Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chat With A Missionary Online

I found this interesting feature on the church website. ( They have a live chat so that you can ask questions of missionaries.

Click here to register and begin chatting.

I think some people are afraid to talk to the missionaries because they think they will be forced to make a commitment of some kind. This chat does not require you to make any commitments, and you can find answers to your questions live. Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Prayer for the Nations of the Earth

Last October, in our General Conference, Pres. Thomas S. Monson made this plea:

"Brothers and sisters, our missionary force, serving throughout the world, continues to seek out those who are searching for the truths which are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is steadily growing; it has since its organization over 178 years ago.

It has been my privilege during the past six months to meet with leaders of countries and with representatives of governments. Those with whom I’ve met feel kindly toward the Church and our members, and they have been cooperative and accommodating. There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over 32 years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas, that we might share with them the joy of the gospel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray with faith." Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 4–6

Having served a mission in Taiwan, I consider myself a China missionary. I hope you will join me in praying for the countries of the world, including, and maybe even especially China, to open to freedom of religion and freedom to proselyte so that the gospel of Jesus Christ may be freely preached there.

My husband and I were both Taiwan missionaries. This is a picture taken at the 50th anniversary of LDS missionaries in Taiwan. Behind us is a picture of the first missionaries sent.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Lead Kindly Light: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Some years ago I read that this hymn was a favorite of Chiang Kai Shek. It's one of my favorites too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mormon Pioneers

As I mentioned before, July 24th is celebrated in Utah as "Pioneer Day". It is a time for us to remember our ancestors who were faithful and who perservered despite hardship, death, illness, persecution, and inclimate conditions. This video clip is special to me for a couple of reasons. I want you to listen closely to this story because it tells of three young men who sacrificed to save some pioneers who were caught at the wrong time of year at the frozen Sweetwater River, and were too tired, and frozen to ford it. One of those young men was my great great grandfather. He helped to carry those men and women across the water so that they could be saved by the waiting rescue party and taken on to the Salt Lake Valley. But he is not my only pioneer ancestor, nor is he the only one who sacrificed. I estimate that approximately 30 of my ancestors were part of those pioneer companies that came West with Brigham Young. They came because they had been persecuted for their religious beliefs back East, and hoped to find religious freedom in the West. They came because a Prophet of God saw in vision the place where they would ultimately live, and proclaimed, "This is the place" when they arrived. They were truly led to a promised land where they were able to make the desert blossom as a rose. And like Moses of old, the Prophet Brigham Young followed the spirit to lead these modern day children to a land with it's own "Dead Sea", or the great Salt Lake. The saints did find the place, "...which God for us prepared...".

What made my ancestors great wasn't pure chance that made them members of the church during that monumental time in history. What made them great was the faith that they exhibited in following a Prophet of God. Today we have our own challenges, and can be pioneers in our own way. I hope that in some small way, I have inherited their determination and faithfulness so that I too can leave a legacy for my descendants.

The Joy of the Sabbath; A Day of Rest

"11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20:11

The practice of observing the Sabbath seems to be dwindling in our society today. When I was a child growing up in Texas, there were "Blue Laws" that regulated what kind of businesses could be open on Sunday, and also prohibited employers from penalizing employees who, for religious reasons, didn't want to work on Sunday. But most of those laws have been repealed, and many businesses get their best sales on Sunday. Truly, Sabbath observance has changed.

I have found many blessings from observing the Sabbath. In our church, oberving the Sabbath has many meanings. First and foremost, for us obeserving the Sabbath means to go to church and renew our covenants by taking the sacrament. This sacred opporunity helps us to focus on how we are doing in keeping the covenants we made at baptism. It also helps us to remember the sacrfices the Lord made for us.

In Latter-day revelation we are told, "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;" Doctrine and Covenants 59:9 What I love about this scripture is that it plainly tells us that if we want to keep ourselves spiritually healthy, and unspotted from the evils of the world, an important way to do this is by observing the Sabbath, and partaking of the sacrament on that day. My goal in observing the Sabbath is to take myself out of the world and focus on spiritual things.

