Sunday, December 03, 2006

Symbolism of the Sacrament: The Blood of Christ

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.
(Doctrine & Covenants 20:79, italics added)

Some time ago as I sat during the sacrament pondering the words of the blessing on the water, I wondered about the meaning of Christ's blood. Because I was taking the water “in remembrance of the blood” of Jesus Christ, I decided I needed to study its symbolism more.

Certainly, the blood of Jesus Christ has far more spiritual meaning and relevance than I can relate in a blog entry let alone discover in a lifetime. But my study did lead me to a better understanding of two related doctrines which always confused me: justification and sanctification.

Justification by Blood

According to Paul, we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). As a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder D. Todd Christofferson wrote of justification in the June 2001 Ensign:

Because of “the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice,” Jesus Christ can satisfy or “answer the ends of the law” on our behalf. Pardon comes by the grace of Him who has satisfied the demands of justice by His own suffering, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). He removes our condemnation without removing the law. We are pardoned and placed in a condition of righteousness with Him. We become, like Him, without sin. We are sustained and protected by the law, by justice. We are, in a word, justified. (italics in the original)

In other words, we are no longer condemned by the law because we have been set free or justified by the blood of Jesus Christ who suffered himself to pay the penalties demanded by justice. President Harold B. Lee said, "Justify means to pronounce free from guilt or blame, or to absolve" (Stand Ye in Holy Places, 52-53). According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek meaning of “justification” as used in Romans 4:25 and 5:18 is “the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him.”

Another word which describes this process of justification is remission. In D&C 27:2, the Lord said

For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

The Lord taught this principle of remission to his apostles while giving them the sacrament. He said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek definition of remission is “forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty.”

So by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are justified. In other words, his blood was shed for the remission of our sins.

Sanctification With Christ's Blood

By the Savior's blood are we also sanctified. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul wrote, “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12).

Defining sanctification, Elder Christofferson wrote, “To be sanctified through the blood of Christ is to become clean, pure, and holy (D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, Jun 2001, 18). Strong's Concordance confirms the definition of sanctification as used in the New Testament as “consecration, purification.” Note the way Peter uses the term sanctification in 1 Peter 1:1-2:

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

According to Strong's Concordance, an alternative to the term sprinkling is purification. When read with purification in place of sprinkling, this verse makes it clear that sanctification through the blood of Christ leads to purification.

In addition to purification, Elder Christofferson likened sanctification through the blood of Christ to becoming clean. Alma did the same:

[T]here can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
(Alma 5:21)

John the Apostle also indicates the eternal importance of the cleansing power of Christ's blood:

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
(Revelation 1:5-6)

In summary, let me share my understanding of the relationship between sanctification and justification. Our sins cause two problems which doom us. The first is that by committing sin, we violate laws; as a result, justice requires a penalty. However, through justification, Christ pays that penalty and we are pardoned. The second problem is that our sins make us filthy, and no unclean thing can enter into God's presence. So even if we are pardoned through justification, we are still filthy. But through sanctification, we can be purified until we are “cleansed from all stain” and can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Most importantly, this justification and sanctification come about by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What is The Real Spirit of Christmas?

This holiday season, we should take a moment individually and with our families to ponder the true meaning of Christmas. To help me understand the real Christmas spirit, I searched the words of the prophets and other Church leaders. I found, of course, that the Christmas spirit is none other than the Christ-like desire to love and serve others. This is no surprise. The quotes below help us to understand how Jesus Christ exemplified the real spirit of Christmas.

Some Church leaders are remembered for speaking about certain themes. For example, President Ezra Taft Benson is known for speaking about the Constitution, warning of pride, and counseling to read the Book of Mormon. Elder M. Russell Ballard frequently encourages missionary work. Interestingly, the individual who most often spoke of the real spirit of Chrismas was President Thomas S. Monson. I found several talks by this great man reminding us to look to Christ to understand the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.

Thinking back on all the talks I've heard President Monson give, I recall the main thread running through them is his Christ-like love for people. How many stories has he told through the years about promptings to visit someone: A lonely and widowed sister, a former ward member in the hospital, an old acquaintence who had left the Church? Without a doubt, President Monson's life is an example of the real spirit of Christmas lived every day of the year.

May we all take a few moments to rediscover the Christmas spirit and recommit ourselves at the New Year to pray for it and live it daily. May our eyes be single to the glory of the Master whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

(bold added)

The real spirit of Christmas lies in the life and mission of the Master. I continue with what the writer defines as the real spirit of Christmas:

'It is a desire to sacrifice for others, to render service and to possess a feeling of universal brotherhood. It consists of a willingness to forget what you have done for others, and to remember what others have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and think only of your duties in the middle distance, and your chance to do good and aid your fellow-men in the foreground--to see that your fellow-men are just as good as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts--to close your book of grievances against the universe, and look about you for a place to sow a few seeds of happiness, and go your way unobserved. [Clarence Baird, "The Spirit of Christmas," Improvement Era, 23:154 (December 1919)]'
(Howard W. Hunter, at Brigham Young University on 5 December 1972)

“Why does peace come closer to reality at this season than at any other?” President Monson asked. “Why is it that more friends are remembered and more enemies forgiven at the Christmas season than at any other time? Why is it that more acts of kindness and service and generosity take place? It is the Christmas spirit.”
(“First Presidency Encourages Members to Emulate Christ and His Teachings,” Ensign, Feb. 2006, 72–73)

Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.
(Thomas S. Monson, “Christmas Gifts, Christmas Blessings,” Ensign, Dec 1995, 2)

Temple Square in Salt Lake City is known throughout the world. It is particularly attractive at Christmastime, with its thousands of twinkling lights, traditional nativity scene, carolers singing those songs so dear to us all, and, of course, the lighted statue of the Christus, which seems to say to the world, “The spirit of Christmas is indeed the Christ spirit.”
(Thomas S. Monson, “In Search of the Christmas Spirit,” Ensign, Dec 1987, 3)

As we seek Christ, as we find Him, as we follow Him, we shall have the Christmas spirit, not for one fleeting day each year, but as a companion always. We shall learn to forget ourselves. We shall turn our thoughts to the greater benefit of others.
(Thomas S. Monson, “In Search of the Christmas Spirit,” Ensign, Dec 1987, 3)

President David O. McKay said: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.” (Gospel Ideals (1953), 551)
(Thomas S. Monson, “What Is Christmas?,” Ensign, Dec 1998, 2)

What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.
(Thomas S. Monson, “What Is Christmas?,” Ensign, Dec 1998, 2)

One who had a keen insight into the Christmas spirit wrote:

“I am the Christmas Spirit. I enter the home of poverty and cause palefaced children to open wide their eyes in pleased wonder. I cause the miser to release his clutched hand, thus painting a bright spot upon his soul.

