Thursday, January 31, 2008
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:11)
This great country of ours was built on the principles of religious freedom and tolerance. Many of our founding fathers came here to escape religious persecutions. This was so important to them, that it became the 1st amendment of the Bill of Rights, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants 134:4 it states, “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.”
As I look around the world today at all of the various religions, it is hard not to see the religious bigotry and intolerance that is rampant among many if not most religions. I do not need to tear down your religion to make mine look better. I believe that there is a Buddhist saying that states, “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”
As I study the scriptures, I see a God that loves all of His children, and is no respecter of them. In The New Testament, Acts 10:34-35 we read:
34 ¶ Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
I am grateful to live in a country that allows me the privilege to worship the Lord as I choose.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 12:4 - 12)
The Lord delivers the Beatitudes. Great blessings are promised to the humble followers of Christ. They will be compassionate, meek, gospel studiers, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and they will bare with patience the afflictions that others throw on them for their belief in Christ.
The Kingdom of Heaven will be filled with those that possess these qualities.
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.
15 Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house;
16 Therefore let your light so shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 12:13 - 16)
The followers of Christ are to be the salt of the earth. Salt was used as a food preservative in the ancient world; it was considered essential for life. The Savior continues this line of thinking as he states that we are the light of the world.
Light chases away darkness. It gives clarity and meaning to things that could not otherwise be understood. As we let our light shine through our example and good works, others will see that light, and be drawn to our Father in Heaven.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil;
18 For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled.
19 And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.
20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 12:17 - 20)
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law of Moses. The law was intended to bring people to Christ. Now that he had come and offered Himself as a sinless sacrifice, the law of Moses was no longer relevant. In place of the law, He now requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
We are saved as we come unto Christ and keep His commandments.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:10)
The ten tribes of Israel were unified through the reign of King Solomon in the Old Testament. After King Solomon passed away, his son, Rehoboam began to reign in his stead. Solomon heavily taxed his people in order to build the temple. When he died, the people hoped that their taxation would be decreased. Rehoboam’s older advisors agreed that he should decrease the burden on the people, while his younger advisors, lobbied for the opposite. Rehoboam followed the counsel of his younger advisors, and most of the tribes of Israel stopped following his rule.
The kingdom of Israel was then effectively split in half between Judah in the south, and Ephraim in the north. The Northern kingdom was destroyed/scattered by the Assyrians. Subsequently, the kingdom of Judah was carried away captive by the Babylonians.
Eventually, some form the kingdom of Judah, (The Jews), return to Jerusalem, but the other tribes of Israel have not been gathered back in again.
The scriptures bare witness that the Lord has not forgotten His chosen people, and they will yet be brought back. In Isaiah 49:22 it states, “22 Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.”
We profess that Zion, a new Jerusalem, will be established on this continent, see Ether 13:6, and D&C 45:66-67.
We testify that Christ will again rule and reign on this earth, and will be the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. The scriptures are replete with signs that would precede His second coming. Some can be found in Matthew 24. The signs of the times are being fulfilled which suggests that His second coming is drawing near. However, we are not told exactly when that day will be. In verse 36 of Matthew 24 we read, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
When He comes again, the earth will be restored to its paradisiacal glory as it existed in the Garden of Eden. See Isaiah 11:1-9.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
At about 7:00 p.m. MST President Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet, seer, and revelator, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints passed away of causes incident to age, surrounded by his family. He was 97.
I lack the words to articulate how big of an influence that he had in my life personally. I always looked at the love he had for everyone he met, and his never ending supply of energy, as he always wanted to be out among the people. Believing that I could never be like him, I nonetheless strove to become more like him in small ways.
Official Church Statement
Statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
SALT LAKE CITY — President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through nearly 13 years of global expansion, has died at the age of 97.
President Hinckley was the 15th president in the 177-year history of the Church and had served as its president since 12 March 1995.
The Church president died this evening at 7 p.m. of causes incident to age at home surrounded by his family. A successor is not expected to be formally chosen by the Church's Council of Twelve Apostles until after President Hinckley's funeral within the next few days.
President Hinckley was known, even at the age of 97, as a tireless leader who always put in a full day at the office and traveled extensively around the world to mix with Church members, now numbering more than 13 million in 160 nations.
His quick wit and humor combined with an eloquent style at the pulpit made him one of the most loved of modern Church leaders. A profoundly spiritual man, he had a great fondness for history and often peppered his sermons with stories from the Church's pioneer past.
He was a popular interview subject with journalists, appearing on "60 Minutes" with Mike Wallace and on CNN's "Larry King Live," as well as in hundreds of newspapers and magazines over the years. During the Salt Lake Olympics of 2002, his request that the Church refrain from proselytizing visitors was credited by media with generating much of the goodwill that flowed to the Church from the international event.
In recent years, a number of major developments in the Church reflected President Hinckley's personal drive and direction. In calling for 100 temples to be in operation before the end of the year 2000, the president committed the Church to a massive temple building program.
In 1999 - 169 years after the Church was organized by its founder, Joseph Smith - the Church had 56 operating temples. Three years later that number had doubled, largely because of a smaller, highly practical temple architectural plan that delivered these sacred buildings to Church members in far-flung parts of the world. Many more Church members can now experience the sacred ceremonies that occur only in temples, including marriages for eternity and the sealing of families in eternal units.
President Hinckley was the most traveled president in the Church's history. His duties have taken him around the world many times to meet with Latter-day Saints in more than 60 countries. He is the first Church president to travel to Spain, where in 1996 he broke ground for a temple in Madrid; and to the African nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cape Verde, where he met with thousands of Latter-day Saints in 1998.
At a general conference of Church members in April 2001, President Hinckley initiated the Perpetual Education Fund — an ambitious program to help young members of the Church (mainly returning missionaries from developing countries) receive higher education and work-related training in nations where they would otherwise likely never receive it.
Closer to his Salt Lake City home, President Hinckley announced the construction of a new Conference Center in 1996, and dedicated it four years later. Seating 21,000 people, it is believed to be the largest religious and theater auditorium in the world, and has become the hub for the Church's messages to the world, broadcast in 54 languages.
Even before his term as president, President Hinckley's extensive Church service included 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency, the highest presiding body in the government of the Church, and for 20 years before that, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
President Hinckley was born 23 June 1910, in Salt Lake City, a son of Bryant Stringham and Ada Bitner Hinckley. One of his forebears, Stephen Hopkins, came to America on the Mayflower. Another, Thomas Hinckley, served as governor of the Plymouth Colony from 1680 to 1692.
