Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Growth of the Church

Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, first counselor to the president of the church, and one of the twelve apostles, recently spoke to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. This is a wonderful talk that clearly explains the growth, and success of our church on a worldwide basis. He also explains much about the programs of the church. It's a little lengthy, but worth the time to listen.

Which Church to Join?

I got this in an email recently, and thought it was great. I must say that I don't know that I believe the authenticity of this article. This is what we in the church call "Faith promoting rumors". I'm not sure that it was actually written by the purported writer, and I'm not sure that it was actually printed in the newspaper. But whoever wrote this "tongue in cheek" essay, put quite some thought in to it, and I enjoyed reading it.

Quitting the Church

In a local newspaper in Provo, Utah, there had been an ongoing series of articles written by individuals who wanted to persuade LDS Church members to leave the Church. In response to the highly critical and spirited remarks, a local member wrote this rebuttal:

I have been thinking of quitting the Mormon Church. Yes, if I can, I am going to get even with that church. As soon as I can find another church that teaches about the Gathering of the House of Israel; the return of the Ten Tribes and their mission; the return of the Jews to Palestine and why, and how they are going to build the temple; the building of temples and what to do with them; the mission of Elias, the prophet, as predicted by Malachi; the method for the salvation of the people that died at the time of Noah in the flood; the origin of the American Indian; the complete explanation of why Jesus of Nazareth had to have a mortal mother but not a mortal father; the explanation of the three degrees of glory (three heavens) as mentioned by Paul; the complete explanation of why Elias and Moses did not die but had to be translated (since they both lived before the resurrection was introduced by Christ); the restoration of the gospel by modern revelation as promised by Peter and Paul and Jesus himself; the belief in eternal marriage and the family, and the knowledge and the place to seal for eternity; that teaches abstinence from all harmful drugs and foods ; and that sells the best fire insurance policy on earth, for the last days, for only a 10th of my income.

Yes sir, as soon as I can find another church that teaches all that, or even half as much, I will say good-bye to this Mormon Church. The church that I am looking for must also be able to motivate 50,000+ youth, and adults, for the first, second or third time, to leave their homes for two years at their own expense and go to far-away places to teach and preach without salary. It must be able to call, on a frosty day, some 5 or 6 thousand professors, students, lawyers, doctors, judges, policemen, businessmen, housewives and children to go and pick apples at 6 a.m. It must be able to call meetings and get the attention for two hours of more than 150,000 men. Yes, it must also teach and show why salvation is assured for children who die before eight years of age.

Mr. Editor, could you help me find a church that teaches all that and more than hundreds of other doctrines and principles, which I have no room to mention here, and which bring solace and comfort to the soul; peace, hope, and salvation to mankind, and above all, that answers the key questions that all the great philosophers have asked; questions and answers that explain the meaning of life, the purpose of death, suffering and pain; the absolute need for a Redeemer and the marvelous plan conceived and executed by Jesus Christ the Savior?

Yes, as soon as I find another church that teaches that, and also that has the organization and the powers to make that teaching effective, I am going to quit the Mormon Church. For I should not tolerate that "they" should change a few words in the Book of Mormon-even if those changes simply improve the grammar and the syntax of the verses-for, after all, don't you think the Divine Church should employ angels as bookmakers, and clerks, to do all the chores on earth?

Don't you think, Mr. Editor, that the Divine Church should also have prophets that don't get sick and don't get old and die, and certainly, that don't make a goof here and there. No, sir! A Divine Church should be so divine that only perfect people should belong to it, and only perfect people should run it. As a matter of fact, the Church should be so perfect that it should not even be here on earth!

So, I repeat, if any one of the kind readers of this imperfect letter knows about another church that teaches and does as much for mankind as the Mormon Church, please let me know. And please do it soon, because my turn to go to the cannery is coming up. Also, "they" want my last son (the fifth one) to go away for two years and again, I have to pay for all that. And I also know that they expect me to go to the farm to prune trees, and I have heard that our ward is going to be divided again, and it is our side that must build the new chapel. And also, someone the other day had the gall of suggesting that my wife and I get ready to go on a second mission, and when you come back, they said, you can volunteer as a temple worker.

Boy, these Mormons don't leave you alone for a minute. And what do you get for all that, I asked? "Well," they said, "for one, you can look forward to a funeral service at no charge!"... Do you think you can help me to find another church?

Thomas D. Clark

Monday, May 30, 2011

What Evidence Would You Need?

What evidence would you need to be convinced that the Book of Mormon is true? What would be the criteria for knowing that it is scripture? What would you need to help you know that it is the word of God? I have thought of several things that might help, that I wanted to share with you.