“I cause the aged to remember their youth and to laugh in the glad old way. I bring romance to childhood and brighten dreams woven with magic.

“I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.

“I cause the prodigal to pause in his wild and wasteful way and send to anxious love some little token which releases glad tears, washing away the hard lines of sorrow.

“I enter dark prison cells, causing scarred manhood to remember what might have been and pointing to better days yet to come.

“I enter the still white home of pain, and there lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.

“In a thousand ways I cause this weary old world to look up into the face of God and for a few moments forget everything that is small and wretched. You see, I am the Christmas Spirit.” (Author unknown.)
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Spirit of Christmas,” New Era, Dec 1974, 15)

President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “This is a glorious time of the year, simple in origin, deep in meaning, beautiful in tradition and custom, rich in memories, and charitable in spirit. … This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our mind, feelings, and actions to the spirit of Christmas.”

Since the time of the wise men, President Monson said, “the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he or she commemorates the Christmas season. Our Heavenly Father gave to us His Son, Jesus Christ. That precious Son gave to us His life, the Atonement, and victory over the grave.”

After giving four descriptions of Christmas—“Christmas is children,” “Christmas is remembering,” “Christmas is giving,” and “Christmas is prophecy fulfilled”—President Monson asked, “What will you and I give for Christmas this year? Let us in our lives give to our Lord and Savior the gift of gratitude by living His teachings and following in His footsteps. It was said of Him that He ‘went about doing good’ [Acts 10:38]. As we do likewise, the Christmas spirit will be ours.”
(“First Presidency Shares Meaning of Christmas,” Ensign, Feb. 1997, 72)

When we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the spirit of Christ, for the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit.
(Thomas S. Monson, “The Gifts of Christmas,” Ensign, Dec 2003, 2–5)

The supreme gift of eternal life should be remembered during this season of gift giving, urged President Thomas S. Monson during the annual First Presidency Devotional held December 6.... “The real spirit of Christmas lies in His assurance: ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.’ (John 11:25–26.)”
(“Remember Supreme Gift, First Presidency Urges,” Ensign, Feb. 1993, 71)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Constant Negativity Hurts the Cause of World Peace

What ever happened to that principle our mothers used to teach, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? Ok, I'll admit that there are times we must stand up for what is right which sometimes requires calling attention to what is wrong. However, that exception should not give us leave to constantly criticize. I'm speaking specifically of our self-criticism and in-fighting as a nation.

It seems in recent years that political players and pundits have completely abandoned self-restraint in the criticism of their opponents and even now refuse to say a kind word about them or the state of the nation. In this age of ubiquitous communications, the constant barrage of criticism is not only seen by politicians' constituents or pundits' audiences, it's also seen by the whole world. The effect of this critical communication is to cause the world to believe we are evil despite the good we stand for as a nation (individual exceptions notwithstanding!). The real battle is not in the deserts of the Middle East. It's in the hearts and minds of all people everywhere. As a result of our constant criticism, we have become our own worst enemies.

Sadly, our inward-targeted negativity is reinforcing the efforts of terrorists worldwide to make the United States appear evil. The hearts of so many have grown cold toward the best hope in the world for peace and prosperity. How ironic it is that while the vast majority of Americans want all people to enjoy the peace that self-governance (with proper self-control) brings, so many of us are contributing to the loss of freedom worldwide by criticizing our government and by failing to extol the good that sprouts from the fertile soil of American democracy every day.

We must ask ourselves the motive for our criticism. Some negativity is just and even helpful to the cause of peace. For example, I applaud those who have discovered and investigated the corruption of Jack Abramoff and the politicians who knowingly accepted bribes from him. Openly exposing this criminal activity shows the world that the United States has values and will not stand for corrupt practices. However, if the motive for criticism is to gain power, then the negativity will serve other purposes and may come back to haunt America.

We must hold ourselves accountable for the damage we are doing to the cause of world peace. The world is watching. If we blame our leaders for everything that goes wrong, like Pavlov's dog, the world will begin to blame the United States for the world's ills. Other nations and peoples will begin to mistrust America, it's best ally. At the same time, because we refuse to tout the good conditions we enjoy and the positive accomplishments in the world for fear this may benefit a political opponent, the world doesn't see what great things American can do for them.

Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk at Brigham Young University on March 28, 1976 while he was the President of the Council of the Twelve. In it he talked about the ills of constant negativity and the price people would have to pay for it. It's interesting to see how this principle applies today, 30 years later. Here is an excerpt from that talk:

Today we are almost engulfed by this tide of self-criticism, depreciation, and defamation of those who served our country honorably and with distinction. A most recent victim of the tarnish brush is J. Edgar Hoover. I knew J. Edgar Hoover personally over many years. He was a God-fearing man and one of the most honorable and able men I have ever known in government service. By innuendo, lesser men, whose own motives are questionable, have maligned his motives and good character.

I know the philosophy behind this practice--"to tell it as it is." All too often those who subscribe to this philosophy are not hampered by too many facts. When will we awaken to the fact that the defamation of our dead heroes only serves to undermine faith in the principles for which they stood, and the institutions which they established? Some have termed this practice as "historical realism" or moderately call it "debunking." I call it slander and defamation. I repeat, those who are guilty of it in their writing or teaching will answer to a higher tribunal.

It should not, therefore, cause us to be astonished when other nations view the United States as a "faltering democracy." How long would a basketball team, ranked number one in the polls, remain in that position if the studentbody, the school paper, and supporting faculty constantly pointed out its weaknesses? Soon the team would begin to lack confidence and fail. This is what we have been doing in our blessed country. Our heroes and institutions have been tarnished. We are constantly being reminded of what is wrong in our country, via the press and other media. A recent editorial in the London Daily Telegraph appealed to us:

The United States should know that her European cousins and allies are appalled and disgusted at the present open disarray of her public life. The self-criticism and self-destructive tendencies are running mad with no countervailing force in sight. . . . Please America, for God's sake, pull yourself together.

It is the job of the historian and educator and church leader to help us as a nation to "pull ourselves together," to help us regain perspective and vision and the respect of all nations. This will not be done by showing that this is merely a phase through which we are passing. No, it will be done by men who possess a love of country, a vision of our country's future, and the assurance of her divinely guided destiny.

It all goes back to what our mothers taught. Certainly they were wise. The 1st Amendment may protect free speech, but it doesn't guard against the consequences of misusing that right. Perhaps our mothers knew something about consequences.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jesus Christ, The Light of the World

What does this mean? What does this symbolism teach us of Jesus Christ and his mission? Here are some thoughts that may serve as a starting point for further personal study on this topic.
Light draws us as a beacon

“Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me...” (3 Nephi 15:9). Light acts as a beacon. It draws out attention to it because it stands out. President Hinckley said, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be a beacon light before you, a polar star in your sky” (Ensign, May 2004). Elder Robert D. Hales said, “When we are one with God, we walk with spiritual light. This is a spiritual light that protects us and serves as a beacon, guiding us in righteous ways” (Ensign, May 1996).