President Hinckley's first job was as a newspaper carrier for the Deseret News, a Salt Lake City daily. After attending public schools in Salt Lake City, he earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Utah and then served two years as a full-time missionary for the Church in Great Britain. He served with distinction and ultimately was appointed as an assistant to the Church apostle who presided over all the European missions.
Upon successfully completing his missionary service in the mid-1930s, he was asked by then Church President Heber J. Grant to organize what has become the Church's Public Affairs Department.
President Hinckley began serving as a member of the Sunday School general board in 1937, two years after returning home from missionary service in Great Britain. For 20 years he directed all Church public communications. In 1951 he was named executive secretary of the General Missionary Committee, managing the entire missionary program of the Church, and served in this capacity for seven years.
On 6 April 1958, while serving as president of the East Millcreek Stake in Salt Lake City (a stake is similar to a diocese), President Hinckley was appointed as a general authority, or senior full-time leader of the Church. In this capacity he served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before being appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 5 October 1961.
President Hinckley has received a number of educational honors including the Distinguished Citizen Award from Southern Utah University; Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah; and honorary doctorates from Westminster College, Utah State University, University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Southern Utah University, Utah Valley State College and Salt Lake Community College. The Gordon B. Hinckley Endowment for British Studies, a program focused on the arts, literature and history of the United Kingdom, was established at the University of Utah.
President Hinckley was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America; was honored by the National Conference of Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world; and received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In March 2000 President Hinckley addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He also has addressed the Religion Newswriters Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and twice has addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
President Hinckley has written and edited several books and numerous manuals, pamphlets and scripts, including a best-selling book, Standing for Something, aimed at a general audience. In it he champions the virtues of love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness, mercy, thrift and industry, gratitude, optimism and faith. He also testifies of what he calls the "guardians of virtue," namely traditional marriage and family.
President Hinckley married Majorie Pay in the Salt Lake Temple in 1937. They are the parents of five children. Sister Hinckley passed away April 6, 2004.
Friday, January 25, 2008
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:9)
The world is facing challenges that are unlike those of any past generation. Several countries have the ability to push a button and unleash nuclear destruction on their neighbors. The epidemic of drugs, violence, filth, and hatred are covering the globe in ways previously unthinkable.
In the 24th Chapter of Matthew, the Savior described some of the events that would precede His second coming:
3 ¶ And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
That passage of scripture sounds like the evening news. Where can we turn to find peace? Is there anyone on earth that authoritatively speaks in the name of Jesus? Is there any reason to believe that the voice of the Lord could be heard now?
I do not believe that there ever was a time, people, or place, where the reassuring voice of the Lord was more desperately needed than it is now. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints declares unequivocally that the heavens are still open. God is not dead, He does not sleep, and He is not ambivalent about what happens to His children.
In Amos 3:7 we read:
7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Anciently, the Lord revealed Himself to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, etc. About 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ Himself came to earth to establish His church and to set the example for us to follow.
Borrowing a line from one of my favorite sermons of Hugh B. Brown, “It has been standard procedure through all recorded time for God to talk to man.”
In fact, I like that sermon so much, here it is:
President Hugh B. Brown Of the First Presidency
October Conference 1967
My brothers and sisters who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my brothers and sisters who are members of other churches, or of none; all who may be listening to the proceedings of this conference, I salute and welcome as my brothers and sisters because I believe in the universal Fatherhood of God and the consequent universal brotherhood of man.
I should like to support and bear witness to the claim that the gospel of Jesus Christ as it was taught by him and his apostles in the meridian of time was restored in the state of New York in 1830 by Jesus the Christ, and was organized under his direction through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I should like to give some reasons for this faith and attempt to justify my allegiance to the Church. Perhaps I can do this best by referring again to an interview I had in London, England, in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II.
I had met a very prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons and formerly one of the justices of the supreme court of Britain. In a series of conversations on various subjects, "vexations of the soul," he called them, we talked about business and law; about politics, international relations, and war; and we frequently discussed religion.
He called me on the phone one day and asked if I would meet him at his office and explain some phases of my faith. He said, "There is going to be a war, and you will have to return to America, and we may not meet again." His statement regarding the imminence of war and the possibility that we would not meet again proved to be prophetic.
When I went to his office, he said he had been intrigued by some things I had told about my church. He asked me if I would prepare a brief on Mormonism and discuss it with him as I would discuss a legal problem. He said, "You have told me that you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that you believe that God the Father and Jesus of Nazareth appeared to him in vision.
"I cannot understand," he said, "how a barrister and solicitor from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence and unemotional cold fact, could accept such absurd statements. What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic, but I wish you would take three days at least to prepare a brief and permit me to examine it and question you on it."
I suggested that, as I had been working on such a brief for more than 50 years, we proceed at once to have an examination for discovery, which is briefly a meeting of the opposing sides in a lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant, with their attorneys, meet to examine each other's claims and see whether they can find some area of agreement and thus save the time of the court later on.
I said perhaps we could find some common ground from which we could discuss my "fantastic ideas." He agreed, and we proceeded with our "examination for discovery."
Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, October 1967, p.117
Because of time limitations, I can only give a condensed or abbreviated synopsis of the three-hour conversation that followed. I began by asking, "May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?"
"I assume that you believe in the Bible -- the Old and New Testaments?"
"Do you believe in prayer?"
"You say that my belief that God spoke to a man in this age is fantastic and absurd?"
"To me it is."
"Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?"
"Certainly, all through the Bible we have evidence of that."
"Did he speak to Adam?"
"To Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and to others of the prophets?"
"I believe he spoke to each of them."
"Do you believe that contact between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?"
"Certainly not. Such communication reached its climax, its apex at that time."
"Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God?"
"Do you believe, sir, that after the resurrection of Christ, God ever spoke to any man?"
He thought for a moment and then said, "I remember one Saul of Tarsus who was going down to Damascus to persecute the saints and who had a vision, was stricken blind, in fact, and heard a voice."
"Whose voice did he hear?"
"Well," he said, "the voice said `I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.'"
"Do you believe that actually took place?"
"Then, my Lord" -- that is the way we address judges in the British commonwealth -- "my Lord, I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to men."
