zeezrom and almaThis morning I read about two miracles that were seemingly instantaneous.  The first is in the scriptures in the Book of Mormon in Alma 15.  Zeezrom is physically healed immediately after he accepts Jesus.  Here is an excerpt:

 6. And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.

And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.

10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.

11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk…

I also read a modern story of a man named Roman Gutierrez, who is now a pastor who spent his teenage years as a drug addict, gang member, and in prison. He was declared dead twice and still lived.  When he was 25, he attended a church service and accepted Jesus.  He was healed instantly and didn’t have a desire to do drugs anymore.  Now he spends his life serving others in a ministry that helps youth realize they can have a better life.  Here is an interview with Roman:

Some Miracles (especially recovering from addictions) Take Time

When you read about miraculous stories in the scriptures, or learn about Roman’s story, someone who is struggling with addictions could either gain hope of delieverance, or I can see how it could be demotivating for someone who has turned their life over to God, but still struggles.  It is for all the rest of us who don’t have instant miracles that I write this.

Many of you have read my book, Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication.  While my main focus in the book is how I overcame anxiety and depression, I also spend some time discussing some addictions that I had and needed to overcome as well.

I struggled with addictions for a number of years and was proud, not willing to admit I had a problem.  For years, I damaged relationships and used people to feed my addiction.  When I came to realize I had a problem, I tried to fix it myself for a few years, but I would continue to fall.

One day I felt prompted by God to visit a friend and when I visited her, we talked.  I discussed frustrations with myself in succombing to the addictions yet again and she told me she thought I needed to go through a 12-step program.  I was ready to listen and I started the program.  For me, healing didn’t take place immediately, even after I turned my will over to God.  However, I received strength one step at a time and through a series of “little” miracles and graces from God, I was able to be healed within 2 years from meeting with my friend.

Now I serve as a volunteer for our church’s 12 step addictions recovery program as a facilitator.  It is awesome to see people at various stages of their recovery.  Some of them have been struggling for years and are making their first effort to fight the addictions they face.  Others such as myself have experienced recovery and are working to help others in their journey and our continued journey of sobriety.  In all phases, we feel the healing power of Jesus in our lives and know that He is there every step of the way and it is humbling to witness and experience.

If there are any of you reading this who are struggling, I encourage you to keep taking steps of faith towards recovery.  Heavenly Father and Jesus are there for you no matter how many times you fall.  Just like Art Berg said in his book.  Some miracles take time.

seahawks logoI’m a Seahawks fan.  I have been since I was 9 years old and I would try to emulate Steve Largent on the playground.  My mom probably didn’t like me coming home with my pants all muddied up from catching long passes and diving into the mud on the playground.

When I played football in Jr High and High School, I picked the same jersey number as Steve Largent (80).  I had dreams of being a great wide receiver and I was pretty decent until I didn’t have a growth spurt and all the guys in high school out grew me.  I guess I could have kept trying, but I chose to hang up my dreams and jersey mid way through high school.  Now my football dreams come alive through playing annually in turkey bowls and through the Seattle Seahawks the past few years.steve largent

Last night, I was in charge of a dinner at our church.  We told everyone to dress casually and it was kind of funny how many people wore their Seahawks t-shirts and jerseys (myself included).  The event was a fellowship dinner with a testimony meeting afterwards, but to an outsider looking in, it looked like a Seahawks rally!

One of the guys who is in our congregation who recently moved from San Francisco mentioned how much pride the “12th man” has around town.  The ‘Niners are a big rival for us, so he gets some friendly fire from us every so often.  As I spoke with him I thought about my time in Utah where there are a lot of Mormons and every so often you encounter a non-Mormon.  This post is meant to be a bit light-hearted, but here is a “top ten list” of similarities between a non-Mormon in Utah and a non-Seahawks fan in Seattle:

10 Similarities between Seahawks Fans in Seattle and Mormons in Utah

10. The conversation goes awkward if a Seahawks fan meets a non-fan just like it does if a Mormon in Utah meets a non-Mormon as the Seahawks fan or Mormon can’t comprehend such a thing as there being someone who isn’t a “believer”

9. A siting of President Monson is like a Russell Wilson siting in Seattle as the phone cameras fly out and crowds rush to see them.

8. The local news reports what a Seahawks player had for lunch while a Utah station reports where a General Authority was shopping.

