Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Ultimate Source of Truth

What I love about the internet is that with one click of the mouse, you can have more information available than you have time to read. The problem is that just because something is written on the internet, doesn't mean that it is true. You always have to be careful. I always try to be careful to check the sources. In the same way, I always caution my friends who want to learn about our church to go to the source. I tell them to come to me, or the missionaries, or an official church website to learn about our church. Even our youth attend 4 years of seminary and can explain our beliefs. But other sources, such as websites, or other churches, might be biased in their view of our beliefs, and might have misunderstandings. They might not understand our beliefs because they don't understand the underlying doctrine.

Before a person can do algebra, they must learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. So too, before coming to an understanding of some of our beliefs, a person must have an understanding of the underlying doctrine. Some think that because they understand their own religion, that they have enough of a foundation to understand ours. But some of our fundamental basics are slightly different from others' understanding.

The other source we should go to is God. We can pray to God for understanding and guidance to know which things are true. In John chapter 14 verse 26 we read, "26 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." Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate source of truth. I encourage anyone who is studying our religion, or reading the Book of Mormon, to pray to know the truth. God is the ultimate source of all truth.

The Book of Mormon teaches,

"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
In my mind, this is one of the most powerful of all scriptures. It teaches us how we can find truth. There are some key parts to this scripture.
--"And when ye shall receive these things.." The first step in understanding if something is or is not true is to study it. We need not be afraid of truth. We need more to be afraid of ignorance of the truth. If something is true, we want to know it.
--"I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true.." The next step is to pray and ask God
--"and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent..." Some people pray with the attitude to prove it wrong, not with an open mind and heart. How can the Holy Ghost communicate with a closed heart and mind?
--"he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." How does the Holy spirit communicate with us? In Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 we read, "2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart." When the spirit communicates with us, we feel the truth in our hearts, and we know the truth in our minds.

Can you see how important it is to have an open mind and heart? How can we truly be taught something we never knew if we close our minds and hearts to possibilities? We need to have faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to testify to us. This power isn't limited to religious topics. We can ask God for help in whatever endeavor we pursue. Truth is truth, no matter the field.

My challenge to you is to read the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart, with real intent to know if it is true. Then pray to know if it is true. Once God gives you an answer, then you too can know "the truth of all things."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reading List

After some suggestion from my sister, I thought it might be good to provide a list of reading material for those who are interested in reading more about our beliefs.

Of course the most important thing for a person wanting to understand our beliefs is the Book of Mormon. You can read it, in its' entirety by clicking here.

As I was reading "Preach My Gospel", which is a study guide for missionaries, I came across a list of scriptures from the Book of Mormon that help us to understand certain principles. My personal practice is that whenever I read the scriptures, I first pray for understanding, and for the Holy spirit to guide me and inspire me as I read. I suggest to everyone to do likewise. Here are some ready links for the topics mentioned:

Is there a God? Alma 22

What does Jesus Christ expect of me? 2 Nephi 9

How can a belief in Jesus Christ help me? Alma 36

Is there life after death? Alma 40

What is the purpose of life? Alma 34

Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur?
--2 Nephi 2
--Alma 14:9-11
--Alma 60:13

Does my infant need to be baptized? Moroni 8

Does God know me? Alma 5:38, 58
Does God answer prayers? Enos 1

How can I find peace and joy?
--Mosiah 2
--Mosiah 4

How can my family be happier and more united? Mosiah 2

How can I balance my family and career? 3 Nephi 13

How can I stregnthen my relationship with my spouse? 3 Nephi 14

How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? Alma 39

How can I avoid sin? Helaman 5

In addition to "The Book of Mormon", I found a site that gives you a preview of an LDS classic, "Jesus The Christ" by James E. Talmage. The original book has something like 800 pages, but gives a very detailed introduction of the life and mission of the Savior. You can read selected pages by clicking here.

Another great LDS classic is, "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder" by Legrand Richards. Once again, this is a preview, so the total number of pages available to read is limited. But I like this method of previewing a book, so that you can get an idea if it is one you really want to read. You can read the selected pages by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Invitation Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Oakland California mission has organized what they call "Invitation Sunday". Non-members are always welcome to attend our services, but on April 26th, all of our lessons and talks will be oriented to help non-members understand our beliefs. We invite all who have interest, or who are just curious, to come meet with us that day and see what our church meetings are like. All areas of the Oakland mission are participating. This mission includes most of the Bay area cities. San Francisco city is in a separate mission, but most others cities are included.

