Friday, February 24, 2012

Conference Messages: The Doctrine of the Father

by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Among the first principles lost in the Apostasy was an understanding of God the Father. It is not surprising, then, that among the first principles revealed in the Restoration was an understanding of God the Father. By priority, the first declaration of faith by Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father” (Articles of Faith 1:1).

Members of the Church understand that God the Father is the Supreme Governor of the universe, the Power that gave us spiritual being, and the Author of the plan that gives us hope and potential. He is our Heavenly Father, and we lived in His presence as part of His family in the premortal life. There we learned lessons and prepared for mortality (see D&C 138:56). We came from our Heavenly Father, and our goal is to return to Him.

Among all doctrines, beliefs, and principles revealed to His children, the truths related to His being and nature should stand as the preeminent focus. We acknowledge His existence and true nature in order to join with ancient believers and prophets in true worship (see Mosiah 4:9). The purpose of all that the Father has revealed, commanded, and initiated for the inhabitants of earth is to help us come to know Him, emulate Him, and become like Him so we can return to His holy presence. Eternal life is to know the Father and His holy Son, Jesus Christ (see John 17:3; Jacob 4:5; Moses 5:8).

The Eternal Pattern of Family

Central to knowing the Father is understanding the revealed pattern of family. The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and is ordained of God.1 Living in loving family relationships not only brings us great happiness, but it also helps us learn correct principles and prepares us for eternal life.2 In addition, family relationships help us know, love, and understand the Father. This is one reason Latter-day Saints have always emphasized the importance of marriage and family both in the Church and in society. God’s plan provides a way for family relationships to extend beyond the grave. We can return to the presence of God, eternally united with our families.3

Our Heavenly Father has chosen not to reveal many details of our premortal life with Him. Perhaps this is because we can learn many things simply by observing the pattern for righteous families He established on the earth. Carefully observing and conscientiously living in accordance with righteous family patterns on earth is at the core of our quest to know the Father.

Heavenly Father and family are inseparably connected. When we understand the many dimensions of this connection, we can begin to comprehend more completely how personal and individual are Heavenly Father’s love for and relationship to each of us. Understanding how He feels about us gives us the power to love Him more purely and fully. Personally feeling the reality, love, and power of that relationship is the source of the deepest and sweetest emotions and desires that can come to a man or woman in mortality. These deep emotions of love can motivate us and give us power in times of difficulty and trial to draw closer to our Father.

Loving Choice and Deliberate Act

Every human being is a begotten spirit son or daughter of our Heavenly Father.4 Begotten is an adjectival form of the verb beget and means “brought into being.” Beget is the expression used in the scriptures to describe the process of giving life (see Matthew 1:1–16; Ether 10:31).

In God’s revealed pattern for righteous families, the birth of a child is the result of a conscious and loving choice. It is the miraculous result of caring and deliberate actions taken by parents to participate with Heavenly Father in the sacred process of creating a mortal body for one of His spirit children. Knowing that our life is the result of a loving choice and a deliberate act can give us a sense of our great personal worth in mortality. That sense of worth can reassure us of our potential and protect us from temptations.

Satan is pleased to use the less-than-ideal circumstances of some mortal births to cause some of us to question our personal worth and potential. Regardless of the circumstances of our mortal birth, we are all spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents. God is a righteous and loving father. Our spirits came into being out of love and a deliberate choice to give us life and opportunity.

One by One

Righteous parents not only make deliberate and loving choices to bring children into the world, but they also prepare, pray, and eagerly wait during the period of gestation, anticipating the birth of their child. After birth they delight in holding, talking to, caring for, and protecting their child. They learn the baby’s individual patterns and needs. They know the child better than the child knows himself or herself. Regardless of the number of children parents have, each is an individual to them.

Knowing this pattern helps us understand that as spirit children we are known individually by our Heavenly Father. He has known us at least from the time we became begotten spirits. We are His precious sons and daughters, whom He loves individually.

Known by Name

Another pattern of earthly families helps us understand the individual nature of the Father’s love for us. One of the initial steps in creating an individual identity, after the child is born, is for parents to give their child a name. Naming is an important part of every culture and is often accompanied with solemn rituals because a name has great significance to the personal identity of its bearer. Children do not choose their names; their parents give them their names.

In most cultures a child is given a first (and in some cases a second, or middle) name. It is also common around the world for children to be given a family name or a name that ties them to their parents, family, and ancestors. Some cultures use other identifiers such as a second family name (the mother’s last name, for example) to further identify the child’s relationship to family and society.

