Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday School Saturday: Lesson 32: “They Did Obey … Every Word of Command with Exactness” (Alma 53-63)

The last two years, I've spent my summers working as an EFY counselor. I have been known as a stickler for the rules, but I have also had very obedient groups. I think the two go hand in hand.

“You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.

“You are to be the royal army of the Lord in the last days. …

“In the spiritual battles you are waging, I see you as today’s sons of Helaman. Remember well the Book of Mormon account of Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors” -Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, 43

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 361)

“The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. …

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” -Harold B Lee, Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126

We all know the story of the stripling warriors. Their parents had been converts to the Gospel, and as part of their conversion had agreed to no longer take up weapons. When their people came under attack, these young men knew it was up to them to fight. Because of their exceeding faith and obedience, not one of them died.

Keep in mind that they were not only obedient to the words of the Prophet, but also the words of their commanders, and the words of their parents.

President Spencer W Kimball noted the importance of mothers to teach their sons and daughters in the home:

“To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 326–27)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

For The Strength of You Thursday: Gratitude

“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” -Doctrine and Covenants 59:21

We are eternally indebted to our Father in Heaven for all things. Nothing offend Him more than someone who does not acknowledge His hand in everything.

“We can lift ourselves and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues” (Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, Feb.
2000, 2)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Web Site Wednesday: LDS Gems

Before I left on my mission (which was 10 years ago), there was a web site out there where you could sign up for a daily inspirational message to be sent to you via email. They included a quote from a church leader and a scripture or two.

Now, the Church offers the same service, either by email or an RSS feed. They also offer multiple categories:

Church History Gems
Daily Gems
Family Gems
Young Single Adult Gems
Youth Gems

Sign up here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Temple Tuesday: Panama City

President Thomas S Monson dedicated the Panama City Panama Temple this past Sunday, August 10.

Panama has 41,640 members of the Church, in 93 wards and branches.

In 1941, the first congregation was organized for military personnel stationed in the Panama Canal area. Church membership at that time was 100.

In 1961, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave Church literature to the president of Panama, Roberto F. Chiari. When the Church was officially recognized by the government in 1965, missionary efforts began.

The first meetinghouse was completed in April 1970 on the Ustopo island. In 1989, when the Panama City Mission was created, there were 10,400 members in Panama.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Encyclopedic Monday: Law of Adoption

The house of Israel in a spiritual and eternal perspective will finally include all who are the true followers of Jesus Christ. Although those of the direct blood lineage of the house of Israel are genealogically the sheep of God's fold, they must fulfill all the spiritual conditions of discipleship. Those not of the blood of Israel can become Israel through adoption (cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:7, 29;4:5-7; Matt. 3:9; JST Luke 3:8; Abr. 2:10), through the principles and the ordinances of the gospel: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance of sins; baptism by water and reception of the Holy Ghost; and enduring to the end.

In a larger sense, everyone must be adopted into the family of God in order to enjoy the fulness of his blessings in the world to come. As the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, Jesus is the only natural heir and therefore the only one whose birthright is the kingdom of his Father. If others are to qualify as joint-heirs with Christ in his Father's kingdom, they must be fully adopted by God.

The adoption process is, in the Prophet Joseph Smith's words, "a new creation by the Holy Ghost" (TPJS, p. 150). As summarized in the Doctrine and Covenants, individuals who enter into the covenant and "magnify their calling" are "sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God" (D&C 84:33-34).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Conference Sunday: Three Presiding High Priests

April 2008 General Conference, Saturday Afternoon Session:

Elder William R. Walker
Of the Seventy

Wisdom and strength will come to us as we look to the First Presidency as our ideal and our pattern of leadership.

Elder William R. WalkerWhat a blessing and privilege it is for us to sustain President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as the new First Presidency of the Lord’s Church.

I first learned the importance of the First Presidency as a boy growing up in Western Canada. When I would go to Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s home, I was greeted in the entry by a framed photo of the First Presidency of the Church. I remember it well. It seemed that they stood as sentinels, greeting all who entered.

The beautiful color photo was of President George Albert Smith with his counselors J. Reuben Clark Jr. and David O. McKay. The photo showed them standing together by a large world globe. I loved the picture. They were such handsome and dignified men; I knew them as the prophet of God and his counselors.