"I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era."
"Why do you think it stopped?"
"I can't say."
"You think that God hasn't spoken since then?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power."
He said, "Of course that would be blasphemous."
"Well, then, if you don't accept that, perhaps he doesn't speak to men because he doesn't love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men."
"No," he said, "God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons."
"Well, then, if you don't accept that he loves us, then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don't need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don't need God any more."
And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, "Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn't speak."
My answer was, "He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him."
Then we proceeded to examine what I may call a "profile of a prophet."
We agreed that any man who claims to be a prophet should have at least the following characteristics:
1. He will boldly but humbly declare, "God has spoken to me."
2. His message will be dignified, intelligent, earnest, and honest, but he will not necessarily he a learned person.
3. There will he no spiritualistic claims of communion with the dead, no clairvoyance or legerdemain.
4. Generally he will he a young man such as Samuel; a man having good parentage and associates.
5. His message must he reasonable and scriptural.
6. He will be fearless and positive, unmindful of current opinion and the creeds of the day.
7. He will make no concessions to public opinion or the effect upon himself or his reputation or personal fortune.
8. His message must be current, unusual, but historically consistent.
9. He will simply but earnestly tell what he has seen and heard.
10. His message, not himself, will be important to him.
11. He will boldly declare, "Thus saith the Lord!"
12. He will predict future events in the name of the Lord, events that he could not control, events that only God could bring to pass.
13. His message will be important not only for his generation but for all time, such as the messages of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.
14. He will have courage, fortitude, and faith enough to endure persecution and, if necessary, to give his life for his testimony, and be willing to seal his testimony with his blood as did Peter and Paul.
15. He will denounce wickedness fearlessly and be rejected and ridiculed therefor.
16. He will do superhuman things, things that only a man inspired of God could do.
17. The consequence of his teachings will be convincing evidence of his prophetic calling: "By their fruits ye shall know them."
18. His word and message will live after him.
19. All of his teachings will be scriptural. In fact, his words, writings, and message will become scripture. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Pet. 1:21.)
I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because he gave to this world some of the greatest revelations of all time. I believe that he was a prophet of God because he foretold many things that have come to pass, things that only God could bring to pass.
John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, declared, ". . . the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev. 19:10.) If Joseph Smith had the testimony of Jesus, he had the spirit of prophecy, and if he had the spirit of prophecy, he was a prophet. I submitted to my friend, that as much as any man who ever lived, the Prophet Joseph had a testimony of Jesus, for, like the apostles of old, he saw him and heard him speak, and like them he gave his life for that testimony. I know of no one who has given more convincing evidence of the divine calling of Jesus Christ than did Joseph Smith.
I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet because he did many superhuman things. One was translating the Book of Mormon, which is a history of the ancient inhabitants of America. Some people will not agree, but I submit that Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon did a superhuman work I ask anyone to undertake to write the story of the ancient inhabitants of America, to write as he did without any source material. He must include in the story 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 chapters on visions and prophecies (and remember, when the writer begins to write on visions and prophecies, he must have the record agree meticulously with the Bible). He must write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here too, he must check every statement with the scriptures or he will be proved to be a fraud. He must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ, and everything the writer claims Jesus said and did and every testimony he writes in the book about him must agree absolutely with the New Testament.
I ask, would anyone like to undertake such a task? I point out, too, that he must employ figures of speech, similes, metaphors, narration, exposition, description, oratory, epic, lyric, logic, and parables. I ask the writer to remember that the man who translated the Book of Mormon was a young man who had very little schooling, and yet he dictated that book in just a little over two months and made very few, if any, corrections. For over one hundred years, some of the best students and scholars of the world have been trying to prove from the Bible that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, but not one of them has been able to prove that anything in it was contrary to the scriptures, the Bible, the word of God.
The Book of Mormon not only declares on the title page that its purpose is to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, but this truth is also the burden of its message.
In Third Nephi it is recorded that multitudes of people testified, "We saw him, we felt of his hands and his side, we know he is the Christ. . . ." (See 3 Ne. 11:14-15.)
Joseph Smith undertook and accomplished other superhuman tasks. Among them I list the following: He organized the Church. (I call attention to the fact that no constitution effected by human ingenuity has survived one hundred years without modification or amendment, even the Constitution of the United States. The basic law or constitution of the Church has never been altered.) He undertook to carry the gospel message to all nations, which is a superhuman task and is still progressing with accelerated speed. He undertook, by divine command, to gather thousands of people to Zion. He instituted vicarious work for the dead and built temples for that purpose. He promised that certain signs should follow the believers. There are tens of thousands of witnesses who certify that this promise has been fulfilled.
I said to my friend, "My Lord, I cannot understand your saying to me that my claims are fantastic. Nor can I understand why Christians who claim to believe in Christ would persecute and put to death a man whose whole purpose was to prove the truth of the things they themselves were teaching, namely, that Jesus is the Christ. I could understand their persecuting Joseph if he had said, `I am Christ,' or if he had said, `There is no Christ,' or if he had said someone else is Christ; then Christians believing in Christ would be justified in opposing him.
Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, October 1967, p.120
"But what he said was, `Him whom ye claim to believe in, declare I unto you.' Paraphrasing what Paul said in Athens, `Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.' (Acts 17:23.) Joseph said to the Christians of his day, `You claim to believe in Jesus Christ. I testify that I saw him and I talked with him. He is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. Why persecute me for that?'
"When Joseph came out of the woods where he had this vision, he had learned at least four fundamental truths, and he announced them to the world: first, that the Father and the Son are separate and distinct individuals; second, that the canon of scripture is not complete; third, that man was actually created in the image of God; and fourth, that the channel of communication between earth and heaven is open, and revelation is continuous."
The judge sat and listened intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions, and at the end of the interview he said, "Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?" He said, "If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ."
This was a learned judge speaking, a great statesman, an intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, "Do you appreciate the import of what you say?" He added: "I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God," he said, his voice trembling, "that some man would appear on the earth and authoritatively say, `Thus saith the Lord.'"
As I intimated, we did not meet again. I have mentioned very briefly some of the reasons why I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
But undergirding and over-arching all that, I say from the very center of my heart that by the revelations of the Holy Ghost I know, and you may know, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. While the evidences I have mentioned and many others that could be cited may have the effect of giving one an intellectual conviction, only by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit can one come to know the things of God. By those whisperings I say I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. I thank God for that knowledge. I pray that you may in humility ask him whether it be true, and I promise you that he will respond and that you will know from the warmth in your heart that what I have said this morning is God's eternal truth, to which I humbly bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.
