Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seminary: A Day in the Life

It occurred to me that many people hear that LDS teenagers attend seminary, but probably have no idea what seminary includes. I thought maybe I would give a sample of what a day in seminary is like. I should first explain that in parts of Utah and Idaho, teenagers are given "release time" from school to attend seminary during one school period of the day. I never had this privilege as a youth, but my understanding is that usually there is a seminary building close to campus where they can attend their seminary class. In California, because we do not have this opportunity, we hold seminary early in the morning at our church before school.

6:30 a.m.
--Opening hymn. This is one of the hymns from our hymn book
--Scriptural thought: The students take turns giving a thought. This year we are encouraging them to give their thought from their reading of the book of Doctrine and Covenants, since that is our course of study this year. We usually spend one year studying the Old Testament, one year on the New Testament, one year on the Book of Mormon, and one year on Doctrine and Covenants.
--Opening prayer. Also given by a student.
--Scripture Mastery: Each year we focus on 25 "key" scriptures from the book of scripture we are studying. We spend a few minutes either learning about a new one, or having a "scripture chase" where the teacher gives a clue, and the students race to see who can find the scripture first."
6:40 am
--Lesson: The teacher gives a lesson outlined in the seminary manual. The lesson might include reading directly from the scriptures, discussing gospel principles found in the scriptures being studied that day, learning about the historical background etc. Sometimes the teacher gives a question to direct the students' reading such as, "Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Look at the first 10 verses and see if you can find some of the "gifts of the spirit". Each student has their own set of scriptures, plus a student manual.
Sometimes students may share personal experiences about a subject when asked a question such as, "How have you seen prayers answered in your life?" Occasionally the lesson is supplemented with a church produced video about the subject being studied. I as a teacher try to focus on bearing testimony to the students about gospel principles.
7:20 am
--Closing prayer: Given by a student.
On Friday we try to have a "fun day" where we focus on scripture mastery by playing games to help review the key scripture mastery scriptures.

Some people might question why teenagers would get up early to come to the church at 6:30 in the morning. But the students I have talked to have said that it gives them a nice start to the day, and helps them to have a good spirit with them throughout their school day. Many of the students are planning on serving a full time mission for the church, and look at seminary as an important part of their preparation. To me, the most important reason for seminary attendance is that in seminary, the youth of the church really learn the doctrine of the gospel, the content of the scriptures, and gain a deep testimony of the truths of the gospel. They may not enjoy getting up early, but I think thtey would all admit that what they gain is worth the sacrifice!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Quote of the Day: Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? . . . We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future. Some carry the burden of sin and would give almost anything to unshackle themselves from those burdens but fear to change their lives. Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly” ( “God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, 2 ).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Prayer and Revelation

Elder Rex D. Pinegar:
“The peace God speaks to our minds will let us know when decisions we have made are right, when our course is true. It can come as personal inspiration and guidance to assist us in our daily life—in our homes, in our work. It can provide us with courage and hope to meet the challenges of life. The miracle of prayer, to me, is that in the private, quiet chambers of our minds and hearts, God both hears and answers prayers” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 82; or Ensign, May 1993, 66–67 ).

Elder Gene R. Cook:

“Over the years the prophets have taught that at least twice a day, morning and evening, we should find a private place, kneel down, and pour out our hearts to our Father in Heaven. Then, throughout the day, we can do our best to keep a prayer in our hearts. As we do, if our hearts are right, we will find that our prayers have increased power and focus, and we’ll discover that we’re in a better position to receive answers” ( Receiving Answers to Our Prayers [1996], 46; see also Alma 37:37 ).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“Every devoted, obedient, and righteous person on earth has and does receive revelation from God. Revelation is the natural inheritance of all the faithful. ‘No man can receive the Holy Ghost,’ the Prophet [Joseph Smith] said, ‘without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator’ [ Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328]” ( Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 644).

President Boyd K. Packer:

“Prayer is so essential a part of revelation that without it the veil may remain closed to you. Learn to pray. Pray often. Pray in your mind, in your heart. Pray on your knees” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 76; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 59 ; see also D&C 8:1, 9–11 ; 9:7–8 ).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder Marion G. Romney

Elder Marion G. Romney:

“Satan is evil: totally and always. He ever seeks to defeat the gospel plan and ‘destroy the souls of men.’ ( D&C 10:27 .) . . .

“Satan is irrevocably committed to countering and overcoming the influence of the Spirit of Christ. . . .

“Satan’s methods are various, devious, and countless.