For the meetinghouse nearest to you, please see the "meetinghouse locator" link on the side bar of this blog. Or simply click here.

We hope you will come join us Sunday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 31: 4-10

2 Nephi 31:4-10

4 Wherefore, I would that ye should remember that I have spoken unto you concerning that prophet which the Lord showed unto me, that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!
6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water?
7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.
9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Mosiah 2:12, 16, 17

This address was given by King Benjamin:

MOSIAH 2:12,16,17

12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;

16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.

17 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.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Some years ago, some representatives from another church came to my door. They shared some scriptural thoughts with me, and we briefly talked about some Gospel principles. As they prepared to leave, they asked if I would like a pamphlet of information. I told them I wouldn't be interested because I have my own religion. They asked what religion, and when I told them, they said that they had one pamphlet in particular that spoke about my religion. I was curious to see what that pamphlet had to say, so I took one. As I read through it, I was shocked to find inaccuracies about our religion. I found it odd that another religion would spend time and money to print something that was untrue about another religion. I know that the people in that church are good people, so I doubt that they had an ill intent to print lies, I think they just didn't research well enough. During the time that I have blogged and read and commented on others' blogs, I have been surprised by the fact that most people go to other sources to learn about our religion. The problem is that some sources are biased, or simply don't understand. How can you single out one belief and make assumptions about it without understanding the underlying doctrine? My advice to anyone wanting to learn about ANY religion is to go to the source. First, ask members of that church, and in the case of our church, let the missionaries teach you. There will be many other churches that will tell you our religion isn't Christian. They will tell you that we are a cult. They will tell you that we are devil followers. All of these things are incorrect, and if they really understood what we believe, and the doctrine behind it, they would also come to see that we are none of those things. So please, go to the source.

Recently, Elder Melvin J. Ballard gave a talk about this subject titled, "Faith, Famly, Facts, and Fruits." You can read the entire talk by clicking here, but I will paraphrase it for you.

Here are some facts that he would like those not of our faith to know about us:


First, “Mormon” is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as “Mormons,” “Latter-day Saints,” or “LDS.” The term “Saint” means “member.”
Second, the Church was restored in 1830 in upstate New York with Joseph Smith as its first prophet and president. Today it is headquartered in Salt Lake City, with President Gordon B. Hinckley as the present prophet. ( This talk was given in 2007. Since then, Pres. Thomas S. Monson has become the president of the church.)Third, there are now over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. About 6 million of these are in the United States, making us the fourth largest Christian denomination in America. As one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, we complete a new chapel every working day. Members pay a tithe, which is 10 percent of their income, making this and other programs possible.
Fourth, local congregations are led by volunteer, unpaid members. Both men and women serve in assigned leadership positions.
And fifth, Mormons are well represented in politics and government. (In the United States, for example, there are 16 members in Congress, from both political parties.) Members also serve in high and trusted positions throughout the world in business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment.


--We believe in the eternity of the soul, that God is the Father of our spirits, and that we can return to Him after death.

--We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, and we try to model our lives after Him and His teachings. We commemorate Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our Sunday worship services, similar to taking communion in other churches. We accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the Savior of all mankind. Many Christians do not understand that we have much common ground with them. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus Christ is the core of our belief, and everything else is an appendage to it (see Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 44). The name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

--We believe the original church that Jesus established was lost and has been restored again in our day. The priesthood, the authority given to man to act in the name of God, with apostles and a prophet to lead us, has been restored as have all necessary ordinances of salvation.

--We believe in and we use the Holy Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.
And we believe in the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture which support and authenticate the Bible and testify of the ministry and divinity of Christ and of God’s ongoing revelation to man. Indeed, the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”


Now, even as someone begins to understand a few facts about us and comes to know us more accurately by our faith and the importance of family, it was the Savior who said “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20; emphasis added). A church, or any way of life, should be judged by the fruits or the results that it generates. Here are a few examples based on United States statistics. But these would be similar throughout the world among practicing Mormons (by which we mean those who attend church and the temple regularly):

One of the fruits is a longer life. Studies show that practicing Mormons are healthier and therefore live longer than the national average. In 1833 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the Word of Wisdom, which is the way to live in order to enjoy a long and healthy life.

