Wednesday, September 3, 2014

the book of mormon: another testament of jesus christ

Okay, so apparently there is this prophet guy named Joseph Smith who restored Christ's true church to the earth. Cool. But how in the world are we going to know that's a true story and not just something those crazy mormons made up so that they can pull us into their weird cult?

Don't leave just yet, I've got an answer to that question.

God knew that this was a pretty amazing story that would need some serious backing up. Gratefully, He didn't just leave us to ourselves to determine if it's true. God knew that after so many centuries of people being confused and in darkness, we would need some convincing evidence.

And in steps the Book of Mormon.

A few years after having this remarkable vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith began to receive more knowledge and direction from God, preparing Christ's church to again be restored to the earth. Part of this outpouring of knowledge was a visitation from a heavenly messenger named Moroni. Moroni directed Joseph to an ancient record, written on thin gold plates, that had laid hidden in the earth for centuries. After years of preparation, Joseph was able to obtain these plates and translate them by the power of God. As he did so, a wonderful story began to unfold.

Back in the time of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah, there was a man named Lehi who lived in Jerusalem with his family. Lehi was also a prophet, and he received revelation from God to lead his family away from Jerusalem (because, you know, it was about to be destroyed and taken captive into Babylon). Obediently, Lehi did just that. He and his sons and daughters traveled through the wilderness, eventually reached the ocean, and sailed across it to a promise land. On this land, which we now know as the American continents, Lehi and his family began to populate the land, and over the next hundreds of centuries (about 8), these people became great nations. They had times of happiness, famine, war, and peace. They communicated with God through their own prophets (remember, they couldn't just skype Jerusalem and see what was up with Malachi), and prophesied of a Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would come to save His people. Throughout it all, these people kept detailed journals. The crowning event of all these records is around the year 34 A.D. when Jesus Christ himself appeared to the people, ministering to and establishing His church among them. By the year 400 A.D., however, these people had rejected the gospel and fallen into a deep apostasy. One of the last righteous men to live among them, Mormon, complied all the records onto gold plates. He passed them to his son, Moroni, who then buried them in the ground, asking God to protect them and bring them forth in His own due time.

Fast forward 1400 years, Moroni appears to Joseph Smith and directs him to these records. Through the help of God, they are translated and published as The Book of Mormon. They provide a further testament that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy Messiah, and teach us God is aware of His people all over the world, and not just in Israel.

So why in the world is this important? Why was the Book of Mormon even needed?

Let me break it down for you.

The Book of Mormon helps us know if Joseph Smith really was a prophet. The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture that only this church uses, and it is something we claim was translated by the power of God. Without it, we are going on the word of Joseph Smith actually he actually had authority from God and was a prophet. With it, we have physical evidence we can hold in our hands. Yes, we have the Bible, but if you read the Bible and gain a testimony it's the word of God, then what? You know that Jesus is the Christ, so that might help you realize you need to join a Christian church, but which one? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Christian churches out there, and only one of them has The Book of Mormon. By default, if the Book of Mormon is true then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also true. It's the domino effect.

The Book of Mormon helps to restore lost truths. Remember how we talked about all those changes the "house" (Christ's church) went through? How the blueprint started to get changed as it passed through the hands of countless kings and spiritual leaders? Gratefully, the Book of Mormon laid untouched for centuries, and has only been through one significant translation. Because of that, the truths it teaches and pure and undefiled by men. It teaches us more about God's Plan of Salvation, and how we can have happiness here on earth and prepare to live with God again. It's sort of like an elaboration on the Bible, those parts that sometimes get really confusing. I may read a verse in the Bible and sense there is some principle being taught, but it's only alluded to and not really explained in detail. As I then turn to a passage in the Book of Mormon that talks about the same principle, I suddenly gain a better understanding of what Paul or Matthew was trying to say. My faith in God grows, and I better understand the gospel.

The Book of Mormon provides another witness of Jesus Christ. Let's say you're judging a court case. The prosecuting attorney brings a witness to the stand, who shares their experience with the subject at hand. And then they bring in a second witness, who shares their experience, and these two witnesses happen to be very similar. This helps you to believe the story of the first. So tell me, if you had the one witness, are you going to turn down the second just because you've already got one? No. The same is true with the Book of Mormon. The Bible is split into two sections - the Old Testament and the New Testament. A testament of what? Of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The Book of Mormon provides yet another testament, or witness, that Jesus is the Christ. It supports the other witnesses we already have, and helps us to better understand the full story. I don't know about you, but if I'm judging the case I'm going to want as many witnesses as I can get.