41 Therefore, go forth unto this people, and declare the words which I have spoken, unto the ends of the earth.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:37 - 41)
We must repent of our sins and become as a little child before Christ. Little children are honest, and full of trust and faith. They are innocent, and typically born with the desire to do good. As we grow older we tend to become3 more cynical, selfish, less trusting of others.
The doctrine of Christ is simple, repent and be baptized. Christ is the rock of my salvation, the sure foundation. If I build on Him, I will be able to withstand the tides of temptation that sweep over the earth.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:8)
I am often asked by non-members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, if we believe to Bible to be the word of God, or do we just use our “own” Bible, i.e. The Book of Mormon.
Ironically, on this point, the Book of Mormon speaks of the Bible as being the word of God, see 2 Nephi 29:1-6. The answer therefore is a resounding, yes we do believe that the Bible is the word of God.
In the April 2007 General Conference of the church, Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “My brothers and sisters, the Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen.
It is a miracle that we have the Bible’s powerful doctrine, principles, poetry, and stories. But most of all, it is a wonderful miracle that we have the account of the life, ministry, and words of Jesus, which was protected through the Dark Ages and through the conflicts of countless generations so that we may have it today.
It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior.
The Holy Bible is well named. It is holy because it teaches truth, holy because it warms us with its spirit, holy because it teaches us to know God and understand His dealings with men, and holy because it testifies throughout its pages of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham Lincoln said of the Bible: “This Great Book … is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong” (Speeches and Writings, 1859–1865 , 628).
It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today. Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records. Men like John Wycliffe, the courageous William Tyndale, and Johannes Gutenberg were prompted against much opposition to translate the Bible into language people could understand and to publish it in books people could read. I believe even the scholars of King James had spiritual promptings in their translation work.
The Dark Ages were dark because the light of the gospel was hidden from the people. They did not have the apostles or prophets, nor did they have access to the Bible. The clergy kept the scriptures secret and unavailable to the people. We owe much to the many brave martyrs and reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Huss who demanded freedom to worship and common access to the holy books.
William Tyndale gave his life because he believed so deeply in the power of the Bible. He said, “The nature of God’s word is, that whosoever read it, or hear it reasoned and disputed before him, it will begin immediately to make him every day better and better, till he be grown into a perfect man” (in S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale—Martyr, Father of the English Bible , xv).
Honest, diligent study of the Bible does make us better and better, and we must ever remember the countless martyrs who knew of its power and who gave their lives that we may be able to find within its words the path to the eternal happiness and the peace of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom.” For the full discourse, click here.
If we believe the Bible to be the word of God, then why do we need the Book of Mormon? As luck would have it, we can find the answer to that question in the Bible. See 2 Corinthians 13:1. Where it states, “THIS is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”
The Holy Bible is one witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Likewise, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus’ divinity.
Speaking of this, the Book of Mormon states, “7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.” See (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 29:7 - 9).
I am grateful for both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They teach of Christ, and help me to better understand Him. As John 17:3 states, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Saturday, January 19, 2008
7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:7)
Certain signs, gifts, and abilities have always followed those that believe. For some examples please see, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10, and Mark 16:17-18.
On the day of Pentecost, spoken of in Acts 2:4-11, we see that the gift of tongues is used for others, that speak different languages, to be able to hear the gospel message in their own language. It was not a simple parlor trick used to try and deceive or confuse, but rather allows the speaker to speak in such a way, that those listening to him can hear the speaker in their native language.
One of my favorites verses on prophecy can be found in Revelations 19:10.
It is important to note, that these signs and gifts are intended for those, “that believe,” as previously stated in Mark 16:17. Signs are never given as a form of convincing one that some particular church or doctrine is true. This is pointed out by the Savior in Matthew 12:38-39, where it states, “38 ¶ Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:”
But for those that already believe, the Lord wishes to bless His children and will do so in mighty and miraculous ways.
Friday, January 18, 2008
28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, 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.
30 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.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:27 - 30)
Jesus brings peace, comfort, joy, kindness, meekness, and compassion with Him. This passage of scripture makes me think of the presidential campaign going on right now. Yes, I am mixing religion and politics at the same time…
In most campaigns, I see candidates trying to drown out the voices of other candidates. I see anger and rancor between people that say they’re friends. I see candidates trying to make themselves look good by making others look bad, and religion has played a much larger role this time around, than it has in the past. I have watched and listened as others mock my religious views in the hope that it will benefit their candidacy.
I am content with the fact that I am comfortable with who I am. I don’t need to make myself look good by making you look bad; a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
I will try to remember this passage through the coming days and weeks, and hopefully it will temper my emotions as I listen to the bitter personal attacks and vitriol spewed by the contending parties. In Matthew 7: 16-20 we learn that, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” I will vote for the candidate that I believe is best qualified for the position. To date, I haven’t seen him launch personal attacks or disparage the character of his opponents.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
3 And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
4 And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:1 - 7)
How awesome it must’ve been to have experienced that moment. After three days of darkness and misery they heard the voice of the Father, declaring His Holy Son. It was done. The Savior had atoned for the sins of all mankind that would repent and turn back to Him. He had done all that He had been asked to do and was now glorified by His Father.
I particularly like how the voice of Heavenly Father is described. It was not loud, nor intimidating. It was a calm voice, a pleased voice; and despite how subtle it was, it did enter into every fiber of their being. It pierced them to their very soul. There are only a small handful of times where the voice of the Father is heard, and this is one of them.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:8 - 12)
The Savior and Redeemer of the world descends from heaven, and declares who He is to the people near the temple in Bountiful. He is the light and the life of the world. He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness understands it not, see D&C 6:21. Life, both temporal and spiritual comes because of Him. Because He was willing to suffer and bleed for me, and everyone else.
He loved His Father enough that He did His Father’s will. That is the test for me. Will I subjugate my will for His?
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, 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.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:13 - 17)
Jesus reveals Himself to the multitude, and they are allowed to feel the prints of the nails in His hands and feet. They know of a surety, that He is the risen Lord. He fulfilled the prophecies that spoke of his life, death, and resurrection.
