.” There was not a single man who did not raise his hand that day to subscribe to the Era (see J. Golden Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1932, 78).

You see, the power of gratitude is immense.

Rulon Gardner grew up in the small town of Afton, Wyoming. He is one of nine children. His mother and father are faithful members of the Church and instilled proper values in their children.

But because Rulon was so large, his classmates teased him. The taunts and name-calling troubled young Rulon, but he never became angry or resentful. He could have withdrawn and become bitter. Like so many others, he could have counted all the things that were going wrong and simply given up.

Instead, he used the insults as motivation. He determined he would use his size to his advantage. He would make something of himself.

“I would go out, as a kid,” Rulon said, “and I could barely pick up a bale of hay. By the time my senior year came around, I was grabbing four bales of hay at a time, each 100 pounds. Just grabbing them and walking with them and seeing how physically strong I could be” (quoted in Alan Robinson, “Wrestler’s Magic Moment,” Associated Press, Sydney, Australia, 28 Sept. 2000).

He milked cows twice a day, often in subzero temperatures. He lifted frozen bales of hay to feed the cows. At times he would carry a newborn calf into the safety of a warm barn. He got up early in the morning, did his chores, then went to school. After school he either went to wrestling or football practice, then back to the farm to do more chores.

Rulon found that his size wasn’t a disadvantage for him as an athlete—in fact, it was an asset. Wrestling particularly came easy to him, and he became the Wyoming state champion. After graduating from high school, he decided that perhaps he might be good enough to compete in the Olympic Games.

In Atlanta in 1996, due to a miscommunication, he arrived at the weigh-in 22 seconds too late and missed his chance to compete. Again Rulon could have despaired. He could have cursed his luck. He could have become embittered and resentful.

But do you know what he did? He worked harder. Instead of burying himself in self-pity, he began speaking at youth firesides about his experience. “I missed the Olympic Games by 22 seconds,” he told his eager listeners. “Don’t you let anything keep you from your goals.”

After four years of hard work, Rulon Gardner wanted to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The only trouble was, he couldn’t afford the trip. That’s when the members of his hometown rallied to his side. They held bake sales and potluck dinners and raised enough money to allow Rulon and his family to make the trip to Sydney.

This time he did not miss the weigh-in. He advanced through the preliminary rounds until he reached the final obstacle to his gaining a gold medal.

That obstacle was a man the world called the Siberian Bear, Alexander Karelin. This Russian bear is considered by most as the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler in the history of the sport. Not only had he not lost a single match in 13 years, but no one had scored a point on him in more than a decade. Karelin had won the gold medal in three previous Olympic Games and was the heavy favorite to win an unprecedented fourth gold medal.

But at the end of the gold-medal match, it was the farm boy from Afton, Wyoming, who stood triumphant in what many consider the greatest upset of the summer Olympic Games.

“The reason I think I won,” Rulon said, “is because I work harder than anyone else, train harder. And every day I live my life, I do everything I need to do to put my life in order” (quoted in Robinson, “Wrestler’s Magic Moment”).

Waving an American flag, a grateful Rulon Gardner thanked his family, his God, and his hometown of Afton, Wyoming, for their helping to make the moment possible.

Winning the gold medal in such a stunning way made Rulon an instant celebrity. Sometimes this sort of attention changes people. Sometimes people become more calloused. Sometimes they forget those they owe the most to. But not Rulon Gardner.

Later, while Rulon was a guest on an evening talk show, the host invited him to watch some highlights from his Olympic victory. Without warning, the picture changed to a live shot from Afton, Wyoming. It seemed that the entire population of the town had assembled in the high school gymnasium. They cheered and shouted and held up signs that said, “Rulon’s got milk!” and “My uncle rocks!”

As this man—one of the strongest men in the world—looked into the television monitor at the faces of the people he loved, tears of gratitude came to his eyes.

In a letter written to his stake president, Rulon Gardner said: “The Lord has given me the chance to work for all my dreams. I feel the Church has helped me to focus and live my life in the ways that have helped me to train and become an Olympic champ. … I am blessed … to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (letter to President Val J. Call, Afton Wyoming Stake, 20 Oct. 2000).

Rulon Gardner knows what it means to be grateful.

Gratitude turns a meal into a feast and drudgery into delight. It softens our grief and heightens our pleasure. It turns the simple and common into the memorable and transcendent. It forges bonds of love and fosters loyalty and admiration.

Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those we love. But how do we make this part of who we are? May I suggest three things that will help as we strive to live in thanksgiving daily?

