Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Conference Messages: Be Ye Converted

This is a great talk about how to become truly converted.  Even long term members are sometimes still in need of true conversion. 
Be Ye Converted

Young Women General President

Brothers and sisters, what a humbling experience it is to stand at this pulpit where so many of the heroes of my life have stood. I would like to share with you some of the feelings of my heart and direct them especially to the youth.
One of the great heroes from the Old Testament was the prophet-warrior Joshua. He extended this invitation to the children of Israel, whom he led: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”1 Joshua’s declaration demonstrates true conversion to the gospel. For Joshua and all of us, conversion to gospel principles comes through righteously living the principles of the gospel and being true to our covenants with the Lord.
I would like to share a conversion story from my family history about another of my heroes. Her name is Agnes Hoggan, and she and her husband joined the Church in Scotland in 1861. Suffering great persecution in their homeland, they immigrated to America with their children. Several years later, Agnes became a widow with eight children to support and worked hard to keep them fed and clothed. Her 12-year-old daughter, Isabelle, was lucky enough to find employment as a servant to a wealthy, non-LDS family.
Isabelle lived in their large home and helped look after their younger children. In exchange for her services, a small wage was paid each week to her mother. Isabelle was soon accepted as a member of the family and began to enjoy many of the same privileges, such as taking dance lessons, wearing beautiful clothing, and attending the theater. This arrangement continued for four years, until the family for whom Isabelle worked was transferred to another state. They had grown so fond of Isabelle that they approached her mother, Agnes, and asked for permission to legally adopt her. They promised they would provide her with a good education, see that she married well, and make her an heir to their estate with their own children. They would also continue to make payments to Agnes.
This struggling widow and mother had a hard decision to make, but she did not hesitate for a moment. Listen to the words of her granddaughter, written many years later: “If her love had not compelled [her] to say no, she had an even better reason—she had come all the way from Scotland and had gone through tribulations and trials for the Gospel, and she did not intend, if humanly possible, to let a child of hers lose what she had come so far to gain.”2 The wealthy family used every possible argument, and Isabelle herself cried and begged to be allowed to go, but Agnes remained firm. As you can imagine, 16-year-old Isabelle felt as if her life was ruined.
Isabelle Hoggan is my great-grandmother, and I am most grateful for the testimony and conviction that burned so brightly in her mother’s heart, which did not allow her to trade her daughter’s membership in the Church for worldly promises. Today, hundreds of her descendants who enjoy the blessings of membership in the Church are the beneficiaries of Agnes’s deep-seated faith and conversion to the gospel.
Young friends, we live in perilous times, and the decisions which you are called upon to make on a daily, or even hourly, basis have eternal consequences. The decisions you make in your daily life will determine what happens to you later. If you do not yet have a firmly rooted testimony and conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, now is the time to do what it takes to gain that conviction. To delay making the effort required to earn that kind of conviction can be dangerous to your soul.
True conversion is more than merely having a knowledge of gospel principles and implies even more than just having a testimony of those principles. It is possible to have a testimony of the gospel without living it. Being truly converted means we are acting upon what we believe and allowing it to create “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts.”3 In the booklet True to the Faith, we learn that “conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted as a result of … righteous efforts to follow the Savior.”4 It takes time, effort, and work. My great-great-grandmother had a strong conviction that the gospel was more important for her children than all that the world had to offer in the way of wealth and comfort because she had sacrificed, endured, and lived the gospel. Her conversion came through living the principles of the gospel and sacrificing for them.
We have to go through that same process if we want to gain that same kind of commitment. The Savior 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.”5 Sometimes we try to do it backward. For example, we may take this approach: I will be happy to live the law of tithing, but first I need to know that it’s true. Maybe we even pray to gain a testimony of the law of tithing and hope the Lord will bless us with that testimony before we have ever filled out a tithing slip. It just doesn’t work that way. The Lord expects us to exercise faith. We have to consistently pay a full and honest tithe in order to gain a testimony of tithing. This same pattern applies to all the principles of the gospel, whether it is the law of chastity, the principle of modesty, the Word of Wisdom, or the law of the fast.
I would like to share an example of how living a principle helps us become converted to that principle. I was a young woman in the ’60s and the only LDS girl in my high school. It was a revolutionary period characterized by the rejection of traditional morals, drug use, and an “anything goes” mentality. Many of my peers were good people but found it easy to get caught up in the excitement of this new morality, which actually was just the old immorality. My parents and teachers at church had impressed upon me the value of treating my body with respect, keeping a clear mind, and most of all, learning to trust in the Lord’s commandments. I made the decision to avoid situations where I knew alcohol would be present and to stay clear of tobacco and drugs. It often meant I was not included at parties, and I rarely dated. Drug use was becoming more and more common among young people, and the dangers were not as well known as they are today. Many of my peers later suffered permanent damage from mind-altering drugs or got caught up in serious addictions. I was grateful to have been taught to live the Word of Wisdom in my home, and I gained a deep testimony of that principle of the gospel as I exercised faith and lived it. The good feeling that came to me from living a true gospel principle was the Spirit of the Holy Ghost confirming that the principle was true. That is when true conversion begins to take place.
The prophet Moroni, in the Book of Mormon, taught, “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.”6 In our world where instant gratification is the expectation, we are often guilty of expecting the reward without having to work for it. I believe Moroni is telling us that we must do the work first and exercise faith by living the gospel, and then we will receive the witness that it is true. True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month.
This is a glorious time to be a youth in the Church. You are the first to participate in the youth curriculum Come, Follow Me, which has as one of its main purposes your conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is well to remember that no matter how inspired your parents and youth leaders may be, “you have [the] primary responsibility for your own conversion. No one can be converted for you, and no one can force you to be converted.”7 Conversion takes place as we are diligent about saying our prayers, studying our scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in temple ordinances. Conversion comes as we act upon the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom. Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Conversion comes as we understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives.
Your personal conversion will help you as you prepare to make covenants in the temple, serve missions, and establish your own future homes. As you are converted, you will have a desire to share with others what you have learned, and your confidence and ability to testify to others with conviction and power will increase. This desire to share the gospel with others and the confidence to testify boldly are natural results of true conversion. The Savior taught Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”8
Remember Joshua, the prophet-warrior? He was not only converted himself, but he worked tirelessly to the end of his life to bring the children of Israel to God. We read in the Old Testament, “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua.”9 A person who has experienced true conversion draws upon the power of the Atonement and receives salvation for his or her own soul, then reaches out to exert a powerful influence upon all those who know him or her.
Living the gospel and standing in holy places is not always easy or comfortable, but I testify that it is worth it! The Lord counseled Emma Smith to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”10 I suspect we cannot begin to imagine just how magnificent those “things of a better” world are!
I testify that we have a loving Heavenly Father whose greatest desire is to help and bless us in our efforts to live the gospel and be converted. He has clearly stated that His main focus and work is our “immortality and eternal life.”11 He desires to bring us home to His presence. I testify that as we act upon the doctrines of the gospel and put them into daily practice, we will become converted and will become the means of accomplishing much good in our families and in the world. May we all be blessed in our daily efforts to reach for that goal is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Show References