That picture hanging in the front foyer of my grandparents’ home had a powerful influence on me. I lived in the small prairie town of Raymond, where my grandparents lived. I could walk to their home, so I visited often. I remember frequently standing quietly alone in the foyer, reverently looking at that picture of the First Presidency. I remember thinking about why my grandparents thought it was so important to honor the First Presidency and have that picture prominently displayed in their home. All who entered would see it. Perhaps most importantly, for their children and grandchildren it was a constant reminder of what was deeply important in the hearts and lives of Grandma and Grandpa.

Years later I concluded that displaying the picture of the First Presidency was equivalent to Joshua’s beautiful expression: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

All who entered the home of James and Fannye Walker knew that written upon their hearts were the words “As for us and our house, we will serve the Lord.” As their grandson, I knew it, and I have never forgotten it.

As a boy I didn’t understand so well the significance of there being three in the First Presidency rather than having one President. I knew, of course, that Jesus had selected Peter, James, and John, not just Peter. I knew that my father was one of three men in the bishopric, serving as a counselor to Bishop J. O. Hicken. I knew my grandfather was the stake president and that he had two counselors who stood beside him (President John Allen and President Leslie Palmer).

In every case—a presidency— not just consisting of one man as the leader but as three who led together. In Primary I had learned the Articles of Faith and grew to love them. The Articles of Faith give our youth comfort and confidence as they learn the fundamental doctrines of the Church. I then knew that “a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Articles of Faith 1:5).

In 1835 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith the proper order of presidencies in the Church:

“Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers. . . .

“Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (D&C 107:21–22).

“A quorum of three presidents” (D&C 107:29)—not a president and two vice presidents but three presiding high priests. A quorum of three presidents—the First Presidency of the Lord’s Church.

The world does not organize itself this way, but this is how the Lord organized and structured His Church.

It brings to mind the scripture:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

At about the time of my seventh birthday, I learned a little about succession in the Presidency when President George Albert Smith passed away. Sometime later the picture in Grandma and Grandpa’s foyer was replaced by a beautiful picture of President David O. McKay and his counselors Stephen L Richards and J. Reuben Clark Jr.

As a boy I certainly didn’t understand the deep significance or the process of succession in the Presidency—but I knew that the prophet had died and that we were led by a new prophet of God, with two counselors at his side.

At age 13 I was called into Bishop Murray Holt’s office, and he extended a call to me to serve as the president of the deacons quorum. He told me I needed to go home and pray about who my counselors should be. He taught me that the Lord would help me decide. He did. I then learned about counselors, and I began to see why the Lord has His Church directed by presidencies, not just presidents. I loved my counselors in the deacons quorum, and we prayed and worked hard to help the boys in our quorum. Bishop Holt taught me the pattern of presidencies and taught me how a presidency should operate and function in the Lord’s Church.

When I later served as president of other quorums, I already knew the importance of counselors, and I knew that the Lord would help me choose them—just as my bishop had taught me.

As a deacons quorum president and later as a bishop and stake president, I knew that whatever wisdom, understanding, or capacity I had, it would be magnified considerably when I included my counselors in any decision that needed to be made. I learned that the benefits of serving together as a presidency were magnificent and magnifying.

I came to understand why the Lord appointed that His Church should be led by three presiding high priests and why that form of leadership would be prescribed throughout most of the Church.

The Lord said, “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived” (D&C 52:14). He has given us the pattern of leadership. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Every organization in the Church is presided over by a presidency of three, except the Seventies [and the Twelve]” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 94). Additionally, the auxiliaries at all levels are led by a president and two counselors. All the blessings and benefits of serving together as a presidency apply to auxiliaries as well as to the priesthood quorums.

Every one of us who serve in presidencies anywhere in the Church should look to the First Presidency as our pattern and the example that we seek to follow as we carry out our stewardships. We should strive to be like them and to work together in love and harmony as they do.

President Gordon B. Hinckley often spoke of the importance of counselors. He said, “The Lord put [counselors] there for a purpose” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 94).

President Hinckley further instructed us: “Every morning except Monday, the First Presidency meets, when we are in town. I call on President Faust to present his business and we discuss it and make a decision. Then I call on President Monson to present his business and we discuss it and make a decision. Then I present the items which I wish to present and we discuss them and make a decision. We work together. . . . You can’t be a one-man operation in a presidency. Counselors—what a wonderful thing are counselors. They save you from doing the wrong things, they help you to do the right things” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 95; see also “In . . . Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 48–51).