Second, those who are married in and attend the temple regularly have a divorce rate far below the national and world average.

Third, we achieve an educational level that is higher than the national average.

Fourth, over 70,000 members volunteer at their own expense to serve for 18 to 24 months in humanitarian efforts, Church service assignments, and full-time missionary service throughout the world.

And fifth, we place strong emphasis on self-reliance and a solid work ethic. We encourage active involvement in our communities and in providing service to others. The Church continues to donate substantial money, goods, and services to humanitarian causes around the globe, including untold hours of labor donated by members to assist in disaster cleanup and relief."

I hope that Elder Ballard's explanations have been helpful to any who might be seeking to understand our beliefs. Once again I caution that the internet, and world do not always give accurate information. If you would like to know more about our beliefs, please go to the source. When I say "source" I am also speaking of God, the eternal Father. As you study about our beliefs, please study it out in your mind, with an open mind, and ask God if these things are true. A scripture in the Book of Mormon also gives this council. This scripture was given in connection with the reading of the Book of Mormon, but it's council is applicable to every facet of our life.

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.
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 10:3-5

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Profile of a Prophet

I was just going to post a portion of this talk, but I was so impressed by it that I decided to post the entire talk. It was originally given at Brigham Young University on October 4, 1955

"I should like to be for a few minutes a witness in support of the proposition that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in our day and that this is His Church, which was organized under His direction through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I should like to give some reasons for the faith I have and for my allegiance to the Church. Perhaps I can do this more quickly by referring to an interview I had in London, England, in 1939, just before the outbreak of [World War II]. I had met a very prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, formerly one of the justices of the Supreme Court of England. In my conversations with this gentleman on various subjects, “vexations of the soul” he called them, we talked about business and law, about politics, international relations and war, and we frequently discussed religion. He called me on the phone one day and asked if I would meet him at his office and explain some phases of the gospel. He said: “I think there is going to be a war. If there is, you will have to return to America, and we may not meet again.” His statement regarding the imminence of war and the possibility that we would not meet again proved to be prophetic. When I went to his office, he said he was intrigued by some things I had told him. He asked me to prepare a brief on Mormonism … and discuss it with him as I would discuss a legal problem.

He said: “You have told me that you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. You have said to me that you believe that God the Father and Jesus of Nazareth appeared to Joseph Smith. I cannot understand how a barrister and solicitor from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence, could accept such absurd statements. What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic, but I think you should take three days at least to prepare a brief and permit me to examine it and question you on it.”

I suggested that we proceed at once and have an examination for discovery, which is briefly a meeting of opposing sides in a lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant, with their attorneys, meet to examine each other’s claims and see if they can find some area of agreement, thus saving the time of the court later on. I said perhaps we could see whether we had some common ground from which we could discuss my “fantastic” ideas. He agreed to that quite readily.

I can only give you, in the few minutes at my disposal, a condensed and abbreviated synopsis of the three-hour conversation which followed. In the interest of time I shall resort to the question-and-answer method rather than narration. I began by asking, “May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?”

“I am.”

“I assume you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testament?”

“I do!”

“Do you believe in prayer?”

“I do!”

“You say that my belief that God spoke to a man in this age is fantastic and absurd?”

“To me, it is.”

“Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?”

“Certainly. All through the Bible we have evidence of that.”

“Did He speak to Adam?”


“To Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and on through the prophets?”

“I believe He spoke to each of them.”

“Do you believe that contact between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?”

“No, such communication reached its climax, its apex at that time.”

“Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God?”

“He was.”

“Do you believe, sir, that after Jesus was resurrected a certain lawyer, who was also a tent maker by the name of Saul of Tarsus, when on his way to Damascus, talked with Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, resurrected, and had ascended into heaven?”

“I do.”

“Whose voice did Saul hear?”

“It was the voice of Jesus Christ, for He so introduced Himself.”