As a light, Jesus is our example

When Jesus called twelve disciples in the new world, he told them “Ye are my disciples; and ye are a light unto this people...” (3 Nephi 15:12). The footnote entry for “light” refers readers to the Topical Guide entries for Example and Leadership. Just as the newly called disciples were to serve as an example to the people in the American continent, so then was Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, so be our great Exemplar. He stated, “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you” (3 Nephi 18:16). Remember this counsel with our own light: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

Light leads us along the right path

Just as a lamp can show us the right way through darkness, Jesus Christ is the Light that will lead us to eternal life. Speaking Messianically, Isaiah writes, “I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them...” (Isaiah 42:16).

Light drives out darkness

President Joseph F. Smith said, “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 263; italics added). If our eye be single to the glory of God, we will be filled with light (see Luke 11:34) and the darkness within us will flee. If we liken darkness to sin, then we understand that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, can cleanse us from all sin. Our garments can be made white through the blood of him who atoned for our sins (Alma 5:21).

Light warns us of danger

Light also acts as a warning like a lighthouse to ships at sea. Christ “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness...” (1 Corinthians 4:5). Elder Robert D. Hales spoke of these dangers, “Growing up on Long Island, in New York, I understood how vital light was to those traveling in the darkness on the open sea. How dangerous is a fallen lighthouse! How devastating is a lighthouse whose light has failed!” (Ensign, May 2002).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why Does God Permit Suffering?

Reasons Why The Lord Allows Suffering

1. Suffering can be the result of sin.

Much of the pain we suffer and inevitably impose upon others is self-induced through our own bad judgment, through poor choices. And for that, help is offered. To the penitent sinner comes the assurance that God will forgive, forget, and never mention our sins of which we have truly repented.
Marion D. Hanks, “A Loving, Communicating God,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 63
When suffering comes as a consequence of sin, it should lead to repentance.
Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow Shall Be Turned to Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 65

Where there has been sin, there must be suffering.... All of our personal experience confirms the fact that we must endure personal suffering in the process of repentance—and for serious transgressions, that suffering can be severe and prolonged.
Dallin H. Oaks, “Sin and Suffering,” Ensign, July 1992, 70

2. Because the Lord has given us agency, he allows people to make evil choices that can affect others.
To preserve free agency, the Lord also at times permits the righteous to suffer the consequences of evil acts by others. (See 1 Ne. 18:16.)
Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” Ensign, May 1989, 23
And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames. But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.
Alma 14:10-11

3. We chose to come to the earth knowing that we would suffer adversity.
The plan of salvation presented to and accepted by us in our premortal state includes a probationary period on earth, during which we experience opposites, make choices, learn the consequences thereof, and prepare to return to the presence of God. Experiencing adversity is an essential part of the process. Knowing this, we elected to come into mortality. (See 2 Ne. 2:11–16.)
Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” Ensign, May 1989, 23
This does not mean that we crave suffering. We avoid all we can. However, we now know, and we all knew when we elected to come into mortality, that we would here be proved in the crucible of adversity and affliction.…
Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, Oct. 1969, p. 57
We came to mortal life to encounter resistance. It was part of the plan for our eternal progress. Without temptation, sickness, pain, and sorrow, there could be no goodness, virtue, appreciation for well-being, or joy.
Howard W. Hunter, “God Will Have a Tried People,” Ensign, May 1980, 25
4. Suffering prepares us, builds us, and helps us to grow.
The revelations, for which we are grateful, show that we should even give thanks for our afflictions because they turn our hearts to God and give us opportunities to prepare for what God would have us become.
Dallin H. Oaks, “Give Thanks in All Things,” Ensign, May 2003, 95
Suffering can take us one of two ways. It can be a strengthening and purifying experience combined with faith, or it can be a destructive force in our lives if we do not have the faith in the Lord’s atoning sacrifice. The purpose of suffering, however, is to build and strengthen us. We learn obedience by the things we suffer. We should be humbled and drawn to the Lord, as in the case of the prodigal son who appreciated his home only after going into the world and experiencing sorrow when he shut out his loved ones.
Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow Shall Be Turned to Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 65
Being childlike and submitting to our Father’s will is not always easy. President Spencer W. Kimball, who knew a good deal about suffering, disappointment, and circumstances beyond his control, once wrote: “Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 98).
Howard W. Hunter, “The Opening and Closing of Doors,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.
Orson F. Whitney as quoted in Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 98
Difficulties can be a valuable tool in our pursuit for perfection. Adversity need have no necessary connection with failure. Proper self-management and self-discipline in all of our trials brings strength.
Marvin J. Ashton, “Adversity and You,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 54
5. Suffering helps us to remember God.

Surely these great adversities are not without some eternal purpose or effect. They can turn our hearts to God. Nephi was told that the natural enemies of his descendants would be “a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me” (2 Ne. 5:25).
Dallin H. Oaks, “Adversity,” Ensign, July 1998, 7
Each of us is the spiritual offspring of God. We came to this earth to prepare to return to his presence, there to share a fulness—that is, eternal life. Without adversity, we may tend to forget the divine purpose of mortality and live our lives focused on the transitory things of the world.
Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” Ensign, May 1989, 23
6. Suffering can strengthen our faith in the Lord and help us understand his suffering.

But if our sorrow and suffering strengthen our faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ, “[our] sorrow shall be turned to joy.” (John 16:20.)
Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow Shall Be Turned to Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 65
As we are called upon to endure suffering, sometimes inflicted upon us intentionally or negligently, we are put in a unique position—if we choose, we may be allowed to have new awareness of the suffering of the Son of God. While Alma tells us that Christ suffered all that any of us will ever have to suffer that He might know how to succor us, the reverse may also be true: that our suffering may allow us insight into the depth and magnitude of His atoning sacrifice.
Keith R. Edwards, “That They Might Know Thee,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 99
7. Suffering will be a blessing to us.

…Paul teaches “that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Rom. 8:28.) Similarly, the prophet Lehi assured his son Jacob with these words: “Jacob, … in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow because of [others]. “Nevertheless, … thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” (2 Ne. 2:1–2.)
Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” Ensign, May 1989, 23
Similarly, if we face up to our individual adversities or hardships, they can become a source of blessing. God will not give us adversities we cannot handle, and he will bless us richly for patiently doing the best we can in the circumstances.
Dallin H. Oaks, “Adversity,” Ensign, July 1998, 7
8. Suffering tests our faith in God.

Oh, there’s the suffering that tries and tests us. Job, a perfect man, was tested and tried by Satan. Job’s friends assumed his suffering was a result of sin, but the scriptures tell us he “sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:22.)
Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow Shall Be Turned to Joy,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 65
Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
Mosiah 23:21
9. Jesus Christ, our great Example, suffered.