In that same pattern, we know that our Heavenly Father identifies us personally and individually. He knows us by name. In the few scriptures that mention individuals in the premortal world, they were identified by name in a pattern similar to how we are identified in mortality. In the Father’s recorded visits to individuals on earth, He uses names to express that He knows and identifies us personally and individually. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said in reference to the First Vision appearance of the Father, “One of them spake unto me, calling me by name” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17; see also Moses 1:6; 6:27).

The Father knows us because He begat each precious spirit son and daughter, giving us individual identity and being. As He told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” (Jeremiah 1:5).

In His Image and with His Attributes

The Bible teaches that man and woman are created in the image of the Father (see Genesis 1:26–27). The science of genetics and personal observation both testify to the principle of offspring taking on the form, appearance, and traits of parents. Some build their sense of personal worth by comparing themselves to others. That approach can lead to feelings of inadequacy or superiority. It is preferable to look directly to our Father for our sense of self-worth.

Our mortal pedigree charts show many generations winding backward through the ages. Our individual spiritual pedigree chart, however, has only two generations—our Father’s and ours. Our form is His form, without the glory. “Now are we the sons [and daughters] of God, and … when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; see also D&C 130:1). Within each of us lie the latent seeds of godliness that can be given flower and fruition by His blessing and by following the path of strict obedience shown to us by Jesus. There is power in saying or singing the words “I am a child of God.”5

The Father’s Love

One of the great distortions of the Apostasy was that it cast God the Father’s plan of salvation as overwhelmingly harsh. Frederic Farrar, the Anglican church leader, classical scholar, believer, and highly regarded author of Life of Christ, lamented that most Christian churches view hell and damnation incorrectly as a result of translation errors from Hebrew and Greek to English in the King James Version of the Bible.6

As revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, a loving Father’s plan of salvation applies to all humankind, including all those who do not hear of Jesus Christ in this life, children who die before the age of accountability, and those who have no understanding (see D&C 29:46–50; 137:7–10).

Even for those who—unlike Satan and his angels (see Isaiah 14:12–15; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:7–9; D&C 76:32–37)—have lived unrighteously but have not rebelled against God, a loving Father has prepared kingdoms of glory that are superior to our existence on earth (see D&C 76:89–92). There can be no doubt of the Father’s love for His spirit children.

When we seek to know the Father through patterns of righteous family life, we begin to understand the depth of love He has for us and begin to feel a deeper love for Him. Efforts to distort and destroy the family are designed to keep the Father’s children from feeling His love drawing them back home to Him.

Abusive male authority figures, out-of-wedlock births, unwanted children, and other social challenges of our day make it harder for those who suffer them to comprehend, hope for, and have faith in a righteous, loving, and caring Father. Just as the Father seeks to help us to know Him, the adversary uses every means possible to come between the Father and us. Fortunately, there is no power, sin, or condition that can keep us from the love of the Father (see Romans 8:38–39). Because God loved us first, we can come to know Him and love Him (see 1 John 4:16, 19).

It is precisely because social ills are so prevalent today that we must teach the doctrine of the Father and family to help us heal, correct, and overcome the false ideas and practices pervasive in the world. As Eliza R. Snow (1804–87) so elegantly expressed, there are many in the world who call God “Father” but “[know] not why.”

Thankfully, “the key of knowledge” has been restored7 and the doctrine of the Father is upon the earth again!

Encircled in the Arms of His Love

Name withheld

My relationship with my earthly father may have been lacking, but my Heavenly Father was with me.

When I was six years old, my parents divorced. Though I continued to live with my mom, my dad was still present in my life after the separation. I stayed at his house on weekends and for one day in the middle of the week.

Despite his efforts to be a good father, when I was seven, he betrayed my trust in a very serious way. This breach of trust marked the beginning of a growing distance between us. When he called the house, I would avoid answering the phone. When I was older, I demanded that I be able to choose when I went to stay at my dad’s house, rather than be forced to go when the custody order mandated me.

When I was in high school, visits gradually became a lot less frequent. I saw him only two or three times a month. When I went to college, the space between calls grew, until I would talk to him about once a semester. My relationship with my dad had become more of a formality than a true parent-child connection.