7. Seahawks games bring a huge crowd that converges into downtown Seattle whereas a General Conference does the same in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Non-Mormons and non-Seahawks fans rush to get their shopping done before the crowd comes back out.

6. Seahawks fans try to convert non-Seahawks fans and help them “see the light”.  So do Mormons in Utah (and everywhere for that matter!)

5. Streets in Seattle are named after Seahawks players.  Streets and cities in Utah are named after Mormon pioneers.

4. All TV stations show Seahawks games locally during football season.  General conference is on all channels in Utah during that season.

3. The crowd noise in Seattle shakes the city and causes tremors.  So does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when they sing.

2. Non-Mormons picket outside of temple square.  Niners fans do the same outside of Seattle games

1. People skip church to watch Seahawks games.  In Utah when there is a General Conference, people use that as a “vacation” from church as well.

GO SEAHAWKS!!

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picture of templeOne of the distinguishing features of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is the temple. The buildings are magnificent and mysterious not only for people who aren’t of the Mormon faith (they are not allowed to enter the temples after the temples are dedicated), but also for members of the faith.

As members we are instructed not to share the signs and parts of the ritual that we participate in the endowment portion of the temples and so from that perspective it makes it even more mysterious. Since we are not allowed to share that information, people who haven’t been to the temple yet often feel confused when they do go because the experience is very symbolic and different than what one usually sees in the regular church services.

I read a recent article by S Michael Wilcox entitled “10 Ways to get more from your Temple Experience“. The following paragraph from the article accurately describes my feelings when I went to the temple for the first time:

Most of us have a vivid memory of the first time we went to the temple to receive our endowments. I was a newly called missionary and had traveled to the Los Angeles Temple. I did not know what to expect. Although some aspects of my own endowment were wonderfully edifying to me, much of it was confusing. I left bewildered and a little frightened. I have since discovered that my experience was not unique. I have also discovered why my first experience was not all what I had anticipated. At the time, I did not understand the manner in which the Lord teaches His children in His house. Had I understood, my anxiety and confusion would have disappeared, even though my comprehension level might have remained the same.

Since the first time I went through the temple, I have been back many times and over the years have become more comfortable with it. There are a number of things that we participate in during what is called the “endowment session” that include signs we make with our hands, clothing we wear, covenants we make, prayers we say, and then passing through the veil of the temple.

When I was reading in the Bible recently about Jesus with his chief apostles when he was transfigured, the phrase “endued with power” in Luke 24:49 stood out to me. When I searched for that scripture from an LDS point of view, I found an interesting blog called “LDS Temple Endowment“. The article I read was interesting and shares from their perspective why the LDS temple endowment is Biblical.

What was even more interesting to me was a link to an essay published at BYU studies over 30 years ago called “Catholic Liturgy and the Mormon Temple“. It is a 35 page essay that shares various rites in the early Christian church that are very similar to the temple rites found in Mormon temples today. Additionally, it shares pictures of some Catholic cathedrals that have very similar altars and veils that are found in LDS temple endowment rooms.

The reason why this is particularly interesting for me is because as LDS, we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes ordinances that are not found anymore in any other Christian church today. We believe it is a restoration of the original Christian church that existed right after Jesus established his Church.

Here are some of the interesting things that stood out to me:

1. In the early church there were rituals where both members of the church and non members could participate. There were also rites that only members could participate in.

2. The rites included were for both male and female and they were divided into two groups upon entering

3. There were white garments and robes placed on those participating in the rites

4. In the very early days, there was a distinguishing between the church and temple. Later on, the two merged into one.

5. Some of the churches and cathedrals still have a veil and an altar. People who participated in the rites passed through the veil and someone on the other side represented the Lord and only their hand was allowed to show to help pull the people through the veil.

6. Part of the wardrobe for men included a cap with a string that attached to their robe. Also, women wore veils.

7. There is a part of the ritual that includes people putting names on the altar and those participating praying for the names on the altar.

8. During the ceremony there is a portion of members of the group repeating words from the priest leading the rite with them standing up and sitting down (this is similar to what I’ve seen as I have participated during Catholic mass).

9. There were washings and anointing that took place where oil was placed on various parts of the body of the individual and a prayer was said that included the following words:

I sign your forehead I sign your eyes so that they may see the glory of god. I sign your ears so that you may hear the voice of the lord. I sign your nostrils so that you may breathe the fragrance of Christ. I sign your lips so that you may speak the words of life. I sign your heart so that you may believe in the holy trinity. I sign your shoulders so that you may bear the yoke of Christ’s service in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy ghost so that you may live forever and ever

After that prayer is said, the person is endowed with new white garments because the person is considered reborn.