Here are some things I have found helpful in observing the Sabbath, and taking myself out of the world.

--I don't shop or frequent other businesses on the Sabbath
--In addition, we do not eat out on Sundays. I don't want to make someone else work on the Sabbath.
--I don't attend other community events or sporting events on the Sabbath, but instead try to focus more on spiritual activities.
--I don't clean house on the Sabbath. Sunday is my day of rest.
--In our home we have chosen to keep the television and radio turned off on Sunday, except for religious broadcasting.
--In our employment, we don't work on the Sabbath. We recognize, however, that there are some jobs that must be done on Sunday such as medical care, or police work. As I have kept this goal in my life, the Lord has blessed me with employment that didn't require me to work on Sunday.
--I do feel that visiting the sick or others who need friendship is good to do on the Sabbath
--Sundays are a good day to write in journals, study the scriptures, or write letters to loved ones.
--Attending church meetings helps me to not only renew my covenants, but to also fellowship with people who have the same beliefs as me.

My main focus in observing the Sabbath is to try to take myself, and my family out of the world. I remember when I was a missionary in the missionary training center in Provo, Utah many years ago. One day a week we were given free time to take care of personal matters such as shopping and laundry. On that day, my companion and I sometimes went to the mall to shop for last minute items before leaving the country, and to get out and enjoy window shopping. After being in the missionary training environment for the entire week, I was so shocked at the barrage of merchandising in the mall. I could really feel the worldliness of it, and realized that most of us become desensitized to it all and find it normal when we live with it on a daily basis. I have found that taking just one day a week on Sunday to take myself out of that worldliness helps me to keep from getting to caught up in the ways of the world.

I do believe that in some ways Sabbath observance begins on Saturday. That is the day that I prepare for the Sabbath. I plan ahead what we will eat so that I can buy the necessary ingredients before Sunday. We fill up our car with gas so that we won't be forced to fill it on the Sabbath. It does take a little planning, but we have felt the blessings of taking ourselves out of the world one day a week. It truly has become a day of rest, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. President Brigham Young said this of why we observe the Sabbath: “To keep us in remembrance of our God and our holy religion. … We are so liable to forget—so prone to wander, that we need to have the Gospel sounded in our ears as much as once, twice, or thrice a week, or, behold, we will turn again to our idols” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 165).

Elder Charles Didier said, "Now is the time to ask ourselves: Is the Sabbath a holy day or a holiday? Shall I worship Him or worship pleasure or work?" Charles Didier, “The Sabbath—Holy Day or Holiday?,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 26

I have a true testimony of the observance of the Sabbath day. I have seen the blessings in my life. The scriptures also promise many blessings that will come as we keep the Sabbath day holy:

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Isa. 58:13–14).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Temple Visitor's Centers

Most of the larger temples in the United States have a visitor's center. The visitor's centers have available reading material and information about the church, as well as videos about the gospel. The Oakland visitor's center also has a a large "Christus" Statue on display. Missionaries are on call to answer questions and make available reading material. I encourage you to stop by one of our temples and enjoy the beauty of the building, as well as the beauty of the grounds. If there is a visitor's center, please go in and enjoy some of the videos that are available. I believe you will find there a very moving spiritual experience.

God's Words Never Cease: The Bible, The Book of Mormon, and Continuing Revelation

With Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tthe Rise, Progress, Persecution, and Faith of the Latter-day Saints: The Wentworth Letter

I'm teaching a lesson this coming Sunday about the "Wentworth Letter". John Wentworth was the editor of the Chicago Democrat, and had asked the Prophet Joseph Smith to write about the church. A friend of Mr. Wentworth, George Barstow, was writing a history of New Hampshire, and Mr. Wentworth thought he might be interested in including some information about our church in his history. In the end, Mr. Barstow did not use the information, but it has been very valuable to us as members. The lesson mentions "It is an original account by Joseph Smith testifying of his sacred call from God, his visions, and his ministry and teachings. It recounts the rise and growth of the Church and the persecutions of the Saints. It contains a prophetic declaration of the Church’s future success in the earth under the protective hand of the Great Jehovah. It also contains several important details not found elsewhere in the Prophet’s teachings, including a description of the gold plates and a sketch of the contents of the Book of Mormon. Significantly, it is the first time that Joseph Smith himself published an account of his First Vision.

