Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jesus Christ

But whom say ye that I am?... Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matt 16:15-16

This is what Latter-Day Saints believe. When we say that Jesus is the Son of God, we mean exactly that. Jesus is the eldest son of our Heavenly Father, who, as Peter declared, is a living being. Christ declared this simple truth often in the New Testament: "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee... And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:1,3 "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." John 20:17 Christ knows that He is the Son of God, He knows that He has a real Father. This tender relationship is obvious to me whenever Christ addresses His father in the scriptures. His expressions are so clear and straightforward. I trust that He means exactly what he says. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Only Begotten, in the flesh, of our Heavenly Father.

Heavenly Father's Plan

Before this earth was created, our Heavenly Father presented to us His plan whereby we could become like God and live with Him forever. This plan required that we come to earth, receive a body which is fashioned in the image of God's body Gen 1:27 and exercise our free will in learning to choose that which is good. Our Father knew that, although these experiences were necessary for our eternal progression, we would make mistakes that would separate us from Him, for no unclean thing can dwell in God's presence. Knowing this, He provided a Savior for us so that all who were willing, could be saved in the kingdom of God. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:16,17

We Followed Jesus

Every person on this earth is a spirit child of Heavenly Parents and lived with them before we came to earth. Our Heavenly Father's firstborn son, our eldest brother, Jesus Christ, who created this earth under the direction of His Father Heb. 1:2, was chosen to be our Savior. One third of our brothers and sisters rejected our Heavenly Father's plan and the appointment of Jesus Christ as our Savior. There was a war in heaven among the spirit children of God, not a battle of swords, but a struggle for the hearts of men. All who accepted God's plan fought against Lucifer and his followers. "And the great dragon was cast out... into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ...and they overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them." Rev 12:7-11

We were there! We joined in the rejoicing when the "morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." Job 38:7 Everyone who is alive on this earth once chose to accept Christ. Because we followed Jesus there, we gained the privilege of coming to this earth to fulfill our Heavenly Father's plan for our exaltation.

And so man came to earth and were given instructions by God. Some would strive to obey, others would not, but all would fall short of perfect obedience to God's commands. The conditions of mortality separate us from God. Without a Savior, we could never again dwell the presence of our Heavenly Father.

"For it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. For as death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection...For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God...and we become...angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God...O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape..."2 Ne 9: 5-10

Christ is the one appointed to rescue us. His victory over the grave means that all mankind will be resurrected. His great atoning sacrifice pays the debt to justice for all those who accept His sacrifice and repent of their sins. Because of Christ's sacrifice for us, we are able to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father pure and whole, as He is.

Not only did Christ provide the way for our redemption, he also showed us the path that we must follow in this life in order to have Eternal Life. All that He asks us to do as disciples He exemplified for us. As we humbly and willingly follow His example of pure love, of obedience, of sacrifice, and righteousness, we become more and more like Him, and more fit for the kingdom of God. Despite all of our effort, however, we are incapable of perfection on our own. It is only through Christ that we can return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Jesus was a God in the premortal existence. Our Father in Heaven gave Him a name above all others—the Christ...And so the preexistent God, the God of the whole earth, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lawgiver, the God of Israel, the promised Messiah was born a babe in Bethlehem.

King Benjamin prophesied of Christ’s advent and ministry in this manner:

“For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.

“And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.

“And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary” Mosiah 3:5–8.

The Lord testified, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross” 3 Ne. 27:13–14. And so He was.

In Gethsemane and on Calvary, He worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It was the greatest single act of love in recorded history. Then followed His death and resurrection.

Thus He became our Redeemer—redeeming all of us from physical death, and redeeming those of us from spiritual death who will obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Ezra Taft Benson

Since the world began, prophets have testified of Christ, the Apostles in His day bore witness of his divinity and mission, as do the Apostles in our day. I offer my sincere testimony as well, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world. I know that we can follow Him with complete confidence and He will lead us safely home.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, for the great love that He has for us and for the willing sacrifice that He made so that I can live again eternally with Him and with my Heavenly parents. I am so grateful for Jesus' love for me, for His patience and forgiveness, for His perfect example. I know that without His influence, my life would be so very different. I could never have the peace and happiness that I enjoy now without His tender guidance and the assurance that He loves me. I know that Jesus is the Christ, my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Friend.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Perfectly Organized

The organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is, in my experience, centered around helping individuals in a very personal way. Every member of the church has countless opportunities to learn Christ-like attributes because of the way that Christ has organized this church.

Lay organization

"We believe 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." AofF5 No one in the Church of Jesus Christ chooses where they will serve, nor do they get paid for their service 1. There is no ministerial career track. Callings to serve are made through revelation through the proper line. The qualifications for service are a willingness to serve and to live in accordance with Christ's teachings. Every worthy man is ordained to the priesthood, and every church position, from librarian to bishop to apostle, is filled by men and women who are called by God from among the body of the church. We believe that we will be given help from the Lord and are entitled to revelation from Him to assist us in the callings and responsibilities that He gives us. Every member in encouraged to develop faith in Christ, understand the gospel, and be prepared and worthy to serve wherever the Lord may need them.

Because of the lay organization, everyone in the ward has opportunities to lead and teach and minister to each other. As we serve together we learn to love and support each other in a very special way. Everyone knows that their leader or teacher is serving in a position that they didn't ask for and might find very difficult to do. Callings are given, not only for the service we can provide to others, but for our personal growth as well, and Latter-Day Saints tend to be very patient and supportive of each other. Everyone who is called to teach or lead already knows and loves those who they are called to serve. Most callings are temporary so there are opportunities to serve in many different capacities. You may serve as Bishop this year and be called as a nursery assistant the next, or maybe to teach the children, or to organize ward socials. Every calling brings with it an opportunity to learn and grow, both in skills and abilities, as well as in faith as we seek the guidance of the Lord to complete the tasks He has given us. I have often been both surprised and humbled by the responsibilities that I have been given.