A counselor to President Joseph F. Smith once described how the First Presidency deliberated: “When a case came before [the President of the Church] to judge, he and his counselors would talk it over and give it their careful consideration until they came to the same conclusion” (Anthon H. Lund, in Conference Report, June 1919, 19; emphasis added).

That should be our pattern in presidencies.

The revelations teach us to make our decisions in quorums and presidencies “in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity” (D&C 107:30).

The Lord has given us the pattern.

We have sustained today the new First Presidency of the Church. They will teach us and show us the pattern that we should follow. Wisdom and strength will come to us as we look to the First Presidency as our ideal and our pattern of leadership.

Great blessings will come to our families as we teach our children and grandchildren to love and sustain the leaders of the Church. As a young boy standing in my grandparents’ home, I knew that we were led by men of God, whom the Lord had placed there to guide us.

And I know it now. I bear witness that this is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we are led by His apostles and prophets. I bear witness that the senior apostle, President Thomas S. Monson, has been called of God and that with his two noble counselors at his side, they will lead us in accordance with the mind and will of the Lord, whose Church this is. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sunday School Saturday: Lesson 30: Plan of Happiness (Alma 40-42)

This lesson is about Alma's teaching of the Plan of Happiness to his wayward son Corianton. He knew his son well enough that he could perceive that Coranton did not have a testimony of the afterlife, and that was the reason for his rebelliousness. (Alma 40:1, 41:1, 42:1)

In chapter 40, verses 11-15 and 21, Alma teaches the differences between paradise and spirit prison. Essentially, Paradise is a state of happiness, versus a state of misery with weeping and wailing.

In chapter 42, Alma teaches why we must have both justice and mercy:

14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

And that's what you need to know for tomorrow's Sunday School Lesson.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Principled Friday: Hope

Romans 8:24-25

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

Often in the scriptures, hope is coupled with faith and charity. What is hope?

Hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

For The Strength of You Thursday: Agency and Accountability

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” -2 Nephi 2:27

Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose right from wrong and to act for yourself. You have been given the Holy Ghost to help you know good from evil. While you are here on earth, you are being proven to see if you will use your agency to show your love for God by keeping His commandments.

While you are free to choose for yourself, you are not free to choose the consequences of your actions. When you make a choice, you will receive the consequences of that choice. The consequences may not be immediate, but they will always follow, for good or bad. Wrong choices delay your progression and lead to heartache and misery. Right choices lead to happiness and eternal life. That is why it is so important for you to choose what is right throughout your life. -For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, pg 4

Many people confuse the concept of "Choice" with the concept of "Freedom from accountability." The former is a true principle, the latter is a false principle. By allowing people the freedom to choose for themselves, we are allowing them to grow from the experience. For if we are wise, if we choose to do wrong, we can learn from our experience and not do the thing again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Web Site Wednesday: Encylopedia of Mormonism

On the Church's home page, the Church announces that The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is now available online Through BYU's Harold B Lee Library.

All topics are here, from AIDS to the Zoramites.

I think it's important to read the Preface:

According to a standard definition, an encyclopedia is to "treat comprehensively all the various branches of knowledge" pertaining to a particular subject. The subject of this Encyclopedia is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church. This is the first major encyclopedia published about the Mormons. It presents the work of hundreds of Latter-day Saint (LDS) lay scholars and others from throughout the world and provides a comprehensive reporting of Mormon history, scripture, doctrines, life, and knowledge, intended for both the non-Mormon and the LDS reader. Readers will find an article on almost any topic conceivably related to the general topic of Mormonism, but no article is exhaustive because of space limitations. Most articles include bibliographic references; cross-references to other articles in the Encyclopedia are indicated by small capital letters.

When Macmillan Publishing Company asked authorities at Brigham Young University whether they would be interested in developing an encyclopedia about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Jeffrey R. Holland took the query to his Board of Trustees. They instructed him to proceed. Working closely with Church authorities and Macmillan, President Holland chose an editor in chief and a board of editors. Discussion of possible titles concluded that the work should be called the Encyclopedia of Mormonism since that is the term by which the Church is most widely known, though unofficially.

The contract called for a work of one million words in about 1,500 articles in four volumes including pictures, maps, charts, appendices, indices, and a glossary. It soon became apparent that references to what the Church calls the standard works-the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price-would be so frequent that readers who did not have ready access to those works would be at a serious disadvantage in using the Encyclopedia. A fifth volume was decided upon to include all the LDS standard works except the Bible, which is readily available everywhere.

