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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Moroni in Finding Our Own Testimonies

The purpose of this blog isn't so much to convert anyone, as it is a public forum for me to share my testimony and beliefs, in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm not looking to prove anybody wrong, but just to share how I feel spiritually. The Lord has blessed me with some rich experiences, and I feel it would be ungrateful not to share what I have heard, seen, and most importantly, felt. I was not trying to prove anyone wrong last week. I was trying to share what I know to be true, through the promptings of the Spirit.

While some promptings of the Holy Ghost get lost in the day's activities, others leave an indelible impression on my life. One such experience was when I first prayed to know that the Book of Mormon was true.

When I was 17, I was challenged to read the Book of Mormon, and to pray about it. I had never done it before, at least in really searching out to know the truth for myself. I had been living off of social climate, and the experiences of others in my life. It's not like I only did things because I was expected to, I had just never received a firm answer for myself.

I read every page of that book, and prayed about it. Such peace and power filled my soul, that I could not deny that I KNEW. It has been perhaps the most important experience in my life so far. All things that I strive to do come from that experience. And yet, I know that this experience can be had by anybody with a real intent, a sincere heart, and real intent. For practical purposes, this is what I feel these mean:

A sincere heart: Really wanting to know. I think that this comes from reading the Scriptures faithfully, and trying to find meaning in them. Sincerity can be seen from trying to understand the Scriptures, and "feasting" upon them.

Real Intent: Go to Church. Follow the Commandments. Act as if you are willing to follow through on any answer to prayer that you receive. Why would you receive an answer if you're not looking to follow through with the information?

Faith In Christ: PRAY ABOUT IT. Having faith in Him, means faith in His purposes, and that praying to the Father in His name will bring a real answer.

Now, will it come instantly? Probably not. Will it come when we are ready for it? Absolutely. Some feel that they have never received an answer to prayer, and to them I would say, "did seeking an answer change your behavior? Did it bring you more in harmony with divine teaching? Did you come to love the Lord because of your experience?" That is certainly an answer. The Lord does not answer us with a heavy hand, or a shout. He answers us in promptings, and in changes in our behavior.

If you're not sure what to do, move forward with a steadfastness in Christ, and His teachings. Greater happiness than anything you can imagine comes from a life of faith and fullness, through and in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stay Far Away From The Muck and Mire

I can’t tell you how sad it makes me when those outside of the Church try to tear it down. What I think is perhaps the most regrettable is that people inside and outside of the Church associate the feelings of doubt and disgust when they read or see anti-Mormon material with the Church itself. Please remember that it is not produced by the Church. Most anti-Mormon material is taken completely out of context, or omitting words, sentences or paragraphs to make a point. (For a thorough analysis on how books such as “No Man Knows My History” skew history, read “No Ma’am, That’s Not History” by Hugh Nibley.)

Remember that the Lord works in his own due time, and in His own reasons. Remember what He has done for you. Remember what President Kimball wrote:

Apostasy often begins with criticism of current leaders. Apostasy usually begins with question and doubt and criticism. It is a retrograding and devolutionary process. The seeds of doubt are planted by unscrupulous or misguided people, and seldom directed against the doctrine at first, but more often against the leaders. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Pg. 462)

The Lord loves each and every one of His children. He wants them to return to Him, but the enemy of all righteousness would have otherwise. The Lord will answer all questions, through proper personal preparation on our part, and revelation from the Holy Ghost.

Elder Neil L. Anderson has said:
Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.”4
Through the years we take these important spiritual steps over and over again. We begin to see that “he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”5 Our questions and doubts are resolved or become less concerning to us. Our faith becomes simple and pure. We come to know what we already knew.

President Hinckley added:
[Faith], as it was then, so it is today. This precious and marvelous gift of faith, this gift from God our Eternal Father, is still the strength of this work and the quiet vibrancy of its message. Faith underlies it all. Faith is the substance of it all. Whether it be going into the mission field, living the Word of Wisdom, paying one’s tithing, it is all the same. It is the faith within us that is evidenced in all we do.

Our critics cannot understand it. Because they do not understand, they attack. A quiet inquiry, an anxious desire to grasp the principle behind the result, could bring greater understanding and appreciation.

I was asked at a news conference on one occasion how we get men to leave their vocations, to leave home, and serve the Church. I responded that we simply ask them, and we know what their answer will be.

What a marvelous and wonderful thing it is, this powerful conviction that says the Church is true. It is God’s holy work. He overrules in the things of His kingdom and in the lives of His sons and daughters. This is the reason for the growth of the Church. The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward.

If you are struggling with an issue in the Church, speak with your leaders. Pray about it. Work as hard at finding the answers as those who would convince you otherwise work at trying to lead you astray.

Remember that Joseph was a prophet. That President Monson is one now. And above all, that Jesus is the very Christ, the Son of God. That He taught, healed, suffered, died, and rose again. Because if this is true, what else matters? Really. What else matters?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Prophets Words: Always Scripture?

Prophetic authority is a distinguishing characteristic of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, when asked what sets Mormons apart from other Christians, the answer will always go back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph or one of his modern successors. Whether the question of “why do we need more scripture?” to “why don’t you smoke or drink?” it all goes back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph, that he was called by God, “to teach the Gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith: 5) A true belief in Jesus Christ and His chosen leaders are essential to full and worthy membership in the Church.
But the words of the Lord, as given through the Prophet Joseph can give us a chance to stop and think: what is scripture? I think that this question is a good one. Scripture, as defined by the Bible Dictionary states that: “Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).”

I think that this clarifies the problem more than is seen at first glance. Scripture is what the Spirit dictates to a specific audience of people, based on the spiritual needs of the people that are being addressed.

In one such example, a Bishop may be interviewing two different individuals for the same sin, such as immorality. Because of the specific circumstances surrounding the sin, the Bishop may require different lengths of time before taking the Sacrament, suspension of temple privileges, or other such injunctions. This would fall directly in line with what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, when he said:
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, 'Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, 'Thou shalt utterly destroy.' This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.”

“Scripture” and “cannon” are different words with different meanings, which Latter-day Saints often use interchangeably. Scripture can be given by any child who has been baptized may speak by the Spirit. As Alma has said, “little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” Cannon is something that is accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency as scripture for the entire Church. Cannon is something that could potentially be added to the scriptures, such as the Family Proclamation, not something that a missionary, Bishop, or little child could say in a meeting, as spoken by the Holy Ghost.

Cannon must apply to all. All the words that compromise the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are applicable to all. This designation is not afforded to the footnotes, or even the Bible Dictionary, or chapter headings. It seems to me that there is “scripture” for the individual, and “Scripture” for the Church.

Leaders are entitled to individual opinion. Let's forget that they are men, and not perfect, and that if we're allowed to have opinions, so should they.

I'm excited for conference. There is revelation to be had...if we're listening for it :)