I think of the family as the fundamental unit of the church. This is where some of the most lasting and important work takes place. A family consists of a mother and father who nurture and teach their children to follow Christ and who receive revelation from God in regard to that responsibility. Most families include a righteous husband and father who has the priesthood authority to act in the name of God to bless others. He gives blessings of healing and comfort, performs ordinances, such as baptism, for his family members, and humbly leads his family. Every week the family meets together for Family Home Evening, to study the gospel and spend time together. My children always look forward to their turn to prepare and teach the lesson and to share their testimonies of Christ. LDS families are encouraged to pray and study the scriptures together daily, in addition to individual study and prayer.

Every household in the ward has Home Teachers assigned to look after their physical and spiritual needs. Every man has the opportunity to be a Home Teacher to help take care of other families. Each woman has a Visiting teacher assigned to support her and each has the opportunity to visit and strengthen other women in the ward. The Home- and Visiting-Teachers make monthly visits and are responsible to make sure that the needs of the people they visit are being met. These assignments often lead to close and lasting friendships.


A ward, or congregation, is made up of several households from the same geographic area. All Latter-Day Saints attend the same church and go to whichever ward is 'theirs' based on where they live. There is no competition between wards for members. A ward is a lot like a really big family. Much like a family, you don't choose your ward, you are all thrown together and you grow to love each other. Members of this church are actively engaged in lightening the burdens of others, sharing their joys and sorrows, and strengthening each other in our discipleship.

The Bishop (similar, I think, to a priest or pastor in other churches) in our ward has a full-time job in addition to his heavy responsibilities of leading the ward and caring for it's members as well as caring for his own family. He serves out of love and faith and is blessed and strengthened by God as he serves. A bishop usually serves for about five years and spends a lot of time in private interviews with members of the ward doing things like issuing callings, helping with needs, and assisting people in the repentance process; he also has many other meetings and administrative duties. One thing a bishop does not do is preach sermons. Though he occasionally addresses the ward, as do the stake leaders, most of the "talks" (as we call them) are given by the youth and adult members of the ward, with different members being invited to speak each week.

The other auxiliaries, Sunday School, Youth programs, Childrens Programs, Women's and Men's groups are led by ward members, both adults and youth, who are also called to serve. These calls come, not because of experience or ability, but because of willingness to serve the Lord wherever He asks you.


A Stake is made up of several wards. (The name is taken from Old Testament imagery in which the tent, or church, is held up by supporting stakes) It is led by people who are called from among those wards. Most Stake callings provide training, support, and assistance to the wards, as well as helping individual members with certain needs. We meet as a stake twice a year for meetings, and occasionally for socials and activities.


The apostles, including the Prophet, are special witness of Jesus Christ to the all world. They are all considered prophets, seers, and revelators. They receive revelation from God today as they did anciently. They direct the church and travel throughout the world where they meet with local leaders, encourage members, and oversee the affairs of the church. They are great men who have earned the Lord's trust through lives of service to Him. They come from many backgrounds, surgeons, lawyers, businessmen, pilots. They are often retired or abandon successful careers in order to respond to this call to devote the rest of their lives to the service of the Lord. They are united in their love of the Savior and respect for each other and they work together under the direction of the Lord to direct God's work on earth. The apostles hold all of the keys of the priesthood and act under the direction of the president, or Prophet.

There are seventies (also a new Testament office) who live and serve throughout the world to assist the apostles and many other men and women who serve and lead the church at the general level.


When Christ was on the earth, He organized His church. Though the apostles that he called were killed and the authority that they held was lost from the earth, people continued to do their best to follow Christ's teachings and to preserve as much of His gospel as they could. We are blessed to live in a day when Christ's church is again on the earth in it's fullness and His will is once again revealed to man through His authorized servants. Jesus Christ actively leads this church, just as He has in days of old.


The Church is directed by God through revelation every step of the way, from the direction that parents receive as they lead their families, to the direction that comes to the Prophet as he leads the church. This church could not function without it. Though every member receives revelation from God, it is all done in order. When the Lord needs something done in a ward, that revelation comes through the Bishop (who is responsible for the ward) and not me. Likewise, a bishop does not receive revelation for the stake, and when the Lord has a message for everyone, He speaks through His appointed Prophet. It is all done in order so there can be no confusion.

There is a line of authority in the church, even the Apostles report to their ward bishops regarding personal matters such as obtaining a temple recommend or performing certain ordinances. Each 'president' position (bishop, stake president, prophet, young womens, sunday school, etc...) is assisted by two counselors and they work harmoniously together as a unit, though each has different responsibilities. In this structure, I see a reflection of the organization of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). The only "path" to leadership in the church is a true desire and determination to follow Christ. Through the way the church is organized, Christ has ensured that leadership in this church could only be about unselfish service to Him.

Records are kept of baptisms, ordinations to the priesthood, temple sealings, and other priesthood ordinances. A member cannot hold a calling unless their ward has their member record. This helps ensure that important information is not forgotten, or lost when someone moves to a new ward. This not only facilitates order in the church, but ensures that bishops are aware of sensitive issues and can act accordingly to assist and protect the members of their ward. 3

The organization of this church is just amazing to me! I cannot conceive of an organization more capable of caring for and assisting individuals as they strive to become like their Father in Heaven. Everything I see in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints reflects it's divine organization. I feel truly blessed to be a part of it, and am grateful for the experiences that the Lord has given me as a member of this church.

Question--How do you select a church?

When I moved to California, many people were surprised that I was already part of a congregation. This was somewhat surprising to me as the LDS church is the same wherever you go. Aside from core doctrines, there seem to be many different teachings among the christian churches. I think it would be difficult to move into a new area and have to find a church that you could completely agree with and trust to teach your children.