  1. 1. Joshua 24:15.
  2. 2. Fuschia Stringham, “Sketch of the Life of Isabelle Hunter Hoggan Stringham” (unpublished personal history, 1934), 4.
  3. 3. Mosiah 5:2.
  4. 4. True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference (2004), 41.
  5. 5. John 7:17.
  6. 6. Ether 12:6.
  7. 7. True to the Faith, 43.
  8. 8. Luke 22:32.
  9. 9. Joshua 24:31.
  10. 10. Doctrine and Covenants 25:10.
  11. 11. Moses 1:39.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fear Tactics

I have been having some conversations online with non-lds people.  A common response I often get from them is that Joseph Smith was a false prophet.  They say he lied.  From the scriptures we learn to beware of false prophets.  The scriptures liken them to wolves in sheep's clothing.  This scripture does tend to incite great fear in to people.  Ministers of other religions often play upon this fear and warn their congregation to stay away from people who claim to be a prophet.  Then we have a few incidents of people who truly were false prophets, such as the situation in Waco, who lead people to their deaths.  These events only add to the fear that people harbour about the danger of false prophets.

But what about true prophets?  In Amos 3:7 we read, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."  If there are false prophets, then there must be true prophets too.  But where are they?  In olden times, God would choose a prophet, such as Noah, or Moses, or Abraham, and would reveal His will to them.  These prophets would then teach the people God's will, and lead them to do what He had asked.  This was a pattern used in olden times.  Why is it not a pattern today?  We believe that God does call prophets today.  We need them more now than ever!  Prophets today are like a watchman on a tower who can see the enemy coming and warn us.  Some prophets are false, but true prophets do exist.

Another manifestation of fear I see is when people are afraid to learn.  They are so afraid that they will be brainwashed, that they refuse to even listen.  I believe in the ability of people to listen, and make an educated decision on their own.  People should not be afraid to learn what others believe.  I also believe that if people listen, and then pray to God to know if what they have heard is true, God can manifest to them the truth, or untruth of that thing.

So many people accuse our church of being a cult.  This is another fear tactic used by ministers to try to keep people from learning about our religion.  A true cult uses special methods to brainwash people.  They isolate them, starve them,and use other means to break down their ability to make decisions.  If just listening is the way to brainwash, then we could accuse all educators of brainwashing.  But some well-meaning ministers will use this scare tactic to keep their members from even listening to what other religions believe. 

I hope that true seekers of truth will follow the teaching in the Bible; "By their fruits ye shall know them."  Pay attention to how you feel when you hear their teachings.  The Spirit can testify of truth, and can warn us of evil.  With the Spirit as our guide, we truly have no need to fear.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Conference Messages: Be Meek and Lowly of Heart

This is a wonderful talk about obtaining meekness.  I still have a way to go to learn this attribute.  But this talk is encouraging!:

Be Meek and Lowly of Heart

 By Elder Ulisses Soares Of the Presidency of the Seventy

"Mormon taught that a man “cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.”1 He added that without such attributes, “faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.”2

Meekness is the quality of those who are “Godfearing, righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.”3 Those who possess this attribute are willing to follow Jesus Christ, and their temperament is calm, docile, tolerant, and submissive.

The Apostle Paul taught that meekness is a fruit of the Spirit.4 Therefore, it can most easily be attained if we “live in the Spirit.”5 And to live in the Spirit, our lifestyle must reflect righteousness before the Lord.

As we take Christ’s name upon us, it is expected that we strive to emulate His attributes and change our character to become more like Him each day. The Savior, admonishing His disciples, said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”6 If we “come unto Christ, … deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness; … and love God,” then through Christ’s grace the day will come when we may be perfect in Him.7

“Christlike attributes are gifts from God. [These attributes] come as [we] use [our] agency righteously. …With a desire to please God, [we have to] recognize [our] weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.”8

Meekness is vital for us to become more Christlike. Without it we won’t be able to develop other important virtues. Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control.

Meekness was one of the most abundant attributes in the Savior’s life. He Himself taught His disciples, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.”9

We are blessed to be born with the seed of meekness in our hearts. We need to understand that it is not possible to grow and develop that seed in the twinkling of an eye but rather through the process of time. Christ asks us to “take up [our] cross daily,”10 meaning that it must be a constant focus and desire.

President Lorenzo Snow, the fifth prophet of our dispensation, taught, “It is our duty to try to be perfect, … to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.”11 So the first step to becoming meek is to improve day by day. Each day we need to try to be better than the previous as we move forward through this process.

