Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Lay Ministry

A discussion over on Looney's blog has prompted me to write on the subject of a lay ministry. Our church has a lay ministry, and it is amazing how well it works. There are several aspects to our church in particular that make a lay ministry possible.

Looney mentioned that many religions have at least one minister who has been professionally educated in religion. While we have many church leaders who are well educated, only a small number of them have focused on religion as their field of study. There are no education requirements for service in our church. But we believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who have authority from God. "And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." Heb. 5:4. That person must also meet the worthiness requirements.

So what education do our leaders receive? Our church curriculum is incredibly organized and well prepared. Each Sunday, speakers teach us about church doctrine in our Sacrament meetings. In our Sunday school classes we study the scriptures. The teacher follows an outlined lesson that focuses on church doctrine, not philosophies of men. For a sample of a lesson that might be taught, check out our manuals on our church website. You can read through some of the lessons there. These lessons are presented worldwide, without variation. You can go to any unit of the church throughout the world and will probably be hearing the same lesson that I will be hearing in my Sunday school class on that same day. This uniformity helps ensure that church members are taught the doctrine, and understand the scriptures. We focus on a different book of scripture each year. We study the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants/Church history. In addition to our Sunday school classes, women attend Relief Society meetings and attend Priesthood meetings where we are further taught about gospel principles. Children and teenagers are also taught the gospel using uniform church curriculum. In addition, our teenagers are offered the opportunity to attend 4 years of seminary instruction during their high school years. They also spend one year studying each book of scripture. Through the curriculum of the church, even new members can learn the doctrine and be well prepared to serve in the church.

Serving in the church requires sacrifice. Joseph Smith taught that, "“a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 69). While it may seem difficult to find people who are willing to serve without compensation, members of the church willingly serve because of the blessings and growth their service brings to them and their family. For example, a new member might be asked to teach a children's class. Through teaching the simple lessons, that new member also learns the doctrine himself. "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. " (Doctrine and Covenants 50:22) As a person serves and grows in their callings in the church, they become more qualified to serve in more difficult callings.

In addition to learning as we serve, the Lord also blesses us with the gifts we need to serve in our callings. President Monson said, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies." He blesses those who serve, and helps them to magnify their calling, and serve as needed. I have felt those kinds of blessings as I have served in the church. I have been asked to serve in difficult callings which required great sacrifice. But the Lord has always blessed and helped me to know how to best serve, and to develop the skills I needed to perform my calling well. Church members pray for inspiration and guidance to know how best to fulfill their responsibilities.

Our church leaders, including Bishops, have their own profession in addition to their responsibilities as a church leader. This requires great sacrfice on their part, but they are blessed for their service to the Lord. The Book of Mormon talks about how this worked in ancient times:
"And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength." Alma 1:26
Because we do not pay for our ministers or church leaders' service, our donations can all go to helping the poor, helping to build church buildings, etc. Even our missionaries are volunteer and fund their own missionary service.

When the Savior was living upon the Earth, he chose his 12 disciples. He chose them because of their character, and because He knew they would faithfully fulfill their responsibilities. Bishops today can also be inspired by God to know who should serve in each calling. God knows who needs the opportunity to serve, and who would be best able to touch the lives of those in need. It may not be the most educated or experienced person who is chosen, but when they are called by inspiration, we can feel assured that they are the person God would have serve.

Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about how our lay ministry works.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder Marion G. Romney

This topic has been on my mind today, and I love Elder Romney's view.

Elder Marion G. Romney:

“I don’t know much about the gospel other than what I’ve learned from the standard works. (the scriptures) When I drink from a spring I like to get the water where it comes out of the ground, not down the stream after the cattle have waded in it. . . . I appreciate other people’s interpretation, but when it comes to the gospel we ought to be acquainted with what the Lord says”

(Marion G. Romney, in J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 19; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 15 ).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mormon Messages: Sharing the Light of Christ

This definitely makes me wonder what more I can do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conference Messages: Elder M. Russell Ballard: 'O That Cunning Plan Of The Evil One'

I love this talk about the war of good and evil that is raging in the world today.

The Head of the Church

This quote is by Harold B. Lee was then the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Harold B. Lee:

"And so I come to you today, with no shadow of doubting in my mind that I know the reality of the person who is presiding over this church, our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. I know that he is. I know that he is closer to us than many times we have any idea. They are not an absentee Father and Lord. They are concerned about us, helping to prepare us for the advent of the Savior, whose coming certainly isn't too far away because of the signs that are becoming apparent" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 180; or Ensign, July 1973, 124 ).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For the Strength of Youth: Sexual Purity

From "For the Strength of Youth", a publication written for the youth of the Church:

Sexual Purity

“The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”).

Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife. God has commanded that sexual intimacy be reserved for marriage.

When you obey God’s commandment to be sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of a loving family. You protect yourself from the emotional damage that always comes from sharing physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage.

Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Satan may tempt you to rationalize that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable when two people are in love. That is not true. In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious because they defile the power God has given us to create life. The prophet Alma taught that sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost (see Alma 39:5).

Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.

In cultures where dating or courting is acceptable, always treat your date with respect, never as an object to be used for your lustful desires. Stay in areas of safety where you can easily control your physical feelings. Do not participate in talk or activities that arouse sexual feelings.

Homosexual activity is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.

Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Seek your bishop’s counsel immediately so he can help guide you through the process of emotional healing.