The Book of Mormon is not as radical as you may think. It is a beautiful record of God in our lives, in the lives of people that lived thousands of years ago who had faith in Christ's coming. I don't know about you, but I didn't walk and talk with Jesus Christ, and so I'm going on a lot of faith here. Because of that, I identify with these people on the American continent in a way I don't with others. They believe the words of the holy prophets that say a Messiah will come, and they have hope through that. I believe the words of holy prophets that the Messiah did come, and I have hope through that. When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel peace and I feel happiness - the same way I feel when I read the Bible. This book helps me to know God and know that He cares. I promise you if you read it and pray to God to know if it's true, He will answer you.

He will.


Words of Judah and of Ephraim will be joined together (Ezekiel 37:16-17)
Isaiah prophesies about a sealed book being read by one unlearned (Isaiah 29:11-14)
The Book of Mormon teaches of Christ (2 Nephi 25:26)

Other sources:

Introduction to the Book of Mormon
Testimony of Three Witnesses
Testimony of Eight Witnesses
"Safety for the Soul" (by Jeffrey R. Holland)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

the restoration of the gospel of jesus christ through joseph smith

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Joseph Smith who was honest and good and tried his best to follow Jesus Christ. In 1820, he lived in upstate New York, was 14 years old, and was mighty confused with which religion was right.

For those of you who know your United States history, you'll remember that 1820 was in the midst of a religious revival, and there was a whole lot going. Reformation had occurred just a few hundred years before, which had given way to more choices of which church to join for the people. Suddenly it wasn't just the Catholic church and the Church of England; you could be a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, the choices were endless. People would gather for camp meetings to hear the different clergymen, each urging the people to accept their faith and follow Christ through what they knew to be the correct way.

Joseph was in the middle of all this, and he was a thoughtful boy. He wrote:

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. 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; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

Joseph knew that the Bible taught there should be "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5), but which "one" should that be? He knew salvation was important, he believed the Bible to be the word of God, and he wanted to follow Jesus Christ in the way God wanted him to, not any other man.

One day, as he was reading the Bible, he read a verse in James chapter 1 verse 5 that struck him like no other verse before had struck him. It penetrated his core and "seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of [his] heart." The verse read:

"If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Did he not "lack wisdom"? Was Joseph not unsure of how to act? Was he not confused and frustrated with the different answers he seemed to be getting from each church? An appeal to the Bible did not seem to be working, for how could one church understand a verse of scripture to mean one thing while another understood it to be entirely different? If the Bible didn't contain the answer, where could he find it?

It was the Bible itself that directed Joseph to ask God Himself. Why do we revere the Bible so much in the first place? Because it is the word of God. We believe that the prophets who wrote the books that later became the Bible were inspired, not just floundering around writing whatever came into their fancy. We believe those words to be true because they are revelation from God, yet sometimes we forget to look past those words. Sometimes we believe the Bible to be the end, the final say, God Himself.

If we're confused about what is written in the book, why don't we just ask the author?

That's what Joseph did. His account of this experience is to beautifully written to push to the side or paraphrase, so I'll just let you read it:

In accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally. 
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. 
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. 
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. 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
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. 
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” 
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home . . . It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; . . . It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself. 
However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise. 
So it was with me. 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."

This story seems pretty incredible, I know. But my feelings are quite different - that it IS credible. Did not God speak to men in ages past through visions and angelic visitations? Is not that, in essence, what much of the Bible is -- men called of God telling us the revelation they received?

And what about the fact that Joseph was only 14 when this happened? I mean, why in the world would God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to a young, uneducated farm boy in order to begin the restoration of the gospel? It is my feeling and knowledge that God has always spoken to the young, the uneducated, and the humble to continue His work. When called to deliver his people out of Egypt, Moses himself said, "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). When Samuel was just a boy he heard the voice of the Lord calling him to the work and giving him a vision (1 Samuel 3).

Is God the same yesterday today and forever? Do we still need His voice and modern revelation, or has the world become so pure as to not need it? I would submit that yes, we need God's authority and God's direction. Now more than ever.

I believe that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe it because I feel it - the logic that abides in the story told by Joseph Smith correlates to the way God has always spoken to His people. The peace that I find as I contemplate it can not be found elsewhere.