Concluding with the 13 declarations of Church doctrine now called the Articles of Faith, it stands as a powerful witness of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith." “Chapter 38: The Wentworth Letter,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),435–47

You can read the letter in it's entirety by clicking here, but I wanted to make a few points about it on my blog.

The letter basically outlines several events in church history:
1. The event of God the Father and Jesus Christ appearing to Joseph Smith in answer to his prayer.
2. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon which was written anciently upon gold plates and delivered to Joseph Smith by a divinely sent messenger.
3. The persecution suffered by the early church members, but also the fact that, "Although persecution may rage against the Church, nothing can stop the progress of truth."
4. 13 Articles of our faith that describe some of our basic beliefs.

As I read the letter, I couldn't help but reflect on the persecution suffered by the saints. Joseph Smith wrote,
" “On the 6th of April, 1830, the ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ was first organized in the town of Fayette, Seneca county, state of New York. Some few were called and ordained by the Spirit of revelation and prophecy, and began to preach as the Spirit gave them utterance, and though weak, yet were they strengthened by the power of God, and many were brought to repentance, were immersed in the water, and were filled with the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. They saw visions and prophesied, devils were cast out, and the sick healed by the laying on of hands. From that time the work rolled forth with astonishing rapidity, and churches were soon formed in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri; in the last named state a considerable settlement was formed in Jackson county: numbers joined the Church and we were increasing rapidly; we made large purchases of land, our farms teemed with plenty, and peace and happiness were enjoyed in our domestic circle, and throughout our neighborhood; but as we could not associate with our neighbors (who were, many of them, of the basest of men, and had fled from the face of civilized society, to the frontier country to escape the hand of justice,) in their midnight revels, their Sabbath breaking, horse racing and gambling; they commenced at first to ridicule, then to persecute, and finally an organized mob assembled and burned our houses, tarred and feathered and whipped many of our brethren, and finally, contrary to law, justice and humanity, drove them from their habitations; who, houseless and homeless, had to wander on the bleak prairies till the children left the tracks of their blood on the prairie. This took place in the month of November, and they had no other covering but the canopy of heaven, in this inclement season of the year; this proceeding was winked at by the government, and although we had warranty deeds for our land, and had violated no law, we could obtain no redress.

“There were many sick, who were thus inhumanly driven from their houses, and had to endure all this abuse and to seek homes where they could be found. The result was, that a great many of them being deprived of the comforts of life, and the necessary attendances, died; many children were left orphans, wives [were left] widows, and husbands, widowers; our farms were taken possession of by the mob, many thousands of cattle, sheep, horses and hogs were taken, and our household goods, store goods, and printing press and type were broken, taken, or otherwise destroyed.

“Many of our brethren removed to Clay county, where they continued until 1836, three years; there was no violence offered, but there were threatenings of violence. But in the summer of 1836 these threatenings began to assume a more serious form, from threats, public meetings were called, resolutions were passed, vengeance and destruction were threatened, and affairs again assumed a fearful attitude; Jackson county was a sufficient precedent, and as the authorities in that county did not interfere, they [the Clay county authorities] boasted that they would not in this; which on application to the authorities we found to be too true, and after much privation and loss of property, we were again driven from our homes.