President Snow added:

“We have our little follies and our weaknesses; we should try to overcome them as fast as possible, and … should [instill] this feeling in the hearts of our children … that they may learn to [behave] properly before Him under all circumstances.

“If the husband can live with his wife one day without quarrelling or without treating anyone unkindly or without grieving the Spirit of God … ; he is so far perfect. Then let him try to be the same the next day. But supposing he should fail in this his next day’s attempt, that is no reason why he should not succeed in doing so the third day.”12

Upon acknowledging our dedication and perseverance, the Lord will give us that which we are not able to attain due to our imperfections and human weaknesses.

Another important step to becoming meek is learning how to control our temper. Because the natural man dwells within each one of us and because we live in a world full of pressure, controlling our temper may become one of the challenges in our lives. Think for a few seconds how you react when someone does not comply with your desires the moment you want them to. What about when people disagree with your ideas, even though you are absolutely sure that they represent the proper solution to a problem? What is your response when someone offends you, critiques your efforts, or is simply unkind because he or she is in a bad mood? At these moments and in other difficult situations, we must learn to control our temper and convey our feelings with patience and gentle persuasion. This is most important within our homes and within our relationships with our eternal companions. During the 31 years I’ve been married to my sweetheart, she has often given me gentle reminders of this as we have faced life’s unsettling challenges.

Among instructions found in his Second Epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul said:

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,

“In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

“And that they may recover themselves.”13

By controlling our reactions, being calm and temperate, and avoiding contention, we will begin to qualify for the gift of meekness. President Henry B. Eyring once said, “When we with faith control our tempers and subdue our pride, the Holy Ghost gives His approval, and sacred promises and covenants become sure.”14

Another step to attain meekness is to become humble. The Lord instructed Thomas B. Marsh through the Prophet Joseph Smith, saying, “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”15

I believe, brothers and sisters, that only those who are humble are able to acknowledge and understand the Lord’s answers to their prayers. The humble are teachable, recognizing how dependent they are on God and desiring to be subject to His will. The humble are meek and have the ability to influence others to be the same. God’s promise to the humble is that He will lead them by the hand. I truly believe that we will avoid detours and sadness in our lives as long as we walk hand in hand with the Lord.

One of the most beautiful modern-day examples of meekness that I am aware of is that of Brother Moses Mahlangu. His conversion began in 1964, when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was fascinated as he read this book, but it was not until the early ’70s that he saw an LDS Church sign on a building in Johannesburg, South Africa, as he was walking down a street. Brother Mahlangu was intrigued and entered the building to learn more about the Church. He was kindly told that he could not attend the services or be baptized because the country’s laws did not allow it at that time.

Brother Mahlangu accepted that decision with meekness, humility, and without resentment, but he continued to have a strong desire to learn more about the Church. He asked the Church leaders if they could leave one of the meetinghouse windows open during the Sunday meetings so he could sit outside and listen to the services. For several years, Brother Mahlangu’s family and friends attended church regularly “through the window.” One day in 1980 they were told that they could attend church and also be baptized. What a glorious day it was for Brother Mahlangu.

Later the Church organized a branch in his neighborhood in Soweto. This was possible only because of the determination, courage, and faithfulness of people like Brother Mahlangu who remained faithful for so many years under difficult circumstances.

One of Brother Mahlangu’s friends, who had joined the Church at the same time, recounted this story to me when I visited the Soweto stake. At the end of our conversation, he gave me a hug. At that moment, brothers and sisters, I felt as if I was encircled in the Savior’s loving arms. Meekness emanated from this good brother’s eyes. With a heart full of goodness and deep gratitude, he asked if I could just tell President Thomas S. Monson how grateful and blessed he and many others were for having the true gospel in their lives. Brother Mahlangu and his friend’s example of meekness truly influenced many lives for good—especially mine.

Brothers and sisters, I believe the Savior Jesus Christ is the supreme example of meekness. Even during the last moments of His mortal life, being unfairly accused and condemned, painfully carrying His cross up to Golgotha, being mocked and cursed by His enemies, being abandoned by many who knew Him and had witnessed His miracles, He was nailed on the cross.

Even after the most intense physical suffering, the Lord turned to His Father and spoke from the bottom of His meek and humble heart: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”16 Christ faced extreme physical and spiritual suffering, giving us the opportunity to change our spiritual character and become meek like Him.

I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I testify to you that, thanks to His love, it is possible to change. It is possible to leave our weaknesses behind. It is possible to reject the evil influences in our lives, control our anger, become meek, and develop the attributes of our Savior. He showed us the way. He gave us the perfect example and commanded each one of us to become as He is. His invitation to us is to follow Him, follow His example, and become like Him. Of these truths I bear testimony in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen."

1. Moroni 7:43.

2. Moroni 7:44.

3. Guide to the Scriptures, “Meek, Meekness,” scriptures.lds.org.

4. See Galatians 5:22–23.

5. Galatians 5:25.

6. Matthew 5:48.

7. Moroni 10:32.

8. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 115.

9. Matthew 11:29.

10. Luke 9:23.

11. Lorenzo Snow, in Conference Report, Apr. 1898, 13.

12. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (2012), 100, 101.

13. 2 Timothy 2:24–26.

14. Henry B. Eyring, “Families under Covenant,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 65.

15. Doctrine and Covenants 112:10.

16. Luke 23:34.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Family of God

One of the common criticisms of our church that I hear from non-lds, is that we believe that Jesus and Satan are actually spirit brothers.  I want to address this criticism, and explain the doctrine behind this teaching.  I think a study of the Bible will show that this teaching does have basis in the scriptures.

I think the best place to begin is with this scripture from Romans 8:16,17:   "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."  It is no wonder that we call God our "Heavenly Father".    Hebrews 12:9 says, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?"   Another good scripture to show this teaching is found in Numbers 16:22: " And they fell upon their faces, and said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?"  Or how about this one from Psalms 82:6  " I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High."  And this one from Acts 17:9  "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device." He is the father of our spirits.

