Thursday, August 26, 2010

Your Sermon

I've been reading the Doctrine and Covenants, and Church history this summer in preparation for teaching seminary this year, and I have been interested to read about the men in the early days of the church who were called to go out and preach the gospel. Specifically, many of them were counseled to preach to congregations of other churches. I think that in those days, it was common to allow visiting preachers from other churches preach, because what I have read leads me to believe that it was not an unusual occurrence. I began to wonder what it was like for these men to preach to congregations of other churches. I wondered what I myself would say if I were asked to speak to another church congregation. I went over some scriptures in my mind, and was wondering which passage would be the most important to share. I told my husband about my thoughts, and he told me that he has been reading a biography of one of those early church leaders, Parley P. Pratt.

He said that Parley P. Pratt spent much of his time preaching about the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the signs that would precede it. One of the important signs that Elder Pratt preached about was the "restoration of all things". He then would teach about Joseph Smith's vision, and testify that the ancient church had been restored to the earth through him. He would also teach about the importance of the Book of Mormon as a second witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was a very powerful missionary, and taught boldly with the spirit.

As I personally thought about what I would share, I couldn't help but think of the 13 articles of our faith. I've written about these before, but as a refresher, 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 principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, 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, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
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 (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon 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.
Joseph Smith

The wonderful thing about these articles is that they build upon each other. So if I were to speak to another congregation, I could begin with the first one, and thenafter explaining it, I would have built a foundation that allowed me to move on to the next one. This would give a great overview of our beliefs for others.

But I also couldn't help but want to share a passage from the Book of Mormon. In particular, I thought of this passage which was written before the Savior's birth. I feel like it contains the very basic doctrine of Christ's gospel, but proclaims it in a much clearer way than the Bible:

"9 But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.
10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
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.
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.
16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me. "
Alma 7:9-16

So here is a sort of challenge for you. What would you teach if you were given the chance to preach to the congregation of a church different from your own?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Test of Truth

As the values and intents of people in the world change, it becomes harder and harder for some to determine what is true. For every scripture in the Bible, there can be heard many different interpretations. Truth is eternal, but how can we identify it? The best professors of our day can logically convince us that there is no right and wrong, that there is no God. They are well learned and eloquent. They are very convincing, as evidenced by the number of students who turn from religion after attending college. So what are some traits of truth, and how can we discern it?

Truth will be consistent with God's word

One of the reasons God gives us scriptures is to help us identify truth. Some of the basic truths found in the scriptures are that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that He atoned for our sins, and was resurrected. We also learn that we too can be resurrected. If a popular theory isn't compatible with these teachings, that we can know that it isn't truth.

The Holy Ghost will lead us in to all truth

The mission of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. When we pray to God about a thing, the Holy Ghost can witness to us the truthfulness of it. If we do not have that spiritual witness, we can know that the thing isn't true. I remember when I was a missionary in Taiwan, and was teaching a teenager whose family worshipped their ancestors. In wanting to explain the influence of the Holy Ghost to them, I asked him how he felt when burning incense at the altar. I asked if he felt a warm, peaceful feeling, or a weird, scared feeling. He confirmed that he felt scared and uneasy. I explained that we pray to God, not our ancestors, and I testified to him that if he would pray to God, he could feel those peaceful feelings of surety that come to us from the Holy Ghost. Likewise, the Holy Ghost can confirm to us the truthfulness of any thing. I have often encouraged people to pay attention, as they read the Book of Mormon, to the feelings that they have. It is a common experience that they have felt the spirit confirm to them that the Book of Mormon is of God. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this counsel about how to receive a witness of the Holy Ghost: "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. 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 9:8,9 In my life, I have often had that "stupor of thought" that confirmed to me that the direction I was taking was not right. I have also had that same feeling when studying some of the popular teachings of the day. Conversely, I have often had the confirmation of the Holy Ghost that a certain decision I had made was the right one.

Truth comes by study and prayer

One of the important steps listed in the scripture above is to "study it out in your mind". God gives us free agency so that we can use the gift of intelligence and spirit that He has given us in order to find truth. He expects us to reason things out in our own mind. When we think about a theory, then come to our own decision, it is easy for the Holy Ghost to either confirm our decision, or to leave us without that confirmation. But if we have not studied it out in our mind, then we are asking God to make the decision for us. That takes away our free agency. This life is a test to see if we will obey God's commandments. Part of the learning we receive in this life comes from the inner strugglings of our search for truth. It is in our yearning, study, and pondering that we develop faith. If God gave us the answers to our prayers without requiring us to ponder, He would be depriving us of the learning process. Therefore we must use our minds and hearts to meditate and ponder upon the teachings that are presented to us. Then we must pray in faith, believing that God can reveal the truth of it to us.