In 2 Corinthians 13:1 it states, in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. In this instance we have multitudes of people that witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
18 And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth.
19 And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.
20 And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.
21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
(Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 11:18 - 26)
Just as He did in Jerusalem, the Lord calls men and gives them authority to act in His name, i.e. the priesthood. The Lord discusses the requirements and method of baptizing people into His church. There are several significant things we learn about baptism in these few verses. We learn that a person needs to repent of his/her sins before being baptized. We learn that a person needs to desire to be baptized. Additionally, baptism is performed by immersion, i.e. the person being baptized goes all the way under the water, just as Jesus did, when He was baptized in the river Jordan, see Matthew 3:14-17.
Both of those points clear up the confusion surrounding whether or not a newborn child needs to be baptized. A person needs to desire to be baptized, have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and therefore repent, of things that are wrong. I am grateful for the clarity that the Book of Mormon brings to teachings in the Bible.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:6)
If you’re looking for Christ’s church on the earth today, it would do well to study what it looked like when He was on the earth, and then look for that.
As I pondered what to write for this posting, I remembered many years ago a story about the 17 Points of the True Church. Much of what follows comes from that treatise, with my comments added.
Seventeen Points of the True Church:
1. Christ organized the church. Eph. 4:11-14. This seems readily apparent, and I’m sure that most Christians believe that He organized their church as well.
2. The church must bear the name of Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:23. See also 3 Nephi 27:8. On the surface, this might seem obvious, until you stop to consider how many Christian churches do not carry His name. Just in case anyone is wondering. The official name of my church is NOT the Mormon Church. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We have been nicknamed Mormons, or the Mormon Church by others.
3. The church must have a foundation of Apostles & Prophets. Eph. 2:19-20. The view of needing apostles is not something created by our religion. Indeed, many of the ministers in what is referred to as the Reformation believed that Christ needed to send apostles to the earth again. In a talk to the church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Roger Williams, my volatile and determined 10th great-grandfather, fled—not entirely of his own volition—from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in what is now the state of Rhode Island. He called his headquarters Providence, the very name itself revealing his lifelong quest for divine interventions and heavenly manifestations. But he never found what he felt was the true New Testament church of earlier times. Of this disappointed seeker the legendary Cotton Mather said, “Mr. Williams [finally] told [his followers] ‘that being himself misled, he had [misled them,’ and] he was now satisfied that there was none upon earth that could administer baptism [or any of the ordinances of the gospel], … [so] he advised them therefore to forego all … and wait for the coming of new apostles.” (Magnalia Christi Americana (1853), 2:498.) Roger Williams did not live to see those longed-for new Apostles raised up, but in a future time I hope to be able to tell him personally that his posterity did live to see such.
Anxiety and expectation regarding the need for divine direction was not uncommon among those religious reformers who set the stage for the Restoration of the gospel. One of the most famous of the New England preachers, Jonathan Edwards, said, “It seems to me a[n] … unreasonable thing, to suppose that there should be a God … that has so much concern [for us], … and yet that he should never speak, … that there should be no word [from him].” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 18, The “Miscellanies” 501–832, ed. Ava Chamberlain (2000), 89–90.)
Later, the incomparable Ralph Waldo Emerson rocked the very foundations of New England ecclesiastical orthodoxy when he said to the Divinity School at Harvard: “It is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater [for] new revelation than now.” “The doctrine of inspiration is lost. … Miracles, prophecy, … the holy life, exist as ancient history [only]. … Men have come to speak of … revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. … It is the office of a true teacher,” he warned, “to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.” (The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (1940), 75, 71, 80.) In essence, Mr. Emerson was saying, “If you persist in handing out stones when people ask for bread, they will eventually stop coming to the bakery.” (Louis Cassels, quoted in Howard W. Hunter, “Spiritual Famine,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 64.) For the entire discourse click here.
4. The church must have the same organization as Christ’s church. Eph. 4:11-14 In verse 13 we learn, that we need apostles and prophets, “Till we all come in the unity of faith…” With thousands of different “Christian” sects, not to mention how many other religions, with their sects exist, I think that it is safe to say we haven’t arrived at the unity of the faith mentioned in Ephesians. Hence, we still need apostles and prophets.
5. The church must claim divine authority. Heb. 5:4-10. How Aaron received the priesthood can be found in Exodus 28:1. Those that “claim” they act in Christ’s name, but lack His authority are described in Matthew 7:22-23.
6. The church must have no paid ministry. Isa. 45:13, 1 Peter 5:2 Nuff said.
7. The church must baptize by immersion. Matt 3:13-15 You and I get baptized to exercise our faith, show our willingness to repent of our sins, and to take upon us His name. However, why was He baptized? He didn’t need to be forgiven of any sins, since He didn’t commit any. Verse 15 from Matthew 3 gives an idea. Click here and read verses 5-7
8. The church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Acts 8:14-17 The blessings afforded mankind, because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, can not be understated. The Savior’s thoughts on the Holy Ghost can be found in John 14:26, John 15:26, and John 16:13.
9. The church must practice divine healings. See Mark 3:14-15. I have seen the power of the Lord manifest through the administration of the priesthood on numerous occasions.
10. The church must teach Jesus Christ & God are separate and distinct beings. John 17:11 & 20:17 Please see my posting on Article of Faith #1.
11. The church must teach God & Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone. Luke 24:36-39, Acts 1:9-11 After Jesus was resurrected He showed his body to His disciples. They touched Him, and felt His body. The only rational way for Him to have lost His body, would’ve been to die again, else why show His disciples His body of flesh and bone?
12. The officers must be called by God. Heb. 5:4, Exodus 28:1 & 40:13-16 Jesus told His apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” See John 15:16.
13. The church must claim revelation from God. Amos 3:7 In an October 2006 Conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it.” To read the entire talk click here. Think of it; what value would you place on being able to hear someone authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord?” There is a prophet of God on earth today, and he speaks the words that the Lord wants us to hear.
14. The church must be a missionary church. Matt. 28:19-20 We’ve all seen them. Those clean cut, bike riding, Book of Mormon toting, young men. The church currently has over 50,000 missionaries world wide, all trying to share a message of love and hope.
15. The church must be a restored church. Acts 3:19-20 There are plenty of scriptures that clearly state that there will be an apostasy. See 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3, and Acts 20:29.
