Monday, December 23, 2013

The Great Work of the Latter-Days

Okay. This is not going to be a feel-good post at all. If you aren't uncomfortable and wanting to change by the end of this post, read it again until you feel motivated enough to share the gospel with everyone. (And as a fair warning, I am livid right now, so this will not sound like a happy feeling).

Missionary work is one of the pillar purposes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Missionary work is the life-blood of the church. Unfortunately, it is one of the most neglected principles/doctrines in practice in the lives of every-day members. Full time missionaries, for the most part, have this purpose found in their lives, daily. It was recently announced that we have 82,000 missionaries serving full time. To gather scattered Israel back in, we need more than that: we need 15,000,000 missionaries. "Every member...a missionary," said President David O McKay. Stop and think for a second, what it would be like if every member was a missionary.

What would it be like if every sacrament meeting had visitors? What would it be like if members made it a priority to share their heart-felt testimonies with their friends? What would it be like if members did so much work that missionaries literally had to be on splits and run from appointment to appointment from 10 AM to 9 PM? What would it be like if every member's heart were aflame with a bright testimony of The Book of Mormon, and the desire to share that light with everyone around them? What would it be like if members weren't so cliquey, but reached out and shared? What would it be like if Facebook were flooded with videos from mormon.org and with testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith? What if there was a tidal wave of tweets declaring the truths of the Restoration?

The results would be wonderful! Of that, I say with no hesitation by the power of the Spirit! I know that our meetings would be more filled with the Spirit of Almighty God! Mighty miracles would be wrought among the children of men, the likes of which had never been seen before. Testimonies would be strengthened, and conversions deepened. The mysteries of godliness would be unfolded right before our eyes.

Daniel prophesied that in the latter days "the God of heaven [shall] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44). Nothing can stop the progress of the work. However, the members of the church do not engage in missionary work. Whether that's out of laziness or fear, it doesn't matter. Members of the church lack faith in our God of miracles. They lack faith in the converting power of the Spirit. They lack faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

"Gee, Jared. That sounds a little harsh. Just because I don't do missionary work, doesn't mean I don't have faith in the Atonement."

The wicked take the truth to be hard. (I make no apology for the characterization of those who do not perform missionary work as wicked. Wicked is defined in the dictionary as "evil or morally bad in principle or practice; sinful" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wicked?s=t). It is a sin to not engage in missionary work). The prophet, Howard W Hunter said, “What does the Atonement have to do with missionary work? Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of others. … A great indicator of one’s personal conversion is the desire to share the gospel with others.” Those who lack the desire to share the gospel with others have obviously not felt the blessings of the Atonement. The only way to not feel the blessings of the Atonement is to lack the faith to use it.

Joseph Smith once called missionary work "the great work of the last days” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 178–79). With the access to temples and historical records so far reaching in the latter days, it is still the missionary work that is called "the great work". Now, I'm not discounting the need to worship in the temples and to search out our kindred dead; however, I am saying that temple work takes a back seat to missionary work. Temple Work can be done during the millennium. Missionary work must be done now.

One of the scriptural uses for the word "damned" is the meaning of progress being stopped. Those who don't engage in missionary work, with this sense of the word, are damning the church. The work will continue to go forth, because God is working right by our sides. The progress of the work, however, is hindered and slowed down by lack of missionary involvement. President Gordon B Hinckley taught, "Last year there were approximately 300,000 convert baptisms throughout the Church. This is tremendously significant. This is the equivalent of 120 new stakes of 2,500 members each. Think of that: 120 new stakes in a single year! It is wonderful. But it is not enough. I am not being unrealistic when I say that with concerted effort, with recognition of the duty which falls upon each of us as members of the Church, and with sincere prayer to the Lord for help, we could double that number" (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/05/find-the-lambs-feed-the-sheep). He said that in 1999. From the statistical report this past April (http://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/05/statistical-report-2012?lang=eng):
Converts Baptized during 2012
272,330
We have work to do. A prophet of God told us we could have 600,000 convert baptisms a year IF EACH OF US AS MEMBERS RECOGNIZE OUR DUTY AND WITH SINCERE PRAYER. And quite honestly, the Spirit seems to accord that he was speaking about the low end. There is absolutely no limits on this work of Salvation...And God is hastening it. Make no mistake about it! God has set His hand to gather in scattered Israel, the ten tribes included, once more with more power and more force than ever before. The only question is: will we catch this wave of missionary work, or will we be drowned by it?

