I recently read the popular book, Unbroken, and I was again amazed by what Tom Brokaw rightly called my grandparents’ generation: the Greatest Generation.  They had to go through challenges like the Great Depression and World War II and rebuild our nation.  The values they had as a whole and their work ethic and courage is something that we should never let die and I hope to share the positives aspects of the legacy of the people in that generation with my children.

As I reflected on the Greatest Generation, I thought I would reach out to a World War II Veteran I know, love, admire, and respect greatly–my Grandpa Anderson.

IMG_20150524_153149006

Nephi Anderson in World War II.

My grandfather, Nephi Jay Anderson, was a very young man and at the age of 18 was called to serve in World War II.  He describes his experience with being called to the War in his own words:

Knowing that I would soon be drafted into the service, I received a health and comfort blessing on the 10th of January, 1944 by Patriarch Charles Woodbury…This blessing was a big comfort and guide to me, especially through the discouraging times and temptations through my army experiences.  I am thankful for the admonishing that it gave with a promise that if I kept myself clean and pure and lived the Word of Wisdom, I would go to the service and return in safety and that I would fulfill my mission upon the earth. (Nephi Anderson Life History, pg 29-30)

He was sent to basic training for a few months of training and was in the company that was assigned to be sent over seas and replace those in the heat of battle.  While he was in basic training, he wondered how his blessing was going to be fulfilled that he would return safely because he was projected to be in the heat of battle.  He described how back in those days during boot camp they would use live fire in training as they crawled through the mud with real machine gun bullets flying over their heads.  He witnessed comrades who panicked and looked up and were killed on the spot.  It was a very stressful time for him not only for the rigors of preparing for battle and wondering if he was going to live, but trying to keep his LDS, or Mormon standards while many of the soldiers tried to trick him into drinking and in his words “chasing wild women”.

Right at the end of his boot camp, he received orders that he and a handful of others had been selected to stay for additional training and he was going become a radio operator.  This was a 9 week course that kept him back from being sent over to the front lines of war.  This proved to be what helped fulfill the prophecy given in the blessing that he would be safe during the war.  More than 1/2 of his comrades who were in his original company were killed in battle.

In fact, his cousin, Phil Finlinson, was killed during the Battle for Iwo Jima.  A description of Phil, written by his brother, Paul, to honor his memory is included below:

Phil Finlinson

Phil Finlinson

In the Fall of 1943, Phil was looking forward to his final year at Delta High School.  After playing quarterback on their undefeated football team as a Junior, he was anticipating another great year of football, basketball, track and other school activities.  He was also serving as the school’s Studentbody Vice-President…

But at this time, Uncle Sam had a different idea.  World War II was raging heavily…On October 4th, 1943, the US Government requested Phil to report for his pre-induction physical at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah…

On October 19, 1943, he left for the Marines and reported to Camp Pendleton, California for intensive combat training.  He was in excellent physical condition and handled the rigorous training in stride.  He became an expert rifleman and gifted and dependable Marine.

The description goes on to discuss how Phil was part of the group that aided in the invasion of Saipan and Tinian in the Marshall Islands and how up to that point it was the costliest battle of the Japanese war, but they emerged victorious.  He and his group went back to Hawaii for additional training and conditioning for a mission that turned out to be the invasion of Iwo Jima.

iwo jima flag

Famous photo of Flag Raising on Iwo Jima 

The description continues:

The invasion of Iwo Jima began on the morning of February 19, 1945. Phil’s company was part of the 2nd wave to hit the beaches.  He was killed within two hours of wading ashore.  The fighting was fierce and the casualties extremely heavy.  The Japanese were well trained, fortified, and well supplied.  Of the 250 men in Phil’s company, all were killed but seven.  All seven were badly wounded.

Even after all the years that have gone by since that day, I could sense the loss my grandfather felt with his friend and cousin who had sacrificed everything on that day.  Additionally, my Grandpa was deeply humbled that the Lord had protected him (my Grandfather) throughout the war.

He discussed how lonely he felt during the war being so far away from home, being in a foreign land, and being surrounded by temptations to do things against his belief system.  He describes his feelings in his own words:

I never realized at the time that the Lord was blessing me all the time and answering my prayers in a way that was preparing me to rely on the power of prayer and put my complete trust in the Lord. I will forever be thankful to my parents who taught me right…

I will always remember the day my parents took me to the train and bid me goodbye.  Never before had I felt of my parents love for their son like I did that day and the love that I felt for them.  Their love and concern touched the inner most part of my soul as we embraced.  Their last words were: “We love you son. We have faith in you. Trust in the Lord, keep yourself clean and pure, and always remember we would rather you come home clean and pure in a box, than unclean and alive.  Our prayers are for and with you always.  Always pray to the Lord and read the scriptures often and also your patriarchal blessing.  Always remember the great promises.”

