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.