We must be doing missionary work! As with all else, the Savior is our example. He went about teaching truths, and inviting men to do hard things to learn the gospel. He asked Peter to drop his nets and follow Him. He taught profound truths to large groups of people, but it was always meant for the one. Everything He did was missionary work. None of us will be as successful as He was at it, but He is still our Exemplar. Thomas S Monson called him "the missionary who redeemed mankind". May we ever follow in the footsteps of The Master, and speak so that all around us might hear the voice of He, who is the good shepherd. For "My sheep hear my voice...and they follow me" (John 10:27). 

Jesus Christ truly is the Good Shepherd, and has asked us to be His under-shepherds. It is my hope that we will each have the courage to open our mouths, and have them be filled with the glorious truths of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. "Lift up your voices and testify to the true nature of the Godhead. Declare your witness concerning the Book of Mormon. Convey the glorious and beautiful truths contained in the plan of salvation" (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/come-all-ye-sons-of-god). 

I testify that as we willingly engage in fulfilling the divine commission we received at baptism, and recommit to in the Temple, that the world will change from the missionary work going on today. I testify that God is calling each of us to do His work. I testify that The Book of Mormon is true, and invite all to read it now, regardless of how many times you have previously read the book, and ask God again if it is true. I testify of the power of the Holy Ghost, and that God's words have not ceased. May we each engage in the divine commission to build up the Kingdom of God, with love of God and of all men, is my humble prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Secular Inquisition

Elder Neal A Maxwell
In 1978, Elder Neal A Maxwell, then  a President in the First Quorum of the Seventy, gave a devotional at Brigham Young University. In it, he said, "We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage." He continued, "Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. Its orthodoxy would be insistent and its inquisitors inevitable. Its paid ministry would be numerous beyond belief. Its Caesars would be insufferably condescending. Its majorities—when faced with clear alternatives—would make the Barabbas choice, as did a mob centuries ago when Pilate confronted them with the need to decide.
Your discipleship may see the time come when religious convictions are heavily discounted. M. J. Sobran also observed, "A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it" (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58). This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain of people's opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions" (http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=909).

That was 35 years ago! Anymore, we see an all out war of words between those of the state's church and those who are of the Lord's church. While there are not yet extremely vocal calls for total atheistic representation in government by any sizable group, the cry is heard: "SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE! SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE!" (Which, I have yet to find that phrase in the Constitution, but I digress).

During this past week, Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, has come under fire for his remarks against homosexuality. Now, I honestly haven't seen Duck Dynasty. It came out when I was on my mission, and really hasn't been on my priority to watch. But the fact of the matter is, he said something that was out of line with what the secularists' doctrine so adamantly declares: that we must be open-minded of all lifestyles, unless it's a Judeo-Christian lifestyle, then it's okay to make fun of it. It's not okay to make fun of the way people dress in their religion, unless they're Mormon and have so-called "magical underwear". It's not okay to destroy Holy Books, unless it's the Bible. And the list goes on and on.

If we do not stand up against the secular church now, we will lose the war. Their inquisition has gone on long enough! We live in a world where we promote pornography and penalize prayer. We live in a sex-saturated society where we approve abortions and abandon abstinence. The Law of Chastity is seen as outdated, either in parts or as a whole, by most people, particularly the secularists. We might end up being "crucified"
for holding to these ancient beliefs, but if so, we are in good company.




*Note: The thoughts on this page are solely the thoughts and words of the author, and in no way claim to be established doctrine or official statements for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For official doctrine, please visit http://www.mormon.org or http://www.lds.org

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Greatest Threat and the Greatest Defense

Harold B Lee once said, "Satan’s greatest threat today is to destroy the family, and to make a mockery of the law of chastity and the sanctity of the marriage covenant" (http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-harold-b-lee/chapter-20). Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality" (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/04/cleansing-the-inner-vessel).

Unfortunately, the vices of sexual immorality are becoming increasingly accepted, and even encouraged in society today. As Dallin H Oaks once put it, "Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner. The most fundamental roots and bulwarks of civilization are questioned or attacked. Nations disavow their religious heritage. Marriage and family responsibilities are discarded as impediments to personal indulgence" (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2004/04/preparation-for-the-second-coming). 

Far too often, I've come to see good men and women who I knew in High School breaking the law of Chastity within only a few years. Family is not as revered as it once was, as something to be waited for until after entering the marriage covenant. Nations are only as strong as the families in them, and this nation has lost the favor of heaven, because we have ceased to "serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ" (Ether 2:12). "For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off" (Ether 2:10).