Joseph Smith said that he translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates. He said that an angel of God showed him where to find the plates. He also said that after he finished translating the Book of Mormon, the angel retrieved the plates, so we do not have them now. If someone besides him had seen the plates, would that help you to believe? Actually others were allowed to see the plates. Here is the testimony that they wrote, which is contained in the Book of Mormon:

The Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Martin Harris

In the Bible we are taught the law of witnesses. It teaches us, "...In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." 2 Cor. 13:1 Here we have three witnesses who saw and touched the golden plates. Is three witnesses not enough? Would eight witnesses be enough? Here are the testimonies of eight witnesses who also saw and touched the golden plates:

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

Maybe it would be difficult to believe the testimony and witness of other people. Maybe you would like some evidence to show that Joseph himself didn't write the Book of Mormon. It is interesting that as I was thinking about this topic, I came across this article that I would like to share with you.

"It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I have struggled to complete a doctoral dissertation. For whatever reason, I have taken months and years, and have started over more than once as I have tried to find something that adds to the scholarly conversation of religion and politics.

Even when I have sound findings, I have struggled. I write, rewrite, edit, cut, add back in, sweat, burble, grow frustrated, avoid my project, stress, sleep poorly and then write some more. I next realize I missed something vital, so I start the process over again. This strange activity has consumed months and years of my life.

Truth be told, I enjoy writing. My friends tell me is it something I do reasonably well. I have access to the greatest books ever written on the media subjects I study. The Internet provides scores of examples of writing of this type and great papers that might be considered life changing. I have a laptop upon which I can write and edit even as I sit quietly in parks. My colleagues and friends are all well-trained and provide useful insight. I communicate with some thousands of miles away.

But I struggle.

This difficult personal struggle increases my faith in Joseph Smith and in our Book of Mormon.

I have years of training, great editing and access, and it has taken me years to write a dissertation that will make a minor, forgettable contribution to scholarly thought about media and politics, should I finally finish my paper.

My intense document is significantly shorter than what Joseph Smith produced with scratch paper and with three years of education. Consider the remarkable poverty in 1829 through which he operated, while living under persecution in someone else’s home. No laptops, experts or profound libraries to help him. And, depending on how you count, he produced it in only three months with little editing. It was an astounding event, regardless of the feelings any observer might have of its otherworldly origins. The millions who read the Book of Mormon testifies to its contribution.

This week, I couldn’t bring myself to write about the big media story of the week: Oprah’s last episode and of her contributions to religion in the country because I wanted to mark the quiet decision by the church to post a simple, beautiful video online from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland testifying of the Book of Mormon. I hope many see it.

This week, I needed to raise my voice about the miraculous Book of Mormon.

Pretend for a minute that the Book of Mormon was a work of fiction or the work of a gifted imagination — and I don’t imagine for a minute that it is such a work. One way to judge its staying power would be to look for new insights and for its power to influence lives.
As for insights, have you ever pondered in depth 2 Nephi 2 or Alma 42? The theological implications and solutions to grand dilemmas posited in those chapters seem nothing short of miraculous in their clarity of writing and thought. These can be considered profound contributions to any discussion of world theology worthy to note, and that’s merely assuming the Book of Mormon was a product of Joseph Smith’s imagination.

When I consider the implications of the book’s miraculous origins, I quail with awe at the power and breadth of those implications.

As for its ability to change lives, I can only say it has changed mine by providing comfort in dark hours, some of which occur as I labor over doctoral writing.

I sometimes compare my minor troubles with those of a handful of faithful believers huddled together around 375 A.D. listening to the speech that became Moroni 7 as genocide, apostasy, and torture and death raged around them as the possibility for a bright mortal future ebbed to shadow.

I think of Mormon’s almost plaintive question amid that trauma: How is it possible that to lay hold upon every good thing? His answer moves and comforts and implores. I pray to be filled with the love he describes.

Finally, I think sometimes about the history of the word “medium.” It is a strange word in some ways — a go-between or a connecter. Media "go-between" people as they exchange communication ideas. Beyond that, however, medium is an old spiritualist term. A medium is someone who allowed connection with ghosts. Media "go-between" the dead and us.

The Book of Mormon provides access to authentic, ghostly voices who truly cry from the dust and these voices among the millions of modern, mediated voices have something truly, rarely important to say.