At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most.
Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62
The Lord Can Strengthen Us To Endure
Thus the promise is that in times of sorrow and affliction, if we endure and remain faithful and put our trust in him and are courageous, the Lord will visit us in our afflictions, strengthen us to carry our burdens and support us in our trials. He’ll be with us to the end of our days, lift us at the last day to greater opportunities for service, and exalt us at last with him and reunited loved ones, and he will consecrate our afflictions to our gain.
Marion D. Hanks, “A Loving, Communicating God,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 63
Because the Savior suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind … [taking] upon him the pains and the sickness of his people … [taking] upon him their infirmities … [he knows] according to the flesh how to [help] his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11–12.)
Ronald E. Poelman, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality,” Ensign, May 1989, 23

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Emergency Preparedness websites

The following websites provide some good basic emergency preparedness planning for families and individuals:

LDS Church

Provident Living: Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness
- Why Food Storage?
- What to Store
- How to Store
- Using Food Storage
- Gardening
- Emergency Preparation
- Find Resource Materials

Federal Government -- Basic Emergency Preparedness Planning

FEMA: Planning Ahead
- Get informed
- Plan for emergencies
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit

Red Cross: Prepare At Your Home
- Build a Disaster Supplies Kit
- Evacuation Plan
- Shelter in Place
- Emergency Contact Card
- Find out what could happen to you
- Make a plan
- Complete the checklist
- Practice your plan

Department of Homeland Security: Ready America
- Get A Kit
- Make A Plan
- Be Informed

Federal Government -- Additional Emergency Preparedness Planning

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Emergency Preparedness & Response

State and Local Government

(This is for Virginia, but other states, counties, and cities will likely have emergency preparedness websites)

Fairfax County: Guide to Emergency Preparedness

Virginia Department of Emergency Management: Prepare & Prevent
- Family Disaster Planning
- Disaster Supply Kits
- Prepare Your Home
- Special Needs
- Animal Safety Plan
- Emergency Alert System

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Anti-Mormon Bigot on WorldNetDaily

Considering he's a senior pastor in one of the largest Christian congregations in America, Greg Laurie sure demonstrates a high degree of religious bigotry. It's interesting to see some people still consider the Church a cult.

Mr. Laurie, the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, wrote a WorldNetDaily commentary entitled, "Signs of the times." In it, he lists six signs that Jesus Christ will return.

The first sign is "The explosion of religious deception." Notice how loose Mr. Laurie is with his logic and facts in citing the Church to support this statement: "For many years now, we have witnessed an explosion of cults." As an explosion describes a sudden, short-lived, immediate rise, it's curious he has to use a 176-old church to prove his point. More outrageous is his comparison of the LDS Church to groups like Jim Jones' followers and David Koresh's Branch Dividians. Not only does this bring his credibility and motives into question, but it also leads one to wonder whether he's a better example of the "emergence of false teachers" he writes about.

Finally, it's ironic that a Mr. Laurie identifies religious persecution as another sign. In support, he quotes Paul the Apostle, "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). He got that right.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Stand Ye In Holy Places--Where?

Stand ye in holy places,
and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come;
for behold, it cometh quickly
D&C 87:8

What are those “holy places”? Surely they include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept. Surely they include a home where children are treasured and parents are respected. Surely the holy places include our posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions and callings faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.
Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, 7

When we visit the temple as often as distance and individual circumstance permit, the temple will be in us. Then, despite the buffetings of life, we will always be in a holy place.
Lance B. Wickman, “Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 82

There are so many ways to keep the shielding seventh commandment firmly in place. Instructively, for instance, David’s fall, at least in part, was facilitated because he was not where duty lay: “It came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, … David tarried still at Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 11:1). Then, as you know, came the lustful view from the roof and all the sadness that followed. Implicit, therefore, in the instruction “Stand ye in holy places” is to avoid indulgent tarrying.
Neal A. Maxwell, “The Seventh Commandment: A Shield,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 78

Those ‘holy places’ are our temples, stakes, wards, and homes.
“A Prophet of Certitude: Counsel from President Ezra Taft Benson,” Ensign, July 1994, 28

When an earthquake strikes, every person would be taken as he is then living—if at a movie, or a tavern, or in a drunken stupor, or whatever. But the true servants of God, who would be doing their duty, would be protected and preserved, if they would do as the Lord has counseled: to “stand ye in holy places, and be not moved,” when these days should come.
Harold B. Lee, “Watch, That Ye May Be Ready,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 28

As we recall the commandment to stand in holy places, we should remember that beyond the temple, the most sacred and holy places in all the world should be our own dwelling places. Our homes should be committed and dedicated only to holy purposes. In our homes all of the security, the strengthening love, and the sympathetic understanding that we all so desperately need should be found.
James E. Faust, “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?” Ensign, Aug. 2001, 2

Holy places include any places where we are living righteously, prepared to see his face, and accept him. Holy places include any place where we are associating with righteous and wholesome people or where we are sharing the gospel and our love with those who need it. It would especially include our sincere presence in a temple room performing sacred ordinances, worshiping in a sacrament meeting, or at home with our families or friends doing righteous things.
John K. Carmack, “Stand Ye In Holy Places,” LDS Business College Devotional Lecture, Nov. 13, 1996

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Positive Church Coverage in the Local News

It might be surprising to some members of the Church to see how much local press coverage the LDS Church receives. As the Church continues to grow in small communities outside of Utah, hometown newspapers are covering an increasing number of local ward and stake activities.

The good news is that most local press coverage tends to be positive, but keep in mind the message of Alma 4:10: "the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress." Good news can leave neighbors with a positive impression about the Church and help with missionary work because it reflects the values members live by. Bad news can destroy credibility in the community.

If the Church is respected in the local community, the press will publish positive stories like the following from the past 24 hours:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eisenhower on Terrorism

I don't think President Eisenhower had terrorism in mind when he gave is farewell speech in 1961, but the following paragraphs from his speech could be spoken in the context of our current conflict with jihadi extremism:

"Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad."

"Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology-global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle-with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment."

Please don't take my post to mean we must support the President's current course in Iraq (in other words, I don't want critical comments on Bush). Rather, I'm making the point that the fight of free people against the tyranny of Muslim extremism is similar in some respects to the cold war fight against communism. Defeating terrorism may take decades of diligent and determined struggle. I believe that the real battle will be for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. If we can support moderate Muslims who also desire peace, just as the United States encouraged free-thinking peoples behind the iron curtain, we can win in time.

Of course, the best way to convince a person to support peace is for them to gain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should pray that the Lord will open the Middle East to missionary work, and until that happens, we must do all we can to share the gospel with our friends and neighbors in free countries.