In too many ways, we are following the path of both previous civilizations of the American continent. We, collectively, have demanded that God get out of our courts, out of our schools, and out of our land. (Of course, there are those who still fight for it, but I'm referring to policy here, not the sides of the debate). Now we are making mockery of "that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue" (Moroni 9:9). Do we really expect that this will go without consequences? Do we really expect that the God of heaven will turn a blind eye to this plague of biblical proportions?

"The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!" (2 Nephi 13:9). The sin that got Sodom destroyed was their sexual perversions. Now, we cannot hide the sins committed of sexual perversion in this world. It is everywhere around us: TV, Radio, the internet, billboards, and so on. The Law of Chastity has not changed, nor will it ever change, simply because society wills it that way. 

"The Lord delights in...chastity" (Jacob 2:28). It's not just a slight giddiness, but rather His whole soul is filled with joy in chastity. Thus, ours should be as well. We live in a sex-saturated society, but that doesn't mean we have to be affected. We don't need to be of the world, simply because we are in it. It's just going to get darker and more dangerous. So, what is there left to do?

In the words of the Holy One of Israel, "Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nationsAnd that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 115:5-6). We must be the guardians of virtue, and shine our example to all the world. How?

We must "let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly;" and "then shall [our] confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon [our] soul[s] as the dews from heaven" (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45). Then, others seeing our light shall come and see and feel.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Work

While leading the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, Moses had a mighty visitation from Jehovah. He is shown all the creations created by the hand of the Lord. He beheld the majesty and power and glory and might of the Holy One of Israel. While Moses was basking in this glory, he questioned why the Lord did these things. Jehovah responded, "For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).

And so it is. Every aspect of the gospel is to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man. Immortality is guaranteed to everyone who has ever been born on this earth. The incident of mortality is a result of the Fall of Adam. The Atonement of Jesus Christ totally and completely overcame physical death. Thus, solely by and through the Atonement, the immortality of man was 100% taken care of. That leaves the problem of the eternal life of man.


What does "Eternal Life" even mean? Preach My Gospel teaches that Eternal Life is "to become like our Father in Heaven and live in His presence. The greatest of all the gifts of God. [Eternal Life] comes through the Atonement of Christ and through obedience to all the laws and ordinances of the gospel" (http://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/what-do-i-study-and-teach/lesson-2-the-plan-of-salvation). It requires men and women to change, to put "off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a childsubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19). That requires the individual to take initiative.

Each person is endowed with moral agency, which God himself will not violate. The thing is "man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other" (2 Nephi 2:16). In order for
men to be enticed by "one or the other", they must know what the options are. The Lord, in his infinite wisdom did not publish His gospel by angelic messengers before the world, rather He sends forth his angels to His covenant people (specifically to the prophets), and, then, it's the covenant people's responsibility to "bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations...[that] all the families of the earth [may] be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abraham 2:9,11). Thus, it is inherently a responsibility of those of the lineage of Israel (whether literal descendants or the relative few adoptees into the lineage) to bless the other families of the earth with the blessings of the gospel, as well as to gather in her own children in.

As the children of the covenant, we have a responsibility to preach the gospel to all the families of the earth. (For the sake of our discussion, preaching means sharing doctrine and/or inviting others to come and see what we do). By so doing, we allow others to see the options, and then act as agents of whether to come unto Christ or remain in "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4). For some reason, though, members of the church, at large, "voluntarily bind their tongues [when they should], with the Spirit of the Lord and the power of their priesthood, open their mouths and speak miracles" (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/11/we-are-all-enlisted). We all need to be missionaries, sharing the gospel "at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death" (Mosiah 18:9).

Far too often, we get fear in our hearts, and voluntarily bind our tongues. We don't want to offend anyone. We don't want to sound preachy. We want to be tolerant. We want to show the way by our examples. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH IN TODAY'S WORLD! We are in a fierce battle against the adversary, and he is not stopping until he has pulled down any man, woman, or child he can. He ensures that people are "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness" (Ephesians 4:14). He ensures that popular religious leaders "teach for doctrines the commandments of men" (JS-H 1:19). We are to take upon ourselves "the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). With the protective armor of God, being led and protected by the sword of the Spirit, we are prepared for battle with the world. In a battle, would you not ensure that your friends had their armor on? Would you not invite them to put it all on, not just the few articles they already have? Would you not have them bring their shield of faith, but also shod their feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace? Would you not have them bring their breastplate of righteousness and give them the sword of the spirit? Would you not have them keep their loins girt with truth, but also offer them the helmet of salvation? If you would do that in a physical battle, why on earth would you not do it in a spiritual battle, when the stakes are so much higher? 