We must seek truth with real intent

The Book of Mormon gives this counsel about seeking truth:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." Moroni 10:4-5 This scripture was given specifically with the Book of Mormon in mind, but can be applied to all of our efforts to seek truth. One of the key elements of this scripture is found in the phrase, "ask with a sincere heart, with real intent". I have met many people over the years who decided before hearing what our church teaches, that it cannot be true. They closed their minds to the possibility that it could be true. They have not used their free agency to study the thing out in their mind. How can the Holy Ghost confirm the truthfulness to them if they have not asked with real intent? There are also those who made up their mind before reading the Book of Mormon that it could not be true. They closed their mind before even reading it. Then when they did read it, they did so with an intent to prove it wrong, not to find out if it were true. I wonder what they would think of a person who did the same with the Bible. Perhaps they are afraid that it really is true, and that they might have to change their view of things? We need not fear truth. Truth will lead us to God.
Lastly, we would also do well to follow the advice of the prophet Moroni who was one of the last writers of the Book of Mormon,

“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

“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.

“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moro. 7:12–14).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Truth Eternal

One of our Latter-day hymns asks the question, "Oh say, what is truth?" The hymn goes on to testify:

3. The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.

4. Then say, what is truth? ’Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

Truth is eternal

The very nature of truth is that it is eternal. What was true for Adam will also be true for us today. We do not need to change our beliefs to accommodate political correctness, or fads of the day. A teacher in church shared with us an article that she came across in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity". The author talks about how some churches, in an effort to draw the younger generation to their congregations, have modified their worship, and in some cases even their doctrine. For generations of time, prophets of old preserved truth, unaltered. But as the human race turns more and more from God, we find them changing doctrine. President John Taylor, third president of the church, said, "One great reason why men have stumbled so frequently in many of their researches after philosophical truth is that they have sought them with their own wisdom, and gloried in their own intelligence, and have not sought unto God for that wisdom that fills and governs the universe and regulates all things. That is one great difficulty with the philosophers of the world, as it now exists, that man claims to himself to be the inventor of everything he discovers. Any new law and principle which he happens to discover he claims to himself instead of giving glory to God....If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it; I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it; whether it is popular or unpopular, truth, eternal truth, I wish to float in and enjoy. (John Taylor The Gospel Kingdom, 47)

The Scriptures Can Help Us Discover Truth

One of the ways that we can distinguish truth is by following the teachings of the scriptures. Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, "God uses scripture to unmask erroneous thinking, false traditions, and sin with its devastating effects. He is a tender parent who would spare us needless suffering and grief and at the same time help us realize our divine potential. The scriptures, for example, discredit an ancient philosophy that has come back into vogue in our day—the philosophy of Korihor that there are no absolute moral standards, that “every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime” and “that when a man [is] dead, that [is] the end thereof” (Alma 30:17–18). Alma, who had dealt with Korihor, did not leave his own son Corianton in doubt about the reality and substance of a divine moral code. Corianton had been guilty of sexual sin, and his father spoke to him in love but plainly: “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?” (Alma 39:5).

In a complete reversal from a century ago, many today would dispute with Alma about the seriousness of immorality. Others would argue that it’s all relative or that God’s love is permissive. If there is a God, they say, He excuses all sins and misdeeds because of His love for us—there is no need for repentance. Or at most, a simple confession will do. They have imagined a Jesus who wants people to work for social justice but who makes no demands upon their personal life and behavior.2But a God of love does not leave us to learn by sad experience that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10; see also Helaman 13:38). His commandments are the voice of reality and our protection against self-inflicted pain. The scriptures are the touchstone for measuring correctness and truth, and they are clear that real happiness lies not in denying the justice of God or trying to circumvent the consequences of sin but in repentance and forgiveness through the atoning grace of the Son of God (see Alma 42). (D.Todd Christofferson, “The Blessing of Scripture,” Liahona, May 2010, 32–35)