16. The church must practice baptisms for the dead. 1 Cor. 15:29 Clearly, baptisms for the dead were practiced by the early church in Christ’s day. I only know of one church that still practices this. You guessed it, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These sacred ordinances are performed in our temples. There are many scriptures that teach the necessity of baptism. John 3:5 is one of them. If baptism is necessary, what happens to all of the people that lived and died, without ever knowing about Jesus Christ? Obviously, they were never baptized. Would a loving God simply cast away some of His children, because they were unfortunate enough to live some place where the blessings of the gospel were not available? Go ask your Mormon friend or neighbor to give you a more in depth explanation of this important doctrine.
17. By their fruits ye shall know them. Matt. 7:20 I could go on and on, and discuss the fruits of the church, i.e. very low divorce rate compared to other groups, very high educational rates compared to other groups, tremendous acts of charity and selfless service given in time of need. If you're interested research the church’s response to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and the Tsunami in Indonesia a few years back. But more than anything else, look at your LDS friends. We’re not perfect, at least I’m not. But as a group, the fruits of love, sincerity, and kindness are clearly manifest by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
If you have been impressed with what you have read above, and would like to know more about the LDS church go here to find the closest LDS church where you live. Stop by on Sunday and see for yourself what you think.
If you have any specific questions, please let me know, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.
Valdir gets ready to be baptized
This product probably sells better in Brazil than it would in the states...
Hey guys! Whats new?
Nothing too new and exciting is going on ever here. The week was pretty normal but different and exciting as always. I had a blast when I went on splits with another elder named Elder Araujo. We worked together for 2 days this week and did pretty well. He is kinda a clown so it made things fun. We were clapping at one of our investigators gates when he started playing with an open padlock hanging on the gate. He took it off and decided to lock it on my bag strap. I thought I would be able to slide it off but to my shock, it was just slightly too small to make it over the plastic clip at the end. Nobody answered the door and I was stuck having to walk away with the stolen padlock. We kept working that morning and a few hours later we tried again at her door. Luckily, she was there this time and we had to explain to her why we had stolen her lock and ask her to take it off for us. It was rather funny but quite embarassing.
Yay! The day has finally arrived for us to move to our area! We have been living in the house of the Zone Leaders about a half hour from our area. The elders that were living in our house found a house in their area and we will be taking all of our stuff and moving to our house that they moved out of, tomorrow. It should make things a lot easier to get more work done and work better with the members. The house is a little smaller but I think it should be great.
So we have been teaching a boy named Iago. I dont remember if I already told you about him but he is living with his aunt, who is a member and he wants to be baptized. He was supposed to be baptized Saturday but we didnt get authorization from his parents so it didnt happen. We finally got his parents to authorize the baptism so this next saturday, the 19th, he will be baptized. This will be out last baptism for this transfer but next transfer we should have a lot of really good ones too. I am way excited for Valdir, who was baptized 2 saturdays ago. He got the priesthood this sunday and this upcoming sunday should be blessing the sacrament. That is always such a great thing to watch.
Well, I gotta get going. I managed to get some pictures sent this week, I hope you enjoy them. Next week I will be sending a video, I hope. Love you all tons. Have a great week!
Monday, January 14, 2008
On a cold and clear January morning, the McQueen 1st ward militia, aka, the Elders Quorum, caravanned to Casa Grande for a little cathartic mayhem.
Brother Steve Larson provided most of the weaponry which consisted of several fully automatic and semi-automatic rifles. Specifically:
2 x Heckler & Koch (HK) G36 .223/5.56x45mm
2 x HK MP5 .40SW/10mm – Suppressed
2 x HK 53 .223/5.56x45mm
1 Hydromatic (GM) M16A1 .223/5.56x45mm
3 Colt AR15 in various configs but all chambered in .223/5.56x45mm.
1 Romanian AK-47, .308 / 7.62x39
Tim had a single shot .204 with a telescope! It certainly was a beautiful rifle.
Steve had 5 Glocks in various sizes. A couple Glock 22's and his back-up gun a Glock 27 and maybe even a Glock 35. All chambered in .40SW
A SW Semi-auto in .40SW.
Mike C. had his Springfield XD-40 Compact
Tim had a 1911 .45ACP on his hip, but I didn’t get a look at it to know any more.
Tim had a Thompson Center Arms Contender w/ a .44Mag barrel.
A Sig Sauer P229 .40SW
3 Remington 870 shotguns with LE (18”) barrels.
1 HK MP5 9mm
Amped on sugar from the doughnuts we consumed, but even more by the awesome display of lethal hardware sitting serenely on the benches before us, we eagerly listened to Steve as he explained the intricacies of the machinery, and the safety that would be required of all of us.
Palpable excitement coursed through our veins as we watched Budge Johl step to the line, fully automatic rifle in hand. Steve explained the settings on the rifle, how it could be set to operate as a semi-automatic rifle, i.e. it would fire as quickly as you could pull the trigger, or switch the setting and two bullets would fire with a single squeeze; or, how it could be set to fully automatic and fire thirty rounds in less than two seconds. Budge first fired a single round, and then flipped the switch to fire two rounds at once, but the hooting and hollering began as he set the rifle to fully automatic and then discharged the remaining rounds in less time than it took me to type the words, “Good Golly!”
Rhys Childs followed Budge, and then quickly everyone wanted to experience the rush of shooting the automatic rifles.
Steve was quietly diligent as he kept a trained eye on the firing line. A tactical expert, he sacrificed his time, bullets, and shared his rifles, so that the rest of the quorum could have an extremely memorable experience.
President Ox showed all of us why you would never want to be on the opposing side of a well trained Marine in a firefight. He hit everything he aimed at. At two hundred yards, I witnessed him make a small box jump as he gently squeezed the trigger, time and again.
Thank you so much Steve for giving us the opportunity to build camaraderie and experience the thrill of shooting your weapons.
Friday, January 11, 2008
She responded that she was LDS, and that she didn't drink tea or coffee. The other women responded, "You Mormons are very committed to your faith. All of the Mormons I know seem very committed to their faith. Why is that?"
I have my thoughts on the subject, which I will share eventually, but I'd like to throw that out for response first. If you're LDS, why do you think that members of the church are so committed, and if you're not LDS, what is your impression of the LDS people you know? Do they appear to live their religion, or not?