In a physical battle, the worst thing that could happen to you is you'd die. That is already completely conquered by the Savior's atonement. In this spiritual battle, the worst thing that could happen is you die spiritually. Because of the moral agency given to each of us, that can only be conquered if we choose to allow it to be conquered. People of course will at times reject the offer of additional portions of the armor of God, but we still love them, and at a later time, we offer them that armor again, because we love them, and we don't want for them to die.

The Lord has said, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentanceAnd how great is his joy in the soul that repentethWherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" (Doctrine & Covenants 18:10-16). In my opinion, if the joy is that great over bringing one person to repentance, our anguish would be great if we don't.

At times, I have thought to myself about going into the spirit world. During these times of pondering, I've imagined running into a friend from this life who had ended up dying before me. I came up to them and said, "Hey man! How are things going? I see that you're in paradise! You accepted the gospel?! I'm so happy for you!" 

The friend responded, "Yeah! I love it! Learning the gospel is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me! Didn't you know about the gospel in mortality?"

"Yes, I did."

"Why didn't you tell me about it?"

When that was said, I felt as if my heart had been ripped out. As much joy as the gospel has ever brought me was equal to the pain of not sharing it with this imagined friend in this imagined scenario. Obviously, this experience hasn't happened, because I'm still alive, but it still hit me that I never want it to happen. I'm sure none of you want it to happen either. Brethren and Sisters, we can make sure it doesn't happen.

We can engage in The Work of Salvation, side by side with the Lord. He will always be with us. As we are on the Lord's errand, he has promised, "there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:88).

Let us each engage in this, the great work of the latter days!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"I have loved thee as thy friend, With a love that cannot end."

Life is hard. Life is really hard. Among the trials of life, I have often wondered if anyone actually cares. There have been many times that I feel that people basically put up with me as long as they can, and then they'll leave. I know that it is self-defeating logic, and obviously isn't true, but at times, I question and I wonder. Through it all, however, the Lord has placed certain people in my life for me to have certain experiences with at certain times. It is by those tender mercies that I have been able to hold on.

In the 122nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared, "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on...." (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-9). 

During these times when life gets hard. The Lord does not require us to do everything. He simply requires us to hold on. We can hold on because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Lord will also place others in our lives to give us strength when we need it. My life is full of experiences of that. I know that certain people are placed in our lives at certain times to help us out. I shall only share one such experience however.

A few months ago, I was with a companion, who I will call Elder W. Elder W slept in til 10 AM. (For those of you that don't know, missionaries are supposed to be awake at 6:30 AM). Elder W used cooking materials that I had purchased to make his lunches. Elder W would, on some days, not even make an effort to leave the apartment until evening. I was totally miserable. To make matters worse, he was the District Leader, so I could only talk with the Zone Leaders about it, but we had the exchange with them at the very beginning of the transfer.

Well, there was one other set of Elders in the district at the time: Elder Goodman and Elder Eddy. We went on an exchange with them, and I went with Elder Eddy. It was the second time I'd gone on exchanges with him, at which point, we'd become pretty good friends. During the time we spent together, he asked me if I liked Elder W, which I explained the whole situation. Then, I asked him for a blessing, which he obliged.

It was a really tough point in my mission, but a friend was able to help me through it. As I've thought of that experience, as well as many others I'd had before and since, it has brought me back to reflections on the Savior. Our purpose in the gospel is to grow to become more like the Savior. What has the Savior said (whether by His own voice or the voice of his servants) about friendship? He's said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13), and that we "are...to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:9).

Elder Eddy comforted me in that time. It is each of our duties to be friends to all, for that is part of the baptismal covenant. I know that I am not perfect at it, but I strive to be. The Prophet, Joseph Smith, taught, “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’ … It unites the human family with its happy influence” (http://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-40?lang=eng).

As with every other gospel principle, the Savior is the perfect example of the perfect friend. Why is that? Because He was perfectly virtuous. “That friendship which intelligent beings would accept as sincere must arise from love, and that love grow out of virtue" (http://www.lds.org/new-era/2009/09/friendship?lang=eng). When you truly become friends with someone, their well-being and comfort is as great as your own. It must be just and holy if it is to last longer than a transitory acquaintanceship. That is what the Savior did. He has such a friendship with each of us, and loves each of us so intimately that He came down to perform the Atonement for each of us. I know that He did that, more surely than I know I exist.