The story of Joseph Smith is prophesied (2 Nephi 3)
Christ will gather us in the last dispensation (Ephesians 1:10)
One lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5)
Ask God (James 1:5)

Other sources:

Joseph Smith History
The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the great apostasy

After Christ's ministry among the people, His church was run by the twelve apostles, with Peter at the head. The second half of the New Testament is essentially made up of the direction these men gave to the saints (followers of Christ) during that time, as they tried to keep the church going.

Now, the way Christ organized His church is explained simply and beautifully in the following scripture, where Paul is talking about the church to some recent converts:

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God. And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" (Ephesians 2:19-20)

Paul sets up this awesome analogy of a house that we're going to use for the rest of this post. Let's talk about it.

He talks about the church, and all the members of it, being the "household of God", so let's picture a house. It can be as grand as you want it, whatever. I'm guessing a household that belongs to God is both beautiful and functional.

Paul goes on to talk about the foundation of this house, so what exactly is a foundation? What is the purpose of one? I'm no expert on building structure, so I asked my cousin Daniel, who is studying Construction Management at Brigham Young University and has a freaky love of architecture, to enlighten us a bit. If you were like him and doodled floor designs during worship services, you can skip this next part:

At the base of every home is a concrete foundation to support loads. These loads, like the weight of walls and roofs, snow, and wind, put a lot of pressure on a house. These loads transfer down to the foundation. If a foundation is strong enough, the house will stay in place, despite all of these external forces. Not only do foundations need to be strong, but they also need to be precise and square. If there's an imperfection in the foundation, it will certainly be noticed in crooked walls and roofs.

So it's important, right? Essential to a strong house that can withstand outside forces. Paul told us the foundation was the apostles and prophets. Who? Oh wait, all those people that have authority from God to act in His name. At that time period, Peter (the head and prophet of the church), and the other 12 apostles (remember when Christ ordained them in Matthew 10, and gave Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew 16?). Their authority was what made that house stand strong no matter what came along to tear it down. Now, these men were just that - men - and so it's essential that Paul names Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. What is the purpose of a cornerstone, you may ask? Tell us, Daniel:

A cornerstone is the first stone that's laid for the base of a building, at the corner. All other stones are based off it and built on top it. If the cornerstone has any imperfections, all of the other stones will be affected and the building won't look good.

Jesus Christ was the most important thing in the whole house. He set things straight and everything else in the house was based off of Him, including the rest of the foundation, the apostles.

Now, after Christ died the apostles got together and selected a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). Or rather, God chose one from among the many disciples. The did this to fill the vacancy, to keep the foundation strong. Over the next few decades, with Peter serving as the prophet or president of the Church, the apostles traveled all over spreading the gospel news. They taught the people, corrected them, encouraged them, and kept this "household" looking just like it had when Christ was on the earth.

Persecution was immense, however, and slowly many of these apostles suffered a martyr's death. They were spread all over the Roman Empire, in a time when travel was long and laborious, and they were unable to reunite to fill the vacancies that began to appear. In the end, all but one (John the Beloved) died, and slowly the Church began to slip back into apostasy. Why? Because the Church may have had Bishops and Priests and many righteous leaders, but they did not have prophets or apostles, the foundation.

Let's pretend for a moment that somehow you were able to dig beneath a house and remove the foundation without disturbing the walls or roof or windows. Even if that were possible, what would happen after you removed the foundation? It would crumble. The house would not stay up.

This is what happened with the Church. Without leaders that held's God authority - given to them by Jesus Christ - things started to break, and the house would not stay the same. Now, no one wanted that. They loved Christ and the things He had taught, and they wanted to fix the damage that was happening. So well-meaning men and woman came around and looked at some of the rubble and one said, "This is the front window, I'm sure of it." But another looked at the same window and said, "You know, I'm pretty sure this window was on the side of the house." Maybe they got in an argument, maybe one of them gave up, maybe it never really got settled, but people started to put the house back together. Eventually they decided they should probably have a blueprint and they tried to find all the records people had from with Christ had built this house (Church) initially, so they put together a bunch of letters and journals that became the Bible. And the house had a lot of people living in it after a while, and some of them didn't like how small that one bathroom was, so they got a hold of the blueprint and decided to do a little remodeling. Changes started happening. Some on purpose, and some on accident with only the best intentions.

