Sunday, April 26, 2009

Free to Choose

Christ said, "What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am." 3 Ne. 27: 27

I believe that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. I also believe that he intended that his life be not only admired, but emulated. Latter-Day Saints believe in doing good things. We seek God's help and guidance, but we believe that our ultimate destiny is ours to choose. Christ, through his atonement, paid the price for our sins and redeemed us from the effects of the Fall. It is only through Christ that we can be saved. He stands between us and justice. He offers his salvation to all men and all men have the option to accept it. The price has already been paid. We believe that it is up to us to choose whether we will, through faith and repentance, accept the offered gift. Whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come. Alma 42:27

We believe that God has made us free. Because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal live, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. 2 Ne. 2: 26-27

God respects the freedom he gave us to choose for ourselves. Though we are dependent on him for our very lives, he does not force us to obey him. I have often heard it said that the only thing we can offer God that is entirely ours to give is our own free will. I would say that one of the great purposes of life is to learn to choose good over evil. 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 If we are to become like Christ, we must learn to do the things that he does, to think the way he thinks, to love the way he loves. The best way to learn to do something is by doing it. As we strive to emulate Christ, it becomes easier and more natural to us.

To live in God's presence we must be clean and holy. If we strive in this life to be obedient to God's commands, to follow the example that Christ set for us, we will be cleansed through the mercy that Christ offers. If we follow a different path, we cannot expect that we will be a different person in the next life. Our desires and appetites will be unchanged. God does not magically change us into something we are not nor wish to be. He removes for us the obstacles that prevent us from coming to him and makes possible our return. We can trust that everything that God asks us to do is for our own good. It is through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel that we are taught and our hearts are changed. It is a miraculous process, but not a mystical one. The practice of godliness is as essential to the attainment of godliness as the practice of music is essential to great musical achievement; though unlike great musical accomplishments, eternal life is available to all who truly desire it and choose to follow the path that leads there.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with [charity], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. Moro. 7: 48

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Temple

Imagine taking a peek into Heaven. Everyone there is wearing modest white clothing, they are kind and pleasant and united in their worship and their service to others. It is peaceful and beautiful. This is my experience every time I go to the temple. The buildings are beautiful and the spirit of the Lord is felt there. I truly feel like I can leave my worldly troubles behind and for a few moments, enjoy the comfort of Heaven.

What happens in the temple?
Because we consider the temples ordinances so sacred, we only talk about them in the temple. This makes it a little hard to describe and easy for those who don't understand to fill in the blanks with their own imaginings. Please trust me when I say that I have been to the temple and there is nothing said or done there that I wouldn't be comfortable sharing except for the need to guard it's sacredness. There is much beauty and symbolism in the ceremonies and the covenants we make regard our willingness to serve God and obey his commandments. We go to the temple to learn and to perform sacred ordinances which prepare us to return to the presence of God. I was married in the temple and am sealed to my family for eternity. (picture) These ordinances have been performed in holy temples (or other authorized places) throughout history since the time of Adam. We believe that God is unchanging and that the requirements he makes of his children are the same today as they have always been. After Christ made it possible for the gospel to be preached to the dead in the spirit world, these ordinances began to be performed in behalf of those who did not have the opportunity to learn the gospel and receive these ordinances, such as baptism, while they were alive. These people are free to choose whether or not they wish to accept the ordinances, we simply make the choice available to them. (We do not believe that ordinances save us, but that they are required for salvation--a topic for another day.) For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 1 Pet. 4: 6

Who gets to go to the temple?
Before a temple is dedicated to the work of the Lord, there is an open house where anyone may take a tour of the temple. I know some of you were able to attend the open house for the Newport Beach temple. After the dedication, only those who are qualified and prepared for temple worship may participate. The intent is not to exclude anyone, but to ensure that those who enter are prepared. Everyone who goes must meet the same requirements and all are welcomed and encouraged to do so. These requirements include a testimony of the gospel and obedience to the commandments of God (perfection is obviously not a requirement, but we must be sincere in our efforts).

The Temple Garment
Some of you have expressed curiosity about the underclothing that is worn by those who receive the temple endowment. The temple garment is simple, white, underclothing that we wear as a constant reminder of the covenants that we made in the temple. We consider it sacred.

Temple Attendance
There are currently 129 temples in the world and many more are being built in an effort to make temple blessings easily available to everyone who wishes to receive them. The first visit we receive the ordinances for ourselves and on subsequent visits we perform them as a service on behalf of deceased persons. We attend the temple as often as we can depending on our circumstances. Temples are open on a daily basis. No one keeps track of how often you go; temple service is motivated by love for God and his children and a desire to serve them. Peace, knowledge, and joy are the benefits of temple attendance. I am grateful for this piece of Heaven on earth.