 Let us each strive to be better friends day by day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Doctrines, Principles, and Applications

Today, I've been watching the DVD that comes along with Elder David A Bednar's book, "Increase in Learning". One of the principles he highlighted in the DVD is that of Doctrine, Principles, and Application, and the roles of the three. It has caused me to seriously reflect and ponder on this lesson he taught.

Doctrine is divine truth revealed by God to man through a prophet, binding on the whole church. They are very fundamental: such as the Plan of Salvation, the Nature of God, or the reality of the Lord Jesus Christ's Atoning sacrifice. President Boyd K Packer once taught, "True doctrineunderstood, changes attitudes and behavior" (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/10/little-children?lang=eng). That is the importance of Doctrine that Elder Bednar touched on. He incessantly asked people (when they brought up specific questions) :What doctrine, understood, would change that individual's behavior?

To know what he means, he differentiated between knowing the doctrine and understanding the doctrine. Knowing the doctrine involves getting it into your head. Understanding doctrine involves getting it into your heart. Only the Holy Ghost can help us understand doctrine: only though the spirit can the gospel get planted deep into our hearts.

Out of these overarching doctrines come principles. The definition of a principle is "a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived" (definition 2 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/principle?s=t). Examples of this would be the Law of Chastity, or that the Lord wants us to not harm our bodies (in teaching the Word of Wisdom), or that we "treasure up continually the words of eternal life" in the context of Gospel Study.

Applications come from those principles. Out of the principle of the Law of Chastity comes the application of not dating until you turn 16. Out of the principle of not doing harm for our bodies comes the application of abstaining from smoking. Out of the principle of "treasuring up continually" comes reading a chapter from the Book of Mormon every night.

Elder Bednar taught that nothing really fits into these boxes. Something that could be a principle in one situation could be a Doctrine in another and vice versa, and even applications can end up being "noodled around" with (his words, not mine). The Law of Chastity, for example, could be a principle in the context of The Plan of Salvation, but a doctrine in its own right with the principle of controlling thoughts with the application of not viewing pornography.

So why are these things really even brought up? It is because far too often we only teach the applications. The power comes in the understanding of the doctrine and the principles of the Gospel. Without the doctrine or the principles, the applications become a mechanical check box of things to do. For examples of this, one need look no further than the Pharisees in Christ's day. They were so focused on the applications (how many steps you can take on the Sabbath) that they failed to see the principles (keeping the Sabbath day Holy) or the doctrine (Obedience to God's Commandments).

When you include the relations of the application to principles and doctrine, that gives power behind the application. "[T]he elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel" the commandment says (Doctrine & Covenants 42:12). That is what the Lord expects of us. The doctrines and the principles of the Gospel is what are necessary to be taught, and then people can figure out the applications themselves. (Though there is no harm in including an application or two as an example).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." That is the pattern that we must follow. We give men and women opportunity to be agents to themselves: to act and not merely be acted upon when we teach the principles. When we teach in this way, the Spirit will be with us, and we will be teaching by the Spirit, not behind the Spirit, not in front of the Spirit, but by the Spirit. He will carry the truth unto their hearts, and then it is up to them to let it into their heart or understanding the doctrine.

I testify that as we teach the doctrines and the principles, that the applications will flow naturally therefrom, and the power of our teaching will increase with our learning.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers" - 2 Nephi 6:7

In the sixth chapter of 2 Nephi, Jacob speaks to the people of Nephi about history of the House of Israel, and its destiny. As he started out, he quoted two verses from the prophet Isaiah, "Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (2 Nephi 6:6-7).

As I read those verses last night, I thought, "How does this apply to us today?" We are living in a time of the Hastening of the Gathering of Israel in both sides of the veil, and this verse goes into that gathering. Obviously it was written for our day, and couldn't just be talking about the fact that the Kings and Queens of Europe would nurse the nations from which the gospel would issue forth.

As I pondered these verses more, I began to think, "What is the standard that the Lord will raise?" Well, what's a standard? The dictionary definition is "a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment" or "those morals, ethicshabits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/standard?s=t). Another meaning, more archaic, means something (such as a flag) that troops can rally around, so they can tell where their side is. All of these meanings bring light to what the standard is.

The first two definitions point to principles that the Lord has taught. The main sources that can be found are living prophets (if there are any, which there are today), personal revelation, and the scriptures. The third definition narrows down what the standard might be. We are engaged in a war over the souls of the children of men, and, as the hymn says, "We are all enlisted til the conflict is o'er!" (We Are All Enlisted, 1985 LDS Hymnal 250). The front lines of this war, however, are found in the missionaries. They have clear goals, and clear rallying cries. What is it that the missionaries use to cry out the rally to those they find and teach? The Book of Mormon.