During my second year of college, I decided to talk to him about the incident from my childhood that I felt had damaged our relationship so many years ago. I hoped for closure, forgiveness, and a chance to start over. I e-mailed him my thoughts and waited for a reply.

Some time later I received his e-mail in reply. Before I read my father’s response, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father that His Spirit be with me as I read the e-mail. This was such an important moment in my life—I was about to see what my dad had to say and what direction our relationship would take. I was scared and felt very alone.

Indeed I was alone, sitting in my room with my computer. I needed support. I continued to pray to Heavenly Father and felt His Spirit. At last I had the courage to read.

My dad replied with a very short e-mail in which he denied any memory of what I was saying and said that it was a really bad time for him to discuss our past.

The way he dismissed something that was so important to me and didn’t seem to want any sort of reconciliation hurt me deeply. I felt deserted by my father, racked with grief over the troubled relationship we had had for more than a decade.

As I sat in my chair sobbing, I felt the Spirit around me. I had never felt my Heavenly Father’s presence so strongly. I literally felt “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15). I felt reassured and loved as I sat crying.

My relationship with my earthly father may have been lacking, but my Heavenly Father was with me. His presence is strong in my life. I know He loves me, cares for me, and will always want a relationship with me. I know that He is my Father. And He is not going anywhere.

1.See Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), 1.1.1.

2.See Handbook 2, 1.1.4.

3.See Handbook 2, 1.3.

4.See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129.

5.“I Am a Child of God,” Hymns, no. 301.

6.See Frederic W. Farrar, Eternal Hope (1892), xxxvi–xlii.

7.“O My Father,” Hymns, no. 292.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Conference Messages: Teachings of Jesus

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

“What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42). With those words Jesus confounded the Pharisees of His day. With those same words I ask my fellow Latter-day Saints and other Christians what you really believe about Jesus Christ and what you are doing because of that belief.

Most of my scriptural quotations will come from the Bible because it is familiar to most Christians. My interpretations will of course draw on what modern scripture, notably the Book of Mormon, teaches us about the meaning of Bible scriptures so ambiguous that different Christians disagree on their meaning. I address believers but others as well. As Elder Tad R. Callister taught us this morning, some who call themselves Christians praise Jesus as a great teacher but refrain from affirming His divinity. To address them, I have used the words of Jesus Himself. We should all consider what He Himself taught about who He is and what He was sent to earth to do.

Only Begotten Son

Jesus taught that He was the Only Begotten Son. Said He:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16–17).

God the Father affirmed this. In the culmination of the sacred experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, He declared from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

Jesus also taught that His appearance was the same as His Father’s. To His Apostles, He said:

“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

“Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:7–9).

Later the Apostle Paul described the Son as being “the express image of [God the Father’s] person” (Hebrews 1:3; see also 2 Corinthians 4:4).


The Apostle John wrote that Jesus, whom he called “the Word,” “was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2–3). Thus, under the plan of the Father, Jesus Christ was the Creator of all things.

Lord God of Israel

During His ministry to His people in Palestine, Jesus taught that He was Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel (see John 8:58). Later, as the risen Lord, He ministered to His people on the American continent. There He declared:

“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. …

“… I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 11:10, 14).

What He Has Done for Us
At a stake conference many years ago, I met a woman who said she had been asked to come back to church after many years away but could not think of any reason why she should. To encourage her I said, “When you consider all of the things the Savior has done for us, don’t you have many reasons to come back to church to worship and serve Him?” I was astonished at her reply: “What’s He done for me?” For those who do not understand what our Savior has done for us, I will answer that question in His own words and with my own testimony.

Life of the World

The Bible records Jesus’s teaching: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Later, in the New World, He declared, “I am the light and the life of the world” (3 Nephi 11:11). He is the life of the world because He is our Creator and because, through His Resurrection, we are all assured that we will live again. And the life He gives us is not merely mortal life. He taught, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28; see also John 17:2).

Light of the World

Jesus also taught, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). He also declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the way and He is the light because His teachings light our path in mortal life and show us the way back to the Father.

Doing the Will of the Father

Always, Jesus honored the Father and followed Him. Even as a youth He declared to His earthly parents, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). “For I came down from heaven,” He later taught, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38; see also John 5:19). And the Savior taught, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6; see also Matthew 11:27).

We return to the Father by doing His will. Jesus taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He explained:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22–23).