I love the Book of Mormon. I am only one person, but I do know it to be true. It is the modern world's true medium.
(The Book of Mormon: The true medium Published: Monday, May 30, 2011 6:30 a.m. MDT By Lane Williams, For Mormon Times)

Now, that testimony I have just shared may not convince you that the Book of Mormon is true. And frankly, that is not the way that I would like you to come to believe. I don't even want you to rely on the testimonies of the three, and the eight witnesses. In my opinion, the only way to really know for sure if the Book of Mormon is true, is to do what the writers of the Book of Mormon suggested, and that is to ask God.
"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

Don't take my word for it. Don't take the testimony of members of the church who have read it, and have prayed to know if it is true. Don't take physical evidences as your determining factor. Read the Book of Mormon for yourself. Read it with "real intent" to know if it is true. Then ask God. I know he will answer your prayer because he has answered mine.

Here is the video mentioned above:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oakland Temple Hill Events

Today we had the directors of the Oakland temple visitor's center come and tell us about the visitor's center. For those of you who live in the Bay area, temple hill provides some wonderful, and meaningful entertainment events. I wanted to let you know about some of them so that you could take advantage of these great opportunities. There is another event in July that I am really excited to tell you about, but I will have to wait for the details. But for now, check out these great uplifting events!:

--Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue an American Tribute
Guest Pianist Russell Hancock
and the
Temple Hill Choir
directed by Alan Chipman
Sat. and Sun. June 4, 5th, 2011 7:30 p.m.

--Mixed-media Art Exhibit by Annie Henrie
"How Great the Love"
On exhibit through July 2011

--Why I Believe Fireside
An inspiring and heart-warming evening of testimonies. This is a wonderful event for those investigating the Church as well as for new members. This event is on-going.

2nd Sundays (English)
6:30pm – Chapel
6/12, 7/10, 8/14, 9/11, 10/9, 11/13, 12/11).


Temple Hill
4780 Lincoln Avenue

Oakland CA 94602


From Hwy 13, take the Lincoln Ave./ Joaquin Miller Road EXIT. From the exit, go West, down the hill, one block past the freeway. Turn LEFT into the parking lot at 4780 Lincoln Ave., Oakland CA 94602

Conference Messages April 2011: Elder L. Tom Perry: The Sabbath and the Sacrament

The Sabbath and the Sacarament

Elder L. Tom Perry

My brothers and sisters, across the world this morning we have come to listen to a prophet’s voice. I testify that the voice we have just heard is the voice of God’s living prophet on the earth today, President Thomas S. Monson. How blessed we are to have his teachings and example!

This year all of us have the opportunity to study the words of the prophets in the New Testament in Sunday School. While the Old Testament is a study of prophets and a people, the New Testament is focused on the life and influence of the only Man who came into mortality with dual citizenship in heaven and on earth—our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

The world today is so saturated with doctrines of men that it is easy to forget and lose faith in that all-important account of the Savior’s life and ministry—the New Testament. This sacred volume is the centerpiece of scriptural history, just as the Savior Himself should be the centerpiece of our lives. We must commit ourselves to study it and treasure it!

There are priceless pearls of wisdom to be found in our study of the New Testament. I always enjoy reading the accounts of Paul as he traveled and organized the Savior’s Church, especially his teachings to Timothy. In the fourth chapter of Paul’s writings to Timothy, we read: “These things command and teach. … Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1 I can think of no better way for us to begin or continue to be an example of the believers than in our observance of the Sabbath day.

Beginning with the Creation of the world, one day was set apart from all others. “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.” 2 Even God rested from His labors on this day, and He expects His children to do the same. To the children of Israel, He delivered the commandment:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

“But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God. …

“… Wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” 3

The pattern of Sabbath day observance must always include worship. After Adam and Eve entered mortality, they were commanded to “worship the Lord their God, and … offer the firstlings of their flocks [as] an offering unto the Lord … [in] similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father.” 4 The sacrifice of animals reminded Adam’s posterity that one day the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, would make a sacrifice of His own life for us.

Throughout His life the Savior spoke of that sacrifice. 5 On the eve of His Crucifixion, His words began to be fulfilled. He gathered His disciples together in the upper room, away from the distractions of the world. He instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” 6

From that time forward, the Savior’s Atonement became the great and last sacrifice. When He appeared on the American continent after His Resurrection, He conferred His priesthood upon His disciples and introduced the sacrament by saying:

“And this shall ye always observe to do, … even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.

“… And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” 7

It is remarkable that even through the dark periods of apostasy, this pattern of Sabbath day worship and the sacrament continued to be practiced in many forms.

