Monday, August 31, 2009

Quote of the Day: Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ ( D&C 84:85 ), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7 ).

Home and Visiting Teaching: Feeding the Savior's Sheep

The Savior asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter's reply was, "Yea Lord, Thou knowest I love Thee." The Savior replied, "Feed my sheep". As we know, the Lord wasn't speaking about actual animals, but His people. In the church today, there are many ways we "feed" His people, but one of the most important ways is through the programs of Home and Visiting teaching.

Home teaching is a program of the Priesthood. Each active Priesthood quorum member is assigned a group of families to visit each month. He and another Priesthood holder companion schedule a time when they can meet with the families in their homes. During their visit, they share a message, and assess the needs of the family. If there are any needs that the church can help with, this information is passed on to the Quorum president, who can then arrange the needed help.

Visiting teaching is a program of the Relief Society; the women's organization. Just as with "Home Teaching", visiting teachers are assigned a list of sisters to visit on a monthly basis. They also share a message and assess the needs of the women. If help is needed, the Relief Society or Priesthood organizations can offer any needed service.

I have been on both ends of the Visiting and Home Teaching service. As a visiting teacher, I have had opportunities to provide service to women who were ill or needy. As a sister in the gospel, I have too been visited and blessed by my visiting teachers. Similarly, my family has been blessed by those who have "Home taught" us.

The greatness of these two programs is that through them we can be the eyes and ears of the Bishop. Often the Bishop does not have the time to visit every home, and assess the needs of every member. Home and visiting teachers can be made aware of needs during their visits that may otherwise go undetected. In this way we truly can become our "brother's keeper". We can also spiritually uplift and strengthen them through gospel discussions with them. We can show our love to the Lord by feeding His sheep.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quote of the Day: Hugh B. Brown

President Hugh B. Brown:

“The leaders of the Church have, from the beginning, taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we acknowledge him as our Savior and Redeemer. It is our duty to teach this to our children ... and, because they are children of God, [to] teach them to be loyal to the royal spirit that is in them” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1966, 104).

image found here

They Shall Become One in Thine Hand

Ezekiel 37:16-17

16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.

Miracles Don't Convert

Have you ever seen a miracle? Would seeing a miracle persuade you to believe in God? I have a friend who does not believe in God, who is sure that if he saw a miracle, he would then believe. I told him I felt that seeing a miracle would not convert him, because he would find a way to explain away what had happened. He said, "No, if a hand snatched me from a burning car, then I would believe that God exists." I replied that I thought he would find a way to explain away the experience. He might say, "I was so delirious with fear that I imagined a hand snatched me out of the car." Or he might come to believe that it was a passerby, but in his frenzied state he imagined it was God. If we look at the children of Israel for an example, we see that indeed, miracles do not have a converting effect. They actually saw the Red Sea parted. They personally walked through on dry ground. They ate manna that was provided by God. But still, they made a golden calf and worshipped it. In modern day scriptures we read,
"7 And he that seeketh signs shall see signs, but not unto salvation.
8 Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;
9 But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe."
(D.& C. 63:7-9)

I have faith in God. That faith has come from years of exerting faith, praying, and having prayers answered. If I saw a miracle today, it would work to strengthen my faith, not create it.

A good example of this principle is the testimony of 3, and the testimony of 8 witnesses concerning the gold plates which Joseph Smith translated. Both of these groups of men were given the privilege of seeing, and touching the gold plates. Both groups wrote up a declaration and signed their names to attest that they had seen and touched them. You can read the testimonies of the 3 by clicking here and the testimonies of the 8 by clicking here.

Would reading those testimonies convert you to the fact that the golden plates existed and were translated by Joseph Smith? I doubt it. People will find a way to explain away those testimonies. Even in the Christian world, there are those who explain away the occurances of the Bible to make their beliefs consistent with science. Even if the miracle occurred to them personally, they would find a way to explain it away as delirium, or confusion, rather than believe, if they did not already have sufficient faith.

The real determinant of conversion is the spirit, and our exercise of faith. Sadly, when it comes to the Book of Mormon, there are many who have already decided that it isn't true, without going through the process of truly studying it and asking God for a witness. It is the process that develops our faith in God. It is the praying, studying, and striving that helps our faith to grow. Faith is like a muscle that only grows as it is used. We don't gain faith by studying about it. And part of faith is believing that God will tell us the right answer, whether that answer is yes, or no. With God as our guide, we need not fear seeking truth.