“Then, … I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to man.”

“I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.”

“Why do you think it stopped?”

“I can’t say.”

“You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?”

“I am sure He hasn’t.”

“There must be a reason; can you give me a reason?”

“I do not know.”

“May I suggest some possible reasons: perhaps God does not speak to man anymore because He cannot. He has lost the power.”

He said, “Of course that would be blasphemous.”

“Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps He doesn’t speak to men because He doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.”

“No,” he said, “God loves all men, and He is no respecter of persons.”

“Well, then, if He could speak and if He loves us, then the only other possible answer, as I see it, is that we don’t need Him. We have made such rapid strides in science, we are so well educated, that we don’t need God anymore.”

And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war: “Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why He doesn’t speak.”

My answer was: “He does speak. He has spoken, but men need faith to hear Him.”

Then we proceeded to prepare what I may call a “profile of a prophet.” … We agreed, between us, that the following characteristics should distinguish a man who claims to be a prophet.

A. He will boldly claim that God [has] spoken to him.

B. Any man so claiming would be a dignified man with a dignified message; no table-jumping, no whisperings from the dead, no clairvoyance, but an intelligent statement of truth.

C. Any man claiming to be a prophet of God would declare his message without any fear and without making any weak concessions to public opinion.

D. If he were speaking for God, he could not make concessions although what he taught would be new and contrary to the accepted teachings of the day. A prophet bears witness to what he has seen and heard and seldom tries to make a case by argument. His message and not himself is important.

E. Such a man would speak in the name of the Lord, saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” as did Moses, Joshua, and others.

F. Such a man would predict future events in the name of the Lord, and they would come to pass, as did Isaiah and Ezekiel.

G. He would have not only an important message for his time but often a message for all future time, such as Daniel, Jeremiah, and others had.

H. He would have courage and faith enough to endure persecution and to give his life, if need be, for the cause he espoused, such as Peter, Paul, and others did.

I. Such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. He would generally be rejected or persecuted by the people of his time, but later generations, the descendants of his persecutors, would build monuments in his honor.

J. He would be able to do superhuman things, things that no man could do without God’s help. The consequence or result of his message and work would be convincing evidence of his prophetic calling. “By their fruits ye shall know them” [Matt. 7:20].

K. His teachings would be in strict conformity with scripture, and his words and his writings would become scripture. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21).

Now, I have given but an outline which you can fill in and amplify and then measure and judge the Prophet Joseph Smith by the work and stature of other prophets.

As a student of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith for more than 50 years, I say to you … , by these standards Joseph Smith qualifies as a prophet of God.

I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because he talked like a prophet. He was the first man since the Apostles of Jesus Christ were slain to make the claim which prophets have always made, [namely,] that God had spoken to him. He lived and died like a prophet. I believe he was a prophet of God because he gave to this world some of the greatest of all revelations. I believe that he was a prophet of God because he predicted many things which have come to pass, things which only God could bring to pass.

John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, declared, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Rev. 19:10]. If Joseph Smith had the testimony of Jesus, he had the spirit of prophecy, and if he had the spirit of prophecy, he was a prophet. I submit to you, and I submitted to my friend, that as much as any man who ever lived he had a testimony of Jesus, for, like the Apostles of old, he saw Him and heard Him speak. He gave his life for that testimony. I challenge any man to name one who has given more evidence of the divine calling of Jesus Christ than did the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I believe the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prophet because he did many superhuman things. One was translating the Book of Mormon. Some people will not agree, but I submit to you that the Prophet Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon did a superhuman work. I ask you … to undertake to write a story on the ancient inhabitants of America. Write as he did without any source of material. Include in your story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies, and, remember, when you begin to write on visions and prophecies you must have your record agree meticulously with the Bible. You write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and, here too, you must check every statement with the scriptures or you will be proven to be a fraud. You must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything you claim He said and did and every testimony you write in your book about Him must agree absolutely with the New Testament.