Thursday, January 10, 2008
(Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:5)
What does it mean to be called of God? If I feel a closeness to the Savior does that qualify me? Let me say at the outset that feeling a closeness to the Savior is definitely a good start, but is it sufficient in and of itself to proclaim myself a minister of His word? On this subject Hebrews 5:4 states, “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” The question then becomes, who was Aaron, and how was he called?
Aaron was Moses’ brother. In Exodus 28:1 it states, “AND take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons.”
The Lord spoke directly to Moses and told him to call his brother to the ministry. So it is today; the Lord reveals His will to his chosen leaders, who then “call” worthy and qualified individuals to the ministry. Additionally, the Lord reminds us that He calls us and not the other way around in John 15:16.
Some of the qualifications to be called can be found in Acts 6:3, 2 Corinthians 4:2 and, Alma 13:3.
The sacredness of serving as a High Priest is described well in D & C 1:38, and, D & C 21:5.
I am grateful that there are men, called of God, on earth today to lead and guide us.
The Lord went to His own people and they rejected and crucified Him. Those that receive Him become His sons. When I consider the confusing creeds of some Christian groups, see my posting on Thoughts on grace vs works. I am grateful to fully understand my relationship with my Savior. It is important to understand my relationship to Him, see John 17:3. Knowing that he is literally the Son of God, and that I can become His son, fills me with hope and gratitude.
He is the light of the world, and life, eternal life, is what He brings with Him, to those that believe on His name, and keep His commandments.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Hey everyone! What a great week! This week was just full of miracles. We have been teaching a man named Valdir since we got here. He has been investigating the church for a while now but always felt that he had never gotten an answer from god, saying the things we are teaching are true. Last Sunday we felt like we should do a fast with him to get this answer to know the church is true so he could be baptized. We weren’t able to talk to him again until Tuesday when we passed by his house again. That Monday night he had gone to the bishops’ house for a Family Home Evening and some new year’s party. That night the bishop asked him when he was going to be baptized. To the bishop’s shock, he responded “This Saturday”. He had received his answer and wanted to be baptized immediately. It was so amazing to see that same man who one week before looked me strait in the eyes and told me he didn’t believe the Book of Mormon was true or that Joseph Smith was a prophet, enter into the baptismal font and get baptized. It was one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission and really increased my testimony of the power of prayer and fasting. Him and his wife are now members of the church and can raise their kids in the gospel to hopefully one day serve missions. On Sunday when he was confirmed, he was blessed that one day we would become a leader of the church. I sure hope he lives worthy of this blessing.
Im sorry, but I have to be really fast today. We have very little time and a ton to do. I have a ton of pictures I want to send to you all but they will have to wait a bit. Last week and this week, the cyber were having problems and it takes forever to get just one picture sent so Ill have to find somewhere better. Well, I love you all tons and I look forward to your letters next week.
One very important note of interest, the Lord never destroys a people without giving them ample warning that it will happen, and the chance to repent and to turn to Him again. For example, Noah called the people to repentance for several decades before the flood came. What would happen was prophesied and spoken of all the way back in 1 Nephi 19:10-12.
The people were not ignorant of their sins. They were all converted to the truth just a few short years ago. They had set their hearts on the vain things of the world, and received their reward from their master, which is death and destruction, because the adversary wishes all to be miserable like himself, see 2 Nephi 2:27.
Christ is the light and life of the world, Alma 38:9.
He is the tree of life, and partaking of what he offers brings eternal life. Conversely, the adversary can be represented by the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which brings death, both temporal and spiritual. See Thoughts on the Tree of Life.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
20 And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;
21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;
22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.
23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.
24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.
25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible.
(Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 8:19 - 25)
Jesus Christ is the light of the world. Said He, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” See John 8:3
When He was crucified the light of the world died, and for a moment, the world was blanketed in darkness. I’ve gone exploring in caves in Utah, where in the middle of them, if you turn your flashlight off, the darkness is complete. It’s almost like you can feel it. That’s as close as I can come to describing what it must’ve been like.
At His death, all light went out, and with it, for a moment, I have to imagine that all hope went with it. It was more than the tangible darkness I felt in the caves. It was a darkness of soul, which caused those that remained to cry and mourn, and to wish that they had repented sooner.
But even as the darkest night, gives way to day, so it will be here also. Faith, hope, and love, will be restored, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Monday, January 7, 2008
(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:4)
Faith – Faith is a principle of power, when it is used as the impetus for action. The 11th Chapter of Hebrews is a classic example of faith motivating an individual to do something. In all of the examples cited in that chapter, not one shows a person casually stating that they believed in something. Rather, their faith caused them to do things, and through their faith, they accomplished things greater than what man, left to his own devices, could accomplish. In the 2nd Chapter of James, verse 18 we read, “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
Perhaps some good questions to ask each day are, “What good thing is my faith going to motivate me to do today? How can I help serve the Lord and His children today?” The 11th Chapter of Hebrews cites “big miracles” that were performed, but I haven’t been asked to build an ark.
Though Christ’s miracles were mighty, they seemed frequently to be on the micro level, as opposed to the macro level, i.e. many of his miracles blessed the life of an individual. He did feed thousands with a loaf of bread and a few fish, but he also restored sight to individuals, or healed the sick individually, or restored faith to people on an individual basis.
One of my favorite stories on faith can be found in the 8th Chapter of Matthew, see Matthew 8:5-10. Here a centurion beseeches the Lord to heal his servant. The Lord agrees to come with him, but the centurion, with his military background, states that he merely has to command people to go and do something and it gets done. Likewise, he knew that all the Lord had to do was speak the words, and his servant could be healed. That is the kind of faith that creates miracles.
A fantastic primer on faith, i.e. what it is, and how to activate it in your life can be found in the 32nd Chapter of Alma, verses 21 to 43. Click here to read this passage.
Repentance – After faith comes repentance. As our faith in Christ grows, we feel a greater desire to repent of our sins, so that we can draw nearer unto him. See D & C 88:63.
We will begin to exercise our faith unto repentance. See Alma 34:15-17
My absolute favorite example of someone that exercised their faith to repentance is Enos
See: Enos verses 1 through 8. Enos’ faith motivated him to repent. After struggling with the Lord in mighty prayer, all day and well into the night, he received the peace and comfort that comes to the truly penitent. In verse 8, he is told that it was his faith that brought about the forgiveness of sin.