Who then will enter the kingdom of heaven? Not those who merely do wonderful works using the name of the Lord, Jesus taught, but only “he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

The Great Exemplar

Jesus showed us how to do this. Again and again He invited us to follow Him: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Priesthood Power

He gave priesthood power to His Apostles (see Matthew 10:1) and to others. To Peter, the senior Apostle, He said, “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” (Matthew 16:19; see also Matthew 18:18).

Luke records that “the Lord appointed … seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (Luke 10:1). Later these Seventy joyfully told Jesus, “Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17). I am a witness of that priesthood power.

Guidance by the Holy Ghost

At the close of His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His Apostles, “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), and “he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Guidance by His Commandments

He also guides us by His commandments. Thus He commanded the Nephites that they should have no more disputes concerning points of doctrine, for, He said:

“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:29–30).

Focus on Eternal Life

He also challenges us to focus on Him, not on the things of the world. In His great sermon on the bread of life, Jesus explained the contrast between mortal and eternal nourishment. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth,” He said, “but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” (John 6:27). The Savior taught that He was the Bread of Life, the source of eternal nourishment. Speaking of the mortal nourishment the world offered, including the manna Jehovah had sent to feed the children of Israel in the wilderness, Jesus taught that those who relied on this bread were now dead (see John 6:49). In contrast, the nourishment He offered was “the living bread which came down from heaven,” and, Jesus taught, “if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (John 6:51).

Some of His disciples said this was “an hard saying,” and from that time many of His followers “went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:60, 66). Apparently they did not accept His earlier teaching that they should “seek … first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Even today some who profess Christianity are more attracted to the things of the world—the things that sustain life on earth but give no nourishment toward eternal life. For some, His “hard saying” is still a reason not to follow Christ.

The Atonement

The culmination of our Savior’s mortal ministry was His Resurrection and His Atonement for the sins of the world. John the Baptist prophesied this when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Later Jesus taught that “the Son of man came … to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). At the Last Supper, Jesus explained, according to the account in Matthew, that the wine He had blessed was “my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Appearing to the Nephites, the risen Lord invited them to come forward to feel the wound in His side and the prints of the nails in His hands and His feet. He did this, He explained, “that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14). And, the account continues, the multitude fell “down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him” (verse 17). For this, the whole world will ultimately worship Him.

Jesus taught further precious truths about His Atonement. The Book of Mormon, which elaborates the Savior’s teachings and gives the best explanation of His mission, reports this teaching:

“My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross … , that I might draw all men unto me, …

“… that they may be judged according to their works.

“And … whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world. …

“And no unclean thing can enter into [the Father’s] kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end” (3 Nephi 27:14–16, 19).

And so we understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to overcome the spiritual death that results from sin and, through making and keeping sacred covenants, to have the blessings of eternal life.

Challenge and Testimony

Jesus issued the challenge “What think ye of Christ?” (Matthew 22:42). The Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). All of us should answer these challenges for ourselves. Where is our ultimate loyalty? Are we like the Christians in Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s memorable description who have moved their residence to Zion but still try to keep a second residence in Babylon?1

There is no middle ground. We are followers of Jesus Christ. Our citizenship is in His Church and His gospel, and we should not use a visa to visit Babylon or act like one of its citizens. We should honor His name, keep His commandments, and “seek not the things of this world but seek … first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, footnote a; from Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38).

Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten and Beloved Son of God. He is our Creator. He is the Light of the World. He is our Savior from sin and death. This is the most important knowledge on earth, and you can know this for yourself, as I know it for myself. The Holy Ghost, who testifies of the Father and the Son and leads us into truth, has revealed these truths to me, and He will reveal them to you. The way is desire and obedience. As to desire, Jesus taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). As to obedience, He taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). I testify of the truth of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. See Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light (1990), 47.

Book of Mormon Sampler: Ether 12: 6

Ether 12:6

"And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mormonism Obsessed With Christ

Wow! I am so impressed with an article I just read about our church. It is written by a non-member, but his view of our religion is really great! I particularly appreciated his analogy of the funeral. If nothing we teach has an impact on how the rest of Christianity views us, I hope this article will.

Please click here to read the original article "Mormonism Obsessed With Christ" by Stephen Webb, professor of religion and theology at Wabash college.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mormon Messages: Dayton's legs

Keep your kleenex handy, this one is a tear jerker! But what a great example of Christlike love!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Book of Mormon: An Introduction

Book of Mormon Sampler: 2 Nephi 33:6

2 Nephi 33:6

I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.