After a while, a couple people looked at the house and said, "You know, a lot of this is really different from what Jesus Christ taught, and what those men with God's authority taught too. I don't think that this room should be that big, and I'm pretty sure that the back door didn't even exist when Christ taught us." Or to phrase it differently, "I don't really think that doctrine should be so emphasized, and I'm pretty sure that ordinance didn't even exist when Christ taught us. I'm pretty sure I can remember what the house used to look like, so let's try building it again."

So right down the street, another group build a house. And then someone else built another. And another. Pretty soon there were a whole bunch of houses up and down the street and around the corner and all over the town. John went to the house around the corner and he was pretty sure it was the same house Christ had built, but Rachel went to one next door and she was positive that was the right one. And all of them had the same blueprint (the Bible) but every person seemed to have a very different understanding on what that blueprint would look like when actually built.

There's no coincidence this period in history is called the Dark Ages. Everyone was determined they had the right house, but no one had the foundation that had been taken away, and the blueprint didn't seem to settle anything once and for all.

God needed to build the right house again. He needed the right foundation, with Christ as the chief cornerstone, apostles and prophets as the foundation, and something that could withstand all these outside forces that were trying to tear houses down and reconstruct them and do all sorts of things. Mercifully, thankfully, God waited until the proper moment to not just try to reassemble the rubble, but to just bring the original house back. Because who do you think knows what the actual blueprint looks like?

God. He is the source of truth and He is the architect who designed the house in the first place. He knows what His Church looks like and He knows how it needs to be built. We didn't need a reformation, we needed a restoration. After almost two thousand years of confusion, Christ restored His church. And can you guess how He did it?

That's right, through a prophet. Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that's how He's always done it.


Many false prophets will deceive (Matthew 24:9-11)
The parable of the vineyard and husbandman (Mark 12:1-9)
A restitution of all things is predicted (Acts 3:19-21)
A problem from within will tear them apart (Acts 20:28-30)
Paul warns us to stay close to Christ's original gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)
Paul predicts that before Christ comes again, a falling away will occur (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)
Paul predicts people will not endure sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Peter predicts the apostasy (another prediction, you're kidding!) (2 Peter 2:1-2)
People will wander and not find the truth (Amos 8:11-12)
Ordinances will be changed (Isaiah 24:5)

Other sources:

Topical Guide, "Apostasy of the Early Christian Church"
True to the Faith, "Apostasy"
Jesus the Christ, Chapter 40, "The Long Night of Apostasy"
"What is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" by Tad R. Callister

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

the savior's earthly ministry

So after that little history lesson, let's move on to the part of the Bible most Christian churches focus on (and rightly so) - the New Testament, which tells us of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. 

The period leading up to Christ's birth in Bethlehem was one of apostasy. Gradually, the Jewish nation had slipped into a state full of Pharisees, Sadducees, and many others who were so focused on the letter of the law that they had forgotten the spirit of it. Prophets had always testified of a Messiah who was to come, and many people waited patiently for that promised Savior. In the mean time, they obeyed the Mosiac Law and continued to follow the principles they had been given. 

Here enters Jesus of Nazareth. Born in lowly circumstances into a family with royal lineage (had the Roman Empire not been in control at the time, He would have been the rightful heir to the throne, literally the King of the Jews), He was raised like any child of that day, well-learned in the law and gospel. Around the age of 30, He began His mortal ministry and established His church. 

The impact of His ministry cannot be overstated; He fulfilled the prophesies that had been given of prophets since the beginning of time, He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. He taught the people the higher law - to turn the other cheek, to judge not, to love all. The most important act He performed while here on earth, however, was the atonement. His suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and death on the cross, followed by His resurrection, was of the greatest importance to all humanity. Without it, the plan our Heavenly Father had set in place would be nothing, and there would be no way we could return to live with God. 

Of importance to the principles we've talked about so far, however, is that during His ministry Jesus Christ established His church. He taught with the power and authority of God, and confounded the Pharisees, Scribes, and many other zealots who had slipped into apostasy. Just like prophets of old had done time and time again, He restored God's priesthood authority to the earth. 

From the many disciples that followed Him, Christ called twelve specifically to be his authorized servants, saying, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16). These twelve apostles were given the priesthood authority of God by the laying on of hands and were instructed to minister to the people and spread the gospel. 

In fact, after Christ's resurrection, the last message He left with the apostles was this:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."

What a message of peace and joy! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, promised us that He would be with us always. He urged His apostles, the ones who had the authority to administer the ordinances of salvation, to spread the gospel to all the world. The message was not then and never will be one that is confined to a specific group of people - it is for all. 