If you are tempted to commit sexual transgressions, seek help from your parents, your bishop, and friends you can trust. Pray to the Lord, who will help you resist temptation and overcome inappropriate thoughts and feelings.

If you have committed sexual transgressions, begin the process of repentance now so you can find inner peace and have the full companionship of the Spirit. Seek the Lord’s forgiveness. Talk with your bishop. He will help you obtain the forgiveness available to those who truly repent.

Genesis 39:1–12;
D&C 38:42

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mormon Messages: Reviewing the Lessons of the Past

This "Mormon Messages" highlights a "Pioneer Trek" made by modern day youth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder Dallin H. Oaks: The Sacrament

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“I plead with all members of the Church, young and old, to attend sacrament meeting each Sabbath day and to partake of the sacrament with the repentant attitude described as ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ ( 3 Nephi 9:20 ). I pray that we will do so with the reverence and worship of our Savior that will signify a serious covenant to ‘always remember him’ ( D&C 20:77 ). The Savior himself has said that we should partake ‘with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins’ ( D&C 27:2 ).

“I pray that we will also partake of the sacrament with the submissive manner that will help us accept and serve in Church callings in order to comply with our solemn covenant to take His name and His work upon us. I also plead for us to comply with our solemn covenant to keep His commandments. . . .

“. . . Let us qualify ourselves for our Savior’s promise that by partaking of the sacrament we will ‘be filled’ ( 3 Nephi 20:8 ; see also 3 Nephi 18:9 ), which means that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit’ ( 3 Nephi 20:9 )” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 81–82; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 61 ).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Conference Messages: Elder Robert D. Hales, Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life

Elder Hales speaks about "agency" which in LDS theology is one of the core doctrines of the plan of salvation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder Russell M. Nelson

Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

"When we embrace the gospel and are baptized, we are born again and take upon ourselves the sacred name of Jesus Christ [see D&C 20:37 ]. We are adopted as his sons and daughters and are known as brothers and sisters. He is the Father of our new life. We become joint heirs to promises given by the Lord to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity [see Galatians 3:29 ; D&C 86:8–11 ]" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 43; or Ensign, May 1995, 34 ).

Note: In our religion, we believe Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to be two separate beings. God the Father is the literal father of our spirits. Jesus Christ is His eldest spirit son, and the only begotten son in the flesh. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, he becomes a spiritual Father to us. Then is this scripture in Isaiah fulfilled: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand." (Isaiah 53:10)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder Richard G. Scott

Elder Richard G. Scott, one of the Lord’s Apostles:

“I testify that when the Lord closes one important door in your life, He shows His continuing love and compassion by opening many other compensating doors through your exercise of faith. He will place in your path packets of spiritual sunlight to brighten your way. They often come after the trial has been the greatest, as evidence of the compassion and love of an all-knowing Father. They point the way to greater happiness and more understanding and strengthen your determination to accept and be obedient to His will” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 19–20; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17 ).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Conference Messages: Elder Larry R. Lawrence-Courageous Parenting

Temple Information

Hong Kong, China Temple

The Church now has a website designed to give information about the temples. It includes a list of all of the temples, and their schedules, as well as pictures. In this past weekend's General Conference, the construction of 5 new temples was announced; Lisbon, Portugal; Indianapolis, Indiana; Urdaneta, Phillipines; Hartford, Connecticut; and Tijuana, Mexico. The website also features recent talks and articles about the temple. There are currently 134 temples in operation.

A temple is different from a normal chapel; in the temple, we perform sacred ordinances for ourselves, and for our deceased ancestors. Some of those ordinances include baptism for the dead, and eternal marriage.

In our religion, as with some other Christian religions, we believe that baptism is a necessary ordinance in this life. But what about those who for reasons out of their control never had the opportunity to be baptized? God loves us, and provided a way that even those who never had the opportunity in this life can be baptized by proxy in holy temples. Baptism for the dead was practiced in Bible times, and because of the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, it has been restored along with other sacred ordinances.

I heard an interesting story lately about eternal marriage. A member of the church was trying to explain the importance of a temple marriage to a non-member. He asked him to think back to the day he got married, and repeat what the Pastor marrying them had said. He reminded him that the Pastor had said, "Til death do you part." Inherit in that marriage contract is also a divorce decree. That marriage has already been determined to end at death. But in sacred temples, through the power of the holy Priesthood of God, we can be "sealed" to our husband or wife, so that after this life our marriage will continue on. The family is the most important unit in God's kingdom. It was never meant to end at death. Through the Priesthood power, we can perform the necessary ordinances to assure that our families are an eternal unit.

I hope you enjoy browsing the Church's website about temples. If you have any question about the purpose of temples, please feel free to ask me here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quote of the Day: Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder L. Tom Perry:

“Never has there been a time when the written and spoken word can descend upon us from so many different sources. Through the media we find analysts analyzing the analysts, almost overwhelming us with opinions and different views.

What a comfort it is to know that the Lord keeps a channel of communication open to His children through the prophet. What a blessing it is to know we have a voice we can trust to declare the will of the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 19 )

Saturday, October 2, 2010

180th Semi-Annual General Conference

This weekend we have the privilege of listening to the 180th Semi-annual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can view the proceedings on BYU television (found through most satellite subscribers), or through live streaming through Click here to view it through the lds website. This is a great opportunity to listen to a living prophet and apostles of Jesus Christ!