“We next settled in Caldwell and Daviess counties, where we made large and extensive settlements, thinking to free ourselves from the power of oppression, by settling in new counties, with very few inhabitants in them; but here we were not allowed to live in peace, but in 1838 we were again attacked by mobs, an exterminating order was issued by Governor Boggs, and under the sanction of law, an organized banditti ranged through the country, robbed us of our cattle, sheep, hogs, etc., many of our people were murdered in cold blood, the chastity of our women was violated, and we were forced to sign away our property at the point of the sword; and after enduring every indignity that could be heaped upon us by an inhuman, ungodly band of marauders, from twelve to fifteen thousand souls, men, women, and children, were driven from their own firesides, and from lands to which they had warranty deeds, houseless, friendless, and homeless (in the depths of winter) to wander as exiles on the earth, or to seek an asylum in a more genial clime, and among a less barbarous people. Many sickened and died in consequence of the cold and hardships they had to endure; many wives were left widows, and children [were left] orphans, and destitute. It would take more time than is allotted me here to describe the injustice, the wrongs, the murders, the bloodshed, the theft, misery and woe that have been caused by the barbarous, inhuman, and lawless proceedings of the state of Missouri.

“In the situation before alluded to, we arrived in the state of Illinois in 1839, where we found a hospitable people and a friendly home: a people who were willing to be governed by the principles of law and humanity. We have commenced to build a city called ‘Nauvoo,’ in Hancock county. We number from six to eight thousand here, besides vast numbers in the county around, and in almost every county of the state. We have a city charter granted us, and charter for a Legion, the troops of which now number 1,500. We have also a charter for a University, for an Agricultural and Manufacturing Society, have our own laws and administrators, and possess all the privileges that other free and enlightened citizens enjoy.

“Persecution has not stopped the progress of truth, but has only added fuel to the flame, it has spread with increasing rapidity. Proud of the cause which they have espoused, and conscious of our innocence, and of the truth of their system, amidst calumny and reproach, have the Elders of this Church gone forth, and planted the Gospel in almost every state in the Union; it has penetrated our cities, it has spread over our villages, and has caused thousands of our intelligent, noble, and patriotic citizens to obey its divine mandates, and be governed by its sacred truths. It has also spread into England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, where, in the year 1840, a few of our missionaries were sent, and over five thousand joined the Standard of Truth; there are numbers now joining in every land.

“Our missionaries are going forth to different nations, and in Germany, Palestine, New Holland [Australia], the East Indies, and other places, the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done." History of the Church, 4:535–36 I particularly love this last passage, and know it to be true.

The last thing the prophet wrote about was our articles of faith. What I love about the way they were written, is that they start with the most fundamental of our beliefs, then with each successive article, they build upon that simple teaching. I do believe they give a good overview of our beliefs. I have written about the articles of faith before, but as a reminder, here they are again.
1. “We believe in God the eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2. “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
3. “We believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4. “We believe that the first principle and ordinances of the Gospel are: (1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; (2) Repentance; (3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; (4) Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5. “We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
6. “We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive Church, viz.: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.
7. “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.
8. “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.
9. “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.
10. “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
12. “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13. “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. [See Articles of Faith 1:1–13.]

I have enjoyed studying this letter because it really shows how far the church has come from it's inception. Now the church has missions and temples all over the world. We have more members outside of the United States than we do in it. We do receive some persecution today, but the church continues to move forward as Joseph Smith said, "boldly and nobly". We believe in the importance of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the earth. I have faith that God will help us to do this, even in countries that are currently not open to missionary work. I'm thankful to be part of this great work!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Come, Come Ye Saints.

July 24th is the day that we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints observe "Pioneer Day" to honor our pioneer heritage. This pioneer hymn embodies the faith that led the pioneers to the West. When we sing this song in the church today, we are reminded of their faith and sacrifice to find the place "which God prepared....where none shall come to hurt or make afraid"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Clarification of Doctrine Through the Book of Mormon

As I look at churches in the world today, I am shocked at how so many have diverged from the gospel that was taught by Jesus Christ. One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to be a second witness of Jesus Christ. It testifies that He is the son of God, and that He atoned for the sins of the world and was resurrected. But the witness of the Book of Mormon also extends to other doctrine as well. I could probably write a whole series of posts about this topic, but here are a few of the doctrines that are clarified in the Book of Mormon:


2 Nephi 9:23,24

23 And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
24 And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
3 Nephi 11:37-40
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
Mosiah 4:10
10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.
Alma 7:14
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.