I ask you, would you like to undertake such a task? I would suggest to you too that you must employ figures of speech, similes, metaphors, narrations, exposition, description, oratory, epic, lyric, logic, and parables. Undertake that, will you? I ask you to remember that the man that translated the Book of Mormon was a young man who hadn’t had the opportunity of schooling that you have had, and yet he dictated that book in just over two months and made very few, if any, corrections. For over 100 years, some of the best students and scholars of the world have been trying to prove from the Bible that the Book of Mormon is false, but not one of them has been able to prove that anything he wrote was not in strict harmony with the scriptures. …

Joseph Smith undertook and accomplished other superhuman tasks; among them I list the following: He organized the Church. (I call attention to the fact that no constitution effected by human agency has survived 100 years without modification or amendment, even the Constitution of the United States. The basic law or constitution of the Church has never been altered.) He undertook to carry the gospel message to all nations, which is a superhuman task still in progress. He undertook, by divine command, to gather thousands of people to Zion. He instituted vicarious work for the dead and built temples for that purpose. He promised that certain signs should follow the believers, and there are thousands of witnesses who certify that this promise has been fulfilled.

I said to my friend, “… I cannot understand your saying to me that my claims are fantastic. Nor can I understand why Christians who claim to believe in Christ would persecute and put to death a man whose whole purpose was to prove the truth of the things they themselves were declaring, namely, that Jesus was the Christ. I could understand them for persecuting Joseph if he had said, ‘I am Christ,’ or if he had said, ‘There is no Christ,’ or if he had said someone else is Christ. Then Christians believing in Christ would be justified in opposing him. But what he said was, ‘He whom ye claim to serve, declare I unto you. … I testify that I saw Him and talked with Him. He is the Son of God. Why persecute me for that?’ ” …

Perhaps some of you are wondering how the judge reacted to our discussion. He sat and listened intently; he then asked some very pointed and searching questions, and at the end of the period he said: “Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?” He said, “If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ.”

This was a judge speaking, a great statesman, an intelligent man. He threw out the challenge: “Do you appreciate the import of what you say?” He added: “I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,” he said, and he wept as he said it, “that some man could appear on earth and authoritatively say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ ”

As I intimated, we did not meet again. I have brought to you very briefly some of the reasons why I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. But undergirding and overarching all that, I say to you from the very center of my heart that by the revelations of the Holy Ghost I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. While these evidences and many others that could be cited may have the effect of giving one an intellectual conviction, only by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit can one come to know the things of God. By those whisperings I say I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I thank God for that knowledge.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Messages: Video Version

This video has excerpts from the talk printed below. Elder Holland is one of the twelve apostles. This message reminds us of the great gifts the Savior has given us.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Message

None Were with Him: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

April General Conference, 2009

Brothers and sisters, my Easter-season message today is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned. These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost—or have never been blessed with—children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents—or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives.

To all such, I speak of the loneliest journey ever made and the unending blessings it brought to all in the human family. I speak of the Savior’s solitary task of shouldering alone the burden of our salvation. Rightly He would say: “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me. . . . I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold [me].”1

As President Uchtdorf so beautifully noted earlier, we know from scripture that Jesus’s messianic arrival in Jerusalem on the Sunday preceding Passover, a day directly analogous to this very morning, was a great public moment. But eagerness to continue walking with Him would quickly begin to wane.

Soon enough He was arraigned before the Israelite leaders of the day—first Annas, the former high priest, then Caiaphas, the current high priest. In their rush to judgment these men and their councils declared their verdict quickly and angrily. “What further need have we of witnesses?” they cried. “He is [worthy] of death.”2

With that He was brought before the gentile rulers in the land. Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, interrogated Him once, and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, did so twice, the second time declaring to the crowd, “I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man.”3 Then, in an act as unconscionable as it was illogical, Pilate “scourged Jesus, [and] delivered him to be crucified.”4 Pilate’s freshly washed hands could not have been more stained or more unclean.

Such ecclesiastical and political rejection became more personal when the citizenry in the street turned against Jesus as well. It is one of the ironies of history that sitting with Jesus in prison was a real blasphemer, a murderer and revolutionary known as Barabbas, a name or title in Aramaic meaning “son of the father.”5 Free to release one prisoner in the spirit of the Passover tradition, Pilate asked the people, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” They said, “Barabbas.”6 So one godless “son of the father” was set free while a truly divine Son of His Heavenly Father moved on to crucifixion.