“‘. . . by every possible means he seeks to darken the minds of men and then offers them falsehood and deception in the guise of truth. Satan is a skillful imitator. . . .’ (Joseph F. Smith in Daniel H. Ludlow, Latter-day Prophets Speak [Bookcraft, 1948], pp. 20–21.)

“At the opening of every dispensation he has made a frontal attack against the advent of truth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 24; or Ensign, June 1971, 36 ).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quote of the Day: Ezra Taft Benson

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 3; or Ensign, May 1988, 4 ).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mormon voices in the public square and what to make of them

This article was printed in the Washington Post Sept. 3, 2010. I thought it was very good so wanted to post it in it's entirety here.


Mormon voices in the public square and what to make of them
In all of the media analysis and dissection of the Glenn Beck rally in Washington last weekend, and in particular his membership in the Mormon faith, there has been one conspicuous oversight.

To be sure, Glenn Beck was accompanied by an impressive array of interfaith leaders - Catholics, Jews and evangelicals who, despite theological differences - appeared on the same stage as Beck because his message of restoring honor and returning to faith in God struck such a strong chord with them.

But leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not officially represented at the Lincoln Memorial event, however. Why not - especially since the Church respects the right of all faiths to raise their voice in the public square?

The Beck rally - as he had predicted and as most of the media has since acknowledged - turned out to be less about politics and more about a return to God. But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons for short) is extremely wary of compromising its policy of strict party political neutrality. As was stated often during former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's run for the presidency in 2008, the Church neither endorses nor opposes political parties, candidates or platforms. It doesn't allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes. And it doesn't attempt to direct its members to which candidate or party to give their votes, regardless of whether a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So even though the extraordinary Beck rally was billed and ultimately judged by many as nonpolitical, it did not seem to be the kind of event where Mormon leaders would feel comfortable given the expectations of a political event.

Part of the same policy of partisan neutrality also includes encouragement to Church members to be active and responsible citizens in the political process. The Church encourages its members to study issues and use their vote for whichever party most closely aligns with their ideas of good government.

In that sense, Glenn Beck was doing what every Church member is encouraged by the Church to do - make their voice heard. The fact that Beck has a huge megaphone doesn't change the principle. Mormons obviously are free to express whatever views of good government that they care to espouse, and many of them do. Their views may of course be influenced by their faith and values, but they speak as individuals, not as Church spokesmen. They may also disagree with each other. Since the same church embraces Senator Harry Reid, Governor Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck - all active members - that shouldn't even need saying.

One of the reasons why many seem transfixed by the fact that Glenn Beck is a Mormon is, I believe, reflective of an outdated yet deeply entrenched tendency to stereotype Mormons. If the only Mormons you've ever met are two young men on your door step wearing suits, ties and white shirts, that may be understandable. But there are six million Latter-day Saints now in the United States (about the same number as Jews), and another eight million worldwide, and they represent a growing cross section of ethnicity, demographics, cultural experiences, professions and attitudes. They are not obliged to think and act in lockstep. The common thread that unites them is their particular understanding of what they call the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and the commitment to follow Christ's teachings in their daily lives. That is a very powerful common denominator. But Mormons, like many Americans, share core values of family and community service, and in day-to-day life mesh comfortably with their neighbors.

There is a certain irony that this national discussion of Mormons is happening now. A few weeks ago, the Church launched an advertising effort in nine cities of the United States that will continue until at least the end of the year. Dubbed the "I'm a Mormon campaign," the ads depict ordinary Latter-day Saints in a variety of pursuits that don't fit the Mormon stereotype. They all end with the tag, "I'm so-and-so, and I'm a Mormon." Many have found the ads revealing and compelling, and I'm certain it has prompted some to reassess their perceptions.

Many scholars and Church observers have written about the "Mormon Diaspora"- the slow but steady spread of the faith from its Rocky Mountain home of 160 years, through the United States and most of the world. However long the Glenn Beck phenomenon endures, Mormonism itself will keep producing its share of public figures. Those public figures will continue to speak out on issues of concern to them, but they do so without any pretense of speaking for other members of their faith or for the Church itself.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Latter Day Scripture: Doctrine and Covenants 4

My second child entered the missionary training center in Provo, Utah this week to serve a mission. This section from the Doctrine and Covenants is loved of all missionaries, and recited often from memory. It gives a list of character traits that are needed in missionary work.

1 Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.
2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.
3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;
4 For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;
5 And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.
6 Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.
7 Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen.

Mormon Messages: Voice of the Spirit

I LOVE this new Mormon messages video! What a timely message!