He invites all to come accept this gospel. I suppose the question we must all ask ourselves now is, where is that church Christ established? Which of the hundreds of denominations out there has this authority that was given to the apostles? Who can rightfully baptize us in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a manner that God himself will recognize?


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

heavenly father reveals his gospel in every dispensation

I'm sorry if you're sick of me talking about how much God loves us by this point, but the truth is He does, and that affects our knowledge of everything else.

Because God loves us, He's given us things here on the earth to help us. Throughout the Bible we see a pattern of prophets. Prophets are men who are called by God and given the priesthood - or God's power here on the earth - to help lead and direct His children. By revelation, they learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ and teach it to us, and they testify of Christ.

The fact of the matter, however, is that you and I aren't perfect, and neither were these people in ancient times. After heeding the word of the prophet for a time, people eventually stopped listening. Perhaps they thought they knew more than the prophet, perhaps they didn't care if what the prophets were saying was true. For whatever reason, people would choose to disregard the warnings and teachings of the prophet, and with that, they distance themselves from God. Prophets are the connector to God, so to speak, and when we let go of that connection, it's a lot harder to stay close to Him, and this can lead to a state of spiritual darkness. When this happens, and there are no more people listening to the voice of the prophet, the people slip into a period called an "apostasy", or a time where God withdraws His priesthood authority from the earth.

Why would He do this? It may even sound inconsistent with the fact that God loves us. But just as a father wouldn't buy their son a car on his sixteenth birthday if He knew the son would never drive it, God isn't going to give us His power and authority on the earth if we won't use it.

In the Bible, we see this happening a lot. That pattern I talked about earlier? It's all over the pages of the Old Testament. We see it in stories such as Noah, Moses, and Abraham. As prophets, these men preach the gospel and testify of how we can gain happiness in this life, and while people may follow them for a time, we eventually see a falling away as their prophetic teachings are rejected. The beautiful, comforting part of this pattern, is that at the end of these periods of apostasy, God always reaches out in love again when the people are ready, and calls another prophet. Each of these prophets begins another period where God's priesthood authority is on the earth, or a dispensation. When a prophet begins a dispensation, God's authority is restored, and the prophet again teaches the people about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Example: Moses. He leads the people out of Egypt, right? Through these miraculous experiences, God's power is manifest, and they escape from the harsh rule of Pharaoh, complete with the famous parting of the red sea. After seeing incredible blessings from the God, they make camp while Moses treks up Mt. Sinai to communicate with God and receive further instruction from Him (like a prophet does). While Moses is gaining revelation from the Lord, he receives this instruction:

"Go, get thee down; for thy people, which though broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it" (Exodus 32:7-8)

Within a short time of seeing the hand of God very clearly in their lives and receiving commandments from Him by the voice of His prophet, the people of Israel fall into a period of apostasy. This is a small type of the greater apostasies I spoke of, where God's authority is taken from the earth. Again, the beautiful part of this story is that despite the disobedience of the children of Israel that had happened and would continue to happen, God forgave them again and again and eventually, when they were worthy and ready, lead them into the promise land.

God wants us to have the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives - I know He does. From the beginning of time, God has communicated to us through prophets, and they have taught us about the principles and ordinances of the gospel that will make us happy and give us the direction we need while here on earth. I have a testimony of that; I know it is true. I am grateful that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and I am grateful for His prophets. I am grateful that they testified the Messiah, and that the Messiah, even Jesus Christ, did come.


God reveals truth through prophets (Amos 3:7)
Prophets testify of Christ (Acts 10:34-43)
Prophets testify of Christ (Jacob 4:4, 6)

What is a "dispensation"? (Bible Dictionary, "Dispensations")
God works in dispensations (D&C 136:36-38)
God teaches Adam (Moses 5:4-12, 55-59)
God ordains Noah (Moses 8:19-30)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

the gospel blesses families

In my last post, I talked about how much God loves us, and our relationship to Him as His children. Both of those points carry into the next principle I want to talk about - that the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families.

When we understand that we are literal spirit children of our Father in Heaven, it becomes obvious that the family unit is not something that's been recently created. Rather, it is the social unit that has always existed throughout eternity. God didn't create this earth and then say, "I wonder how I should organize all these people on the earth. How should I send them down there?" He knew, from the beginning, that we would be organized into families.