Do miracles convert? No, but they do strengthen faith. I have already received an answer that the Book of Mormon is a true record, and is scripture. Therefore, when I read the testimonies of the witnesses, my own faith is strengthened, and I feel the spirit confirming to me that their witness is true. I encourage all to strive to communicate with God, and develop the faith necessary to believe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Paleontologist defends the Book of Mormon

By R. Scott LloydChurch News staff writer
Published: Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009

Though the Book of Mormon was never intended as a scientific texts, there are a number of items in the book that pertain to science and, hence, are subject to criticism by detractors, paleontologist Wade E. Miller noted at the conference of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.

Brother Miller, retired professor of geology and paleontology at BYU, said he was surprised to learn that apparently many thousands of people have written to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., asking whether they had information confirming or refuting the Book of Mormon. Prior to 1998, the Smithsonian's Anthropology Outreach Office would respond with a form letter of several pages purporting to refute aspects of Book of Mormon content bearing on science. A more recent response letter has been greatly shortened and toned down, and appears to back away from earlier claims, but still is not an endorsement for the Book of Mormon.

In his presentation, Brother Miller took up some of the points in the earlier letter to rebut arguments against the Book of Mormon pertaining to science.

Steel in the Book of Mormon

"All it takes to produce steel is to take iron, and with enough heat provided to that iron in the presence of charcoal, you can produce steel," Brother Miller said. He added that the technology should have been available to the Jaredites, who immigrated to the western hemisphere from the old world.

Likewise the Nephites emigrated from Jerusalem, where steel has been found from ancient times,

Brother Miller said ancient evidences of iron and steel are rare, since they rust. However, such evidence of steel manufacture among Jaredites and Nephites may yet be found, he said.

Glass in the Book of Mormon

That Smithsonian archaeologists would use glass as a criticism for the book is puzzling to Brother Miller, he said. "If they read the book carefully, they would find out it never does make a claim of having glass in the new world," he said, although he assumes the peoples probably did have it.

Windows mentioned in the Jaredite barges in the Book of Ether need not have been comprised of glass, but could have been of other materials such as mica, he said. "But where are they at this time? They are in the Old World still, Also, when the brother of Jared obtained the stones that appeared like glass, to light the barges, they were in the Old World."

Linen and Silk in the Book of Mormon

Linen is a word that can be used in both a specific and a general sense, Brother Miller said, though some LDS botanists believe flax could have been brought over for the production of linen. "But whether it's cotton or flax, they still could be calling the same thing, linen," he said.

Silk technology goes back to at latest 3000 B.C. he said. And worms closely related to the silk worm were in the New World, he said.

Food Plants in the Book of Mormon

Old World grains such as wheat and barley could have been brought over by the Jaredites and Nephites, he said. "But if they're not cultivated, if they're let go for a long time, they don't look like the cultivated plant." In any case, he said, evidence has been found in the United States relatively recently for the ancient use of barley.

"Sheum," a word that occurs in the Book of Mormon that could not have been known to Joseph Smith, was later found in the ancient Assyrian or Akkadian language to denote barley or other types of grain, he noted.

Cattle in the Book of Mormon

Archeological exploration in caves in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico have yielded remains of domesticated cattle with artifacts in some cases, and in one case even an extinct horse, Brother Miller said.

"But we have our own kinds of cattle," he noted, adding that when the Spanish explorers came, they called the native bison "cows." Some animals, such as the shrub-ox, were native to Mesoamerica but are now extinct, he said.

Swine in the Book of Mormon

The extinct peccary is a New World animal closely related to the Old World pigs, and might have been familiar to Nephites as the swine mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Brother Miller said.

Horses in the Book of Mormon

Fossils in America show that the horse was present many millions of years before it was reintroduced by Columbus in his second voyage of 1493, he said.

Brother Miller also spoke of evidence for elephant-like creatures in the New World and other animals resembling sheep and goats.