How do you go about choosing a new church?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


...Men are that they might have joy. 2 Ne 25:5

Our Heavenly Father sent us to earth with the commission to learn to be like Him. One of the ways that we can be like God is to be happy because God is happy. True happiness includes feelings of peace, joy, gratitude, and pure love. Such feelings are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

Happiness is a gift that comes from striving to live in accordance with Christ's teachings. God's promises can be trusted, and he has promised happiness to those who follow him: "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God" Ps 146:5 "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me." D&C 19:23 "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." Isa 32:17 "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." John 13:17 "he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." D&C 59:23

There is a difference between the happiness that comes from God and the fleeting happiness that comes from following our own wills. "Ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head." Hel 13:38 "Do not suppose...that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness." Alma 41:10

One of the happiest civilizations in history was found among the Nephite and Lamanite people in the ancient Americas who were converted to Christ after his resurrection and his visit among them:

"They had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them. And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus. They did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God." 4 Ne.3,11-13,5,15-16

We can have happiness in our homes and families as we strive to live the principles that Christ taught. Lasting happiness does not come from beauty or wealth or fame. True happiness and peace result from living a Christ-like life. Though there will be moments of sadness during our mortal existence, as we seek to emulate our savior, we can feel his peace and assurance even in the most difficult of trials. The purpose of our existence is to become like God, and God wants us to be eternally happy like he is. The way to achieve true happiness is to follow the example that Christ has set for us.

"And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness." Mosiah 2:41

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why missionaries knock on your door

O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. Alma 29:1-2

Q: What kind of young adult leaves in the middle of college, puts everything in their life on hold, and spends their own money to go far away from home where they will have doors shut in their face almost every day for two years?

A: You guessed it: a Mormon missionary! We often call them the "Best Two Years."

A typical day starts off at 6:30 when you get up, pray, study the scriptures on your own, study with your companion, pray with your companion, exercise, eat, dress, plan, and otherwise prepare for the day. At 9:00 you leave your apartment and, if you don't have a teaching appointment , usually begin the difficult process of finding someone who wants to hear the message that you sacrificed so much to come and share. At each door you hope to find a sympathetic heart. Most often, if the door is answered at all, you are quickly sent on your way. You believe that everyone on earth is a son or daughter of God so you strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect, no matter how they respond to your invitation to learn more about Christ, but you can’t stop hoping that the person behind the next door will talk with you for a minute or two or at least offer a kind word.

So it goes: with every door there is the hope and anticipation that behind this door may be that special someone who seems to have been waiting their entire life for the message you were sent to deliver. And at almost every door, the anticipation is followed by disappointment. (Every now and again though, just to keep life exciting, you are met at the door by a shotgun or a snarling Rotweiller!) After knocking on dozens of doors you finally meet someone who invites you in. You are so excited! Even if they are not very interested in your message, you're glad that you had the chance to meet them. You respect their right to choose, but it makes you sad for all that they will be missing. You hope that though your acquaintance was brief that you have blessed their life in some small way.

When someone wants to learn more, you find that you can hardly wait to help teach them! You watch with joy as they begin to understand that they are truly God' child and that He knows them and loves them. Seeing lives change for the better is the best part of being a missionary!

After a full morning of tracting, you go back to your apartment for a quick lunch, then out you go again! In the afternoon you help pack food boxes for a local charity. You really love the people that you have been sent to work with and are anxious to serve them in any way that you can. You know though, that the best service you can give them is to bring them the glorious message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You know that when someone understands what life is all about and has a deep and personal relationship with God, their lives will be richly blessed. You know that if they join the church of Jesus Christ that they will have the love and support of the other members of a church which is organized to bless people in a very personal and individual way. So, out you go again, prayerfully trying to find someone whose heart is open to the beautiful message that the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. After dinner you work for a little longer then you are back to your apartment by 9:30 and in bed by 10:30.

As you lie in bed, you think about all the sacrifices that you have made to be where you are. You have saved your whole life to help finance your mission, your parents pay the rest, one of the elders (male missionaries) you know turned down a football scholarship to be here. You wanted to fulfill Christ's injunction to "Feed my sheep." John 21:16 You didn't know beforehand where in the world you would be assigned to serve. You spent two months studying the language before you had to start teaching in it (that made for a lot of funny journal entries!). You hope your personal weaknesses don't get in the way of the message. You feel so young and inexperienced. Surely this is what the Lord meant when he said that, "the fulness of my gospel [would] be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world." D&C 1:23 You left behind a comfortable home and your family and friends. You miss being with them for holidays, births, weddings, funerals and all of the other family events that occur while you are serving. Most of your contact with family and friends is through the mail. As a missionary, you are not allowed to date or even flirt with someone of the opposite sex. You must have your companion with you wherever you go. You spend nearly all of your time working to help and bless others. Though there are many rules, you know they are all designed to help you be a better servant of God and more effective in helping others to learn His gospel.

At baptism you took upon yourself the name on Christ. As a missionary you strive to represent Him to everyone with whom you come into contact. You love serving a mission, but it is so hard. It helps to remember the love that inspired you serve...

"I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." Alma 36:24 "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 [Christ], how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!" D&C 18:15 But behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. For our brethren...were in darkness...but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God. And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work. Alma 26:3,4,11

Monday, October 5, 2009

Safety in Following Modern Prophets

This past weekend was the world general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I always look forward to conference weekend, and not just because I get to attend church in my pajamas (well, I usually get dressed, but I could if I wanted to) and participate from the comfort of my living room couch! I love that I get to spend the weekend listening to and pondering the words of Prophets, apostles, and other wonderful, inspired men and women. I love the beautiful and inspiring messages of about Christ and His teachings, about learning His ways and following His example.