(To listen to Eisenhower's farewell speech, click here.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

YouTube, an Anti-Mormon Haven

The Internet is an amazing tool for sharing the gospel, preparing talks and lessons, doing family history, and so much more. But like all good things, Satan tries to counterfeit them or use them for his own purposes.

YouTube is a great video sharing site. You can post your own videos for others to watch, and it's free. Unfortunately, many anti-Mormons and others antagonistic to the Church are using it.
For example, if you search for the term "Mormon," many videos turn up that don't show the Church in a good light at best. This includes videos showing or making light of sacred things.

As members, we need to use the Internet for good. If people search YouTube for videos about Mormons, we need to make sure good videos are available. If you have a digital camcorder, make short videos and upload them. You can shoot videos of many things like these:

- Mutual activities
- Skits, plays, talent shows, road shows
- Church history sites
- Temples (exterior!) and visitor centers
- Family activities
- Dances
- "Funniest Home Video" type videos
- Sporting events involving Church members

I'm not advocating censorship, but a chorus of uplifting voices can drown out a few bad ones.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Favorite Movies (LDS-Friendly!)

If you're looking for a fun LDS-friendly movie to rent, I'd recommend these. The movies with asterisks are good enough to watch again and again.

All of the movies should be OK for teenagers and many for younger children, but you'll want to do more research before letting your kids watch if you're not sure. The movies are ordered alphabetically, and none are Rated-R. I listed my favorite Mormon movies separately.

If you have other favorites, please share!


*The Best Two Years
The Other Side of Heaven
*Singles Ward


*Back to the Future (all three)
*Independence Day (fabulous speech by the President)
Galaxy Quest
Hell Boy
*Lord of the Rings trilogy
Men in Black
Star Trek. My favorite in order:
- *The Wrath of Khan
- *Insurrection
- First Contact
- The Undiscovered Country (some of the best lines from any of the ST movies)
- The Voyage Home
*Star Wars (all six--my favorites: Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith)
X-Men (I and II -- haven't seen III yet)


*Apollo 13
*Big Trouble in Little China
Cast Away
*First Knight
Forrest Gump
The Fugitive
*Hunt for Red October
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Man in the Iron Mask
Minority Report
*Mission Impossible
*National Treasure
Ocean's Eleven
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (haven't seen the next one yet)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
School Ties
Swing Kids
The Sixth Sense
The Village


Beauty and the Beast
*The Emperor's New Groove
Freaky Friday (the remake with Jamie Lee Curtis)
Harry Potter (all of them)
The Lion King
The Little Mermaid
*A Little Princess
Remember the Titans
Toy Story (both)


Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Black Sheep
*A Christmas Story
Legally Blonde
*Napolean Dynamite
*National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
*The Princess Bride (great lines)
*The Private Eyes (one of my favorites)
Rush Hour
*The Scarlet Pimpernel (hilarious)
*Shanghai Noon
Tommy Boy


*Casablanca (so that's where all the Bugs Bunny lines come from!)
North by Northwest
*Rear Window (exciting!)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Does the Gospel Require We Use Renewable Energy?

I'm very conservative on many issues (e.g., low taxes and sanctity of life), but I prioritize one issue much higher than my fellow Republicans often do: Care for the environment. It frustrates me that we don't have a national goal to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by developing renewable sources of energy (see what Scotland is doing, for example). To me, the most important reason for this goal is that it would dramatically reduce pollution. Of course, there are other reasons such as the importance of not sending our money to the Middle East, but that's for another discussion.

I think that the Gospel would require us to make every effort to use our stewardship--this earth--wisely and to not waste its resources or pollute it. I don't think we'll find much to support this in statements from Church leaders, but take a look at these Ensign articles:
However, I have found some quotes:
  • "The leaders of the Church continually cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord: against pollution of mind and body and our surroundings...." (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord Expects Righteousness,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 4)
  • "We recommend to all people that there be no undue pollution, that the land be taken care of and kept clean to be productive and to be beautiful...." (Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?” Ensign, May 1975, 4)
A related issue is global warming, but I'm tired of how political the discussion of global warming has become. Besides, whether global warming is happening or not, it seems clear to me that we need to pollute less and conserve more. Using renewable energies, both for generating electricity and for powering vehicles, is the way to do this.

So, does the Lord expect us to all be tree huggers? To a degree yes though not to excess. The Lord gave us this earth to use, but we must use it wisely and with gratitude as righteous stewards.

Submit to Sustain'd

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sharing the Book of Mormon: A Cheat Sheet

As the Ward Mission Leader, I'm trying to be a better example of member missionary work. While talking with a neighbor recently, I offered her the Book of Mormon, and she graciously accepted it. I didn't have a copy with me, but it worked out because I wanted to give her a list of verses with the book. Here's the scripture list I came up with. I'd love to see what other verses you recommend.

Overview of the Book of Mormon and Its Origin
The Title Page
The Testimony of Three Witnesses
The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

What Mormons Believe
2 Nephi 2:25 (page 59). God wants us to be happy.
2 Nephi 2:27 (page 59). We are free to choose good or evil.
2 Nephi 31:20 (page 115). If we follow Christ, and love him and all men, we can have eternal life.
Jacob 2:18-19 (page 121). We should seek for Christ before riches.
Mosiah 2:17 (page 148). When we serve others, we serve God.
Alma 36:3 (page 298). Trust in God, and he will support us in our trials.
Alma 41:10 (page 310). Wickedness doesn't bring real happiness.
Helaman 5:12 (page 378). We should build our foundation on Jesus Christ, the rock.
3 Nephi 27:27 (page 460). Christ is our example.
Ether 12:6 (page 509). What is faith?
Moroni 7:47-48 (page 524). We should pray to be filled with the pure love of Christ.
Moroni 10:4-5 (page 529). Pray for guidance, and the Holy Ghost will lead us to truth.

Good Book of Mormon Stories
1 Nephi 1-4 (page 1). The prophet Lehi and his family leave Jerusalem.
Mosiah 17-18 (page 179). Alma believes the prophet Abinadi.
Alma 8 (page 226). The prophet Alma preaches, is rejected, and meets an angel.
3 Nephi 11-26 (page 427). Jesus Christ visits the American continent after his resurrection.
Moroni 10 (page 529). Moroni, the last Nephite, buries the records.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two missionaries find bag with $1,200 in cash

Little did these Elders know when they started the week that their missionary efforts would catch the attention of the entire town of Albuquerque, NM. Honesty pays a bigger reward than the sacrifice costs. I'm certain that $1200 wouldn't cover the amount of press they've received. Click here to read more:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Melchizedek: A Type of Jesus Christ

The purpose of The Book of Mormon is "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page). The Book of Mormon is full of symbols of Jesus Christ and his mission. The prophets, the stories (including the wars), and the tribulations of the people all point us to Jesus Christ. See, for example, Alma 13:16:

"Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord."