The Holy Ghost Can Lead Us To Truth

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. One of the missions of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. "And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;" Acts 15:8

Here are some more things the scriptures teach us about the Holy Ghost:

--The scriptures speak about being able to be "filled with the Holy Ghost". "And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost." Acts 13:52

--Prophecy comes from the Holy Ghost. "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 Peter 1:21

--The gift of the Holy Ghost is given by the laying on of hands.
"15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." Acts 8:15-20

--The Holy Ghost is also known as the Comforter. "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

--Some of the fruits of the spirit are: "... love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22,23

--There are many gifts of the spirit which we may develop. "7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 1 Cor. 12:7-11

If we have the spirit with us, we can discern truth from error, good from evil, righteousness from unrighteousness. But we must learn to recognize the spirit, and how it communicates with us so that we can follow his guidance. Modern day scripture gives us some guidance on how to use the spirit in discerning truth. "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 This has been a method that has helped me all of my life. What I like most about this method is that it gives us the chance to think and study for ourselves to know what is truth. Then when we ask God, He can confirm if our decision is right. The scripture goes on to tell us, "But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong..." Doctrine and covenants 9:9 I think this method is much simpler and easier than just asking an open question. It's much harder for me to discern the whisperings of the spirit if I were to ask a question like, "Which church should I join?". If, instead, I were to study about different religions, then I would have a better idea for what I felt was the right one. Then I could ask God, and if I had chosen the right one, the Spirit would confirm in my mind and heart that my decision was correct. That answer is much simpler to give, and allows me the learning process.

Another scripture that has guided me in following the spirit is this one:
"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." Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 I have had the experience many times of having not only a confirmation in my heart, but in my mind as well. That brings a surety that prompts many people to use the words, "I know..." when bearing testimony. They might say, "I know that God loves us." The may have never seen God, but the surety in their mind and heart help them to just "know".

I am thankful for the gift of the Holy Ghost, which helps me to feel in my heart, and know in my mind. I'm thankful for the direction that I have received from the Holy Ghost throughout my life. One example from my own life was when I decided to serve a mission for our church. I felt the promptings of the Spirit telling me that I should serve a mission to Chinese speaking people. When I told others about this prompting, I knew that it sounded kind of outrageous, but I couldn't deny the promptings of the Spirit. Once I had received that prompting, I had to move ahead with faith that it would happen. I was called to serve a mission in Taiwan. That experience helped me to understand how the Spirit communicates with me so that I would be able to teach others that while I was a missionary.

I am thankful for the guidance of the Spirit in my life. I am thankful to know that in this confusing world, I can seek knowledge and truth, and have it confirmed by God through the Holy Ghost.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From the LDS Newsroom: The Publicity Dilemna