In the pre-existence, before this world was made, we lived with God.  Consider this scripture from Jeremiah 1:4-5:  "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,  5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."  Jeremiah was with God before he was born, and was fore-ordained as a prophet.  Not only Jeremiah was present then, but we all, as spirit children of God, were there.   Among our numbers was Lucifer, who is known more commonly today as "the Devil".

  God proposed the plan of salvation, whereby we all could be saved.  This plan was dependent upon our having free agency to choose for ourselves.  This life then became a test, to see if we would follow God or not.  Lucifer proposed another plan, and suggested that instead of having free will, we should be forced to obey.  He felt that in this way, we could all be saved.  In addition, he sought after the glory that would come to him if his plan worked.  He sought to exalt himself above God.  One third of the spirit children of God chose to follow Lucifer's plan.

God's plan depended upon a Savior that would come to atone for the sins of the world, and would also overcome death and bring about the resurrection.  Jesus offered to be the Savior for us all.

Of course Lucifer was very upset, and a war ensued.  Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven; cast down to this earth.  We have this account from the book of Revelation which speaks about Satan and his followers, and about the birth of Jesus Christ:

 Revelation 12: 4-9: " 3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

 6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."  (Remember when Joseph took Mary and Jesus in to Egypt to escape King Herod's plan to kill all of the young children?)

 7" And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

Notice that in verse 9 it mentions that this act of rebellion, and the war that he waged, is what earned Lucifer the titles of Devil, and Satan.

In Isaiah we read more about this fall.  Isaiah's description of this event is quite moving, and we can feel his sadness that Lucifer should fall from God's presence.  

Isaiah 14:12-15:
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

So we see that Lucifer, or the Devil, fell from a place of greatness.  He had been called "son of the morning", but now was called the Devil.  He was also a spirit child of God, but chose to rebel against God, thereby being cast out from the presence of God.

Many people that I have talked to have been upset that I would suggest that Jesus had any connection to the Devil.  But let's consider for a moment the rest of our spirit brothers and sisters.  If we are indeed children of God, then all of mankind are spirit brothers and sisters.  That means that even Hitler, and pedophiles, and serial killers, and drug lords, and dictators are spirit children of God.  They are part of this great family of humans.  They are children of God.  However, their choices separate them from God in the hereafter.  If they do not rely on the atonement of Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, they will not have a place with God in heaven.  Their choices do not diminish the Godhood of Jesus Christ.  Their choices to do not diminish His greatness and glory.  To suggest that they are His spirit brothers and sisters, or that Satan is also His spirit brother, does not suggest that Jesus is somehow tainted by them.  On the contrary, Christ suffered for all men, that if they would repent, they could be forgiven and return to live with God some day.  He begs all men, no matter how sinful, to come unto Him and be healed.  He suffered their sins, and knows their sins.  But although He suffered those sins, He himself was without sin.

I hope that you will ask any questions that you may have about this subject, and I will try my best to answer them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Conference Messages: Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage

This talk is so timely.  Both in and out of the church we have those who are being deceived by the world, and are being caught in "intellectual bondage".  This talk speaks about ways we can keep ourselves from being trapped.

Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage

By Elder Quentin L. Cook

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Early in our marriage my wife, Mary, and I decided that to the extent possible we would choose activities that we could attend together. We also wanted to be prudent with our budget. Mary loves music and was undoubtedly concerned that I might overemphasize sporting events, so she negotiated that for all paid events, there would be two musicals, operas, or cultural activities for each paid ball game.

Initially I was resistant to the opera component, but over time I changed my view. I particularly came to enjoy the operas by Giuseppe Verdi.1 This week will be the 200th anniversary of his birth.

In his youth Verdi was intrigued with the prophet Jeremiah, and in 1842, at the age of 28, he achieved fame with the opera Nabucco, a shortened Italian form of the name Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. This opera contains concepts drawn from the books of Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Psalms in the Old Testament. The opera includes the conquest of Jerusalem and the captivity and bondage of the Jews. Psalm 137 is the inspiration for Verdi’s moving and inspiring “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.” The heading of this psalm in our scriptures is very dramatic: “While in captivity, the Jews wept by the rivers of Babylon—Because of sorrow, they could not bear to sing the songs of Zion.”

My purpose is to review many forms of bondage and subjugation. I will compare some circumstances of our day with those in the days of Jeremiah before the downfall of Jerusalem. In presenting this voice of warning, I am grateful that most Church members are righteously avoiding the conduct that was so offensive to the Lord in Jeremiah’s time.

The prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah are important to Latter-day Saints. Jeremiah and the Jerusalem of his day are the backdrop to the beginning chapters in the Book of Mormon. Jeremiah was a contemporary of the prophet Lehi.2 The Lord dramatically informed Jeremiah of his foreordination: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”3

Lehi had a different calling, mission, and assignment from the Lord. He was not called in his youth but in his maturity. Initially his was a voice of warning, but after faithfully declaring the same message as Jeremiah, Lehi was commanded by the Lord to take his family and depart into the wilderness.4 In doing so, Lehi blessed not only his family but also all people.

During the years before the destruction of Jerusalem,5 the messages the Lord gave to Jeremiah are haunting. He said:

“My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. …

“… They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed … out … broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”6

Speaking of the calamities to come upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Lord lamented, “[For them] the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and [they] are not saved.”7

God intended that men and women would be free to make choices between good and evil. When evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there are serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. People can become enslaved or put themselves in bondage not only to harmful, addictive substances but also to harmful, addictive philosophies that detract from righteous living.

Turning from the worship of the true and living God and worshipping false gods like wealth and fame and engaging in immoral and unrighteous conduct result in bondage in all its insidious manifestations. These include spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage and sometimes bring destruction. Jeremiah and Lehi also taught that those who are righteous must help the Lord establish His Church and kingdom and gather scattered Israel.8

These messages have echoed and been reinforced across the centuries in all dispensations. They are at the heart of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this, the final dispensation.

