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.