This was also a telling time among those who knew Jesus more personally. The most difficult to understand in this group is Judas Iscariot. We know the divine plan required Jesus to be crucified, but it is wrenching to think that one of His special witnesses who sat at His feet, heard Him pray, watched Him heal, and felt His touch could betray Him and all that He was for 30 pieces of silver. Never in the history of this world has so little money purchased so much infamy. We are not the ones to judge Judas’s fate, but Jesus said of His betrayer, “Good [were it] for that man if he had not been born.”7

Of course others among the believers had their difficult moments as well. Following the Last Supper, Jesus left Peter, James, and John to wait while He ventured into the Garden of Gethsemane alone. Falling on His face in prayer, “sorrowful . . . unto death,”8 the record says, His sweat came as great drops of blood9 as He pled with the Father to let this crushing, brutal cup pass from Him. But, of course, it could not pass. Returning from such anguished prayer He found His three chief disciples asleep, prompting Him to ask, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?”10 So it happens two more times until on His third return He says compassionately, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,”11 though there would be no rest for Him.

Later, after Jesus’s arrest and appearance at trial, Peter, accused of knowing Jesus and being one of His confidants, denies that accusation not once but three times. We don’t know all that was going on here, nor do we know of protective counsel which the Savior may have given to His Apostles privately,12 but we do know Jesus was aware that even these precious ones would not stand with Him in the end, and He had warned Peter accordingly.13 Then, with the crowing of the cock, “the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord. . . . And [he] went out, and wept bitterly.”14

Thus, of divine necessity, the supporting circle around Jesus gets smaller and smaller and smaller, giving significance to Matthew’s words: “All the disciples [left] him, and fled.”15 Peter stayed near enough to be recognized and confronted. John stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus’s mother. Especially and always the blessed women in the Savior’s life stayed as close to Him as they could. But essentially His lonely journey back to His Father continued without comfort or companionship.

Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”16

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?17

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.”18 Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”19

Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”20

My other plea at Easter time is that these scenes of Christ’s lonely sacrifice, laced with moments of denial and abandonment and, at least once, outright betrayal, must never be reenacted by us. He has walked alone once. Now, may I ask that never again will He have to confront sin without our aid and assistance, that never again will He find only unresponsive onlookers when He sees you and me along His Via Dolorosa in our present day. As we approach this holy week—Passover Thursday with its Paschal Lamb, atoning Friday with its cross, Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb—may we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear. This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,”21 for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Isaiah 63:3, 5; see also D&C 76:107; 88:106; 133:50.
2. Matthew 26:65–66; see footnote 66b.
3. Luke 23:14.
4. Matthew 27:26.
5. See Bible Dictionary, “Barabbas,” 619.
6. Matthew 27:21.
7. Matthew 26:24.
8. Matthew 26:38.
9. See Luke 22:44; Mosiah 3:7; D&C 19:18.
10. Matthew 26:40.
11. Matthew 26:45.
12. See Spencer W. Kimball, Peter, My Brother, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year (July 13, 1971), 5.
13. See Mark 14:27–31.
14. Luke 22:61–62.
15. Matthew 26:56.
16. Matthew 27:46; emphasis added.
17. John 16:32; 8:29.
18. See John 19:30.
19. Luke 23:46.
20. John 14:18, 23.
21. Mosiah 18:9.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quote of the Day: Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder L. Tom Perry

“Do not underestimate the Lord’s power and his willingness to bless your lives. . . . He has instructional designs and learning theories that the world’s educational psychologists haven’t even imagined yet” (Enter to Learn—Go Forth to Serve [CES fireside for young adults, Mar. 5, 1995], 3).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The War We Are Winning: Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

These are exerpts from a talk given by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley.