This is the standard that the Lord set to call His people back home! The Promise of The Book of Mormon, found in Moroni 10, is 100% reliable! Any person who remembers the mercy of the Lord, ponders the message of The Book of Mormon, prays to know if it is true with a sincere heart and real intent, and they have faith in Christ, will get the answer that it is true. The problem is: very few people, out of their own accord, randomly find, pick up, read, and follow Moroni's promise to get that answer. The Lord had a way for that to work itself out as well.

The verse continued, "they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers;" (2 Nephi 6:6-7). His people, babes in the gospel, would have to be carried into the gospel by kings and queens who shall nurse them. We are the children of the covenant, and heirs to the Celestial Kingdom, if we hold out faithful to the end. The Lord explained what happens to those who enter therein, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:38). The Father is the King of Heaven. If we receive all that he has, we too are Kings and Queens, albeit in embryo now.

We are the ones who are to carry in the dispersed of Israel. We are to be their nursing fathers and mothers. We are commissioned to go to the rescue: not only to the lambs that never have been in the fold, but also the sheep that have wandered out of the fold. Those we bring to the fold, which could take years for some people, will have deep gratitude towards us in the eternities: "they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet;" so deep shall their gratitude be.

The prophets have called us to rescue. Let's do it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flooding the Earth



“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!” 
-Ezra Taft Benson, Oct. 1988

That quote was given 25 years ago. If the time was overdue then, it is overdue now.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints love The Book of Mormon, for the most part. We have testimonies that it is true, but we are not reaching the full potential of The Book of Mormon. We have "treated lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). We will probably not receive any more scripture until we finally figure out the true power behind this book. For, if we do not learn how to use The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as the standard of the Restoration of the Gospel, "condemnation [shall rest] upon the children of Zion, even all. And [we] shall remain under this condemnation until [we] repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:56-57). To know of the true power behind The Book of Mormon, we must know what The Book of Mormon is -- or what it claims to be -- for if it is what it claims to be, then it is true. 

The Book of Mormon claims to be "an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi...Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation", for "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). It further claims to be "a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible...a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas [that] contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel" (Introduction, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Even on the cover, it declares without equivocation that it is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". If it is these things, then it is true. If it is not, then it is false. 

That's the beauty of The Book of Mormon! Either it is true or it is false! Either it is of God or it is from the devil. There is no middle ground with this book! The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rests upon the validity of The Book of Mormon. If it is true, we have living prophets who hold the keys of the Priesthood on the earth today. If it is true, this is a time of revelation, even a time when "righteousness...[sent] down out of heaven; and truth...[sent] forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of...[the] Only Begotten" (Moses 7:62). If The Book of Mormon is true, temple work is necessary for everyone who has ever lived on the earth. If The Book of Mormon is true, the gathering of Israel is already well under way. If The Book of Mormon is true, every doctrine, principle, and key taught by this church is one hundred percent true. If The Book of Mormon is false, then this work is the greatest fraud the world has ever seen. But if it is true, then this is "the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands [that is filling] the whole earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 65:2).

The Book of Mormon is truly "a marvelous work and a wonder", causing "the wisdom of [our] wise and learned [to] perish, and the understanding of [our] prudent [to] be" hidden (2 Nephi 27:26). There is no possible explanation for the publication and writing of this book, except the one that Joseph gave: that a messenger from heaven showed the place of the plates and that he translated it by the gift and power of God. As Jeffrey R Holland put it, "Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. " (Safety for the Soul, Conference Oct 2009). Those same theories get resurrected again and again and go through the same process. Attacks on the Book of Mormon will not cease, for it is the work of God, and Satan will stop at nothing to keep one man, woman, or child from finding this work, and joining it.

Every book, every chapter, and every verse of The Book of Mormon has great meaning. It might not be shown instantly to us, but as we consistently search, ponder, and pray (which requires effort!!! See Read, Pray, and Go to Church) we will come to see the gold dust amid all the nuggets. 

I find it interesting that The Book of Mormon came from plates that had the appearance of gold. While there were probably reasons for this dealing with availability of ores and properties of various types of metals with corrosion, I feel that the Lord was very wise in the symbolism. The words of the "Gold Bible" (as enemies of the church at one point called The Book of Mormon) is worth more than gold. They are words of celestial gold. The gold, in addition to being the physical description, also refers to the words therein. They are words of gold. It truly is truth "out of the earth" (Moses 7:62).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day" (The Book of Mormon is the Word of God, Ensign Jan 1988). The Book of Mormon holds the answers that so many in today's world are searching for.

