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.