One example of this symbolism is the prophet Melquizedek. He is a type of the Savior. Look at how he is described in Alma 13:

Alma 13:15

And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.
  • Just as Abraham paid his tithes to Melchizedek, the tithing we give to the bishop is really being paid to the Lord. We are returning to Him a small portion of all that he has given us. (D&C 119:3-4)

Alma 13:17

Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem;
and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
  • Because of the Fall, all mankind is wicked and has gone astray. (Romans 3:23)

Alma 13:18

But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith,
and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God,
  • It is the priesthood of Jesus Christ. (D&C 107:3)
did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent;
  • Many have repented because of his call. (D&C 58:42)
and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days;
  • “In his days,” Christ taught the gospel of peace and atoned for our sins that we might all find peace. Through repentance, many have found peace. (John 14:27; Romans 10:15)
therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem;
  • Salem, later known as Jerusalem, is Hebrew for 'peaceful' or 'peaceable,' also 'perfect' or 'perfected.' Not only is 'King of Salem' a parallel of 'Prince of Peace.' It also reminds us that we should seek Christ to find peace and perfection.
and he did reign under his father.
  • Jesus Christ is our king but reigns under God, the Father. According to Luke, he also reigns under his father David. (Luke 1:32-33)

Alma 13:19
Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards,
  • Jesus Christ came during the meridian of time following many generations of great prophets and followed by many more. (D&C 20:26)
but none were greater;
  • Jesus did more for the salvation of men than anyone who ever lived on the earth. (D&C 135:3)
therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.
  • All prophets have written of Jesus Christ, have preached of Christ, have taught of Christ because he is the author of our salvation. (2 Ne. 11:4; 2 Ne. 25:26; Jacob 7:11)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"We must not think evil of this man"

In a time of hatred, war, and great upheaval, it's touching to see this beam of gospel light shining brightly. The grandfather of one of the slain Amish girls took the opportunity during this horrible trial to teach other children to love and forgive their enemy. If the world would accept and practice this principle, we would enjoy the peace the Nephites and Lamanites experienced at the end of Helaman 5 after the gospel was preached among the Lamanites.

To read more, follow this link:

(WARNING: CNN may display a Victoria Secret ad on the right side of the screen)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Easy Member Missionary Activity

"Creating a Personal Referral Pool" is an easy and non-threatening activity to help members do missionary work. Our new mission president shared this in a stake meeting with ward mission leaders (including me) and bishops. This can be done in in a Family Home Evening or Sunday School lesson or in a ward, quorum, or organization activity. Ward missionaries could share this with ward members in their homes. Missionaries could present this to members who feed them.

It involves four steps:

1. Make a list of everyone you know who you'd like to share the gospel with.
2. Take a week to fast and pray to determine a best approach for each.
3. Place each name in one of the following categories:
  1. I want to personally prepare and invite this person to hear the message
  2. I want to talk to this person and invite them to our home with the missionaries
  3. I want the missionaries to call on this person, use my name and invite them to hear the message at our home if interested
  4. I want the missionaries to call on this person without using my name
4. Share this "referral" list with the missionaries.

This is a completely non-threatening way to involve the members in missionary work. For members who are not ready to invite someone to learn about the gospel, they can leave it to the missionaries (category 'd'). If they're not ready for the Elders to reach out to their friends, they can choose to personally prepare their friends (category 'a') through continued friendship and example. Those members who feel inspired and courageous can invite their friends to meet with the missionaries (category 'b') or have the missionaries contact their friends using their name (category 'c').

If you try this, please post a comment and let me know how it turned out.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fun, Interesting, and Useful BYU Websites

Who knew BYU had such a variety of websites? This lists shows us what's good about the Internet: This site shows important events in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith on today's date. Visit daily or sign up to have updates emailed to you regularly. This interactive BYU campus map allows you to click on a building to see pictures of it and read about the building's history and current use. The map also shows 360 degree photos—virtual tours—at twelve different locations. This quirky and often funny site permits readers to submit any question, and a team of “small band of omniscient know-it-alls (students)” will respond within 100 hours. Just about anything goes. For example, “What can I do with a pound of powdered sugar?” From the website: “Forever Families provides practical, scholarly and sacred information for strengthening individuals, marriages and families of all faiths, organized around themes of The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The site offers articles and scholarly reports on many family-related topics. The Missionary Training Center in Provo has its own website. Who knew? Take advantage of the great family history training resources offered here including online lessons from Religion 261: Introduction to Family History. BYU Independent Study offers a long list of free web-based courses from Family History to Music to Religion. This includes REC 76 — Bowling. Online? Like the URL says, this is an LDS Frequently Asked Questions website. It has answers to over 400 LDS related questions. Cool. Download their free OnePage Genealogy program. It can create a single PDF file showing up to 80 generations of family history. If you like any of BYU's bands, then come and listen. This site has many songs from the Cougar Marching Band (including the BYU Fight Song), the Symphonic Band, and the Wind Symphony. Rise and Shout!
If you know of others, please add a comment!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New LDS-Themed Digg Clone

If you like and you follow LDS news and websites, check out Sustain'd. This new website is a clone for LDS content.

You can submit new stories, websites, blog entries, commentary, etc. and then vote on the posts you find interesting. Posts receiving the most votes rise to the main page making it easy to see the latest and greatest in the kingdom.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Romney O'Reilly's Favorite to Win Nomination

Check out this interesting report (about half-way down the page) regarding Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly:

According to the report, O'Reilly was speaking to a gathering in Michigan and indicated that "Mitt ROMNEY is his early favorite to win the 2008 presidential election over U.S. Sen. Hillary CLINTON (D-N.Y.) in what he sees now as the likely head-to-head race."

God Puts Us Where He Needs Us

In the April 2006 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said the following: "In a gospel-sharing home we do not just pray for the health, safety, and success of our missionaries throughout the world. We also pray for our own missionary experiences and opportunities and to be prepared to act on those impressions as they come our way. And I promise you, they will come" (M. Russell Ballard, “Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home,” Ensign, May 2006, 84). This is true.

I recently experienced a miraculous series of events confirming the truthfulness of this promise. As the ward mission leader, I frequently pray for opportunities to find investigators and fellowship less active members. Three weeks ago, I started working for a new employer. Two other individuals, Mark and Dave, had started working in the same office just weeks earlier. One day, as Mark and I were chatting, I mentioned I had learned a foreign language as a missionary. Mark lit right up and asked if I were LDS. When I answered that I was, he indicated he was too but had been less active. Just before moving to this area, he had taken steps to become active again and hoped to start attending the singles ward here. He said he would prefer to meet someone he knows on his first Sunday so that he wouldn't feel alone or out of place. I told him I knew a few people in the singles ward and could ask them to call Mark. A few days later, I called Travis who lives in our ward boundaries but attends the singles ward. He said he'd be happy to call Mark and meet him at Church. We chatted some more, and he mentioned he had just started a new job. Miraculously, he was hired by the same company Mark and I had just started working for. Once he gets settled in, I'll be able to introduce Mark to Travis, and Travis will be able to fellowship him throughout the week. Because we work for a large company with thousands of employees, it's unlikely Mark would have met Travis and learned he is LDS.