The captivity of the Jews and the scattering of the tribes of Israel, including the ten tribes, are prominent doctrinal factors in the Restoration of the gospel. The ten lost tribes made up the Northern Kingdom of Israel and were carried away captive into Assyria in 721 b.c. They went to the north countries.9 Our tenth article of faith states, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.”10 We also believe that as part of the covenant the Lord made with Abraham, not only the lineage of Abraham would be blessed but also all the people of the earth would be blessed. As Elder Russell M. Nelson has stated, the gathering “is not a matter of physical location; it is a matter of individual commitment. People can be ‘brought to the knowledge of the Lord’ [3 Nephi 20:13] without leaving their homelands.”11

Our doctrine is clear: “The Lord scattered and afflicted the twelve tribes of Israel because of their unrighteousness and rebellion. However, the Lord also [utilized] this scattering of his chosen people among the nations of the world to bless those nations.”12

We learn valuable lessons from this tragic period. We should do everything within our power to avoid the sin and rebellion that lead to bondage.13 We also recognize that righteous living is a prerequisite for assisting the Lord in gathering His elect and in the literal gathering of Israel.

Bondage, subjugation, addictions, and servitude come in many forms. They can be literal physical enslavement but can also be loss or impairment of moral agency that can impede our progress. Jeremiah is clear that unrighteousness and rebellion were the main reasons for the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity in Babylon.14

Other kinds of bondage are equally destructive of the human spirit. Moral agency can be abused in many ways.15 I will mention four that are particularly pernicious in today’s culture.

First, addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage. The impact of drugs and alcohol, immorality, pornography, gambling, financial subjugation, and other afflictions imposes on those in bondage and on society a burden of such magnitude that it is almost impossible to quantify.

Second, some addictions or predilections, while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives. These can include excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation, and many others.16

How we preserve time for family is one of the most significant issues we face in most cultures. At a time when I was the only member of the Church in our law firm, one woman lawyer explained to me how she always felt like a juggler trying to keep three balls in the air at the same time. One ball was her law practice, one was her marriage, and one was her children. She had almost given up on time for herself. She was greatly concerned that one of the balls was always on the ground. I suggested we meet as a group and discuss our priorities. We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn’t nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential?17 We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men. Let us be at the forefront in protecting time for family.

Third, the most universal subjugation in our day, as it has been throughout history, is ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Substituting the philosophies of men for gospel truth can lead us away from the simplicity of the Savior’s message. When the Apostle Paul visited Athens, he tried to teach of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Of this effort we read in Acts, “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”18 When the crowd realized the simple religious nature of Paul’s message, which was not new, they rejected it.

This is emblematic of our own day, where gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage. There are many voices now telling women how to live.19 They often contradict each other. Of particular concern are philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers, or friends to children.

A few months ago our two youngest granddaughters visited us—one each week. I was at home and answered the door. My wife, Mary, was in another room. In both cases, after a hug, they said almost the same thing. They looked around and then said, “I love to be in Grandma’s house. Where is Grandma?” I didn’t say it to them, but I was thinking, “Isn’t this Grandpa’s house too?” But I realized that when I was a boy, our family went to Grandma’s house. The words of a familiar song came into my mind: “Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”

Now, let me say unequivocally that I am thrilled with the educational and other opportunities that are available to women. I treasure the fact that the backbreaking work and domestic drudgery required of women has been reduced in much of the world because of modern conveniences and that women are making such magnificent contributions in every field of endeavor. But if we allow our culture to reduce the special relationship that children have with mothers and grandmothers and others who nurture them, we will come to regret it.

Fourth, forces that violate sincerely held religious principles can result in bondage. One of the most invidious forms is when righteous people who feel accountable to God for their conduct are forced into activities that violate their conscience—for example, health providers forced to choose between assisting with abortions against their consciences or losing their jobs.

The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us. Latter-day Saints in every country should be good citizens, participate in civic affairs, educate themselves on the issues, and vote.

Our primary emphasis, however, should always be to make any necessary sacrifices to protect our own family and the rising generation.20 The vast majority of them are not yet in bondage to serious addictions or false ideologies. We must help inoculate them from a world that sounds a lot like the Jerusalem that Lehi and Jeremiah experienced. In addition, we need to prepare them to make and keep sacred covenants and to be the principal emissaries to help the Lord establish His Church and gather scattered Israel and the Lord’s elect everywhere.21 As the Doctrine and Covenants beautifully reads, “The righteous shall be gathered out from among all nations, and shall come to Zion, singing with songs of everlasting joy.”22

Our challenge is to avoid bondage of any kind, help the Lord gather His elect, and sacrifice for the rising generation. We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior. When Lehi’s family fled, they were led by the Lord’s light. If we are true to His light, follow His commandments, and rely on His merits, we will avoid spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage as well as the lamentation of wandering in our own wilderness, for He is mighty to save.

Let us avoid the despair and sorrow of those who fall into captivity and can no longer bear to sing the songs of Zion. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Many Verdi operas, like Aida, La traviata, and Il trovatore, are among the most popular operas performed across the world today.

2. See 1 Nephi 5:13; 7:14.

3. Jeremiah 1:5.

4. See 1 Nephi 2:2–3.

5. The destruction of Solomon’s temple, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the captivity of the tribe of Judah occurred in about 586 b.c.

6. Jeremiah 2:11, 13.

7. Jeremiah 8:20. Jeremiah previously recorded the Lord crying for repentance, “I am pained at my very heart” (Jeremiah 4:19) and pleading, “Find a man … that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jeremiah 5:1).