I thought this press release was excellent, so wanted to share it here. The original can be found at this link.
SALT LAKE CITY 9 March 2009
Like other large faith groups, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes finds itself on the receiving end of attention from Hollywood or Broadway, television series or books, and the news media. Sometimes depictions of the Church and its people are quite accurate. Sometimes the images are false or play to stereotypes. Occasionally, they are in appallingly bad taste.
As Catholics, Jews and Muslims have known for centuries, such attention is inevitable once an institution or faith group reaches a size or prominence sufficient to attract notice. Yet Latter-day Saints – sometimes known as Mormons - still wonder whether and how they should respond when news or entertainment media insensitively trivialize or misrepresent sacred beliefs or practices.
Church members are about to face that question again. Before the first season of the HBO series Big Love aired more than two years ago, the show's creators and HBO executives assured the Church that the series wouldn't be about Mormons. However, Internet references to Big Love indicate that more and more Mormon themes are now being woven into the show and that the characters are often unsympathetic figures who come across as narrow and self-righteous. And according to TV Guide, it now seems the show's writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies.
Certainly Church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding. Last week some Church members began e-mail chains calling for cancellations of subscriptions to AOL, which, like HBO, is owned by Time Warner. Certainly such a boycott by hundreds of thousands of computer-savvy Latter-day Saints could have an economic impact on the company. Individual Latter-day Saints have the right to take such actions if they choose.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series. As Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve Apostles have both said recently, when expressing themselves in the public arena, Latter-day Saints should conduct themselves with dignity and thoughtfulness.
Not only is this the model that Jesus Christ taught and demonstrated in his own life, but it also reflects the reality of the strength and maturity of Church members today. As someone recently said, "This isn't 1830, and there aren't just six of us anymore." In other words, with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly. The Church's strength is in its faithful members in 170-plus countries, and there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church.
--During the Mitt Romney election campaign for the presidency of the United States, commentator Lawrence O'Donnell hurled abuse at the Church in a television moment that became known among many Church members as "the O'Donnell rant." Today, his statements are remembered only as a testament to intolerance and ignorance. They had no effect on the Church that can be measured.
--When the comedy writers for South Park produced a gross portrayal of Church history, individual Church members no doubt felt uncomfortable. But once again it inflicted no perceptible or lasting damage to a church that is growing by at least a quarter of a million new members every year.
--When an independent film company produced a grossly distorted version of the Mountain Meadows Massacre two years ago, the Church ignored it. Perhaps partly as a result of that refusal to engender the controversy that the producers hoped for, the movie flopped at the box office and lost millions.
--In recent months, some gay activists have barraged the media with accusations about "hateful" attitudes of Latter-day Saints in supporting Proposition 8 in California, which maintained the traditional definition of marriage. They even organized a protest march around the Salt Lake Temple. Again, the Church has refused to be goaded into a Mormons versus gays battle and has simply stated its position in tones that are reasonable and respectful. Meanwhile, missionary work and Church members in California remain as robust and vibrant as ever, and support for the Church has come from many unexpected quarters — including some former critics and other churches.
Now comes another series of Big Love, and despite earlier assurances from HBO it once again blurs the distinctions between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the show's fictional non-Mormon characters and their practices. Such things say much more about the insensitivities of writers, producers and TV executives than they say about Latter-day Saints.
If the Church allowed critics and opponents to choose the ground on which its battles are fought, it would risk being distracted from the focus and mission it has pursued successfully for nearly 180 years. Instead, the Church itself will determine its own course as it continues to preach the restored gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jesus Knows Your Pain

As I was traveling this past week, I passed a church billboard sign with these words on it:

Jesus Knows Your Pain

As I drove along, I imagined someone else reading that sign. I imagined someone who was suffering under a terrible emotional, or spiritual load. I wondered if they would believe what the sign said. Would they stop the car and venture in to the church to see if they could find relief? Would they have faith in the healing power of Jesus Christ?

The Savior really does know our pain. While in the garden of Gethsemane, He not only suffered for the sins of the world, but the troubles and pains of the world. By taking upon Him our pains, He knew better how to comfort us.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:11,12

"4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4

The healing power of the Savior is extended to all. No matter where we are in life, no matter how deep the suffering, He extends a healing hand to us.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28

You're Never Alone: Elaine S. Dalton

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quote of the Day: George Q. Cannon

No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend, by obeying His Gospel; and He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments. ["Freedom of the Saints," in Collected Discourses, comp. and ed. Brian H. Stuy, 5 vols. (Burbank, California: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987­92), 2:185; emphasis added]

The Blessings of the Temple

In the Bible we read about the temples of old. We read of Solomon's great temple, Herod's, and even a traveling tabernacle that was used by the children of Israel. The temple is the Lord's House. It is a place here on earth where He can come to dwell. In the absence of a temple, the Lord has often come to a mountain. Moses went up to the mount to converse with the Lord. In Psalms we read the question, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" (Psalms 24:3) It also gives us the answer to that question: "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." (Psalms 24:4) But what about in our day? Isaiah prophesied that we too would have a temple. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." Isaiah 2:2. I can testify that this scripture has been fulfilled.

Blessings of the temple

One of the blessings of the temple is that it is a place where we can gain further knowledge about God's plan for us. We can make sacred covenants with God. The temple is a place of learning.