Gordon B. Hinckley, "The War We Are Winning," Ensign, Nov. 1986, 42

"I noted in the public press the other day that the war between Iran and Iraq has gone on for seven years. No one can ever estimate the terrible suffering incident to that conflict. Lives numbered in the tens of thousands have been lost. The terrible wounds of war have left bodies maimed and minds destroyed. Families have been left without fathers. Young boys who have been recruited as soldiers have, in many instances, died while those yet alive have had woven into the very fabric of their natures elements of hatred which will never leave them. The treasure of the involved nations has been wasted and will never be recovered.
To us who look upon it from afar it seems so unnecessary and such a terrible waste of human life and national resources. Seven years is a long time. "Will it ever end?" we ask.
But there is another war that has gone on since before the world was created and which is likely to continue for a long time yet to come. John the Revelator speaks of that struggle:
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
"And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:79).
That war, so bitter, so intense, has gone on, and it has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They've indulged in lying and deceit. They've employed money and wealth. They've tricked the minds of men. They've murdered and destroyed and engaged in every other unholy and impure practice to thwart the work of Christ."

..."But the adversary has never stopped trying. Ninety years ago, in the October conference of 1896, President Wilford Woodruff, then an aged man, standing where I stand in this Tabernacle, said:

“There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it” (Deseret Evening News, 17 Oct. 1896)."

..."Brethren, the war goes on. It is as it was in the beginning. There may not be the intensity, and I am grateful for that. But the principles at issue are the same. The victims who fall are as precious as those who have fallen in the past. It is an ongoing battle. We of the priesthood are all part of the army of the Lord. We must be united. An army that is disorganized will not be victorious. It is imperative that we close ranks, that we march together as one. We cannot have division among us and expect victory. We cannot have disloyalty and expect unity. We cannot be unclean and expect the help of the Almighty."
Shall we not also in faith move forward? He who is our eternal leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, has challenged us in words of revelation. Said He:

“Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day. …

“Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you;

“Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, … and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also” (D&C 27:15–18).

The war goes on. It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it—men and boys, each of us. We are winning, and the future never looked brighter.

God bless us, my beloved brethren of the priesthood, in the work that is so clearly laid out before us. May we be faithful. May we be valiant. May we have the courage to be true to the trust God has placed in each of us. May we be unafraid. “For [to quote the words of Paul to Timothy] God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:7–8).


Quote of the Day: Elder Henry B. Eyring

Elder Henry B. Eyring

“The real life we’re preparing for is eternal”

(Education for Real Life [CES fireside for young adults, May 6, 2001], 5).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Words of Modern Day Apostles and Prophets: Boyd K. Packer

"A few weeks ago I was returning from the East with President Hinckley. We conversed with a passenger who said something to the effect that all churches lead to heaven. How often have you heard that—the parallel path to heaven philosophy?
They claim one church is not really better than another, just different. Eventually the paths will converge. One is, therefore, quite as safe in any church as in any other.

While this seems to be very generous, it just cannot be true.

I find it so interesting that those who condemn us reject the parallel path philosophy themselves when it comes to non-Christian religions.
For if they do not, they have no reason to accept the Lord as our Redeemer or regard the Atonement as essential. And what could they do with his statement that "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned"? (Mark 16:16.)

While the converging path idea is very appealing, it really is not reasonable.
Suppose schools were operated on that philosophy, with each discipline a separate path leading to the same diploma. No matter whether you study or not, pass the tests or not, all would be given the same diploma—the one of their choice.
Without qualifying, one could choose the diploma of an attorney, an engineer, a medical doctor.

Surely you would not submit yourself to surgery under the hands of a graduate of that kind of school!

But it does not work that way. It cannot work that way—not in education, not in spiritual matters. There are essential ordinances just as there are required courses. There are prescribed standards of worthiness. If we resist them, avoid them, or fail them, we will not enter in with those who complete the course."
Boyd K. Packer, "The Only True Church," Ensign, Nov 1985, 80

Saturday, April 4, 2009

179th Annual General Conference

The 179th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be held this weekend. Sessions will be broadcast at 10:00 a.m. mountain time (9:00 a.m. pacific), and 2:00 p.m. mountain time (1:00 p.m. pacific). These broadcasts will be shown on both Saturday and Sunday, and last two hours each. To view these online, click here. To watch on satellite, find the BYU tv channel.

For members of the church, this is a great opportunity to listen to the counsel of our apostles and prophets. We look forward to the messages they will give to us. I hope that if you have time, you will listen to one or more of the sessions. A special treat is also the chance to hear the Mormon Tabernacle choir, as well as other choirs perform.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009