8. See Jeremiah 31; 1 Nephi 10:14.

9. See 2 Kings 17:6; Doctrine and Covenants 110:11.

10. Articles of Faith 1:10; see also 2 Nephi 10:22.

11. Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon and the Gathering of Israel” (address given at the seminar for new mission presidents, June 26, 2013).

12. Guide to the Scriptures, “Israel,” scriptures.lds.org.

13. The Lord, speaking in our day, said, “The whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin … because they come not unto me” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:49–50).

14. Innocent people can, of course, also be enslaved.

15. Doctrinal principles don’t change, but the means of bondage, subjugation, and destruction have accelerated in an unprecedented fashion.

16. This was aptly and somewhat humorously noted on the cover of the New York Times Magazine last year (Apr. 8, 2012) referencing the addictive nature of digital games. It read, “The Hyperaddictive, Time-Sucking, Relationship-Busting, Mind-Crushing Power and Allure of Silly Digital Games.” And then in small print: “(Which is not to say we don’t love them too.)” This, in a lighthearted way, emphasizes the necessity of exercising wisdom in our use of the marvelous technological inventions of our age.

17. The common mantra in many work environments is “We work hard, and we play hard.” While employee cohesion is important, when “work and play” crowd out family time, it is self-defeating.

18. Acts 17:21; emphasis added.

19. See Keli Goff, “Female Ivy League Graduates Have a Duty to Stay in the Workforce,” Guardian, Apr. 21, 2013, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/21/female-ivy-league-graduates-stay-home-moms; Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013); Anne-Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” The Atlantic, June 13, 2012, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020; Lois M. Collins, “Can Women ‘Have It All’ When It Comes to Work and Family Life?” Deseret News, June 28, 2012, A3; Judith Warner, “The Midcareer Timeout (Is Over),” New York Times Magazine, Aug. 11, 2013, 24–29, 38; Scott Schieman, Markus Schafer, and Mitchell McIvor, “When Leaning In Doesn’t Pay Off,” New York Times, Aug. 11, 2013, 12.

20. The Church has encouraged bishoprics to assist families by spending more time with young men, young women, and young single adults. Bishoprics have been encouraged to delegate more responsibilities in ward council to the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, to auxiliaries, and to members who have special abilities to assist others appropriately.

21. See Doctrine and Covenants 29:7.

22. Doctrine and Covenants 45:71.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Conference Messages: Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

General Conference has come again, and I am going to post some of my favorite talks.  Really, all of the talks are wonderful, but a few really stood out to me.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.  This first one really speaks to the heart of the gospel, of the healing power of the Savior.

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

 By Elder Timothy J. Dyches  Of the Seventy

During a time of joyful feasting at Jerusalem, the Savior left the multitudes to seek out those in greatest need. He found them at Bethesda, the five-porch pool by the sheep market that was renowned for attracting the afflicted.

The Gospel of John tells us that near the pool “lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

“For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (John 5:3–4).

The Savior’s visit is depicted in a beautiful painting by Carl Bloch titled Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda. Bloch captures Jesus gently lifting a temporary canopy, revealing an “impotent man” (John 5:7) who is lying near the pool, waiting. Here the word impotent refers to someone who is powerless and emphasizes the mercy and grace of the Savior, who came quietly to minister to those who could not help themselves.

In the painting, the afflicted man huddles on the floor in the shadows, exhausted and demoralized after suffering his infirmity for 38 years.

As the Savior raises the edge of the cloth with one hand, He beckons with the other and asks a penetrating question: “Wilt thou be made whole?”

The man replies, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6–7).

To the man’s seemingly impossible challenge, Jesus provides a profound and unexpected answer:

“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

“And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:8–9).

In another tender scene, Luke tells us that the Savior, while traveling to Jerusalem, met 10 lepers. Because of their infirmity, they “stood afar off” (Luke 17:12). They were outcasts—unclean and unwanted.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried (Luke 17:13)—in other words, importuning, “Isn’t there something You can do for us?”

The Great Physician, full of compassion, still knew that faith must precede the miracle and therefore told them, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests” (Luke 17:14).

As they went in faith, the miracle occurred. Can you imagine the overwhelming joy with each step as they witnessed in real time their bodies being cleansed, healed, and restored right before their eyes?

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

“And fell down on his face at [the Master’s] feet, giving him thanks. …

“And [Jesus] said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:15–16, 19).

In my former practice as a physician and surgeon, I focused on mending and correcting the physical. Jesus Christ heals body, mind, and spirit, and His healing begins with faith.

Do you remember when your faith and joy were full to the brim? Remember the moment you found your testimony or when God confirmed to you that you were His son or daughter and that He loved you very much—and you felt whole? If that time seems lost, it can be found again.

The Savior counsels us on how to be made whole—to be complete or become healed:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

“Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22) invites us to leave behind the old life and worldly desires and become a new creature for whom “old things are passed away [and] all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), even with a new, faithful heart. And we are made whole again.

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 88:63).

As we draw near to Him, we realize that mortality is meant to be difficult and that “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11) is not a flaw in the plan of salvation. Opposition, rather, is the indispensable element of mortality and strengthens our will and refines our choices. The vicissitudes of life help us fashion an eternal relationship with God—and engrave His image upon our countenance as we yield our hearts to Him (see Alma 5:19).

“This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) is what our Savior asked when He instituted what we call the sacrament. This ordinance with bread and water renews sacred covenants we have made with God and invites the power of the Atonement into our lives. We are healed by abandoning the habits and lifestyles that harden hearts and stiffen necks. When we lay down “the weapons of [our] rebellion” (Alma 23:7), we become “agents unto [ourselves]” (D&C 58:28), no longer blinded by the sophistry of Satan or deafened by the discordant noise of the secular world.

As we repent and become converted to the Lord, we become whole, and our guilt is swept away. We may wonder, as did Enos, “How is it done?” The Lord answers: “Because of thy faith in Christ. … Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1:7, 8).