We Should Not Fear Truth

Remnants of the truth can be found in all civilizations, although they may not have a fulness of the truth. But we can accept truth no matter from what source it comes. If the spirit confirms that a thing is true, we need not fear, but be believing. Pres. John Taylor said, "In regard to our religion, I will say that it embraces every principle of truth and intelligence pertaining to us as moral, intellectual, mortal and immortal beings, pertaining to this world and the world that is to come. We are open to truth of every kind, no matter whence it comes, where it originates, or who believes in it. Truth, when preceded by the little word “all,” comprises everything that has ever existed or that ever will exist and be known by and among men in time and through the endless ages of eternity. And it is the duty of all intelligent beings who are responsible and amenable to God for their acts, to search after truth, and to permit it to influence them and their acts and general course in life, independent of all bias or preconceived notions, however specious and plausible they may be." (John Taylor, "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, 209)

The Holy Ghost Will Lead Us in to All Truth

One of the most important ways that we can discern truth is by the power of the Holy Ghost. One of the main missions of the Holy Ghost is to testify of truth. Through the power of the Holy Ghost we can know that Jesus is the Christ. We can be led in to all truth. As we feel the swelling feelings of confirmation in our heart and in our mind, we can discern between truth and error. In John 14:26 we read, "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." The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni taught, "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (Moroni 10:5)

We Must Be Worthy of Inspiration

If we want the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we must be worthy of it. Elder Richard G. Scott taught,
"The best way of finding truth is simply to go to the origin of all truth and ask or respond to inspiration. For success, two ingredients are essential: first, unwavering faith in the source of all truth; second, a willingness to keep God’s commandments to keep open spiritual communication with Him. " (Richard G. Scott, “Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 90–92)

Pres. Joseph Smith taught, “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, 4:540).
With the Holy Spirit, and the scriptures as our guide, we need not fear learning. We have been given these gifts by God to help us and lead us in to all truth. Through obedience, study and prayer, we can open the lines of communication with our Heavenly Father and ask for help in discerning truth. But the standard of truth must be preserved. We should protect truth, and cherish it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jesus Christ, Our Savior

I thought this was a great explanation of the Savior's ability to change our lives.


"Jesus Christ, Our Savior

Building materials are imperfect. Some nails are crooked, some windows aren’t quite square and just about every board is a little curved. When building a home, a carpenter’s job is to form a perfect structure from these imperfect materials—to shape a precise whole out of what were once flawed pieces. A good carpenter will construct a home that can withstand not just everyday wear and tear, but will also stand up to an earthquake and severe storms. A good carpenter builds a home that is structurally sound.

Jesus Christ was a carpenter. Joseph, His father here on earth, was a carpenter, and from a young age Jesus would have learned to recognize the properties of different materials, how to use their strengths and adapt their weaknesses to form perfect creations. We believe that under Heavenly Father’s direction Jesus Christ is also the carpenter of our souls. They know us each individually. They understand our strengths and weaknesses. They know where we came from and what we are capable of becoming, and though we are imperfect, They can help shape us into happy people worthy of the blessings of heaven."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Latter-Day Hymns: Come, Ye Disconsolate

I love this hymn, especially the last line of each verse. It's a great reminder that the atonement of Jesus Christ can overcome all anguish and pain in our lives.

Come, Ye Disconsolate

1. Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish;
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.
Here bring your wounded hearts; here tell your anguish.
Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot heal.

2. Joy of the desolate, Light of the straying,
Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!
Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,
“Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.”

3. Here see the Bread of Life; see waters flowing
Forth from the throne of God, pure from above.
Come to the feast of love; come, ever knowing
Earth has no sorrow but heav’n can remove.

Text: Thomas Moore, 1779–1852. Verse three, Thomas Hastings, 1784–1872

Music: Samuel Webbe, 1740–1816

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Latter-Day Hymns: I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
He lives, my ever-living Head.
He lives to bless me with his love.
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed.
He lives to bless in time of need.

2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.

3. He lives, my kind, wise heav’nly Friend.
He lives and loves me to the end.
He lives, and while he lives, I’ll sing.
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
He lives and grants me daily breath.
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives my mansion to prepare.
He lives to bring me safely there.

4. He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”
He lives! All glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same.
Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Text: Samuel Medley, 1738–1799. Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.

Music: Lewis D. Edwards, 1858–1921