What does wearing a cross mean to you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Victory over Death

"This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" Moses 1:39

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most glorious event in all of human history! I was privileged this past week to attend the funeral for a friend’s husband who passed away a few months before their 50th anniversary. While there, I sat next to another friend whose five-year-old son died last year. I thought a lot about life and death and how grateful I am for what I know about what happens when this life is through. LDS funerals are so peaceful. There are tears, of course, but no extreme grieving. The separation from a loved one is always hard and none is harder, I think, than the separation which comes with death, yet because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, I know that death is not the end of our lives any more than birth is the beginning.

We lived with God before we were born. It was his plan for us to come to Earth. Because of the fall of Adam, man became subject to mortality and death—physical death (the separation of the body and spirit) and spiritual death (separation from God). The Atonement of Jesus Christ overcomes the effects of both physical death and spiritual death. His salvation is available to all who ever have or ever will live upon the earth.

I believe that Christ’s resurrection was literal. His spirit and body were permanently reunited and because of his victory over death, all mankind will also be physically resurrected. The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. Alma 40:23 Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous… Alma 11:44 As the fall of Adam brought death to all, so Christ’s atonement brings life to all mankind.

Eternal life
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 Sin separates us from God, for no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. The Atonement of Christ provides us a way to overcome the effects of sin, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow Isaiah 1:18 The cleansing effects of the atonement are available to every accountable person who accepts his gift. (…all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent…Moroni 8:22) Salvation from death is free to all, salvation from sin comes only to those request it by means of repentance, who have faith in Jesus Christ and a determination to follow him. God respects our right to choose and because sin is a choice, so cleansing must be a choice. And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Alma 11:40

What happens when we die?
The spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. Alma 40:11 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Eccl 2:7

When the spirit leaves the body at death, we anticipate a joyful reunion in the spirit world with loved ones who have already died. The spirits of the righteous are received into paradise and the spirits of the wicked to prison. We remember our lives on earth and continue to assist God in the work of saving his children. Those who did not have the opportunity to accept Christ in this life, will have the opportunity to learn of him and accept him there. We remain in the spirit world until the time of resurrection and judgment, when those who have been obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ, return, with their families, to live with Heavenly Father.

Question--Christ's body

A couple of years ago I was reading the New Testament and I began to wonder what Trinitarians believe happened to Christ's body after he was resurrected. I was sure that there must be a reasonable explanation, as there are for the things people don't understand about my faith. I have asked a few people, but I haven't found a satisfying answer yet. Does anyone know?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."2 Tim. 3: 16,17

I love the scriptures! There is no better way to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ than through prayerful scripture study. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. John 5: 39 Mormons love the scriptures. We carry them to church and take them on vacation. We study them as individuals and as families. We mark them and write in them and pray to understand them. We honor the great men and women whose stories are contained in them. We are commanded to, “feast upon the words of Christ.” 2 Ne. 32: 3

The purpose of scripture is and always has been to bring people to Christ. True scripture comes by the power of the Holy Ghost and it is through the Holy Ghost that scripture can be correctly understood. God's understanding far exceeds that of even to most intelligent of men. The Lord expects us to think and study and learn, but he does not abandon us to try to figure things out alone. The Holy Ghost teaches and confirms truth. He enlightens our understanding, and guides us in our study.

God spoke to the prophets of old and they wrote his words and teachings, and their testimonies and experiences as followers of God. The Old Testament contains these histories. Christ’s ministry and teachings and the work of the apostles were recorded, and some of these writings were included in the New Testament. The things that are recorded in the Bible were given by God to teach and bless us.

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” John 21: 25

The ancient American prophet, Nephi (Nē fī) said ”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. 25:26 Around 600 B.C. Nephi and his family were led by God from Jerusalem to this land of promise. They brought with them some of the prophetic writings that they had available to them, which included many of the writings of Isaiah. He understood that if his people did not have the words of God available to them that they would dwindle in unbelief. To that end, he and those who came after him recorded the words of God that were revealed to them as they taught and led the people. Some of these writings were included in a book compiled by the prophet Mormon and completed by his son Moroni around 400 A.D. This work is called the Book of Mormon (and is the source of the nickname Mormon.) We believe that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is the literal fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophesy.

As part of the restoration of all things spoken of in Matt. 17:11 the Lord spoke to the prophet, Joseph Smith, and commanded him that he should keep a record. The Lord’s revelations to Joseph regarding the establishment of the church are contained in the Doctorine and Covenants. This book, along with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, make up the LDS cannon. This cannon, however, is not closed.

It has been said that God never abandons us, it is we who turn our backs on him. So it is with revelation. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that God is as concerned about his children today as in the time when the Bible and Book of Mormon were being written. He calls prophets, and through them continues to guide and instruct the church. There is so much that we can learn from God’s words to his people in ancient time. Though people are much the same today as they were then, the world has changed so much. I am grateful that God gives us counsel in our day regarding our specific circumstances and I am grateful to the many good men and women who have sacrificed much to bring the scriptures to us. I feel so blessed to have such easy access to the word of God.