Another blessing of the temple is that we can perform sacred ordinances for ourselves, and for by proxy for our deceased ancestors. The Savior said, "...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:5 In the temple, we can perform this ordinance for those who never had the chance in this life. The Bible dictionary of the LDS publication of the scriptures states: "From Adam to the time of Jesus, ordinances were performed in temples for the living only. After Jesus opened the way for the gospel to be preached in the world of spirits, ceremonial work for the dead, as well as for the living, has been done in temples on the earth by faithful members of the Church." (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

One of the great ordinances that we perform in the temple is eternal marriage, and the sealing of families. In most marriages on this earth, the pastor performing the marriages states, "until death do you part". But in the temple, one holding the Priesthood of God marries us for not only this life, but the life to come. In conjunction with this marriage, our children are sealed to us, so that we become an eternal family unit. The Savior gave this authority to Peter, "“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:13–19). This ordinance also can be performed for those who are deceased.

Another great blessing of temple worship is that when we enter the holy temples of God we can feel the peace that distills upon that sacred edifice. The temple is a place to escape from wordly influences. It is a place to rest and feel the influence of the Spirit. "15 And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it; 16 Yea, and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God." Doctrine and Covenants 97:15,16

Only members of the church who are in good standing are permitted to enter the temple. The blessings of the temple are extended to all, but are conditioned upon faithfulness and worthiness. But even those who are not members of the church can visit the visitor's center and the temple grounds. Even outside the temple, on the temple grounds, the peace of the spirit can be felt. Inside the visitor's center at the Salt Lake and Oakland temples are replicate statues of the "Christus" by Thorvaldson. Visitors can contemplate the sacrifice of our Savior while viewing this great statue. Missionaries also can give special presentations to help visitors better understand the mission of the Savior, and the plan of salvation.

I invite all to come to the temple. If you are a member, I invite you to come and remember your covenants, and feel of the peace of the spirit. If you are a non-member, I invite you to come and feel of the spirit that is present on the grounds and in the visitor's center.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Vision of LDS Youth Today

This is an interesting video that portrays the struggle that many LDS youth have in keeping their LDS standards when confronted with the temptations and struggles of this generation.

The video mentions the "For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet" This pamphlet is given to our youth to teach them the standards the Lord has set for them. If you are interested in reading those standards, you can click HERE to read the pamphlet online.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book of Mormon Sampler: 1 Nephi 19:23

23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Golden Plates

After Joseph Smith's first vision, there followed a number of years wherein he didn't have any more communication from God by way of vision. He began to wonder if his weaknesses of character had somehow made him unworthy of further communication from God. One night he prayed to God and hoped to know his standing with Him.

While he was praying, a light appeared in his room which continued to grow in brightness until, as Joseph described, it was above the brightness of the sun at noon day. A personage appeared and called him by name. He said that he was a messenger of God, and that his name was Moroni. He then told Joseph of a book, written on gold plates, that was deposited in the ground, that contained the ancient record of the people of the Americas. He said that it contained the fulness of the gospel, as preached by the Savior to the people of the Americas, after His resurrection.

While Moroni spoke to him, Joseph had a vision, and was able to see clearly the place where the plates were hidden. He was told that in due time he would be able to get the plates, and would be the instrument in translating them and bringing them forth to the world. Later he was given the chance to see the plates. In his own words, he said, "“Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
“Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them. " (Testimony of Joseph Smith) Some years later he was allowed to remove the plates and translate them by the gift and power of God in to what we now know as the Book of Mormon.

This story might seem incredible to some people at first glance. Some of the people of Joseph Smith's time did not believe that God would bring forth more scripture. Some of the people believed he had the gold plates, and endeavored to steal them from him. God had warned Joseph that he should do all he could to preserve and protect the plates, and that if he did his best, they would be protected so that he could translate them. But is it incredible to believe that the ancient people of America would have kept their records on plates of gold? We know that gold was in abundance when the Spaniards first came to the Americas. Some time back I posted a link to an article about some gold plates that were found in Bulgaria.

Some years ago, my husband bought me a 24 carat gold ring from Taiwan. It is so soft that it was made to be expandable. Gold would have been a perfect metal to write upon because of it's softness, but lasting durability. It is possible that not all of the records that were kept were written on gold plates. Some may have been kept on other metals. But this particular record was an abridgement of many records kept by ancient american prophets. It contained the more "precious parts" of those other records. It's compiler was a prophet named Mormon. Because this record was compiled by Mormon, it is known as the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith gave this further description of the plates: "These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold; each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called ‘Urim and Thummim,’ which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God." (Chapter 38: The Wentworth Letter,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),435–47)

The main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to act as a second witness of the Savior Jesus Christ. It tells of His visit to the Americas, to His "other sheep" after his death and resurrection. It helps to restore some truths lost from the Bible during translation. It contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After Joseph Smith was finished translating the gold plates, the Angel Moroni returned and took the plates back. I have talked to some people who had said that if they could only see the plates for themselves, then they would believe. But God knows that miracles do not convert, nor does proof. Even if we had the gold plates on display in the church museum, people would just say that they were made by a modern man. In addition, people would do all they could to steal them. A true testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon comes only after careful study and prayer to God.