Some of the most spiritual experiences in my life have come as I have sought forgiveness. There are times, after much effort, that the love of the Lord has surrounded me like a blanket, and I felt His peace, and love from head to toe.
Baptism – After we have planted the seed of faith in our heart, and repented of our sins, we wish to stay clean and pure, and to follow the commandments of God. See Moroni 8:25 and Mosiah 18:7-11
The necessity of being baptized was taught by Jesus in John 3:5 where he said, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
You and I get baptized to receive a remission for our sins, but Jesus was not tainted by sin. And yet, He went to John the Baptist to be baptized Himself. If it was important for Him to be baptized to set the example for me, then I need to follow suit and be baptized as well.
The gift of the Holy Ghost – One of the greatest blessings a person can receive is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is given by Melchizedek Priesthood holders as they lay their hands on the head of the person receiving it. In the October 1996 General Conference of the church, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this regarding the gift of the Holy Ghost, “President Wilford Woodruff called the gift of the Holy Ghost the greatest gift we can receive in mortality (see The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, ed. G. Homer Durham , 5). Unfortunately, the great value of that gift and the important conditions for its fulfillment are not well understood. Nephi prophesied that in the last days churches would be built up that would “teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance” (2 Ne. 28:4). He also pronounced “wo” upon “him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!” (2 Ne. 28:26).
The Bible tells us that when the Savior gave his final instructions to his disciples, he promised that he would send them “the Comforter” (John 16:7). Earlier, he had taught them the mission of this comforter, which is otherwise referred to as the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, or simply the Spirit. That comforter dwells in us (see John 14:17). He teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance (see John 14:26). He guides us into truth and shows us things to come (see John 16:13). He testifies of the Son (see John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:3). The Bible also teaches that the Savior and his servants will baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire (see Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; John 1:33; Acts 1:5). I will speak of the meaning of that teaching later.
The Bible’s teachings about the Holy Ghost are reaffirmed and elaborated in the Book of Mormon and in modern revelations. The Holy Ghost is the means by which God inspires and reveals his will to his children (e.g., D&C 8:2–3). The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and of the Son (see 3 Ne. 28:11; D&C 20:27; D&C 42:17). He enlightens our minds and fills us with joy (see D&C 11:13). By the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things (see Moro. 10:5). By his power we may have the mysteries of God unfolded to us (see 1 Ne. 10:19), all things which are expedient (see D&C 18:18; D&C 39:6). The Holy Ghost shows us what we should do (see 2 Ne. 32:5). We teach the gospel as we are directed by the Holy Ghost, which carries our words into the hearts of those we teach (see 2 Ne. 33:1).
Latter-day scriptures also teach that the remission of sins, which is made possible by the Atonement, comes “by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost” (D&C 19:31; see also 2 Ne. 31:17). Thus, the Risen Lord pleaded with the Nephites to repent and come unto him and be baptized “that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Ne. 27:20).
The gift of the Holy Ghost is so important to our faith that a prophet gave it unique emphasis in a conversation with the president of the United States. Joseph Smith had journeyed to Washington to seek help in recovering compensation for injuries and losses the Saints had suffered in the Missouri persecutions. In his meeting with the president, Joseph was asked how this Church differed from the other religions of the day. The Prophet replied that “we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands” (History of the Church, 4:42). He later explained that this answer was given because “all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 4:42).” His entire talk can be found here.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost in my life has been a constant source of comfort and guidance. The Holy Ghost has guided me away from sin, it has enlightened my mind with the things I needed to say, at just the moment that I needed to say something. It helps me find calm in an ever more turbulent world.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:3)
President Hinckley gives a beautiful testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
For commentary on, "by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel," Please see my post on Thoughts on Grace vs. Works: http://thoughtsonlds.blogspot.com/2008/01/thoughts-on-grace-vs-works.html
Saturday, January 5, 2008
2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:2)
Prior to partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. They were completely innocent, not knowing the difference between good and evil. I’ve heard many good people exclaim something along the lines of, “If only Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that fruit, we’d all be living in paradise right now.” It seems readily apparent to me from the account in Genesis that if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit, that you and I wouldn’t be here. They’d still be living in paradise…alone. Read carefully:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
(Old Testament Genesis 3:3 - 11)
A couple of interesting points:
1. They were immortal in the Garden of Eden – see verse 3.
2. Prior to eating the fruit they did not know good from evil – see verse 5.
3. In the garden, they walked around naked, and didn’t think anything of it – see verses 7,10, & 11, and Gen 2:25, i.e. they did not procreate.
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 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.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
(Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 2:22 - 25)
Please note that it wasn’t until after the fall that Adam “knew” his wife and had children. See Gen 4:1.
Adam’s transgression brought mortality into the world. It also brought into the world the opportunity for you and me to exist. Here we are mortal and live, “by the sweat of (our) brow…” Moses 5:1.
What about “Original Sin?” Do I carry around the sin of what Adam did?
As stated above, the Fall of Adam, brought with it consequences. Specifically, mortality:
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
(New Testament 1 Corinthians 15:22)
As can be seen above, Adam brought death through the fall, but that is taken care of by Christ. Will I be punished for what Adam did?
6 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.
(Old Testament Deuteronomy 24:16)
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
(Old Testament Ezekiel 18:20)
3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.
4 And if their works are evil they shall be restored unto them for evil. Therefore, all things shall be restored to their proper order, every thing to its natural frame—mortality raised to immortality, corruption to incorruption—raised to endless happiness to inherit the kingdom of God, or to endless misery to inherit the kingdom of the devil, the one on one hand, the other on the other—
5 The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.
6 And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
(Book of Mormon Alma 41:3 - 6)
In Summary, Adam transgressed God’s law by partaking of the forbidden fruit, and death, or mortality, was brought into the world. However, in this life, you and I will be judged based on what we do, not on what someone else does.
How can you know if this is true? In the scriptures, (Since I’m LDS, I’m including the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) the word “pray” is used 415 times. The word “prayer” is used 183 times. The word “prayers” is used 81 times. The word “seek” is used 355 times.
I do not believe that Heavenly Father would be that emphatic on the concept of praying to Him, if He was unwilling, or unable to answer. I testify that He has heard and answered my prayers on many occasions. If you humbly ask, He will answer yours as well. If you’re real lucky, maybe He’ll send a couple of missionaries in your direction.