Preach My Gospel shares a few of those questions that are answered:
"Is there a God? (Alma 22)
• What does Jesus Christ expect of me? (2 Nephi 9)
• How can a belief in Jesus Christ help me? (Alma 36)
• Is there life after death? (Alma 40)
• What is the purpose of life? (Alma 34)
• Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur? (2 Nephi 2; Alma 14:9–11; 60:13)
• Does my infant need to be baptized? (Moroni 8)
• Does God know me? (Alma 5:38, 58) 
• Does God answer prayers? (Enos 1)
• How can I find peace and joy? (Mosiah 2, 4)
• How can my family be happier and more united? (Mosiah 2)
• How can I balance my family and career? (3 Nephi 13)
• How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse? (3 Nephi 14)
• How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? (Alma 39)
• How can I avoid sin? (Helaman 5)" (Preach My Gospel pg 107).

All these questions and many more can be found by studying The Book of Mormon. In fact, it is my personal testimony that any question of the soul that any person has can be answered by any chapter in The Book of Mormon! Exclamation point. Now, that is not to say that  it'd be more direct in some chapters than others, but the Book of Mormon is one long revelation on how to get revelation. As people study The Book of Mormon in meaningful ways: not merely scanning a few verses, not merely reading so fast to get the story from the book, but through thoughtful, prayerful study of the words and their meanings and their applications, God will cause swelling within our breasts, enlarge our understanding, enlighten our minds, and cause the words to become delicious to us. These forms of revelation will open the door to us gaining greater light and knowledge from on high. The Book of Mormon truly is a springboard to our revelation.

That being said, in order to gain the revelation, we must follow the program. In the economy of heaven, we will not get anything that we do not work for and earnestly seek. Thus, the Lord provided a framework at the end of The Book of Moroni on how this would work. "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 heartsAnd when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:3-5). This is the pattern for everything we are seeking revelation on, though it is mostly used to coming to know the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. This pattern is absolutely 100% reliable! No person can do it all, and fail to find the veracity of The Book of Mormon, but if ANY one of the steps is omitted, it will fail miserably. Whether a person reads the whole Book of Mormon or only a chapter, this pattern works. Whether it's for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or any other question, this pattern works.


The first step in this all is to read The Book of Mormon. If we are searching for a question of the soul, we should read with that question in mind, looking for the answers placed before us with eyes of discernment granted from on high. If we do not read the words God already gave us, he is under no obligation to give us more. But notice: this is only the first step! There is much more that needs to be done to gain direction from God.

The second step is that we remember the mercy of the Lord "from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts" (Moroni 10:3). Remembering the mercy of the Lord gives us a deeper level of gratitude. Furthermore, as we ponder, the Lord is able to give us more --sort of like that gold dust among the nuggets again--that we can use to gain deeper understanding. It is during the pondering that the Spirit can teach most effectively. At this point, a person has received gentle promptings from the spirit, usually unrecognizable to anyone. Why? I'm sure it's because we are getting the answers from that same God that said, "But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;" (3 Nephi 13:3). So, I feel He anonymously gives us thoughts to be answers to our prayers without our knowledge. Furthermore, the Lord taught, "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8). He will not give us the overarching confirming witness until after we have come to a conclusion, because that is the economy of heaven.

After we have received those thoughts and those slight impressions from the spirit, then we must pray and ask if The Book of Mormon is not true. The wording there is so very significant. Yes, if the verse said, "if these things are true", it would mean the same thing in our thoughts, but the wording is so carefully placed. To ask if it is not true means to ask, "It's true, isn't it?" We already arrived at the answer and are merely asking the Lord to confirm it. This is very consistent with the way the Lord works. The Lord has said that those "that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record" (Ether 4:11). It isn't until after we believe that we receive the witness. Why? Because belief is an act of faith. 

To gain this knowledge we must have faith in Christ. Believing before we get a definite answer is acting on a belief, or having faith, which is a principle of action. Remember that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6). Believing first is something that we are not prone to do as humans, especially in this evidence-based, modern world we live in. It is going against our own natures to show that we have faith in Jesus Christ: that we have such a strong belief that He will answer our prayer that we will pray. Without this faith, even if we pray, we will receive no witness, for our faith had not been tried, because we had none. Those who have pursued this can all testify that they know that The Book of Mormon is of God.