As I read and study the Book of Mormon, I find great power in the testimonies about Jesus Christ that are contained therein. Regular, prayerful study of the Book of Mormon can bring great spirit and power in to our lives. I encourage all to take the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon. I have included some links on the side of this blog for how to obtain a free copy, or to read the Book of Mormon online. I encourage all to study the Book of Mormon along side the Bible, and feel the power of these dual witnesses.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do Mormons Have a Cult Religion?

I read an excellent article on the Mormon Insights' blog about this subject. This is the kind of article I wish I would have written! I hope you will take some time to read the article. You can view it by clicking here.

LDS Missionaries

When I was a missionary in Taiwan, the young men missionaries (Elders) rode big tall bikes with yellow signs on the side. The signs said, "Who are we?" in chinese. While they became a common sight in Taiwan, people throughout the world still wonder who they are.

You could recognize an LDS missionary by their clothing; white shirt and tie for men, dresses or skirts for women. But missionaries from other churches also dress this way. LDS missionaries also wear a nametag with the name of the church inscribed, as well as their own name. The young men are ordained as "Elders" in the Priesthood, and go by the title "Elder" while serving as missionaries. You will notice on their nametag that it says something like "Elder Smith". The young women go by the title "Sister", therefore you will see their nametag says something like "Sister Jones".

Here are some frequently asked questions::

"How long do missionaries serve?"
Young men serve for 24 months. Young women serve for 18 months.

"Do all church members have to serve a mission?"
Anyone wishing to serve a mission must first meet the worthiness requirements. Young men are specifically asked to serve missions out of Priesthood duty, although it is still their own choice. Young women may serve if they choose, but they are not specifically asked to serve. In addition, retired couples may volunteer to serve.

"How old are missionaries?"
Elders can begin their service from the ages of 19 to 25. Sisters must be at least 21 to serve.

"What do missionaries do on a daily basis?"
Missionaries focus the bulk of their time on finding people to teach. They also spend time volunteering service, and in personal preparation; including scripture study.

"Do missionaries choose where they will serve?"
Missionaries do not choose where they will serve. The Church mission department assigns missionaries based on need, and on inspiration.

"How much do missionaries get paid?"
Missionary service is volunteer. Missionaries do not get paid for their service, and are self supported. Usually their families help support their financial needs.

"Can missionaries date?"
The service of a missionary is a time to focus solely on missionary service. Missionaries do not date during their time of service, neither do they marry during that time. They also do not attend college, nor do they have employment. As soon as they finish their service, and return home, they can resume normal activities such as dating.

"What can I expect from a visit with the missionaries?"
The missionaries will teach basic gospel doctrine such as the nature of God, the Plan of Salvation, including the role of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the gospel. They usually will encourage people to read the Book of Mormon and pray to God to know if it is true. They encourage them to also pray about the other things they teach. Those who are interested in learning more may desire to set up further teaching appointments.

One of the important characteristics of our church is the uniformity of doctrine and organization throughout the world. No matter where you go in the world, the missionaries will teach the same lessons and doctrine. Every congregation will follow the same pattern of worship, and teach the same doctrine. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to invite the missionaries; servants of God, in to your home to discuss the gospel. I think you will find that it is a spiritually uplifting experience.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Book of Mormon Testifies of Jesus Christ

Just a few scriptures from the Book of Mormon that testify of Jesus Christ:

2 Nephi 25:26
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
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.
Mormon 9: 12, 13
12 Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.
13 And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yea, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall be awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall come forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from this eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death.
Moroni 10:32, 33
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Mosiah 3:8
8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
2 Nephi 31:20,21

20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.