First, we must open our eyes.
I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote, “The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life” (Quotationary, electronic quotation dictionary). Unfortunately, because the beauties of life are so abundant, sometimes we take them for granted.

Our minds have a marvelous capacity to notice the unusual. However, the opposite is true as well: The more often we see the things around us—even the beautiful and wonderful things—the more they become invisible to us.

That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds—even those we love.

Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.

Those who live in thanksgiving daily, however, have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time.

I encourage you to look around you. Notice the people you care about. Notice the fragrance of the flowers and the song of the birds. Notice and give thanks for the blue of the sky, the color of the leaves, and the white of the clouds. Enjoy every sight, every smell, every taste, every sound.

When we open our eyes and give thanks for the bountiful beauty of this life, we live in thanksgiving daily.

The second thing we can do is open our hearts.
We must let go of the negative emotions that bind our hearts and instead fill our souls with love, faith, and thanksgiving.

Anger, resentment, and bitterness stunt our spiritual growth. Would you bathe in impure water? Then why do we bathe our spirits with negative and bitter thoughts and feelings?

You can cleanse your heart. You don’t have to harbor thoughts and feelings that drag you down and destroy your spirit.

You can repent of uncleanliness. That is the miracle of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. You can become clean. You can cleanse your heart of impurity.

Begin the process today. Repent of those things you should repent of. Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel. These latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. The Lord provides the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those whose lives are parched by a drought of truth.

Pray with all your heart. Consider the love your Heavenly Father has for all His children. Open your heart to His cleansing word. Feast on the words of holy writ. Cherish the messages of modern-day prophets and apostles. Forgive others who have offended you. Don’t waste another moment feeling self-pity. Every day drain from your heart the feelings of resentment, rage, and defeat that do nothing but discourage and destroy. Fill your heart with those things that ennoble, encourage, and inspire.

The great Book of Mormon prophet Nephi certainly had reason to be resentful. Hated by his brothers, bound and beaten and nearly murdered, he had plenty to be bitter about. After his father died, Nephi must have felt completely alone. He surely felt threatened. He surely felt discouraged. He surely felt troubled. But when it came time for him to communicate his feelings, what did he write?

“Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (2 Ne. 4:16).

Yes, his path had been difficult. Yes, his heart groaned because of mistakes he had made, but he did not allow himself to linger in negativity. Instead, he told himself:

“Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

“Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

“Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee” (2 Ne. 4:28–30).

The third thing we can do to live in thanksgiving daily is open our arms.
One of the best ways we show our gratitude is by blessing the lives of those around us. The great King Benjamin taught his people:

“If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice. …

“… If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:20–21).

And how do we render thanks unto God? King Benjamin told us that as well: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

We can live in thanksgiving daily by opening our arms to those around us. When was the last time you told someone you love how much they mean to you? When was the last time you expressed your gratitude to someone who has always been there for you, someone who has sacrificed for you, someone whose heart has always been filled with hopes and dreams for you?

When was the last time you unselfishly reached out to help another in need? Every time we cheer another’s heart, every time we ease another’s burden, every time we lift a weary hand, we show our gratitude to that God to whom we owe all that we have and all that we are.

Not long ago a mother and father from the Republic of Georgia faced a terrifying reality. The doctors told them their baby had a heart condition, and unless he had surgery he would die. Because they did not have adequate facilities in Georgia, the mother and father walked across their country and all the way to Yerevan, Armenia, seeking medical help.

The Armenian doctors examined the child and agreed that the baby needed heart surgery. They knew how to perform the surgery and they had the necessary facilities, but they couldn’t perform the operation because they didn’t have the right tubing. As much as they wanted to help, there was nothing they could do. They told the couple to take their baby home to die.

As you know, the Church—through its humanitarian service arm—sends millions of pounds of food, clothing, and medical and educational materials throughout the world each year. As it so happened, Elder Robert H. Sangster and his wife, Sister Sandra Sangster, were serving a humanitarian mission in Armenia, and they had just received a container of medical supplies.

You may have already guessed that tucked away in this container of medical supplies was a box of precisely the kind of tubing needed for this child’s operation.

When the doctors discovered the tubing, they rushed the baby into surgery and performed the operation.

That’s a wonderful story and one that repeats itself daily as a result of the tremendous humanitarian help that is given to many nations in the world. The great welfare effort given by the Church benefits members and nonmembers during times of need. It reaches out to care for others. But what happened later makes it an even better story. One day, soon after the operation, Elder and Sister Sangster heard a knock at their door. When they opened it, this loving mother and father fell to their knees and wept as they thanked the Sangsters and their church for supplying the precious tubing that had saved the life of their child.