Elder Ballard's promise came true in another way. I mentioned that I started working with two individuals, Mark and David. A few days after this experience with Mark, I learned that David is married to a less-active member of the Church. David has a close relationship with his wife's family who are mostly active and living in Utah. I don't know what missionary work I'll be able to do for David, but because some people don't gain a testimony of the gospel until after they've had many contacts with the Church, the Lord probably put me here to be one of those contacts for David. I'll continue to pray that the Lord will bless me with opportunities to share the gospel with him.

I know Elder Ballard's promise is true. As we pray for opportunities to share the gospel with other, the Lord will grant us our desire. We must then have the courage to act on it.

Remember How Great Things the Lord Has Done

The Lord has shown great mercy in delivering our fathers from “all manner of afflictions” and from bondage. We should follow the counsel of Moroni (Moroni 10:3) and ponder this, for Jesus Christ can deliver us too. Consider the following counsel:

2 Nephi 1:1-3
1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.
2 And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.
3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.

2 Nephi 9:53
53 And behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.

Mosiah 27:16
16 Now I say unto thee: Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.

Alma 62:50
50 Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.

Ether 6:30
30 And it came to pass that Orihah did walk humbly before the Lord, and did remember how great things the Lord had done for his father, and also taught his people how great things the Lord had done for their fathers.

Moroni 10:3
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Great Gospel Study Resources on the Web

The Internet has a wealth of gospel study resources. Consider the following:

Mormon Studies: BYU's Resource Guide. "...Lee Library's resource guide for online material on Mormon theology, history, culture, and people. Use this guide to search for articles, books, biographies, diaries, manuscripts, dissertations, family histories, photographs, films, music, art, and more. This guide will greatly facilitate your research on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Religious Education Archive. Search two collections:
  • The Image Collection. "...contains images pertaining to the doctrines and history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Images include photographs, drawings, and paintings of LDS historic sites, Holy Land sites, and significant people in Church history and doctrine."
  • 19th Century Mormon Publications. "This collection of early Mormon publications includes books, missionary tracts, doctrinal treatises, hymnals and periodicals which helped define the doctrinal development and historical movements of the Mormon people in the 19th century."
LDS General Conference Scriptural Index. "This index links from scriptures to the general conference talks that cite those scriptures.... [The website has] indexed the scriptures cited by speakers in LDS General Conference between 1942 and the present."

Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. This website allows you to look up a word from the Bible and find the Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) word it was translated from. Strong's Concordance will show all other places in the Bible that word is used, the other English words it was translated into, and alternate meanings. Passage Lookup. See how a Bible verse is rendered in 20 different English translations. This may aid in better understanding the meaning of a verse.

If you know of other good resources, please post a comment.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Three Key Book of Mormon Themes

Near the end of his life, Alma the Younger sat down with each of his sons to give them fatherly counsel. We can read his counsel to his eldest son Helaman in Alma 36. In the first three verses, Alma provides the following counsel:

1. “...inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.” (verse 1)

2. “I would that ye should do as I have done, in remembering the captivity of our fathers; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he surely did deliver them in their afflictions.” (verse 2)

3. “...whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (verse 3)

Using the chiastic style of his Hebrew ancestors, Alma emphasized the importance of these three principles by repeating them in reverse order at the end of Alma 36:

3. “...I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.” (verse 27)

2. “...he has brought our fathers out of Egypt...and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity...and ye...ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.” (verses 28-29)

1. “...inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and...inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence” (verse 30)

These three principles point us to Jesus Christ, and teach us of his love, mercy, and role as our Savior. All are taught abundantly throughout the Book of Mormon directly and symbolically. I will touch on each briefly here.

1. Keep the Commandments to Prosper in the Land

This principle is simple and oft repeated. Twenty verses in the Book of Mormon use nearly this same wording: If we keep God's commandments, we will prosper in the land. Some verses then continue with the corollary that if we do not keep God's commandments, we will be cut off from his presence. See 1 Nephi 2:20-21; 1 Nephi 4:14; 2 Nephi 1:9; 2 Nephi 1:20; 2 Nephi 1:31; 2 Nephi 4:4; Jarom 1:9-10; Omni 1:6; Mosiah 1:7; Mosiah 2:22; Mosiah 2:31; Alma 9:13; Alma 36:1; Alma 36:30; Alma 37:13; Alma 38:1; Alma 48:15; Alma 48:25; Alma 50:20; Alma 62:45-51; Helaman 3:20; and 3 Nephi 5:22.

Many of the stories in the Book of Mormon teach this principle. The Nephite pride cycle, which we see repeated over and over, is a perfect example. When the Nephites—or the Lamanites—were living righteously, the Lord prospered them in various ways. Often, they enjoyed temporal wealth, a symbol of the more important spiritual wealth or treasure in heaven we will enjoy in the eternities. Prosperity also took the form of strength during battles with more numerous enemy armies. In most of the battles the Nephites fought, the Lamanites outnumbered them. However, when the Nephites called upon God in faith, he strengthened them that they could prosper against the greater foe.

2. Remember the Captivity of Our Fathers

Why would we be counseled to remember the captivity of our fathers? Alma answers this in Alma 5:6:

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?”

Remembering our fathers' captivity reminds us that the Lord delivered them from both physical and spiritual captivity through his mercy and long-suffering. And if he could deliver our fathers from captivity, he can deliver us too. Any time we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we should turn to the Lord. He can help us to escape. We must also remember that through the Atonement, we can be forgiven of our sins and ultimately escape the chains of hell.

Like the first principle, this counsel is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. See the following verses: Mosiah 27:16; Alma 5:6; Alma 9:9-10; Alma 29:11-12; Alma 36:2; Alma 36:28-29; Alma 60:20; Ether 7:27; Ether 10:2.

Not only is this principle expressly taught, but we also see many examples of it throughout the Book of Mormon. The verses above remind us of the children of Israel escaping from bondage in Egypt and of Lehi and his family being led away from Jerusalem. We should also remember stories like Alma and his people miraculously escaping their captivity in the land of Helam (Mosiah 24).