So why was it so important that we be placed in families here on earth? A family is the best place for us to learn and grow. We've already seen how understanding the role of an earthly father teaches us more about our Heavenly Father, and we know that through our experiences with our family here on earth, we can obtain the greatest amount of joy to be found in this life.

Now, I know that families aren't always perfect. In fact, they never are - but maybe that's the point. I don't learn how to ride a bike by keeping the training wheels on, and I don't learn patience or kindness by being put in a situation where that patience or kindness is never tried. Families come in all different shapes and sizes, full of a variety of personalities and circumstances. Throughout it all, we have opportunities to gain the attributes we're all seeking for in this life.Within the first few years of life, we learn about sharing and patience through our experiences with siblings. We have an abiding trust in our parents, especially when we are young, that teaches us more about love than anything else ever could. We're pretty much stuck with these people whether we like it or not, so we learn about peacemaking, patience, and compromise as we solve problems together.

So how do we find happiness while we're in these family's God's put us in? He obviously has a purpose for doing so, but what is the key to making this situation work?

The bottom line, no matter our family situation, is that "happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Jesus Christ was sent here to earth by God to do a variety of things, one of which was to set an example and teach us how to be happy. His teachings, better than anything else, will show us how to deal kindly with one another, how to be nonjudgmental, how to serve our family members.

I'm not claiming to have a perfect family by any means, but I've seen how the gospel has blessed us. The happiness and direction it has brought into our lives has made all the difference. I'd be willing to bet pretty much anything that my family life would carry a lot more discord if not for our foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a personal example, my youngest sister has Down Syndrome. I can remember well the day she was born (the day we discovered the disability, having no warning beforehand), when my dad told us she would be different. Being a mere seven years old, I didn't quite understand the implications of what he meant when he said she was "special", but I distinctly remember the warmth and peace that abounded in that conversation and hospital room later that day. We knew we had received a special spirit into our family, and we gave her the middle name of "Joy" to represent all the happiness she was bringing into our lives.

In the years that followed, we confronted a lot of challenges that required an extra amount of stalwart faith and other Christlike attributes. We knew we couldn't do it alone, but the knowledge of the plan God has for us and the teachings of His son, Jesus Christ, helped us.

I messaged my parents to ask them to share their feelings on how the gospel helped them through the experience of raising Cami:

A knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has helped us with raising a child with a disability because we have a testimony that families are eternal. This earth life is only one very short part of The Plan of Salvation...Cami's limitations are temporary, and this knowledge lets us know that we are privileged to be her short-term guardians on this earth---with death not the point of separation but a chapter to a new beginning.  Every day we spend with her is a glimpse into the eternal nature of families.
Make no mistake--raising Cami, or any child with a disability, is not always a walk in the park. She requires more care, monitoring, and guidance than any of our other kids. But because we know she and we once lived together as spiritual children of our Heavenly Father, and chose to come to this earth to receive a body and be tried to prove ourselves worthy to return to our Heavenly Father's presence, that knowledge is a huge source of strength to us. We know Cami has already passed her test simply by being born into her earthly body, and that it is up to the rest of our family to prove we belong with her in our Heavenly Father's presence. Physically, mentally and emotionally, Cami may lag behind us, but spiritually she is a celebrity who we all aspire to become like.  Our entire family loves her, and the constant reminder she gives us of the eternal nature of families.

Life is a roller coaster, and I'm so grateful I'm riding that roller coaster in a 7-seater that contains my wonderful family (we'll keep building on as the kids get married). It makes the ride more enjoyable. I know that our families here on earth are ordained of God and that our families can be eternal. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses our family, no matter what circumstance we're in.

Articles on the family:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World
The Importance of the Family
Strengthen Home and Family
The Eternal Family

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

god is our loving heavenly father

The root of all of my beliefs, of religion in general, is that a superior being exists. Now, quite honestly, I know I can't tackle the argument of every atheistic view out there (go read CS Lewis or something). I've heard it recently argued that it's all a matter of faith - you can't prove if God's there, you can't prove if He's not. And God himself? Well, my belief is that religion and God is all a spiritual matter, so you're not going to find the answers through anything other than spiritual means.

My belief is that God is our loving Heavenly Father. To me, the two most important parts of that statement are 1) that He loves us, and 2) that He is our father.