Corrie ten Boom, a devout Dutch Christian woman, found such healing despite having been interned in concentration camps during World War II. She suffered greatly, but unlike her beloved sister Betsie, who perished in one of the camps, Corrie survived.

After the war she often spoke publicly of her experiences and of healing and forgiveness. On one occasion a former Nazi guard who had been part of Corrie’s own grievous confinement in Ravensbrück, Germany, approached her, rejoicing at her message of Christ’s forgiveness and love.

“‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

“His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. “And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. … Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

“I tried to smile, [and] I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”1

Corrie ten Boom was made whole.

President Thomas S. Monson has said, “There is one life that sustains those who are troubled or beset with sorrow and grief—even the Lord Jesus Christ.”2

If you feel unclean, unloved, unhappy, unworthy, or unwhole, remember “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”3 Have faith and patience in the Savior’s timing and purposes for you. “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36).

Be assured the Savior still seeks to mend our souls and heal our hearts. He waits at the door and knocks. Let us answer by beginning again to pray, repent, forgive, and forget. Let us love God and serve our neighbor and stand in holy places with a life made clean. The impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, the leper along the journey to Jerusalem, and Corrie ten Boom were made whole. “Wilt thou be made whole?” Rise and walk. His “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and you will not walk alone.

I have come to know that God lives. I know that we are all His children and that He loves us for who we are and for who we can become. I know that He sent His Son to the world to be the atoning sacrifice for all mankind and that those who embrace His gospel and follow Him will be made whole and complete—“in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will” (D&C 88:68), by His tender mercies. This is my witness to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (1971), 215.

2. Thomas S. Monson, “Meeting Life’s Challenges,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 71.

3. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 52.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Great Plan of Happiness

This talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks really explains the plan of salvation.  I think he really puts it all together well