I have been thinking lately about why we need modern prophets when God has already made so much known to us in the Bible. It's a good question. (When I talk about the prophet, I mean the man called by God to lead His church and reveal His will.) I began to think that we no longer board arks, or follow Moses out of Egypt, or look at a staff to be healed. How many of us have sold all we have to follow Christ, or fled to the mountains outside of Judea to escape destruction. Yet, these are some of the instructions that were given to people in the Bible. I think that we all understand that those things are not required of us today. They were specific instructions given to specific people or groups of people at specific times and in specific circumstances.

While the gospel has been the same from the beginning, the needs and circumstances of those who follow Christ change from time to time. We know that there will be great difficulties ahead for us in the last days, but the scriptures provide little specific instruction on how to deal with these trials. Modern prophets have been able to help us prepare for modern challenges. For example, for decades modern prophets have told us that we need to be self-reliant and free of debt. President Ezra Taft Benson declared, “The revelation to store food may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah”1 In 1833, long before the attorney general's warning, God, through His prophet, warned the people against the use of tobacco. Generations ago, the Prophet instructed us to meet together weekly as families to strengthen each other and study the gospel. This counsel was given long before we knew of the extreme challenges that the family unit would face now and in the days ahead. The prophet also teaches and reminds us of timeless essentials, such as developing faith and studying the scriptures, that will keep us focused on Christ. Yesterday President Monson reminded us of the need to serve and bless the lives of others. Sun. Morning

We don't know exactly what our future challenges will be but through modern and living prophets, the Lord tells us how we can be prepared. Those who follow the prophet need not be confused by various religious teachings or by modern social philosophies. I take great comfort in knowing that the church can easily adapt to the modern world without losing track of those things which are essential. God has already revealed in scripture much of what we need to know for our spiritual and temporal salvation, but He has not left us alone. God still loves us and he still gives us direction that is specific to our time so that we can know to do those things that will bless us and lead us to Him. God has given us a prophet on earth today and has promised that He will not allow the prophet to lead us astray.

Individually, we can each turn to God for counsel regarding our individual needs and responsibilities and for confirmation of prophetic counsel, collectively, we look to a living prophet who receives a constant flow of revelation from God to guide the work of God on the earth. We are blessed to have a prophet to strengthen our faith in Christ and guide us in those paths which will bring us to him and bless us during our mortal sojourn. I am so grateful that God has sent a prophet in my day and for the many blessings I have seen in my life as a result of following his inspired counsel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sabbath Observance

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Ex. 20:8

As Latter-Day Saints, we believe that the Sabbath is a holy day commemorating the sacrifice that the Lord made for us. We believe that it is a day given to rest from our labors and to worship God.

The Lord instructed the children of Israel, "Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you [a perpetual covenant] throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." Ex 31:13,16 Though the stringent regulations governing the Sabbath were done away when Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, the Sabbath covenant between God and his people is still in effect. Where the law of Moses was very physical in nature, the law of Christ challenges us to focus on the giver of the law and the spirit in which it is given. Honoring the Sabbath is still important, but our Sabbath observances now must spring from our love of God. Our level of devotion is both revealed and influenced by the activities which we choose to pursue on this holy day. We have the responsibility to determine individually how we will honor the Sabbath, which activities will draw us closer to God and which will distract our attention from Him.

The basic principle of the Sabbath is that the day be devoted to God and his worship and service, and rest from our daily cares, not spent in pursuit of our own pleasures. Though there is no list of what to do and what not to do on Sunday, there are some generally observed practices among the Latter-Day Saints. We believe that church attendance and partaking of the sacrament (bread and water) are essential parts of Sabbath observance. Other good Sabbath activities might include rest from daily cares, scripture study, worship, visiting those who are in need of comfort or companionship, naps, uplifting interactions with family or friends, gospel study and teaching, and other things which contribute to our spiritual well-being or to the work of the Lord. There are many good activities which honor the Sabbath covenant and help us draw closer to God and increase our love for Him.

We try to avoid on Sunday those activities which serve our own pleasure or prevent others from observing the Sabbath, such as working, shopping, eating out, recreation, parties or other social events, sporting events, elaborate meals, or unnecessary housework or repairs. Of course some work is necessary, but even those who must work, such as those who provide essential services, like medical care, do their best to observe the spirit of the Sabbath. Again, there is counsel, but no checklist so every LDS home will have some unique patterns and traditions. The essence is this: we believe that the activities we choose should flow from a love of God and should help turn our hearts toward Him.

The Sabbath day is a blessing. I am grateful for this one day every week that I can rest from the pressures and worries and distractions of the world and focus more on those things that really matter.

“Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us” 1


I am interested to know how the Sabbath is observed in other Christian religions. (I previously assumed that Sabbath observance was not considered important by other Christian faiths, but I think that I may have been mistaken.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Fall of Adam

When I tell my toddler twins "no," sometimes they stop what they're doing because they understand the meaning of that word. Sometimes though, they just keep doing whatever it is that I asked them not to do. Though it is disobedient, it is not an act of rebellion. At 1 1/2 years old, they don't have an understanding of the world sufficient to be able to rebel. They know the meaning of my words and they are beginning to understand consequences ( like "hot") but they don't understand right and wrong. Because they are human and subject to the needs, emotions, and discomforts of a mortal body, children do things that are not right. Even so, they are innocent because of their lack of understanding. Young children cannot sin; they cannot even understand right and wrong. It is our job as parents to teach them right from wrong, and though they are subject to the natural consequences of their actions (like getting hurt when they jump off the couch), they are not held accountable for their wrongdoings until they are old enough to understand the difference between doing a 'wrong thing' and doing something that is 'wrong' (a concept that requires abstract thinking abilities).