When the gospel was restored, Peter, James, and John, three of the Apostles who first received the sacrament from the Savior, appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Under their direction, the priesthood authority necessary to administer the sacrament to the members of the Church was restored. 8

Conferred by the Savior to His prophets and apostles and from them to us, that priesthood authority continues on the earth today. Young priesthood holders across the world qualify themselves to exercise priesthood power by earnestly keeping the commandments and living gospel standards. As these young men keep spiritually clean hands and pure hearts, they prepare and bless the sacrament in the Savior’s way—a way defined by what He did over 2,000 years ago.

Partaking of the sacrament is the center of our Sabbath day observance. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord commands all of us:

“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High. …

“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing.” 9

As we consider the pattern of the Sabbath and the sacrament in our own lives, there appear to be three things the Lord requires of us: first, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments; and third, to rest from our labors.

It is a glorious thing to be a Christian and to live as a true disciple of Christ. Of us He said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” 10 To keep ourselves unspotted from the world, He expects us to avoid such worldly distractions of businesses and recreational facilities on the Sabbath day.

I believe He also desires us to dress appropriately. Our youth may think the old saying “Sunday best” is outdated. Still, we know that when Sunday dress deteriorates to everyday attire, attitudes and actions follow. Of course, it may not be necessary for our children to wear formal Sunday attire until the sun goes down. However, by the clothing we encourage them to wear and the activities we plan, we help them prepare for the sacrament and enjoy its blessings throughout the day.

What does it mean to offer up our sacraments to the Lord? We acknowledge that all of us make mistakes. Each of us has a need to confess and forsake our sins and errors to our Heavenly Father and to others we may have offended. The Sabbath provides us with a precious opportunity to offer up these—our sacraments—to the Lord. He said, “Remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.” 11

Elder Melvin J. Ballard has suggested, “We want every Latter-day Saint to come to the sacrament table because it is the place for self-investigation, for self-inspection, where we may learn to rectify our course and to make right our own lives, bringing ourselves into harmony with the teachings of the Church and with our brethren and sisters.” 12

As we worthily partake of the sacrament, we witness that we are willing to take the Savior’s name upon us and keep His commandments and doalways remember Him, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. In this way the covenant of our baptism is renewed. The Lord assured His disciples, “As oft as ye do this ye will remember this hour that I was with you.” 13

Sometimes we think of resting from our labors as merely letting the hay baler stand idle in the field or putting a Closed sign on the business door. Yet in today’s world, labor includes the everyday work of our lives. This could mean business activities we may accomplish from home, athletic competitions, and other pursuits that take us away from Sabbath day worship and the opportunity to minister to others.

“Trifle not with sacred things,” 14 the Lord revealed to the Latter-day Saints, as if to remind us of what He told His disciples: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” 15

Brothers and sisters, in the latter days the adversary succeeds when we relax our commitment to the Savior, ignore His teachings in the New Testament and other scripture, and cease to follow Him. Parents, now is the time to teach our children to be examples of the believers by attending sacrament meeting. When Sunday morning arrives, help them to be well rested, properly dressed, and spiritually prepared to partake of the emblems of the sacrament and receive the enlightening, edifying, ennobling power of the Holy Ghost. Let your family be filled with love as you honor the Sabbath all day long and experience its spiritual blessings throughout the week. Invite your sons and daughters to “arise and shine forth” by keeping the Sabbath day holy, that “[their] light may be a standard for the nations.” 16

As the years go by, I continue to reflect on the Sabbath days of my youth and young adulthood. I still remember the first day I passed the sacrament as a deacon and the little glass cups I passed to the members of our ward. A few years ago a Church building in my hometown was remodeled. A compartment in the pulpit had been sealed. When it was opened, there were some of these little glass cups that had remained hidden for years. One of them was presented to me as a memento.

I also remember the green footlocker we carried with us in the U.S. Marine Corps. Inside the footlocker was a wooden tray and package of sacrament cups so that we could be blessed by the peace and hope of the Lord’s Supper even in the conflict and despair of war.

As I think about those sacrament cups from my youth, one in the sheltered valley of my boyhood home and the other thousands of miles away in the Pacific, I am filled with gratitude that the Savior of the world was willing to drink from the “bitter cup” 17 for my sake. And because He did, I can say with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over” 18 with the blessings of His infinite and eternal Atonement.

On this day before the Sabbath, as we begin this great conference, let us remember the blessings and opportunities that are ours as we attend sacrament meeting each week in our wards and branches. Let us prepare and conduct ourselves on the Sabbath in a manner that will call down the blessings promised us upon ourselves and our families. I bear my special witness that the greatest joy we receive in this life is in following the Savior. May we keep His commandments by keeping His sacred day holy is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quote of the Day: Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

(Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Liahona, Jan. 2001, 40;Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32.)