2 Nephi 31:13
13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
Moroni 6:1-4
1 And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
Alma 7:15
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

Infant Baptism

Moroni 8:10-15
10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.


Alma 11:42-44
42 Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
43 The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
44 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
2 Nephi 9:6,12,22
6 For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.
12 And this death of which I have spoken, which is the spiritual death, shall deliver up its dead; which spiritual death is hell; wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel.
22 And he suffereth this that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that all might stand before him at the great and judgment day.

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 33:1,2

2 Nephi 33:1,2
1 And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
2 But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Redemption of the Dead

Recently Looney made the comment (and by the way, I appreciate the conversations I have had with Looney. He is respectful, and thinks deeply about the subjects.) that he didn't believe that the dead can repent. I understand his point of view, and in fact the Book of Mormon teaches, "32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." Alma 34:32. But is repentance after death possible? And what about those who died without a knowledge of the Savior? Are they damned? We believe that repentance after death is possible up until the time of the judgement, although more difficult for those who had a knowledge of the gospel in this life. Alma also taught, "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." Alma 34:34 If we have developed a sinful character in this life, it will be difficult to correct those character flaws in the spirit world. It is still possible, but it is easy to see why it would be difficult.
I enjoyed reading this talk by D. Todd Christofferson about the redemption of the dead. I wanted to share a few excerpts from it. But as I read, I found that many of the footnotes included some great scriptures and quotes, so have inserted some of them too as part of the text. I have included the footnotes in parenthesis.
"Christian theologians have long wrestled with the question, What is the destiny of the countless billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus? 1 (John Sanders, introduction to What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by Gabriel Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders (1995), 9. There are several theories concerning the "unevangelized" dead, ranging from an inexplicable denial of salvation, to dreams or other divine intervention at the moment of death, to salvation for all, even without faith in Christ. A few believe that souls hear of Jesus after death. None explain how to satisfy Jesus’ requirement that a man must be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:35). Lacking the knowledge once had in the early Church, these earnest seekers have been "forced to choose between a weak law that [allows] the unbaptized to enter heaven, and a cruel God who [damns] the innocent" (Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity [1987], 101).) ( I would add that not only would that be a God that allows the unbaptized, but also the unrepentant in to heaven.)
With the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has come the understanding of how the unbaptized dead are redeemed and how God can be "a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also." 2 While yet in life, Jesus prophesied that He would also preach to the dead. 3 (25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. John 5:25)
Peter tells us this happened in the interval between the Savior’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. 4 (18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;1 Peter 3:18,19)
President Joseph F. Smith witnessed in vision that the Savior visited the spirit world and "from among the righteous [spirits] … organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness. … "These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, [and] the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands." 5 (30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, D.C 138:30,33)
The principle of vicarious service should not seem strange to any Christian. In the baptism of a living person, the officiator acts, by proxy, in place of the Savior. And is it not the central tenet of our faith that Christ’s sacrifice atones for our sins by vicariously satisfying the demands of justice for us? As President Gordon B. Hinckley has expressed: "I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle." 8
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34,35)
"Doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price." 21 Our Lord "inviteth … all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." 22
It is inconceivable that this invitation, universally extended in life, would be rescinded for those who had not heard it before they died. With Paul, we are persuaded that death poses no such obstacle: "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38,39)
D. Todd Christofferson, "The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus," Liahona, Jan 2001, 10–13
I have a testimony that Christ's atonement is extended to all men, even those who have died. This is why it is referred to in the Book of Mormon as an "Infinite atonement".
9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world. Alma 34:9-12
I am thankful for the atonement of our Savior that makes salvation possible for all who have ever lived on this Earth. I am thankful that those of my ancestors who died without a knowledge of Jesus Christ, may also be saved.

Friday, July 10, 2009

LDS Newsroom

The Church website has a resource for learning about official church positions on certain topics. This is especially beneficial for news reporters who want to make sure they report our correct position on current topics. This is also a good resource for non-members who are interested to know our position on various subjects. You can click here to access the newsroom.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. Another name for the Holy Ghost is "Holy Spirit". The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. Because he does not have a physical body, he is able to communicate directly with our spirits. Part of his mission is to testify of truth. He also is the "Comforter" that Jesus spoke of when he said, "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 It is through the influence of the Holy Ghost that true conversion, and revelation come.