10. People were given a new name. This new name was typically a Saint’s name.

Although the rites are not identical, there are enough similarities that it is very interesting to me.
Those of you who have been through an LDS temple, will probably relate to a lot of the things that are brought up in the essay as well as the points I brought up. I found it to be very interesting how many similarities there were. I also found it very interesting that Joseph Smith put together the LDS temple endowment without having a very strong understanding of the Catholic church or the history of the early church (as far as I can tell) because it was predominately Protestant where he was raised and lived for most of this lifetime.

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I hope all of you are enjoying a very great Christmas this year filled with a feeling of love for our Savior and enjoyment with family and friends.  I hope that we’ve all taken time to reflect on his miraculous birth and life and have shared the gift He would have us give him each day of our lives: our kindness and love to others.

Enjoy this song and video of Jesus’ birth:

O Come Emmanuel-Piano Guys Christmas Version

I thought that since it’s been a couple of months since General Conference it would be good to share the stats on who the most “liked” General Authority is.  Depending on how you want to break it down, it is either Dieter Uchtdorf or David Bednar.  This is based on the latest statistics from the October 2014 General Conference.

Below is a chart that includes the top 10 talks from Conference talks.  This is ranked in order from the talk with the most “shares” and “likes” on social media from greatest to least.



Name

Title  Talk Shares
David Bednar Apostle Come and See 13,000
Jeffery Holland Apostle Are we not all Beggars 12,000
Jorg Klebingat Quorum of 70 Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence 11,000
Dieter Uchtdorf Presidency Lord, is it I? 9,500
Lynn Robbins Quorum of 70 Which way do you Face? 7,200
Dallin Oaks Apostle Loving others and living with differences 7,200
Dieter Uchtdorf Presidency Receiving Testimony of Light and Truth 6,200
D Todd Christoffersen Apostle Free to Act for Selves 5,300
Richard Scott Apostle Exercise your Faith 5,100
Dieter Uchtdorf Presidency Living the Gospel Joyful 5,000

As you can see, David Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, has the highest ranked talk.  However, you’ll notice that Dieter Uchtdorf has all three of the talks he gave included in the top 10.  With Uchtdorf’s three talks combined, he has over 20,000 shares so far and Bednar has about 13,000 from his one talk, so you could argue either way.

Also, it should be pointed out that although a certain authority may be on the list, it doesn’t mean they are the most popular as a person.  It could be that they simply shared a topic that hit home to a lot of people.

What are your thoughts on who today’s most liked General Authority is?

parley pratt

I’m reading a great book about one of the first converts and apostles to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Parley P Pratt.

For those interested in a pretty good glimpse into the early church and the challenges and miracles that took place, this is a very good read.

One of the miracles that he describes is when the Latter-day Saints had been driven out of their homes in Missouri and into Illinois.  They were destitute and left in the cold along the Mississippi River on a swampy land with no shelter.  People were getting very sick.

Here is an excerpt of one of the miracles that took place during that time:

Here many were lying sick and at the point of death.  Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham.  He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever.  He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, wit his feet poultice; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was preparing his clothes for his burial.

Brother Joseph (the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith) took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK”!  It was a voice which could be heard from house to house…like the roaring of a lion or heavy thunderbolt.  Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him and…he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds…Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.” (pg. 355)

This story is a fairly popular story that is told and repeated about Joseph Smith.  The part that I was not familiar with that Parley Pratt writes about is this:

Brother Jospeh, while in the Spirit, rebuked the elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the pwer to heal them.  Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power”

Joseph Smith’s quote caused me to reflect on the power of healing within the Church of Jesus Christ today.

For those of you not familiar with how Elders are instructed to heal within the Church, I’ll share some information on the procedure, purpose and process.

In the Bible, there is a scripture that discusses how people who are sick should call on the elders and they will lay hands and anoint the people so they can be healed.

Today, we are instructed to do the same thing.  We have olive oil that has been consecrated for healing the sick.  We then put a little oil on the head of the person being blessed and then as the Holy Spirit shares thoughts and impressions in our minds, we pray and bless the people who are sick.

I have witnessed miracles on occasion through blessings such as these.  For example, my little sister had a bad accident when she was 3 and my father gave her a blessing of healing and she started breathing again and was healed.

However, I hear quite frequently about how today we’ve been blessed with modern medicine and technology and that we don’t need to rely on God as much for healings.  Some people say that God caused the medicine and technology to take place so we shouldn’t bother God with a miracle unless we have to.

This makes me wonder if we are like the elders Joseph Smith talks about and rebukes and if we lack faith and rely too heavily on man instead of God.  As the Book of Mormon states, when faith is lacking, God can not do miracles.  Perhaps we don’t see as many miracles such as the one described because we lack faith.

What are your thoughts?

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and have written articles and books about the subject.  In my free time, I try and help people who are struggling with similar issues and provide them guidance and hope.

With this in mind, I was very interested in a recent article that shares the science behind happiness.  Within the article, he shares thoughts from Kate Bratskeir, a researcher on happiness, that I thought would be good to highlight for any of us.  Some of these are similar to what I outline in both my book, Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication and a similar article I wrote a few years ago.  Below are 10 of Kate’s findings on how to become a happier person:

happy people

Ten things that supremely happy people do

1.       Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.

2.       Happy people try to be happy. When happy people don’t feel happy, they cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.

3.       Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves. Givers experience what scientists call the “helper’s high.”

4.       Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.

5.       Happy people use laughter as a medicine. A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters. A study showed that children on average laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.

6.       Happy people use the power of music. Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.

7.       Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet. Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression.

8.       Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside. Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.

9.       Happy people get enough sleep. When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgment.

10.   Happy people are spiritual.

Those of you who have read my book and articles know of the ways that have helped me with exercise, relaxation, spirituality, etc. and all I can say to this list is Amen!

I worked out this morning and my back is a bit sore, so when I saw #6 and massage therapy I got excited for the massage I’m going to get this Saturday!

One thing that is on this list that I haven’t outlined before is spending more on others than on ones’ self.  I like that one!  I would take it a step further and say spending both money and time with others is important whether that’s with your kids, a friend, spouse, etc.

What are your thoughts about this list and what have you found that helps make you a happier person?

seek first gods kingdomToday I read a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 25:10 that jumped out at me.  The scripture is short, but powerful and important to consider:

Verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.

One of the scriptures that was a cross reference to this one is found in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 6:17, which is:

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

As I reflected on both of these scriptures, it reminded me of a story that my Grandfather told me.

Shortly after the depression, he and his father and brother had purchased a ranch close to Sun Valley, Idaho.  They lived in Central Utah and had been raised there, but the opportunity and growth in that area looked promising.  My grandfather had a very small family at the time and was recently married.  His father, my great-grandfather (we called him Grandpa Dough-head because he would tease us and call us little dough-heads) was very excited about the opportunity to partner with his sons and start a new adventure.

Grandpa doughhead when young

(This is a picture of my great-grandfather, Don Lyman Anderson when young)

Shortly before leaving and selling their things in Utah, my great-grandpa was called to be a bishop.  For those who do not know what this means, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) members from the congregations are called to voluntarily serve as pastors of the congregations.  One scripture that my great-grandfather lived by is the one found in Matthew 6:33 which is:

Butseek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

While his personal desire was to go to the ranch with his sons, my great-grandfather loved God and His kingdom more than the things of the world.  He told his sons to go ahead without him as he felt called to serve as the bishop of the congregation, which he faithfully did for a number of years.

Just a few years after they bought the ranch, my grandfather and great-uncle were forced to sell the ranch and go their separate ways because the ranch wasn’t producing as they had hoped and couldn’t sustain two families.

Although the ranch proved to not be successful, I think it is a great example that my great-grandpa chose to follow God regardless of the outcome.  I’m confident that he is now in a better world now as he passed away when I was 4 years old.

grandpa doughhead

(This is “Grandpa Dough-head” as I remember him when I was a little boy)

As I reflect on this story and the scriptures mentioned, I wonder how well I’m doing with not putting things of the world before the kingdom of God.  I hope that I can continue the legacy that my grandpa left and put God first and pass it down to my kids.

Do you have any personal stories that have inspired you about those who have put the kingdom of God first?

From the get-go, there has been intense opposition to the Book of Mormon.  If you are an outsider looking into Christianity, you may wonder where the most opposition has come from since the whole Book is saturated with references to Jesus Christ, his divinity and mission.  Interestingly enough, the opposition has come from Christians of various denominations from the day Joseph Smith started telling people about it.

I’m reading the History of Joseph Smith by his mother and I read a story I had never heard before about a group of Quakers coming to her house and ransacking the place “in the name of God” so they could find the Book of Mormon and destroy it. That was just the beginning of persectution and ultimately the Latter-day Saints were driven from their homes and many were killed.

Although persecution towards the Mormons today isn’t as physically intense, it still exists verbally.

One of the things that baffles my mind is when I hear preachers, and/or hear reports of preachers bashing Mormons and other faiths over the pulpit.  That is another form of abuse the Mormons deal with and don’t even know about it.  It has come to the point that when I say I’m a Mormon to a Christian I just expect to hear their tone of voice change and their countenance change and the more religious of a Christian they are, the less tolerant they are in many cases (from my experience).  I’ve had them tell me I’m on the pathway to Hell, that I don’t believe in their Jesus and the list goes on.

I used to be offended and hurt when Christians treated me like this, but I’ve grown to try and see things for what they are. First, Jesus has commanded us to love those who despise and reject us and as His follower, I try to do this, which I’m not always the best at. Next, they’ve had years of people telling them stuff about Mormons that may or may not be true and are conditioned to be afraid to engage in conversation.  Some things are 1/2 true and other things are outright lies.  Next, in many cases, they may have never met a Mormon before, so fear is involved.  Finally, I wonder if deep down they may be afraid that the Book of Mormon is actually true and that will damage their faith.

On the other hand, I have spoken with Christians who feel that Mormons are rude to them. They say Mormons are arrogant and flaunt that they are the “one true religion in Christianity” and don’t allow their kids to associate with their children.

Clearly, there are significant misconceptions on both sides of the aisle and I’ve often wondered if there is a way to bridge the gap. I’m sure that Jesus looks down and isn’t pleased with contention between Christian faiths.

With these thoughts and experiences in mind, I reached out to my friend, Cal, who has frequented Graceforgrace for a few years now.  He’s been an awesome contributor to the blog and has helped countless people come closer to God through his prayers and experiences that he shares.

He is a Christian and attends regularly.  He hears the stuff that people say over the pulpit about Mormons and the awesome thing is that he not only believes in the Book of Mormon, but he shares his testimony about it to other Christians.

Below is an interview that I had with him about his testimony about the Book of Mormon and his ministry:

Interview with Cal about his Testimony of the Book of Mormon

  1. What is your Christian background?

I became a Christian on June 6, 1983, after reading a prayer that included Romans 10:9, which says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Upon repenting and deciding to follow Jesus, a peace came into my heart and an assurance that I was now an accepted member of his family with my sins forgiven on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself in my place.

I then began attending a church of the charismatic variety. They stress praise and worship, meaning singing praise songs to the Father or to Jesus, usually many songs in a row, which attracts the presence of the Spirit. Charismatics also encourage the manifestations of the gift of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, such as physical healing, miracles, prophecy, and speaking in tongues, all brought about by faith.

  1. What led you to looking into Mormons?

Curiosity, desire for adventure, and being contacted by Mormon missionaries (elders).

  1. How did you come to the conclusion Mormons are Christian?

It was a long process. The big ah-ah moment came when visiting the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in South Royalton, Vermont. I saw something on the wall indicating that the Mormon Church believes Jesus is the Son of God. I remembered 1 John 4:15: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” I believe it was shortly after that that I dared to begin reading the Book of Mormon—I say “dared” because, like many non-Mormon Christians, I was afraid of being deceived. However, I discovered agreement with the Bible, and after my suspicions died down, I began to realize that it was lifting my faith and strengthening my spirit in same way the Bible does.

  1. Do you believe in the Book of Mormon and other LDS scripture?

The Book of Mormon appears to me to be about 99% accurate. Not only that, but also, like the Bible, I find an amazing balance—important truths are treated as such, less important truths are treated as such, and the whole gospel, including God’s wrath, are given attention.

The Doctrine & Covenants is loaded with prophecies that obviously came from the Lord, but some toward the end, in my view, did not.

  1. If you do believe then why aren’t you Mormon?

A major reason I’m not Mormon is that I feel that becoming one would be inconsistent with what God has called me to do, namely, encouraging unity among all Christians. The LDS believes it alone makes up the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, which contributes to the break between non-Mormon Christians and Mormon Christians. Also, I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a restorer of the church, though I like him, respect the larger part of his ministry and gifts, and am glad that many are finding salvation in Christ through Joseph Smith’s message.

6. Tell us about your ministry to help Christians see Mormons are Christians.

At this point my ministry consists mainly of a small website directed toward evangelicals. A key page is http://www.evangelicalsandmormonsforjesus.com/fast-facts.htm , which has Bible verses of doctrines essential for entering God’s kingdom juxtaposed with LDS doctine to show that the LDS fulfills God’s requirements for a Christian organization.

  1. How do you know God has called you to this mission?

The urging of the Holy Spirit and the joy I receive from spreading the message that the LDS is Christian. I have also received personal prophetic words from prophetically gifted ministers that confirmed that I’m on God’s track for me. (I’m glad God sometimes has a chance to bypass the unrenewed minds of his people—if these ministers had known in their minds what they were encouraging me to do, they probably would not have said what they did!)

  1. What push-back have you received from fellow Christians as you’ve defended Mormons?

For starters, very few non-Mormons have encouraged me. When they learn what I’m doing, they usually try to correct me or simply look down on me as someone seriously mistaken and deceived. My wife is with me whole-heartedly and my Lord encourages me: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12)!

  1. What success have you had with your ministry?

Many people are spending some time on my website. Besides that, it’s hard to tell. I’ve received a small number of encouraging letters from evangelicals. Ironically, more Mormons contact me than non-Mormons. Apparently, after enduring verbal abuse for so long, Mormons are refreshed by my defense of them and appreciate it.

Moving beyond what I’m trying to do to God’s big picture, I am excited by the many little signs I see that barriers between us are coming down. For example, just moments ago, I noticed an article listed on google titled, “Evangelical visits to BYU signal a new evangelical-Mormon détente”

10. What are the commonalities and differences between your belief and what Mormons believe?

Commonalities: Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords; he suffered for our sins so we could be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit (what Mormons call the gift of the Holy Ghost); on the third day he rose from death and is now seated next to the Father, mediating for us; Jesus, under the direction of the Father, created the universe, rules the universe, and will judge all men. God is calling all to repentance, faith in Jesus, and baptism. Doing these will lead to blessings; not doing them will lead to misfortune. God is calling us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves with the enablement of his grace. Joseph Smith was prophetically gifted.

Here are key areas where I differ: Joseph Smith taught some error, mainly, if not totally, during the latter part of his life. The LDS is one among many Christian denominations but not the full extent of the kingdom of God on earth. The church of Christ has needed, and still needs, restructuring, reformation, more revelation, and revitalization; but not a restoration of priesthood authority since that authority never totally left the earth.

I believe our commonalities should bond us together for the sake of pleasing God and winning the lost (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17). Our differences can be worked out in time as we worship together, fellowship with each other, and pray together. I’m not claiming it’s going to be easy. In fact, “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

Thanks to GraceforGrace for helping to bridge the gap between us.

For those of you not familiar with the prophet, Joseph Smith’s “first vision”, I’ll start with a short video that depicts it along with his writings.  Joseph Smith was the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  An important note is that in the video below, it doesn’t depict how Satan tried to overcome Joseph Smith before Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to him.  For a full account, you can read his history here.

My thoughts on first vision

I think that the first vision is a testimony that God works through small and simple things that challenge the worlds’ views. Joseph Smith was an unlearned boy of only 14 years. He couldn’t write well and didn’t attend school. However, he had great faith and desire to know God’s will and he was humble and sincere by asking. He didn’t just flippantly pray on a whim. Rather, he had pondered things in his mind and heart for months and perhaps years and on his own came to the conclusion that only God can give him the wisdom he needs.
I would do well to apply this in my life. Daily. Remember that I am nothing and if I want wisdom and strength to overcome Satan’s power and also know what God wants me to be and do, I need to ponder in my mind and sincerely ask for strength and guidance.

Principles learned from First Vision
1. God answers the humble prayer of an honest seeker
2. Heavenly Father is separate from Jesus and loves Jesus as a son
3. Jesus is Heavenly Father’s messenger and does what Father wants him to do.
4. Satan is real and tries to hinder our progression
5. If we’re tempted, it takes effort on our part to exercise faith and call upon God. Only God can dispel Satan through our faithfulness. If we have God with us, Satan has no power.
6. Satan is more powerful than we are alone. We need God to overcome Satan.
7. Be humble and God can work miracles with us.

What are your thoughts on the first vision and what other principles can we learn and apply to our lives?

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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