First of all, we're loved. The most powerful being in the universe, the one that truly has all power, knows all things, and can sometimes seem like some big, intimidating pile of intelligence - He loves you. He cares about you. He weeps when you find sadness and rejoices when you find joy. And I'm not talking about "love" in the way we seem to throw it around these days - one day confessing our love for someone and the very next changing our minds. Not in the "Wow, I really love pizza" meaning of the word. I mean the perfect, undefiled mean of love. His love - God's love - is pure and true and constant. It will never fade or diminish, and it's not dependent on what we do - it is simply there.

Second, God is our father. That's a pretty simple statement that carries a pretty complex meaning. Through it, we learn a lot about the nature of God, and a lot about our nature as His children.

Though I'm not yet a parent, I know the love for a child is immense, and I know that any good parent wants the best for their child. That means that when a toddler tries to stick their hand on top of a burning stove, the parent stops them. More often than not, the child is upset because all they know is that the person they love so much just stopped them from touching the beautiful glowing orange thing. The child might be wondering if their mom or dad does, in fact, love them. On the other hand, the other extreme doesn't automatically make the best kind of parent. If a mother never let her children step outside of the house (even if for safety reasons), the mother isn't really doing what's best for the child. Being trapped and over-protected prohibits necessary growth.

I think most of us would agree that being a good parent doesn't mean you let your child experiment on everything and figure it out for themselves, and it also doesn't mean you set absurd rules that prevent the child from ever learning. Rather, it's a balance of the two. We know that God is the perfect parent, which means He has rules but He also let's us learn, and the underlying factor for everything is that He wants us to be happy.

Growing up, I remember going to my parents for advice or permission on a lot of things. At times, they would tell me "No". "No, you can't go to that party. No, you can't skip school tomorrow. No, you can't drive the car at the age of 14." Other times, the answer was more along the lines of, "You know enough to make that decision for yourself." To be honest, there were moments when I found both infuriating. When the answer was a straight "no", I was angry they hadn't let me choose for myself. When the answer was to choose for myself, I was angry they hadn't given me a straight answer to make the decision easier. At the root of all my feelings, however, I knew that they loved me, and that everything they told me or directed me to do stemmed from their love for me. I was growing up, and I was learning, and they helped me to do that.

After a time, as I knew enough of the principles behind each rule my parents had established in our house, I was able to make correct decisions based on those very principles. I realized that all along, every bit of guidance my parents had offered me had been to make me happy. Especially as I left home and went to college, I always felt comfortable calling my parents up on the phone and being honest. Sometimes that meant crying together, and sometimes that meant laughing together. Getting a 98% on that Human Development test I was really nervous for meant that as soon as I left the testing center, I was dialing my mom to tell her how happy I was. She was right there on the other line to let me know how happy she was as well - she was proud of me. When I faced discouragement, I could call my dad and he would listen and sympathize. He was sad because I was sad.

No matter what I did, they loved me, and that love was based alone on the fact that I was their daughter. I could have disregarded everything they had taught me, denied they were my flesh and blood, and turned from their protective care, and they still would have loved me.

I testify that God is the same way. I know that He cares about us. I know that He loves you simply because you are you - you are His child, and that carries a great deal of importance. He wants you to be happy and to make good decisions, and He's always there on the end of the other line to pick up that phone and talk when you're ready to talk. I hope we are aware of how much He wants to listen to our struggles and our hopes and our dreams and our fears, and how willing He is to provide for us the help we need here on earth. As our parent, He has more knowledge than we do. He can tell when we're about to touch that burning hot stove and give us guidance. It is through obedience to Him that we will find true and lasting happiness.

God has given us a Savior, Jesus Christ, as a sign of His love. He knows were not perfect and He knows we're a little bit stubborn, but the fact of the matter is that He loves us and Christ's atonement can still apply to us. He asks that we have faith, repent, and turn to him through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost in order to be clean to return to His presence. I know that if we follow Christ, and trust our Heavenly Father, we will one day receive the greatest "welcome home" we can ever imagine. I know that as we better understand our God who dwells in the heavens, we can better understand things here on earth. He is the root of everything, and He is where it all begins.


Believe in God (Mosiah 4:9)
God is perfect (Matthew 5:48) (see also 3 Nephi 12:48)
A comparison with our earthly father (3 Nephi 14:9-11)
God has a body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22)
God's purpose (Moses 1:39)
God's love (John 3:16-17)
We are the offspring of God (Acts 17:27-29)
Children of God (Romans 8:16)
The father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9)
God's love (1 John 4:7-9)