The Fall

When Adam and Eve were first placed in the Garden of Eden they were innocent as children. Like children, they did not understand the abstract concept of right and wrong. God told them not to partake of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge, warning them that it would bring them death. Though they understood this warning and transgressed the law by eating the fruit, they did so as innocent children. Eating of the tree was what gave them knowledge that there was right and wrong. Before they partook of the tree and gained knowledge of what was good and what was evil, how could they have chosen to do one or the other?

In the Garden of Eden, they were capable of living forever and had the privilege of living in God's presence. As a natural consequence of eating of the fruit, their bodies became mortal and corruptible. They became subject to the trials and difficulties of mortal life and to the needs and discomforts of a mortal body. They became capable of sin. They were no longer able to be in God's presence.

"Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation. Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead...But, behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son." D&C 29:40-42 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents. 2 Ne. 2:21 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, 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 But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten. D&C 29:46

God knew that the Fall would happen and that men would thereby become subject to physical and spiritual death (separation from God). Before it even occurred, God, with infinite love and mercy, provided a way for man to overcome these effects of the fall. Christ's atonement makes it possible for us to be cleansed from sin and to be resurrected. Thus, through Christ, we may return, spirit and body bound in a perfect and incorruptible whole, to live in the presence of our Father.

The Fruit

Some of my friends have expressed discomfort in knowing how to teach their children about the Fall. There need be none. In 1913 James E. Talmage declared "I take this occasion to raise my voice against the false interpretation of scripture, which has been adopted by [some] and is referred to in a hushed and half-secret way, that the fall of man consisted in some offense against the laws of chastity and virtue...What right have we to turn the scriptures from their proper sense and meaning? ...The fall was a natural process, resulting through the incorporation into the bodies of our first parents of the things that came from food unfit, through the violation of the command of God regarding what they should eat. Don't go around whispering that the fall consisted in the mother of the race losing her chastity and her virtue. It is not true; the human race is not born of fornication. These bodies that are given unto us are given in the way that God has provided. [Unchastity] was not introduced by Adam. It was not committed by Eve. Let it not be said that the patriarch of the race...and his equally royal consort, were guilty of any such foul offense...Our first parents were pure and noble, and when we pass behind the veil we shall perhaps learn something of their high estate, more than we know now. But be it known that they were pure; they were noble. It is true that they disobeyed the law of God, in eating things they were told not to eat; but who amongst you can rise up and condemn?" Talmage


In bringing about the conditions of mortality, Adam and Eve gained the ability to keep another of God's commandments that was given to them in the Garden of Eden: "And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin." 2 Ne. 2:22-23 In bringing mortality and death into the world, they also brought life: as husband and wife, they could have children. God had commanded them to Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Gen. 1:28 Because Adam and Eve took on mortality, you and I can come to earth, receive a body, and gain necessary experiences that we could have no other way. As children of God, we rejoice in the opportunity that we have to pass through mortality and we honor Adam and Eve as our first parents, we honor their courage and their goodness. They rejoiced in the redemption that they were provided and they taught their children about the Savior that was provided for them. We rejoice in that same redemption and we, too, have the privilege and blessing of bearing children and of teaching our children about the Savior and the goodness and mercy of God. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. 2 Ne. 2:25

The Fall of Adam was necessary to bring about mortality and mortality is necessary for our progression. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to come to earth and to experience mortality. I am grateful for Adam and Eve and for the blessings that I enjoy because of them. I am grateful for the Plan of Redemption, for my Savior who enables me to return to my Father in Heaven and live again in his presence.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Joseph Smith

When Joseph Smith was a young boy of 14 years, he felt a desire to join God's church, but was confused by the contention and strife that existed between various religious sects and their enthusiastic converts. "In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right...which is it, and how shall I know it? While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know...At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God."

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me....When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—"This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" Joseph inquired and was told to, "join none of [the Churches] for they were all wrong, "they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Joseph Smith History v.5-20

Though he was very young, he suffered much persecution for telling of his experience. He said, "I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa... I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." v.24-25

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God...1John 4 :1-2 Some have dismissed Joseph's vision, claiming that it could not be from God because what Joseph was taught by Christ was contrary to some of the philosophies popular in the Christian churches of the day. Though Satan attempted to prevent what was about to happen, v.16,17 Joseph called upon God for deliverance and it was God himself who answered; and when God is present, the devil cannot be. When the vision commenced, before anything else was communicated, The Father testified of Jesus Christ with these glorious words of introduction, "This is My Beloved Son."v.17

Thus commenced the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in it's fullness. It would be seven years until Joseph Smith was allowed to begin translation of the Book of Mormon, a scriptural record made by ancient American prophets, and three more until he was instructed to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The restoration is marked by many wonderful events and was directed by heavenly messengers. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry received the Aaronic priesthood (which includes the authority to baptize) from John the Baptist and were ordained by Peter, James, and John to the Melchizedek priesthood which they held. God continued to teach, counsel, correct, and inspire Joseph throughout his life. Thus, Joseph Smith, as did the prophets of old, had all the authority and divine direction necessary for him to direct the work of the Lord and to lead God's church.

Joseph Smith was not a perfect man, God accepts us all as we are and leads us to be better, even prophets. Joseph says of himself, "being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me... I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament." v.28 Many times in his life he was admonished by the Lord for his errors, and when this correction came, Joseph never failed to humble himself and to strive to align his actions with the direction he received. Though he was not perfect, he devoted his life to the service of God and his fellow man. Anyone who has studied his life knows that Joseph Smith was a good, loving, honest, hard-working, and respectable man. "We see no need to protect him and his reputation from himself, even if that were possible." Ronald K. Esplin

From the time his vision was known, persecution was constant: he was often imprisoned for long periods on spurious charges (though never actually convicted of a crime), he was beaten, tarred and feathered, slandered, and finally murdered for his testimony of Jesus Christ and the work he was commissioned to do. One of my favorite stories occurs during one such imprisonment:

During one of the cold, tedious nights, the men lay on the floor until past midnight, unable to sleep because the guards were boasting of their recent attacks on the Saints, including acts of robbery, rape, and murder. Elder Parley P. Pratt recounted: “I had listened till I became so disgusted, shocked, horrified, and so filled with the spirit of indignant justice that I could scarcely refrain from rising upon my feet and rebuking the guards; but had said nothing to Joseph, or any one else, although I lay next to him and knew he was awake. On a sudden he arose to his feet, and spoke in a voice of thunder, or as the roaring lion, uttering, as near as I can recollect, the following words: “ ‘SILENCE. … In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!’ “He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropped to the ground; whose knees smote together, and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon, and remained quiet till a change of guards. 1

Though Joseph was often miraculously delivered from his enemies, he knew when the work he had been called to do was complete. “When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: ‘I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood. D&C 135:6 Some of his friends came to join him in the jail and Elder Taylor sang the hymn, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." While imprisoned, they were attacked by a large mob. Joseph and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed. He spent his life doing the work that God gave him to do and he sealed his testimony of that work with his blood. He died a martyr for the cause of Christ. "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." D&C 135:3

In 1823, the young Joseph Smith was informed by the angel Moroni that "God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." 2 It is a rather astounding prophesy considering that he was a poor, unlearned farm boy of only 17 years of age, but there is no question that this prophesy has been very literally fulfilled. If it is true that Joseph Smith was indeed called of God, then his message would be the most important one delivered since Christ taught the gospel and proclaimed victory over death and hell. I believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. There are those who believe to the contrary. Many simply pass on the misleading information that they have been taught. Some seem driven by a desire to discredit him and the great work that he accomplished. I believe that this is too important a matter to trust to the opinion of any person or group. I would submit that it is only God in whom we can put all our trust. I absolutely believe that when we humbly and earnestly seek God's help, he will help us to recognize what is true. Our emotions may deceive us, our intellect can lead us astray, our friends may mislead us, but God never will. Amidst all the confusion, there is someone we can go to for a reliable answer. You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right...D&C 9:8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James1:5

Joseph Smith--for further study

Every story has two sides. None of us, I trust, would be comfortable judging a controversial story based on the testimony of only one interested party. To be fair in your examination, you must listen to both sides of the story, or at the least, to someone who hasn't taken sides.

If you would like to learn more about Joseph Smith, here are some resources that may be helpful:

Wikipedia has a reputation for accuracy. It is one of my favorite resources when I have a question about something.

FAIR This site examines many of the stories told about Joseph Smith (as well as other topics) from a scholarly LDS perspective (though not sponsored by the church), such as the 1826 hearing. It is easily accessible and well researched. A great place to go if you want the "other side" of the story.

Joseph Smith Papers: Almost since the very beginning of this latter-day work, the Lord commanded the church to keep a record, a charge which has been faithfully heeded. So much information exists that it is almost overwhelming. The recent Joseph Smith Papers project will make easily available to the public "everything of a written nature Joseph Smith generated, or over which he had oversight." Marlin K. Jensen “This initiative will offer a very deep pool of primary sources for researchers to dip into. It will help lift the overall standard of scholarship as there will be greater self and peer accountability in future writings that will be produced dealing with early Mormon history,” he said. Ronald K.Esplin “I believe the volumes will become the seminal resource for scholarly work about Joseph Smith and the early years of the Church.” Marlin K. Jensen "Yale University Professor Harry S. Stout, a member of the Papers’ national advisory board, said that the endorsement by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (a division of the National Archives) conveys the Commission’s conclusion that the staff [includes LDS and non-LDS] and procedures of The Joseph Smith Papers meet the NHPRC’s rigorous scholarly standards for transcription and annotation and that the edition will be accurate and professional.” newsroom

Monday, August 17, 2009


Latter-Day Saints sincerely desire to be like our Father in Heaven and we believe that there is much that He wants us to do and learn while we are here on earth. God has promised us that the families we establish here on earth can last forever. Our belief in the purpose of life and the eternal nature of families greatly influences our understanding of sexuality.

Latter-Day Saints believe in absolute sexual purity, both before marriage and after. "Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love between husband and wife." For the Strength of Youth Sexual intimacy is a powerful force for good when it is expressed the way God intended it to be-- in a loving marriage relationship. This great power that we have been given by God is to be used with reverence and respect, and is only appropriately expressed within marriage. Sexual sins are very serious because they defile that power.

Appropriate sexual intimacy can be an expression of love, but it is not love. I feel like there is a lot of confusion in our society today on that point. True love in it's highest form is the pure love of Christ. True love is not selfish, but looks to the well-being of the other. "Eros teaches us wrong things...about the great attribute of love... To misunderstand the true nature of love is to misunderstand life. To be unchaste, in the name of love, is to destroy something precious in order to celebrate its existence." Maxwell "See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love." Alma 38:12

Sexual expression outside of marriage is inappropriate and destructive to both body and spirit, damaging to society, and offensive to God. "In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious because they defile the power God has given us to create life."1 Sexual sin is next to murder in the severity in which the Lord regards it. Alma 39:5 (Just a note that victims of sexual crimes are innocent of wrongdoing.) Latter-Day Saints avoid all sexual contact outside of marriage, including necking, petting, and intimate contact, as well as pornography, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual relations, degrading or disrespectful sexual relationships (even in marriage), masturbation, sexual perversion, homosexual activities, and any other behavior which perverts the divine purpose of the sexual powers that we have been given. Sexual intimacy is intended to unite a married couple and to provide bodies so that others of God's children may come to earth and have the experiences necessary for their exaltation. The sexual standards that God has set for his people are clear; Latter-Day Saints have no question what God expects of them.