The Church does not have a paid clergy or a battery of theologians to write the articles. It functions with a lay ministry, and all members are encouraged to become scholars of the gospel. Over 730 men and women were asked to write articles on topics assigned because of previous interest and study.

Six major articles unfold the History of the Church: (1) the background and founding period in New York; (2) the Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois periods ending with the martyrdom of Joseph Smith; (3) the exodus west and the early pioneer period under Brigham Young; (4) the late pioneer Utah period ending at the turn of the century and statehood; (5) a transitional period during the early twentieth century; and (6) the post-World War II period of international growth. The History of the Church has been dramatic and moving, considering its brief span of just over 160 years. Compared to Catholicism, Judaism, ancient Far East religions, and many Protestant churches, the Church has a very short history.

Nearly 250 articles explain the doctrines of the Church, with special emphasis on basic principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Twenty-four articles are clustered under the title "Jesus Christ," and another sixteen include his name in the title or relate directly to his divine mission and Atonement.

Over 150 articles relate the details on such topics as the First Vision, Zion's Camp, Handcart Companies, Plural Marriage, the Salt Lake Temple, Temple Square, and the Church throughout the world. Biographies cover men and women contemporary in the life of Joseph Smith, Presidents of the Church, and auxiliary founders and past presidents. The only biography of a person living at the time of publication is on the present prophet and President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson.

And finally, there are over a hundred articles primarily concerned with how Latter-day Saints relate to their families, the Church, and to society in general. It is said there is a "Mormon culture," and several articles explore Mormon lifestyle, folklore, folk art, artists, literature, and other facets that distinguish Latter-day Saints.

It may be that the growth of the Church in the last decades has mandated the encyclopedic account that is presented here. Yet, even as the most recent programs were set down and the latest figures listed, there is an acute awareness that the basic tenet of the Church is that its canon is open-ended. The contemporary President of the Church is sustained as a "prophet, seer, and revelator." While this makes some theological discussion moot, the basic beliefs of the Latter-day Saints, summarized in the Articles of Faith (see Glossary) do not change.

In several areas, the Church shares beliefs held by other Christians, and a number of scholars from other faiths were asked to present articles. However, the most distinctive tenets of the Church-those regarding the premortal and postmortal life, living prophets who receive continuous and current revelation from God, sacred ordinances for deceased ancestors, moral and health codes that provide increasingly well-documented benefits, and the potential within man for progression into an infinite future-are all treated primarily by writers selected from among Latter-day Saints.

Lest the role of the Encyclopedia be given more weight than it deserves, the editors make it clear that those who have written and edited have only tried to explain their understanding of Church history, doctrines, and procedures; their statements and opinions remain their own. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism is a joint product of Brigham Young University and Macmillan Publishing Company, and its contents do not necessarily represent the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In no sense does the Encyclopedia have the force and authority of scripture.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Principled Friday: Faith

Matthew 9:20-30

20 ¶ And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
27 ¶ And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.

Whether the blessing comes from the Lord Himself, or through a priesthood blessing, we cannot be healed unless we have faith.

48 And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.
49 He who hath faith to see shall see.
50 He who hath faith to hear shall hear.
51 The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.
-Doctrine and Covenants 42:48-51

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A New Kind of Mormon Blog

About two months ago, I decided to start a blog about my faith. However, I didn't want to make the blog a "testimony" blog, like many other blogs out there.

I've spent the last two months trying to decide what to do with the blog. During that time, I have gone through some difficult times in my personal life. A "trial of faith," if you will. However, this trial of faith has helped me decide what this blog will be.

In addition to stories about faith and news from the Church, this blog will contain different features on different days of the week:

Encyclopedic Mondays: Lessons from The Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Temple Tuesday: Tales of various temples around the world.
Web site Wednesdays: Talking about different features on the Church's Web Site.
For the Strength of You Thursdays: Topics from the From the Strength of Youth pamphlet, written for youth and adults.
Principled Friday: Talking about different principles of the Church.
Sunday School Saturday: Because Saturday is a Special Day, we will get ready for Sunday with a recap of the Sunday School Lesson.
Conference Sunday: A recap of a talk from a past General Conference.

So, I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming Soon

Many Mighty Miracles is currently under construction. Come back soon....