The scriptures speak of spiritual gifts that we all may seek. Some of the gifts mentioned in the scriptures are: prophecy, speaking in tongues, revelation, visions, healings, interpretation of tongues, discerning of spirits, wisdom, knowledge, and charity. 1 Cor. 14:12 teaches us, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." We should seek the gifts of the spirit so that we can bless the lives of others.

The term "spiritual gifts", and "Gift of the Holy Ghost" have two slightly different meanings. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is an ordinance that is bestowed upon a person after baptism, by one having the proper authority. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “There is a difference between
the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have
left him” (History of the Church, 4:555).

How does a person know if they have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost?
"President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as being neither ‘loud’ nor ‘harsh.’ It is ‘not a voice of thunder, neither . . . voice of a great tumultuous noise.’ But rather, ‘a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper,’ and it can ‘pierce even to the very soul’ and ‘cause [the heart] to burn.’ (3 Ne. 11:3; Hel. 5:30; D&C 85:6–7.) Remember, Elijah found the voice of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but was a ‘still small voice.’ (1 Kgs. 19:12.) “The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. ....“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, ‘Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.’ (1 Sam. 3:10.)” (“The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53)." (Preach my Gospel, p.96)

The Book of Mormon gives us some ways to know if what we are feeling is from the Holy Ghost.
"13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. " (Moroni 7:13,16-17)

When I feel the spirit, I usually feel it in my heart, as well as my mind. It comes as a strong assurance of the truthfulness of what I am learning about. Sometimes it also comes as a stronger, "burning in the bosom" as spoken of in the Doctrine and Covenants: "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. " (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8) However, I know that this gift is predicated upon our worthiness. If we are not living worthily, the Holy Ghost withdraws. I am so thankful for this gift in my life. It has been a guide, protection, comfort, and testifier of truth for me. I hope that I can always live worthily of this wonderful gift.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Kind of People Are Mormons?

Years ago I read a letter to the editor of a Utah newspaper that was critical of members of our church. The author devised categories for each type of Mormon. One of the types he mentioned was "genuine Mormons", and he explained that there are very few of these. His cynical view of our members was, in my opinion, very unfair. I wrote a letter in reply, and gave my own view of the kinds of members that exist in our church. I explained that in my opinion, there are only two kinds of members.

First there are those who are member in name only. Maybe they were baptized as children, but never really attended church and were not taught what we believe. This group also includes those who have no ill feelings toward the church, but who simply don't care about religion, so do not attend. These type of members exist in every church. When I was a missionary in Taiwan, I met a Catholic Priest. He told me that his biggest concern was that they had so many members who were members in name only. I was told that in the early years, the Catholic church gave free rice to new members, so many starving people joined the Catholic church for the free food. Now they have many members of record who simply don't attend. I sympathized with his situation because we too have many members of record who joined, but who were never really deeply entrenched in the gospel, so slipped away.

The Savior taught a parable about new converts to the gospel. He first taught about those who never really got a chance to be deeply converted: " ...Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away." Matthew 13:3-6 These people did not have a spiritual root that was firmly grounded in the gospel.

The Savior also spoke of those who were victims of attacks from others. "And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them." Matt. 13:7 I have a family member who fell in to this category. Not long after joining the church, he made acquaintance with anti-Mormons who were able, because of his lack of understanding of the gospel, to shake his faith. Not only did they shake his faith in this church, but in God as well. He is an old man, and has still not returned to God. These are perhaps the saddest of casualties.

The second kind of member I mentioned is the member who is trying. Some of us are "genuine". Many of us are trying to be "genuine". None of us are perfect. We all, including leaders, are human and imperfect. You will not find a perfect leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You won't find a perfect leader in any other church either. You will find many good people. But the more you get to know them, you will find that they have faults. We are all a work in progress. The gospel is for those of us who need help in overcoming our faults. The Savior said, "...They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Matthew 9:12 We are all, in a sense, spiritually sick. That is part of this mortal experience. This is why we must rely on the Savior's atonement.