Latter-Day Saint youth follow these teachings, not out of fear of pregnancy or disease, and not only out of obedience to God's commandments, but because they love God and understand who they are and what life is about. They know that they are literally children of God. They know that their bodies are sacred and will be theirs through eternity. They value the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and strive to behave themselves in ways that will allow him to remain with them. They know that marriage has a high and holy purpose and want their own marriage and family to last forever. They want to be completely faithful to their eternal companion (spouse). They have learned to trust God and know that the things that he asks of them are for their own good and will bring them lasting joy and peace. They know that God's work and glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Moses 1:39 and they want honor God by fulfilling His purposes for them.

Sexual purity is not just an ideal accomplished by a select few. It is the way of life among Latter-Day Saints-- youth and adults alike. No one winks at immoral behavior. One of the things I loved about dating at BYU was that I was surrounded by roughly 20,000 other young single students (plus several thousand others who were already married) who all truly believed in chastity. We were free to have fun. When I went out with someone new, I might have wondered whether he would be so bold as to attempt a good-night kiss after a first date, but that was all. Many times I wished for a wonderful young man to kiss me good-night and was somewhat disappointed, but felt all the more honored to be around him. We had a lot of fun in group dates: going to dances, watching silly movies, playing games, going on picnics. It was all good, clean fun. The real pressure was knowing that we were all hoping to find that "special someone!" Things get a little harder once you are engaged, but even then, the rules don't change, sexual contact is reserved exclusively for marriage. Of course, there are some who make mistakes, and repentance is available to all who sincerely desire to follow Christ; but when you are both committed to living righteously and accustomed to giving higher priority to eternal desires than to immediate desires, sexual purity is a natural standard. That is the lifestyle at BYU and wherever the saints of God dwell. We live this way because we love God and we respect ourselves. We know we are God's children.

I am grateful for the trust and love that exist between my husband and I because of our commitment to the teachings that God has given us. It gives me such peace to know that when the time comes for my children to marry, there will be other young people who are also pure and clean with whom they can join to form a family that will last forever. I wish everyone could know the joy and peace that comes from living the standards that the Lord has set for his children.

"The sweetest feelings of life, the most generous and satisfying impulses of the human heart, find expression in a marriage that stands pure and unsullied above the evil of the world." Gordon B. Hinkley

A parent's guide for teaching children about marriage and intimacy


How/what do you teach your children about sexual intimacy?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Families are Forever

My mom's dad is an amazing man. He was a good, upright man, even in his pre-church sailor days, and he had so many adventures has and such a wonderful sense of humor. He never lacked for a great story to tell. A few weeks ago he was outside throwing rocks at the neighbor's annoying peacocks when he misstepped and fell. He came through surgery, but never really recovered. I'm sure he's pleased that he left us such an amusing story to tell about his departure. I attended my grandfather's funeral last week. It was a lovely service and we're all going to miss him a lot. We cried in spite of his forbidding us to and of course we smiled and laughed at the wonderful and amusing memories that we shared. We have all cried liberally at the fact that he is no longer around. I bawled when I spoke to him on the phone during the last few days of his life when he couldn't talk back or even open his eyes. It's hard to know that I can't see him for a really long time, but I take great comfort in knowing that I will see him again; that I am forever a part of his family.

When our time on earth is through, the loving ties that bind husband and wife, parents and children need not be dissolved. I can think of no sadder phrase than, "Till death do us part," and I know of few who truly believe it. Most people who I have talked to, if they believe in an existence after this life, believe that their family relationships will continue. I believe that this is because the Spirit teaches us that these cherished relationships are meant to continue forever.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 Elijah was the last prophet before the time of Christ to hold the priesthood power to bind in heaven what is bound on earth Matt 16:19, and he has returned as was prophesied. In 1836, Elijah appeared in the temple and restored the sealing power of the priesthood of God to the earth. Parents and children can be united forever as a families through the sealing ordinance performed in God's temples by those who hold this priesthood authority. Families sealed together by the Holy Spirit, will remain intact and receive the fullness of joy which the Father has promised to all the faithful. Marriage is required for both men and women to receive the highest blessings that God has in store for his children. To those who lacked the opportunity during their lifetime, President Howard W. Hunter assures us that "no blessing, including that of eternal marriage and an eternal family, will be denied to any worthy individual."

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ...Rom. 8:16-17 Our families are modeled after God's family. I am a child of God. On earth I have a father and mother. I have a father in heaven, who is the literal father of my spirit. I also have a mother there. That I am part of a heavenly family is one of the most beautiful truths that I know. That my family here is patterned after theirs inspires me to conduct my family life after their perfect example. That my family can last into eternity makes me want to devote my all to this great commission. The LDS belief that as God's children we can someday be like Him, that our families can be like His family, that the work that He has given us here prepares us for the blessings that He has in store for us in eternity, is the most sublime, the most inspiring of anything that I can comprehend. I am so grateful for this knowledge and for the blessing of being part of an eternal family.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Latter-Day Saints believe that baptism is a covenant between man and God. It is the way a person becomes a member of Christ's church. Baptism is necessary for remission of sins and for entry into the celestial kingdom. To be baptized, a person must have faith in Christ and repent of their sins and be at least 8 years of age. When we are baptized, we promise to serve God and keep his commandments and He promises that His Spirit will always be with us. To complete the baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred on the new member. The gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. 2 Ne 31:17 We believe that baptism must be performed by immersion by someone who has authority from God to act in His name. Baptism by immersion teaches us through its symbolism: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Rom. 6:4 Most men in the LDS Church have the authority to baptize. I was baptized by my father and my older children have been baptized by theirs. An LDS baptism is a very reverent and beautiful spiritual experience. I am always pleased when my children choose to follow Christ's example and to be baptized as He was.