The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer.

As we strive to open our eyes, hearts, and arms, our step will become a little lighter, our smile will become a little brighter, and the darkness that sometimes broods over our lives will become a little lighter. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t been an especially grateful person. Rejoice and think of what an impression you will make on those who thought they knew you. Think of how delightfully surprised they will be.

Be grateful. Every day is a new canvas—a new opportunity. Our beloved President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: “My plea is that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life, we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment and endorse virtue and effort” (Standing for Something [2000], 101).

Choice blessings await those who live in thanksgiving daily. “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness,” the Lord has promised, “shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more” (D&C 78:19).

Don’t wait to start. Open your eyes, open your hearts, and open your arms. I promise that as you do so, you will feel greater joy and happiness. Your life will have a new level of meaning. You will forge relationships that will transcend this life and endure through the eternities.

I am grateful for this experience of mortality. I am grateful for the gospel and for the life and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am grateful for my wonderful wife, my dear children and grandchildren. I am grateful for the support and love shown to me by countless friends and members of the Church throughout the world. I am grateful for life and even more grateful for the glorious promise of eternal life to come.

Not everyone can be a star quarterback; not everyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company; not everyone can win a gold medal at the Olympics; but everyone—everyone—can live in thanksgiving daily.

As a special witness, I bear solemn testimony that Jesus is the living Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He asks that we believe in Him, that we learn of Him, that we strive to follow His teachings, and that we adhere to the teachings of our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. He inspires him in the direction needed for this life and life eternal.

May we follow our Savior in all we do is my humble prayer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mormon Messages: In the Spirit of Thanksgiving

Quote of the Day: James E. Faust

James E. Faust
James E. Faust, “Gratitude As a Saving Principle,” Ensign, May 1990, 85

"A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.
But there is a truism associated with all types of human strength: “Use it or lose it.” When not used, muscles weaken, skills deteriorate, and faith disappears. President Thomas S. Monson stated: “Think to thank. In these three words are the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, a formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness.” (Pathways to Perfection, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, p. 254.) Said the Lord, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19.)

Latter-Day Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 88:33

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quote of the Day: Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

"Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges each of us enjoy. The Lord has said that the meek shall inherit the earth. (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God, and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. Walk with gratitude before him who is the giver of life and every good gift. "

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the Day: Pres. Joseph F. Smith

President JosephF. Smith.

"I believe that one of the greatest sins of which the inhabitants of the earth are guilty today is the sin of ingratitude. ... God is not pleased with the inhabitants of the earth but is angry with them because they will not acknowledge his hand in all things [see D&C 59:21 ]" ( Gospel Doctrine, 5thed. [1939], 270–71).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quote of the Day: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Those who are my regular readers are probably beginning to notice that I have a special like of Elder Holland's talks. :)
Part of this quote is with reference to this scripture:
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matt. 5:45

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

"One of the challenges of the faithful is to realize that sometimes those who are not obedient and worthy seem to receive as many or more of the temporal blessings of life as do those who sacrifice and serve. ... The Saints are to be faithful to the end without too many sidelong glances at their neighbors. ... Undoubtedly the unfaithful will also have the sun shine upon them, perhaps at times even more abundantly than on the righteous. But the faith and devotion of the faithful is recorded in the Lamb’s book of life, and the day will come when they will be included among God’s jewels. In that day it will matter very much who was righteous and who was wicked, who served God and who did not. In the meantime, all must remember that God does not settle his end-of-year accounts in September" ( Christ and the New Covenant, 296–97).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Godhead

As I was searching my posts to see what I had already written on the subject of the Godhead, I found that I haven't written much about our view of the "trinity". I did post an excellent talk by Elder Jeffrey Holland on this subject, and it can be viewed by clicking this link. But I would like to write a little more about this crucial doctrine.

In our religion, we believe that the Godhead is made up of three separate, distinct personages. We believe that they are one in purpose, thereby making up the Godhead, but they are separate physically. It's interesting to me that some religions believe that they are one being, with three separate identities, and refer to this as one of the "mysteries". I believe that understanding the nature of God is essential to our understanding of the plan of salvation, and that it shouldn't be a mystery.