Note that throughout the Book of Mormon, the prophets exhort us to remember the Lord and what he has done for us:
  • “...remember how great things the Lord had done..., that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.” (Alma 62:50)
  • “...remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.” (Helaman 5:9)
  • “...remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation....” (Helaman 5:12)
  • “ in remembrance of the body of thy Son...and always remember him....” (Moroni 4:3)
  • “ it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son which was shed for them;...always remember him....” (Moroni 5:2)
  • “...remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men....” (Moroni 10:3)
3. Trust in God and Be Supported in Our Afflictions
Our mortality is a probationary period, a time to learn, grow, and prove ourselves so we can expect trials, troubles, and afflictions. While the Lord promises to lift us up at the last day, we must still endure challenges in life to prove ourselves faithful. However, if we will place our trust in him, he will grant us peace and strengthen us to endure our struggles.

We see many examples of this message of hope throughout the Book of Mormon. In one example, Helaman, Gid, and Teomner, and their small Nephite army are struggling to defend their lands against a greater Lamanite force. While suffering from hunger, fear, and a lack of support from their government, they turn to the Lord:

“Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.” (Alma 58:10)

As promised, the Lord visited his people in response to their prayer of faith:

“Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.” (Alma 58:11)

Alma and his people in the land of Helam provide another beautiful example of this principle. After escaping from the wicked King Noah and setting up their own community in the land of Helam, Alma and his people were discovered by a Lamanite army and became subject to one of the former priests of Noah.

“...Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children....[H]e exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.” (Mosiah 24:8-9)

Putting their trust in God, “they began to cry mightily to God” (Mosiah 24:10). When their captors commanded them to stop praying, they “did pour out their hearts to [God]; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts” (Mosiah 24:12). Then came his reply:

“Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.” (Mosiah 24:13-14)

These three great themes in the Book of Mormon repeated point us to the Lord for prosperity, strength, and deliverance from our afflictions and captivity. Jesus Christ loves us. Through him we can endure and overcome all things.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Earliest Olmec Writings Found reported today that a stone slab with the earliest known writing in the Americas had been found in Mexico. One scholar believes the writing dates from 1000 BC to 900 BC. For more information, visit the website:

The Olmecs may have been Jaredites. The following websites, among many, discuss this posibility:

Surviving Jaredite Names in Mesoamerica (Meridian Magazine)
A New Model for Book of Mormon Geography
A Social History of the Early Nephites (FAIR)
Searching for Book of Mormon Lands in Middle America (FARMS)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blessings of Tithing

Great promises are given to those who faithfully pay their tithing. They include the following.

Growth in knowledge and testimony

President Heber J. Grant: “Prosperity comes to those who observe the law of tithing. When I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone. . . . What I count as real prosperity . . . is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind.” (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 59)

Defense against evil

President James E. Faust: “In our time we are surfeited with a pestilence of violence, evil, and wickedness in so many forms. Those who keep their covenants and pay their tithes and offerings will have some extra defense against these virulent modern-day forms of evil.” (October 1998 General Conference)

Development of the soul

Elder James E. Talmage: “After all, the prime or great purpose behind the establishment of the law of the tithe is the development of the soul of the tithe-payer, rather than the providing of revenue. The latter is an all-important purpose, for so far as money is needed for the carrying on of the work of the Church the Lord requires money that is sanctified by the faith of the giver; but blessings beyond estimate, as gaged by the coin of the realm, are assured unto him who strictly conforms to the law of the tithe because the Lord hath so commanded.” (Articles of Faith)

Peace and happiness

President Marion G. Romney: “As is true with respect to all of God’s commandments, the payment of tithing brings a peace and happiness unknown to the defaulter.” (“The Blessings of an Honest Tithe,” New Era, Jan.–Feb. 1982, 45)

Protection from destruction of the wicked in the last days

Elder Rudger Clawson: “Does it mean that if a man will not pay his tithing, that the Lord is going to send a ball of fire down from heaven and burn him up? No; the Lord does not do that way. The Lord works on natural principles. This is what it means: . . . It means that the Spirit of the Lord will withdraw from him; it means that the power of the priesthood will withdraw from that man if he continues in the spirit of neglect to do his duty. He will drift away into darkness, gradually but surely, until finally . . . he will lift up his eyes among the wicked. That is where he will finally land; and then when the destruction comes and when the burning comes, he will be among the wicked, and will be destroyed.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1913, p. 59)

Food, clothing, and shelter

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “I have wept as I have seen the poverty and the suffering of the people in this part of the earth. My heart reaches out to them. I do not know what the solution is, except the gospel of Jesus Christ. I think it is the only thing that will help them and bless their lives. If they, even living in poverty and misery, can look to God with hope and faith it will sustain them in their hours of sorrow. Furthermore, I believe with all my heart that if they will accept the gospel and live it, pay their tithes and offerings, even though those be meager, the Lord will keep His ancient promise in their behalf, and they will have rice in their bowls and clothing on their backs and shelter over their heads. I do not see any other solution. They need a power greater than any earthly power to lift them and help them” (missionary meeting, Philippines Cebu Mission, 1 June 1996). (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Aug. 1997, 3)

More easily pay our debts

President Ezra Taft Benson: “Let us pay first our obligations to our Heavenly Father. Then we will more easily pay our debts to our fellowmen.” (“Pay Thy Debt, and Live,” Ensign, June 1987, 3)

President Joseph F. Smith: "... one of the best ways that I know of to pay my obligations to my brother, my neighbor, or business associate, is for me first to pay my obligations to the Lord. I can pay more of my debts to my neighbors, if I have contracted them, after I have met my honest obligations with the Lord, than I can by neglecting the latter; and you can do the same. If you desire to prosper, and to be free men and women and a free people, first meet your just obligations to God, and then meet your obligations to your fellowmen. Bishop Hunter used to put the matter in these words: "Brethren, pay your tithing and be blessed", and that is just what I mean." (Conference Report, Apr. 1903, p. 2)

Fewer problems, more prosperity

Elder James E. Faust: “One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my lifetime about doing the best things in the worst times is that people who pay their tithing in both difficult times and good times get along better. They simply have fewer problems; there are fewer family problems and fewer financial problems. Their outlook is more positive, their ability to do and function is increased, and they prosper spiritually as well as temporally.” (“Doing the Best Things in the Worst Times,” Ensign, Aug. 1984, 41)

More power to inspire our families to live the gospel

President Heber J. Grant: “The law of financial prosperity to the Latter-day Saints, under covenant with God, is to be an honest tithepayer, and not to rob the Lord in tithes and offerings. Prosperity comes to those who observe the law of tithing; and when I say prosperity I am not thinking of it in terms of dollars and cents alone, although as a rule the Latter-day Saints who are the best tithepayers are the most prosperous men, financially; but what I count as real prosperity, as the one thing of all others that is of great value to every man and woman living, is the growth in a knowledge of God, and in a testimony, and in the power to live the gospel and to inspire our families to do the same. That is prosperity of the truest kind.” (Conference Report, Apr. 1925, 10)