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

"Questions like, Where did we come from? Why are we here? and Where are we going? are answered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prophets have called it the plan of salvation and “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). Through inspiration we can understand this road map of eternity and use it to guide our path in mortality.
The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth we had “a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father” (statement of the First Presidency, Improvement Era, Mar. 1912, p. 417; also see Jer. 1:5). We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is the result of random processes.
Our understanding of life begins with a council in heaven. There the spirit children of God were taught his eternal plan for their destiny. We had progressed as far as we could without a physical body and an experience in mortality. To realize a fulness of joy, we had to prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God in a circumstance where we had no memory of what preceded our mortal birth.
In the course of mortality, we would become subject to death, and we would be soiled by sin. To reclaim us from death and sin, our Heavenly Father’s plan provided us a Savior, whose atonement would redeem all from death and pay the price necessary for all to be cleansed from sin on the conditions he prescribed (see 2 Ne. 9:19–24).
Satan had his own plan. He proposed to save all the spirit children of God, assuring that result by removing their power to choose and thus eliminating the possibility of sin. When Satan’s plan was rejected, he and the spirits who followed him opposed the Father’s plan and were cast out.
All of the myriads of mortals who have been born on this earth chose the Father’s plan and fought for it. Many of us also made covenants with the Father concerning what we would do in mortality. In ways that have not been revealed, our actions in the spirit world influence us in mortality.
Although Satan and his followers have lost their opportunity to have a physical body, they are permitted to use their spirit powers to try to frustrate God’s plan. This provides the opposition necessary to test how mortals will use their freedom to choose. Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to the Father’s plan. Satan seeks to discredit the Savior and divine authority, to nullify the effects of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to lead people away from the truth, to contradict individual accountability, to confuse gender, to undermine marriage, and to discourage childbearing (especially by parents who will raise children in righteousness).
Maleness and femaleness, marriage, and the bearing and nurturing of children are all essential to the great plan of happiness. Modern revelation makes clear that what we call gender was part of our existence prior to our birth. God declares that he created “male and female” (D&C 20:18; Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27). Elder James E. Talmage explained: “The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life; it was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition” (Millennial Star, 24 Aug. 1922, p. 539).
To the first man and woman on earth, the Lord said, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Moses 2:28; see also Gen. 1:28; Abr. 4:28). This commandment was first in sequence and first in importance. It was essential that God’s spirit children have mortal birth and an opportunity to progress toward eternal life. Consequently, all things related to procreation are prime targets for the adversary’s efforts to thwart the plan of God.
When Adam and Eve received the first commandment, they were in a transitional state, no longer in the spirit world but with physical bodies not yet subject to death and not yet capable of procreation. They could not fulfill the Father’s first commandment without transgressing the barrier between the bliss of the Garden of Eden and the terrible trials and wonderful opportunities of mortal life.
For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose. The Prophet Lehi explained that “if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen” (2 Ne. 2:22), but would have remained in the same state in which he was created.
“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Ne. 2:23).
But the Fall was planned, Lehi concludes, because “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (2 Ne. 2:24).
It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).
Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).
This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.
Modern revelation shows that our first parents understood the necessity of the Fall. Adam declared, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).
Note the different perspective and the special wisdom of Eve, who focused on the purpose and effect of the great plan of happiness: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw “the great and mighty ones” assembled to meet the Son of God, and among them was “our glorious Mother Eve” (D&C 138:38–39).
When we understand the plan of salvation, we also understand the purpose and effect of the commandments God has given his children. He teaches us correct principles and invites us to govern ourselves. We do this by the choices we make in mortality.
We live in a day when there are many political, legal, and social pressures for changes that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women. Our eternal perspective sets us against changes that alter those separate duties and privileges of men and women that are essential to accomplish the great plan of happiness. We do not oppose all changes in the treatment of men and women, since some changes in laws or customs simply correct old wrongs that were never grounded in eternal principles.
The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Its use was mandated in the first commandment, but another important commandment was given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan.
The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but he has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “in the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 311).
Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women. The Book of Mormon teaches that unchastity is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5). In our own day, the First Presidency of the Church has declared the doctrine of this Church “that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder” (“Message of the First Presidency,” 3 Oct. 1942, as quoted in Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:176). Some who do not know the plan of salvation behave like promiscuous animals, but Latter-day Saints—especially those who are under sacred covenants—have no such latitude. We are solemnly responsible to God for the destruction or misuse of the creative powers he has placed within us.
The ultimate act of destruction is to take a life. That is why abortion is such a serious sin. Our attitude toward abortion is not based on revealed knowledge of when mortal life begins for legal purposes. It is fixed by our knowledge that according to an eternal plan all of the spirit children of God must come to this earth for a glorious purpose, and that individual identity began long before conception and will continue for all the eternities to come. We rely on the prophets of God, who have told us that while there may be “rare” exceptions, “the practice of elective abortion is fundamentally contrary to the Lord’s injunction, ‘Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6)” (1991 Supplement to the 1989 General Handbook of Instructions, p. 1).
Our knowledge of the great plan of happiness also gives us a unique perspective on the subject of marriage and the bearing of children. In this we also run counter to some strong current forces in custom, law, and economics.
Marriage is disdained by an increasing number of couples, and many who marry choose to forgo children or place severe limits on their number. In recent years strong economic pressures in many nations have altered the traditional assumption of a single breadwinner per family. Increases in the number of working mothers of young children inevitably signal a reduced commitment of parental time to nurturing the young. The effect of these reductions is evident in the rising numbers of abortions, divorces, child neglect, and juvenile crime.
We are taught that marriage is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan, to provide the approved setting for mortal birth, and to prepare family members for eternal life. “Marriage is ordained of God unto man,” the Lord said, “that the earth might answer the end of its creation; and that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made” (D&C 49:15–17).
Our concept of marriage is motivated by revealed truth, not by worldly sociology. The Apostle Paul taught “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). President Spencer W. Kimball explained, “Without proper and successful marriage, one will never be exalted” (Marriage and Divorce, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976, p. 24).
According to custom, men are expected to take the initiative in seeking marriage. That is why President Joseph F. Smith directed his prophetic pressure at men. He said, “No man who is marriageable is fully living his religion who remains unmarried” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 275). We hear of some worthy LDS men in their thirties who are busy accumulating property and enjoying freedom from family responsibilities without any sense of urgency about marriage. Beware, brethren. You are deficient in a sacred duty.
Knowledge of the great plan of happiness also gives Latter-day Saints a distinctive attitude toward the bearing and nurturing of children.
In some times and places, children have been regarded as no more than laborers in a family economic enterprise or as insurers of support for their parents. Though repelled by these repressions, some persons in our day have no compunctions against similar attitudes that subordinate the welfare of a spirit child of God to the comfort or convenience of parents.
The Savior taught that we should not lay up treasures on earth but should lay up treasures in heaven (see Matt. 6:19–21). In light of the ultimate purpose of the great plan of happiness, I believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity.
President Kimball said, “It is an act of extreme selfishness for a married couple to refuse to have children when they are able to do so” (Ensign, May 1979, p. 6). When married couples postpone childbearing until after they have satisfied their material goals, the mere passage of time assures that they seriously reduce their potential to participate in furthering our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of his spirit children. Faithful Latter-day Saints cannot afford to look upon children as an interference with what the world calls “self-fulfillment.” Our covenants with God and the ultimate purpose of life are tied up in those little ones who reach for our time, our love, and our sacrifices.
How many children should a couple have? All they can care for! Of course, to care for children means more than simply giving them life. Children must be loved, nurtured, taught, fed, clothed, housed, and well started in their capacities to be good parents themselves. Exercising faith in God’s promises to bless them when they are keeping his commandments, many LDS parents have large families. Others seek but are not blessed with children or with the number of children they desire. In a matter as intimate as this, we should not judge one another.
President Gordon B. Hinckley gave this inspired counsel to an audience of young Latter-day Saints:
“I like to think of the positive side of the equation, of the meaning and sanctity of life, of the purpose of this estate in our eternal journey, of the need for the experiences of mortal life under the great plan of God our Father, of the joy that is to be found only where there are children in the home, of the blessings that come of good posterity. When I think of these values and see them taught and observed, then I am willing to leave the question of numbers to the man and the woman and the Lord” (“If I Were You, What Would I Do?” Brigham Young University 1983–84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo, Utah: University Publications, 1984, p. 11).
Some who are listening to this message are probably saying, “But what about me?” We know that many worthy and wonderful Latter-day Saints currently lack the ideal opportunities and essential requirements for their progress. Singleness, childlessness, death, and divorce frustrate ideals and postpone the fulfillment of promised blessings. In addition, some women who desire to be full-time mothers and homemakers have been literally compelled to enter the full-time work force. But these frustrations are only temporary. The Lord has promised that in the eternities no blessing will be denied his sons and daughters who keep the commandments, are true to their covenants, and desire what is right.
Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father’s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.
I pray that we will not let the challenges and temporary diversions of mortality cause us to forget our covenants and lose sight of our eternal destiny. We who know God’s plan for his children, we who have covenanted to participate, have a clear responsibility. We must desire to do what is right, and we must do all that we can in our own circumstances in mortality.
In all of this, we should remember King Benjamin’s caution to “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). I think of that inspired teaching whenever I feel inadequate, frustrated, or depressed.
When we have done all that we are able, we can rely on God’s promised mercy. We have a Savior, who has taken upon him not just the sins, but also “the pains and the sicknesses of his people … that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11–12). He is our Savior, and when we have done all that we can, he will make up the difference, in his own way and in his own time. Of that I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mormonism 101: FAQ

The Church has a website that answers commonly asked questions.  This is a great link for someone who wants to get a better understanding of our beliefs.  You can view it by clicking this link.

Mormonism 101

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Infinite Light of Christ's Atonement

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in speaking about the parable of the labourers in the vineyard:
"...This parable—like all parables—is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats. This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace. It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.
I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable, but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."