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley taught, "... the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, Apr 2005, 2–6) This is our goal as members of the church. Many members are excellent examples of Christlike living. But there are many of us that are struggling and still trying to grow deep roots. If you go to Utah, you won't find perfect people. Many people I know who move there are disillusioned to find that members of our church don't always live the way they should. I think that because we have such high standards, people expect us to be perfect. But what I say to them is that it is just as difficult for us to live our religion as it would be for others. The only thing that helps us to live it well is a testimony that is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But I do believe that by and large, our members are good examples of Christlike living. I see great faith among our members. Our pioneer forefathers showed great faith in following the prophet Brigham Young to the west. I see that same pioneer blood exhibited in the faith of the members today. Once, while living in China, my family and I went to the Phillipines for a vacation. We attended church there and heard a story about the faith of the members there. One woman wanted very much to earn money to pay her way to go to the temple in Manila so that she could receive the temple ordinances there. To earn money, she took in washing. But this was a woman who did not have the use of her hands, so she washed the clothing with her feet. This is the kind of faith for which we all should strive. I know many people who have had to sacrifice for the gospel's sake. It is this sacrifice that builds the deep roots of faith in our members. In these troubled times, it is becoming increasingly important to sink our roots deep, and strive to become more Christlike so that we can have the strength to weather the storms, and so that we can qualify ourselves to return to live with God some day.

Some years ago I was talking with some missionaries of our church, and I told them that I feared that I wasn't a very good example of the gospel. My neighbors hear me occasionally yell at my children, or gossip, or say unkind things. These are weaknesses that I struggle with. I told them that I feared that because of my bad example, my neighbors who have no religion would feel that religion didn't help me become a better person, so why bother. One of the missionaries said to me, "Just ask your neighbors what kind of person you would be if you didn't have the gospel." I think that was a very wise statement. I'm not perfect by any means. I have weaknesses that I struggle to overcome. But if I did not have the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, I would be far worse off.

Mormons aren't perfect. We struggle with the same temptations and weaknesses that everyone else struggles with. But what it all comes down to is this: there really are only two types of Mormons; those who are trying, and those who aren't.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Independence day

picture from

I thought this scripture was appropriate for independence day. I think it is a good reminder that our freedoms are closely related to our obedience to God.

"10 Yea, we see that Amalickiah, because he was a man of cunning device and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake.

11 And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.

12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

13 And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—

19 And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:

20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

21 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments. "

Alma 46:10-13, 19-21

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: Alma 37:35

Alma 37:35
35 O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.

Achilles' Heel

I've been thinking about this war that we are in between good and evil. The book of Mormon teaches, "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. " 2 Nephi 2:27 Satan wants to undermine God's plan of salvation. His intent is to draw men away from Christ. He is angry that he has lost his salvation, and wants to take as many people with him as possible. "And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell. " Alma 30:60

All of us have weaknesses of some kind or another. We all have weaknesses in our beliefs. We all struggle with something in our testimony and belief. Maybe we need greater faith. Maybe we believe, but haven't mastered ourselves to put in to practice what we know. Some might struggle with lying, or backbiting. Others may be new to the faith and need more education. Whatever the personal struggle we have, we all have an achilles' heel. We all have one weak spot that is vulnerable to attack if we aren't vigilant in strengthening that thing.
The Lord knows our weaknesses. The Book of Mormon records, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. " Ether 12:27 I think anyone who has learned about the AA program will agree with this scripture. Alone we can do nothing, but with the Savior's help, we can overcome our weaknesses, and make that vulnerable place become inpenetrable.
I was thinking the other day that it would be wise for all of us to take a moment and think about our vulnerable areas. If Satan wanted to tempt us today, what area would he attack? When we recognize our weaknesses, then we are prepared to seek the Lord's help to strengthen them.