Even with the faith to act and to believe before we get evidence, two more aspects are needed in this prayer. We must have a sincere heart, and we must have real intent. I intentionally separated the two because, too often, they're said in the same breath, and we come to think of these two things as the same, or close to the same, thing, when they aren't. A sincere heart is someone who really wants to know if something is true. They will return to the thoughts again and again. They will dwell on it. Remember the last time you really wanted to know something: whether it was why do bad things happen to good people or why does ice float? You didn't just sit around waiting for the answer, you worked to find it. You sincerely wanted to know  it. This is what a sincere heart means. Real intent means that you will act on the answer that you get. Whether that's getting baptized or more earnestly building up the Kingdom, you must be willing to act on the answer you get and only then the Lord will give you the answer to the question you are seeking.

There is one part of this formula that many (including missionaries as they teach investigators) tend to skip over. That part is the pondering. Without the pondering, nothing happens. The reason it tends to be skipped over is that nobody seems to really get how to ponder. Quite honestly, the easiest way to ponder is to write what you learned. Writing what you learned, whether it's while you read or afterwards, causes you to work with the information with your mind, and is a form of pondering. So, the easiest way to describe this formula is called the "Pray, Read, Write" method (at least by me). It comes from Clayton Christensen's book, "The Power of Everyday Missionaries". (I suggest reading the book, but I'll give a quick overview here). First you pray, and tell the Lord what you want to get out of reading, then you read The Book of Mormon, and write. When you get to this point, you pray again, and tell the Lord what you learned, and ask Him to let you see more. You read the same passage again and write what you learned in addition to last time (because you will find more). Then, you pray to know the truthfulness of what you have learned and what you read. It is the most effective way to get answers to the questions of the soul.

Just think of all the blessings that have come because of The Book of Mormon. Think of the wonder and majesty and awe of the power of The Book of Mormon! Think of the joy and the peace you have received from the knowledge that The Book of Mormon is true. Think of all the ways it has helped you. As you ponder these things, it will become increasingly clear that The Book of Mormon has blessed the lives of members of the church in more ways than we realize on a day to day basis. We take it for granted. In our day to day lives we treat "lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). But we can change! We can remove this condemnation from Zion! How? By remembering The Book of Mormon and flooding the earth with this holy book!

Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.” (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work." It is by no coincidence, I feel, that Elder Nelson used the term of a "wave" to describe missionary work today, and that we are to flood the earth with The Book of Mormon. God is hastening His work. The Book of Mormon is the tool he is using to orchestrate this grand harvest of the souls of men!

President Benson continued, "My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved." If every member of this church read from the Book of Mormon on a daily basis, I testify that the work of the Lord would hasten faster than it already is. We would have a greater desire to share the gospel with others. Our homes and families will be stronger as we study from the hallowed pages of this book individually and as families. The
Kingdom of God's growth is not limited like it was in previous dispensations. No, today the Kingdom of God is ONLY limited by the effort of the members in the work of Salvation and our attitude, individually and as a church, towards The Book of Mormon. Every member should hand out at least one copy of The Book of Mormon each month. If we truly believe that we can flood this earth with The Book of Mormon, we should all have copies TO hand out, and the Lord will bless us with the opportunities. This I know independent of anyone else. I close this post with the words of President Benson, as you read, think of ways that YOU can personally assist in flooding the earth with The Book of Mormon.

"
I challenge our mission leaders to show their missionaries how to challenge their contacts to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Missionaries need to know how to use the Book of Mormon to arouse mankind’s interest in studying it, and they need to show how it answers the great questions of the soul. Missionaries need to read with those they teach various passages from the Book of Mormon on gospel subjects.

I challenge our Church writers, teachers, and leaders to tell us more Book of Mormon conversion stories that will strengthen our faith and prepare great missionaries. Show us how to effectively use it as a missionary tool, and let us know how it leads us to Christ and answers our personal problems and those of the world.
I challenge those who are in business and other professions to see that there are copies of the Book of Mormon in their reception rooms.
I challenge owners of cassette players to play Book of Mormon cassettes from time to time and to listen to them at home and while walking, jogging, or driving.
I challenge the homes of Israel to display on their walls great quotations and scenes from the Book of Mormon.
I challenge all of us to prayerfully consider steps that we can personally take to bring this new witness for Christ more fully into our own lives and into a world that so desperately needs it.
I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.
I have a vision of home teachers and visiting teachers, ward and branch officers, and stake and mission leaders counseling our people out of the most correct of any book on earth—the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.
I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon."