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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Well Done My Good And Faithful Servant

I think there is much more to using the gift of the atonement than simply accepting the forgiveness Jesus gives so freely.

If we all came here as sinless beings and the only sins we have to repent of are the ones that we commit while in this life; then it stands to reason that if we return home with nothing more than having been forgiven, we haven't really accomplished anything.

It is only in personal change that we realize the full purpose and potential of forgiveness.

Many make the mistake of thinking that perfection and the absence of sin are the same things.  They are not.

Perfection is when you have the opportunity and ability to commit sin; but you don't.  Just as the Savior had to give his life of his own free will, we must also give up our sins of our own free will.

King Lamoni's father prayed, "...I will give away all my sins to know thee..."  He is not talking about being "saved," he is talking about deciding not committing those sins anymore as the price for knowing God.

We get this idea that if when we die we are not guilty of any major sins we will be whisked off to the celestial world and become celestial beings.  Sister Papa profoundly said, "If you want to make it to heaven, you have to take it with you."  That is why we are made to live in this world saturated with sin; so we can decide not to participate.  It is by not participating that we become celestial, not by arriving in a celestial place.

If we take our Father in Heaven as an example; He isn't God because He is hiding in a corner of Kolob not committing sin.  He is God because he has all power and only does good with it.

I believe that if we meet our Savior having nothing but the forgiveness he gave us; we will be viewed as the "wicked" and "slothful" servant was in the Parable of the Talents who returned to the Lord nothing more than the one talent he was given.

All of the personal change in the world is worthless without the unparalleled gift of the atonement.  If we combine his gift with personal change, "...when he shall appear we shall be like Him." (Moroni 7:48)

Mathew 25:20-21
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.  21 His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee a ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why Do We Need The Book of Mormon?

Many sincere investigators of the Church have asked, “If the Bible is true, why do we need the Book of Mormon?”  The answer is simple and begins with a discussion about truth and the Bible.

At present, according to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are over 43,000 different Christian religions based on the Bible.  In addition, Wikipedia says there are over 100 different English translations of the Bible.

Neither the religions nor the different Bibles teach the same doctrine.  Some Christian religions teach that we should pray to the Virgin Mary for forgiveness (Catholics) and others teach that you need only confess Jesus and you are saved, no matter what else you do (Baptists).  Some Bibles teach that all will be resurrected (King James Version: Job 19:26) and others teach that all will NOT be resurrected (American Standard Version: Job 19:26).  

Thus, a divine answer to a prayer about whether or not the Bible is true would do almost nothing in directing you towards truth; unless it doesn’t matter who you pray to for forgiveness or whether or not you are resurrected.

The simple and profound reason for The Book of Mormon is that when the Lord restored his true gospel to the Earth, it was necessary for him to also provide a way for his children to recognize it amid the countless sea of other churches and theologians.  Because of the Book of Mormon, anyone who is willing to ask God with a sincere heart in the name of Jesus can cut through all the religious confusion and know that God has restored his true gospel to the Earth.

Moroni 10:4
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Taking The Sacrament In Vain

Imagine standing in front a scale in your bathroom; you didn't take the time to exercise or eat right but before stepping on, you say a quick word to the scale asking it to read lower than the week before...

Many of us do the same thing on Sunday with the sacrament if we give no consideration to the mistakes we made through the week until we are presented with the sacrament.

Repentance should be more about change than asking for forgiveness.  If you are forgiven a hundred times over but never change you haven't accomplished anything.  If you change, and then are forgiven you have completed the process provided through the atonement by which we become celestial beings.

I believe that God forgives us every time we ask.  But are we taking that forgiveness in vain if we do so without making any effort towards change?

Alma 34:32
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Carefully Down To Hell

If God is all powerful, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?

The answer can be found in the fate of the Dodo Bird.  According to Wikipedia the Dodo lived in almost isolation on an island; eventually becoming flightless because of the ready availability of food and the absence of natural predators.  Without any challenge in obtaining food and no predator to fear, the Dodo became weak and clumsy.   When explorers arrived on the island, they brought with them animals of prey.  The Dodo had long since forgotten how to fly or defend itself and quickly went extinct.

This is exactly what would happen to us spiritually if we lived in a challenge free world.  Protection from all hardships would be a great dis-service and render us spiritually fat and easy prey for the adversary.  It is through progressive challenges in life that we find spiritual strength and by overcoming them we learn to spread our wings.

It is because God loves us that he allows the adversary to temp us and to try us.

2 Nephi 28:21 
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Perfection is not just an absence of sin

If perfection could be accomplished with just an absence of sin, we all could have accomplished it by simply not coming to Earth. 

2 Nephi 2:11 explains, "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass..."  

There can be no perfection without active righteousness and that righteousness cannot be accomplished without opposition.

In truth, Satan could defeat the Plan of Salvation anytime by simply walking away; leaving the residents of the Earth with no opposition and thereby no choice between good and evil and no opportunity to live righteously by choice.  Satan came here vowing to destroy the Plan, but ironically his presence here creates the environment of "opposition" that makes the Plan possible.

A relevant example of the absolute necessity of opposition is the City of Enoch.  Why was the whole city removed from the Earth; rather than allowing it to be a shining example for us and a place we could all go to  get away from the world?  Perhaps the City of Enoch had to be removed because their accomplishment of perfection as a society would have adversely affected anyone who moved there because there were no temptations there anymore.  They defeated Satan.

If we lose the "opposition" we simultaneously lose the ability to be perfected.  Yet, even saturated as we are in Satan's influence, that alone must not be enough to accomplish our purpose here because the Lord tells us in Ether 12:6 that he has also given us individual weaknesses to overcome.

This life is an individual battle and who you become is all you get from this life.  Thus, Satan doesn't need to convert you to his side in order to win; he just needs to keep you distracted with worldly ideas long enough that you don't become who you have come here to become.  As Nephi put it, "others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell."  (2 Nephi 28:21).  A modern example of this could be believing in "faith without works." 

Quenten L. Cook said in the most recent conference that self control is like a muscle.  The more you use it the stronger it gets.  The opposite would also be true.

Self-control is the reason we are here.  Why else would we have bodies that are programmed to want things we are commanded not to participate in?  Why else would we be commanded to share what we have with the poor and needy when the Lord could irradiate their needs without our help?  Because works don't save us they change us.  You become a different person when you participate in this self-sacrificing activities.

It is a very simplistic definition, but we came here for the freedom and opportunity to choose between good and evil and perfection is accomplished when we get to a point where we always choose good.  

Jesus died to erase the mistakes we all make along that path of active individual perfection.  A person who is simply relieved of his/her sins, without the requirement of self-improvement, accomplishes no more than if he hadn't come to Earth at all.  We must strive to perfect ourselves through active discipleship, having our "garments washed white" each week  (Alma 13:11) through the atonement of Jesus Christ, until the day that we stand triumphant, like the occupants of the City of Enoch, and then we can return home as sons and daughters of God to inherit the kingdom of our Father (Mathew 25:34).

Moses 6:68
Behold, Thou are one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons. Amen.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mediocrity Is Dangerous

All we take with us from this life are our experiences.  Who we are is a reflection of those experiences we have had.

We often talk about judgment day as if our lives will flash before our eyes and a tally will be made of the good and the bad things we did, culminating in some kind of point system that will decide if we ascend to heaven or descend into exile.

The parable of the Ten Virgins is closer to the truth.  The virgins who came late were rejected at the door by the Savior who said, “I know you not.”  The oil in this parable represents experience; which is why the virgins that had “oil” at the masters coming could not share with those who didn’t have any.  Spiritual experiences are how we come to know the Savior.

In the Pre-Existence (our life as spirit children before we came to Earth), we had learned as much as we could intellectually, without experiencing life in a mortal body.  Satan’s ill-conceived plan was for, “all [to] be safely conducted through the career of mortality, bereft of freedom to act and agency to choose…"  (Jesus The Christ)  In other words, Satan’s plan would not have afforded us the opportunity to have experiences; the very purpose for which we came to Earth. 

Mediocrity is as dangerous as apostasy. “…because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15) 

Life is the accumulation of the experiences we have.  If you are not having experiences, you are not having life.  This holds true of our spiritual life as well.

On that glorious day when we stand before our Savior for judgment, I believe that no words will be necessary.  We will either be like him, through a lifetime of spiritual experiences, or we won’t.

Moroni 7:48
…that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Undue Influance of Pop Culture

One of the most fascinating and relevant events to study in Church history is the creation of The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that was formed after Joseph Smith was martyred.  It is fascinating to study because at that moment in time, their newly reformed church had every resource of truth that we had.  They had the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the Articles of Faith, experienced leaders of the Church and even the culture of the Church.  The RLDS church had everything...except authority.

Without authority there was no possibility of receiving revelation for the direction of their church.  Thus their doctrine moved whichever direction the winds of popular culture blew.  If you look up the RLDS church today (now call the Community of Christ), you will find precious little similarity between our church and theirs and almost no difference between their doctrine and that of other modern Christian churches (including the ordination of women to the priesthood); yet they claim to be the rightful and direct line from Joseph Smith.  Which begs the rhetorical question, why would Heavenly Father and Jesus make a personal appearance to start a church that would ultimately be no different than thousands of other churches already in existence?

The study of the RLDS church is relevant today because it profoundly illustrates how revelation is an anchor that prevents pop culture from "tossing [the church] to and fro...with every wind of doctrine." (Eph 4:14)  Joseph Smith was instructed in the First Vision not to join any of the other churches.  If we allow pop culture to erase the differences between the restored church and pop culture churches; wouldn't that also violate the Lord's instruction not to "join" other churches by becoming just like them?

The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [1946], 212–13:
I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Redefining Marriage

The following post is my personal opinion and does not reflect any official statements from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When I was on my mission in Hungary, I saw many breath taking castles.  I marveled at the sheer number of these massive structures, all built strategically on  hill tops or with high walls and strong doors; making them impenetrable to outside forces.  A direct attack on such a fortress would have been futile; yet, each of them now stands abandoned and crumbling.

The question of how defeat found its way into these unyielding  fortresses, foreshadows eerily the current attack on marriage and the family.

Marriage is also a castle.  The adversary has no greater objective in this life than to destroy the fortress that houses the family unit.  But he has no intention of trying a direct frontal assault on marriage because the "baby boomer" generation clings to a solid understanding of marriage and its importance; spiritually as well as in society.  The way you defeat a castle, is to convince the next generation not to live there.  So, he marginalizes marriage with immorality and redefines it in the eyes of the next generation. Then he waits patiently while generations "X, Y and Z" abandon it into extinction.

In September 2013 Steve Young's wife spoke as an advocate at a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community event.  She said to them, "One of the most beautiful things about this church is that it can evolve.  It may not go as fast as everyone wants, but it is evolving."

The way you can recognize someone that does not understand this issue as it relates to our religion is that they think we are just waiting for an outdated church leadership to come into the now.

Set aside the cataclysmic consequences to society and only consider this issue from a spiritual perspective.  The reality of such a change would mean that we would have to dismantle the temples and discontinue our belief in eternal marriages. 

Our existence here is a similitude or foreshadowing of the lives that will come in the eternities.  A dry run.  A chance to show that we can be endowed with greater power in the next life because we learned to control the power we have on loan in this life.  Specifically to this topic, the power of pro-creation here will become the power of creation in the next life.

The scientific definition of life states that in order to classify something as a living thing it must be able to reproduce.  The Liger (a mix between a Lion and a Tiger) is a perfect example.  It is a beautiful creature but will never be classified as a species because two Ligers cannot mate and make a baby Liger.  Its not a matter of belief, its a law of nature.

Temple marriage is not just a ceremony or a commitment, the sealing power creates a living bond for time and all eternity; worlds without end in the next life.

Simple logic then dictates that a same-sex temple marriage would be an eternal prison sentence; condemning the couple to spend the rest of eternity unable to participate in the greatest and only joy there is in eternity: creation of life.

Those who wait for church doctrine regarding marriage to change, do so in vain.  None the less; traditional marriage will be increasingly seen as a crumbling and outdated castle in the eyes of the forthcoming generations, including some who are members of the Church.  Once marriage is officially redefined at the state houses, our eternal temple marriages will be seen as prejudicial and out dated and temples will become the new focus of this movement in an attempt to force us to perform same-sex eternal marriages.

1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Who Is Right?

I took this picture on Sunday (3/23/2014) in Paradise, CA.  If you take out the bottom line announcing the "Pre-school and Daycare" services, you'll find a profound truth not often acknowledged by other churches:  Everyone cannot be right.

This photograph is a landmark because traditional Christians have held that it doesn't matter which church you belong to because, "all paths lead to heaven."

In fact, truth does exist which means wrong also exists.   The question is, how can you tell the difference?

I was visiting a Sabbath school a few months ago with a friend of mine from the Toastmasters Club.  A younger gentleman, probably for my benefit, made the comment that he couldn't understand why everyone didn't see the pure logic of their faith.  I was intrigued by this comment because I had been sitting there literally pondering how illogical what they were talking about sounded to me.

When we discuss or discover a spiritual topic we will feel the truth of it by the power of the Holy 
Ghost.  It is a mistake to try and identify truth through human logical or reason.

Peter lived in the presence of Jesus himself.  Yet, in Matthew chapter 16 when Peter identified Jesus as the Savior, Jesus responded, "...flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee..."

There is only one way to identify the true gospel of Jesus Christ...

Moroni 10:4-5
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Implausible Doctrine"

An article appeared a couple of months ago in a college newspaper by a woman named Ellie Schaack called Confessions of a cultural Mormon.  She is not a member of the church, but she grew up living the life of a member in Colorado.

Her article says, "Nearly all of my friends were LDS, and the only way to have sleepovers on Saturday was to accompany them to church on Sunday. The only way not to miss out on fun weeknight activities with the group was to go with them to Young Women. The only way not to be friendless for a lonely week during the summer was to go to Girl’s Camp, which is Mormon sleep-away camp up in the mountains. I’ve acted out scenes from the Book of Mormon between the Nephites and the Lamanites; I’ve sung 'I know a Mormon boy; he is my pride and joy.' I know what it means to CTR (choose the right) and Return with Honor."

Ms. Schaack then goes on to talk about how religious beliefs are preposterous generally and Mormonism specifically.  The interesting part is how the article ends...

"Our generation goes to church less and less. This column is definitely not a plea to go to church more—I recognize that Mormonism made me happier, yet that isn’t reason enough for me to overlook the implausibility of the doctrine..."

Is it the doctrine or the difficulty that is implausible? I've noticed when doing missionary work that many people find that the fruit of the gospel makes them happier, but as they realize the sacrifice of worldly pleasures required for that happiness; suddenly the doctrine becomes implausible

Ms. Schaack's article is a perfect example of how a person must first have a desire for truth; a willingness to accept difficult principles and refuse some of the pleasures offered by the world before they can accept the gospel.

Mosiah 3:19
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...

Friday, March 21, 2014

What's In A Name?

There has been a hard push the last few years with and the “I am a Mormon” campaign. I posted my own profile as everyone should. that our name?

I was talking with the pastor at a local church the other day.  We were discussing how his church had decided to change their name to project a more community based image.  This pastor and I are good friends; enough so that he is comfortable commenting humorously about the things he feels are strange about our church.  At the end of the discussion, he threw in a comment about how nice it is that he is able to pick the name of his church.  “Not like your churches that all have to have the same name.”

He shot me a sly grin, as though he had just scored a touchdown.  As he did, the most overwhelming, warm spiritual feeling came over me. We don’t need to pick or change our name;  this is The Church of Jesus Christ.  The is no other name under heaven.  

This is not just our name, its a declaration. 

Since the restoration in 1830 there has been a concerted effort to marginalize The Church of Jesus Christ, by stripping it of its name.  Has it finally worked?  Are we Mormons?

It is an honor to have a nick-name fashioned after one of the greatest prophets in The Book of Mormon, but have we allowed that nickname to replace the true name of Christ's Church in an attempt to appease the dis-approving eye of the world.  

3 Nephi 27:8
And how be it my church save it be called in my name?  For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church…

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Revelation is not a right, it’s a relationship

A right is something you are entitled to without any doing of your own.
We are told in Matthew 6:8 that God, “…knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” Yet we are made to ask because asking is not about what we get; it is about the relationship we build with our Father in Heaven through the process of asking and receiving.

Revelation is not a right, it’s a relationship. 

It is true that we are all children of God and as such have the inherent ability to receive revelation. But ability to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.

Revelation is as sacred to Heavenly father as it is to us.  He will not just toss out an answer that he knows will be ignored.  If you first prepare yourself to accept the answer (whether it is the answer you wanted or not) then he will give it. Every missionary has experienced this with investigators.
God intentionally creates situations in our lives that drive us to him because he wants a relationship with us.

When we die, he wants to put his arms around us and welcome us back as friends.  Not because we knew the church was true, but because in the process of acquiring that knowledge we built a relationship with him.
Doctrine and Covenants 93:45 other words, I will call you friends for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me.