The first personage in the Godhead is God the Father. He has a physical, glorified body. He is the literal father of our spirits, and we were created in His image. He is the literal physical father of Jesus Christ. All that Jesus did while on this earth was to carry out the Father's will. The Savior said, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." John 5:30 His actions were in such perfect alignment with what the Father would do if He were on earth, to the degree that Jesus said, "Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also." John 8:19

The second personage in the Godhead is Jesus Christ. He is the Savior of the world, because of the atonement that He made for all mankind. He is our spirit brother, and advocate with the Father. When we pray to Heavenly Father, we do so in the name of Jesus Christ, who is our mediator. He also has a physical, glorified body of flesh and bone, just as we will have one day because of the resurrection that Jesus brought to pass.

The third personage in the Godhead is the Holy Ghost. He does not have a physical body as yet. He is a personage of spirit. His mission is to testify of truth. Because He is a spirit, He can communicate with our spirits. He can bring the comfort promised of the Savior. He can reveal all things to us.

One of the greatest examples in the scriptures of the separate nature of the Godhead is found in the account of Jesus' baptism:
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matt. 3:16,17
This account records that Jesus was in the water, while the Father spoke from heaven, and the Dove lighted upon him as a symbol that the Holy Ghost was present.

Another great scripture talking about the separateness of the Father and the Son is found in the account of Stephen who personally saw them.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55,56
Clearly Stephen saw two personages, Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. This account is very similar to the eye witness account of Joseph Smith who also beheld their glory and saw Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. The position of standing on the right hand is one of honor.

In His great intercessory prayer, the Savior prayed:
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
John 17:11,21-23

We believe that Jesus wasn't suggesting that the apostles become one entity, but that they become one in purpose, just as He and the Father are one in purpose.

I encourage you to also read the talk I linked above by Jeffrey Holland. And I also encourage all to study these things out in their mind, and ask God the Father, with a sincere heart, about the truth of these doctrines. Understanding the true nature of God can help us more fully understand the plan of salvation that He has established for us.

Quote of the Day: The Prophet Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith:

"Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God....
"... He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed" ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255–56).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quote of the Day: Neal A. Maxwell

Neal A. Maxwell

“My young brothers and sisters, you live in a world which, as prophesied, is often confusing and perplexing. By combining true education and true religion, you will be able to distinguish between what are merely today’s trends and the eternal truths, and between celestial sense and secular nonsense. . . .
“Those individuals who are illuminated, spiritually and educationally, will help to show the way in a world darkened by despair.
“God bless you in these days, which are your days in the history of the kingdom of God”
(Neal A. Maxwell, Seek Learning Even by Study and Also by Faith, 1994 videocassette).)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Take the Challenge!

If you were the last writer in the scriptures, what would you want to say to the world? What would you want the world to know about what you had written? How would you convince the world to believe what you had written?

The last writer in the Book of Mormon was a man named Moroni. He faced these same questions, and his answer was to issue a sort of challenge. In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, Moroni reminds us that as Elder Boyd K. Packer taught, "No message appears in scripture more times, in more ways than 'Ask, and ye shall receive.'" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 26) Moroni calls upon us to remember that the Lord throughout time has been merciful to those who plead unto Him.

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. Moroni 10:3

But the Lord requires more of us than just faith. He requires action. In this verse, Moroni mentions two actions that are required to know the truth of the Book of Mormon. One is to "read", and the other is to "ponder it in your hearts". Many people skim through the Book of Mormon without really reading it. Many people read the Book of Mormon without pondering it in their hearts.

Moroni goes on to say,
"4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:4,5

Here he gives us one more important action that we need to follow to know truth. He exhorts us to pray and ask God if the things we have read are true. Moroni teaches us that by the power of the Holy Ghost, we can know the truth of all things. Part of the mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:26 Many people read the Book of Mormon without praying to know if it is true.

There are those who will discount the Book of Mormon without reading it. There are those who will discount the Book of Mormon without pondering about it in their hearts. There are those who will discount the Book of Mormon without praying to God to know if it is true. In addition, Moroni counsels us to "ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ." To me this means in part that we should be honestly seeking to know if it is true, and have an open mind. How can the Lord reveal a truth to us if we have a closed mind?

So my challenge to you today is to take Moroni's challenge. I want to testify to you that I have taken the challenge and I have received an answer that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and a second witness of Jesus Christ. You may not accept my testimony, but I encourage you to try this challenge yourself and find out once and for all for yourself if the Book of Mormon is true. If you follow the steps that Moroni outlined: read, ponder, and ask God with a sincere heart and real intent, I know that you will receive an answer. The Lord pleads often with us in the scriptures to "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" Matt. 7:7,8

Take the challenge! Then come back and tell me how it went!