Though baptism is necessary for salvation, baptism alone does not guarantee salvation. Nephi explains to those who enter into the covenant of baptism, "ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. " 2 Ne. 31:19-21

Some question why we believe that baptism is necessary, citing Christ's promise of paradise to the thief on the cross. When the thief died, he went, as the spirits of all men do, to the Spirit World to await his resurrection. After His death, Christ went to the spirit world and there declared His victory over death and organized the preaching of His gospel to the spirits in Hell. After this work was done, Christ was resurrected; only then did he ascend to Heaven and to His Father.

Jesus Christ was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness". He had no sins, yet it was still important for him to be baptized, not only to set an example for us to follow, but because it is a commandment that all must be baptized. To remain sinless, Christ complied with every commandment He was given by His Father. Christ was baptized by immersion by John the Baptist, who had the necessary priesthood authority to perform this ordinance. After Christ was baptized, the Holy Ghost came in the promised sign of the dove and the voice of Chris's Father was heard from Heaven declaring, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matt 3:17

Baptism for the Dead

One of the most exciting doctrines in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that, though baptism is required for everyone who is capable of sin, those who did not have the opportunity for baptism are not lost. In the temple, a person can receive the ordinance of baptism in behalf of a specific person who has passed on. The person for whom the baptism is performed has the opportunity in the spirit world of accepting or rejecting this saving ordinance. Paul cited this practice in the early church as a defense for the reality of the resurrection, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" (I know that there are other interpretations of this scripture, but I believe this is what it means) I am grateful that God has provided a way for every willing individual to comply with His law of baptism and to receive the ordinances that He has declared are necessary for us.

Little Children

Around 400 A.D. some of Christ's followers were disputing whether little children needed baptism. The prophet Mormon gave this response in a letter written to his son: Wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in [Christ], that it hath no power over them...little children need no repentance, neither baptism...But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell...awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.... Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption. Moroni 8:8-20 I think that this understanding of Christ's atonement is one of the most beautiful doctrines taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I am grateful for the opportunity that we have been given to come to Christ and to be baptized and cleansed of our sins. I know that God loves each of His children and has provided a way for all to partake of his goodness.

For repentance is unto them that are under condemnation and under the curse of a broken law. And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. Moroni 8:24-26


In the LDS Church, repentance is generally a private experience. Every day as we pray we have the opportunity to seek God's forgiveness for our shortcomings and ask for the Lord's help in overcoming our weaknesses. We also seek to make restitution as far as it is in our power. Only very serious sins, such as sexual misconduct, require counsel with a priesthood leader to assist in the repentance process.

I am curious how other faiths view repentance. In your view, how does a person properly repent? I have had the impression from some recent reading that some may view it as a one-time event. I know that some believe that confession is necessary. Must every little thing be confessed, and to whom?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Faith and Obedience

The God of heaven, who created this earth and placed his children upon it, gave unto them a law whereby they might be exalted and saved in a kingdom of glory. For ... all things are governed by law throughout the whole universe. Whatever law anyone keeps, he is preserved by that law, and he receives whatever reward that law guarantees unto him D&C 130:20–21. It is the will of God that all his children should obey the highest law, that they may receive the highest glory that is ordained for all immortal beings. But God has given all his children an agency, to choose what law they will keep. No man will receive a celestial glory unless he abides a celestial law. Wilford Woodruff

God does not disregard his own laws and justice requires that a debt be paid for laws that are broken. Because as mortals we are incapable of the perfection that God's law requires and without His mercy, all mankind would be lost. By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Rom 3:20, 23 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. 2 Ne. 2:5 Paul continues, however, with the good news which is that we are, "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom 3:24 The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. Behold, [the Holy Messiah] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered...and they that believe in him shall be saved. 2 Ne. 2:2,7,9 Alma explains that, "mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them [who shall believe on his name] in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." Alma 34:16 Paul goes on to explain in verse 31 that faith does not make the law void, but establishes it. Christ does not abolish the law. He upholds God's law and provides a way that we, through submitting ourselves to him, may be justified before the law. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. 6:23

We do not truly have faith if we defy God's laws. Nor does obedience to God's laws bring his promised blessings if we act without faith. Without faith, works are dead, for nothing we do can save us; without obedience, faith is also dead, for we cannot be justified before a law that we have not tried to live. James explains very clearly that, "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24The two are inextricably tied together. To try to separate them is, I feel, to deny the power of Christ to justify us before the law. It would seem, in effect, to destroy God's law and make his commandments void; or to destroy Christ's mercy and leave us helpless before the demands of divine justice.

The teachings and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the ages have been designed to keep people focused on Christ and the salvation He offers. This was as true in the time of Adam, as in the time of Moses, as true in the days of Abraham as it was in the days of Christ, and as true in times past as it is today. The doctrines and ordinances that God has established are designed to bring people to Christ. This central purpose has never changed; the essential principles of faith, repentance, baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost have been common to every era in which there has been someone on earth who is authorized to teach the gospel.

The Israelites were given a law of carnal commandments and performances in addition to the basic requirements of the gospel to help keep their attention focused on Christ. Before Christ's coming, his followers in ancient America observed the law of Moses and understood its purpose:

And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were ... slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them... to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him. But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. And now... they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God. Mosiah 13:29-32 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. Alma 34:14,15 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Ne. 25:25-26 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. Mosiah 3:13,17 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. 2 Ne. 2:8

When Christ fulfilled purposes of the law of Moses, He put an end to the performances associated with that particular law. The fundamental laws of His gospel did not change. Faith in Jesus Christ, sincere repentance of our sins, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are the constant, basic requirements for entry into the kingdom of God. They have been taught by the prophets of God in every era. They set us on the course to eternal life. God promises the blessings of eternity to all who faithfully serve him. We cannot do it alone. Whatever our capacities, whatever our inadequacies, Christ has the power to make us equal to the task that he has set before us. Each of God's commandments is given for our benefit and blessing. It doesn't matter what we can or cannot do, what matters is that we have faith in Christ and trust Him enough to try.

Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; My joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Alma 26:11,12