Those words sank deep into my heart from that time on my Savior became my very best friend.  I learned to rely in him constantly and constantly prayed to him…

I will be forever grateful for my Grandpa Anderson’s service in the war and as I reflect on Phil Finlinson, a distant cousin of mine, who was killed in battle, I am humbled as well.  These men sacrificed so much to help shape many of the good things about our nation and allow us to enjoy the freedoms and privileges we do today.

I’m also extremely grateful for my Grandpa’s courage to stand up for righteousness at such a young age and develop a close bond with the Lord.  It has blessed my family and many others as well over the years, I’m sure.

My grandfather is nearly 90 years old and is among the youngest people who served in World War II.  I’m sad to see that generation passing on, but I hope to do a small part and preserve their legacy by sharing this story.

As a backdrop for this post, here is John 4:7-11:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

When I read this scripture, I yearn to feel this kind of love.  Often, I feel selfish, full of sin and imperfect.  I am all of those things.  Sometimes I ponder and try to understand things of the gospel like the Atonement of Christ, God’s plan, scriptures, why things happen,etc. and there isn’t any answer.  I’ve also struggled in the past with forgiving others and have shared experiences with miracles that have happened in my life to be able to not only forgive, but to forgive and love those who wronged me.  It’s a miracle when this happens.

My mother shared with me an interesting story about love, accepting Jesus into one’s life, repentance, and forgiveness, which I’ll outline below.

A New Friend

alzheimersMy mom had some friends who asked her to visit their ailing grandfather, who was in a care center that focuses on Alzheimers patients.  When she started visiting the patient, she felt moved to get to know other patients as well, going above and beyond her “duty”.

As she made bi-weekly visits, she got to know many people in the facility and their family members.  One lady she got to know very well along with her brother who would visit her daily.  This lady was special because no one in the center had been able to speak or communicate with her for years except for her brother, but my mom was blessed to be able to connect with her.

Over the years, they not only connected, but became friends.  Mom knew the lady well and would share stories back and forth with her.  However, every time she asked the lady if she could pray, the lady declined.  Her brother told my mom that it was because she was mad at God and had decided she didn’t want to communicate with Him.

The End

One day, my mom came to visit and her friend was deathly ill.  Actually, they thought she was in a coma because she hadn’t communicated for over a week with anyone and also hadn’t eaten.  She should have been dead.  Her brother told her it was OK to go, but for some reason she was still holding on.

When my mother came, she said that day she was filled with the Holy Spirit and knelt down beside her friend.  She took her friends hand and immediately, the friend’s corners of her mouth turned upward in a slight smile.  My mother offered words of comfort, encouragement, and hope to her.  Then she asked her if she could pray with her.  This time, the lady squoze mom’s hand and indicated she did indeed want a prayer.

During the prayer, mom said she was speaking words completely guided by the Holy Spirit.  At one point, she said something about the lady being able to forgive the man who had abused her.  Mom didn’t know anything about this, but the words just came out of her mouth.  She went on to pray for healing, and for the lady to have the ability to repent for her hard feelings she had harbored.

After the prayer, her brother pointed down to her eyes and a little tear was coming out of her eye.  Her brother told my mom that she had been abused as a young lady by someone and that was what my mom had been prompted to pray for.  My mom continued speaking with the lady and over the course of a few minutes the lady indicated through squeezing my mothers hand that she had forgiven the man, accepted Jesus’ healing power of the Atonement and had repented.  Peacefulness settled into her tortured body, mom asked her if she would be there to greet her when it was her time. Within 1/2 hour she passed on.

Love

In this situation, my mother was an excellent example of how we can open up ourselves to feeling the love of God and reaching out to love others.

She could have just done her “duty” and visited the man her friends wanted her to visit.  However, through the love of God she has, she was moved to visit others and do as Jesus would do had he been there.

Not only did she visit others, but she witnessed of Christ and His atonement to others as she felt guided by the Spirit.  This led to miracles in the life of at least one lady, and I’m sure there are others that were blessed through my mothers’ efforts that she hasn’t told me about.

I pray that I can feel this kind of love and not be afraid to act on the promptings I receive from the Spirit.  I know that as we open ourselves up to the Lord, we can make a huge difference in the world.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.–James 1:27

This is a follow up to the FREETOWN article I wrote a couple weeks ago.  It opens today so don’t forget to get out and watch the movie if you’re close to a theater.

Below is the interview with Adam Abel, the director for FREETOWN:

(Adam is the one on the far left)

(Adam is the one on the far right)

Can you tell everyone who doesn’t know about you yet who you are and why you do what you do?
I am motivated by the power of story telling. I love the visual medium that film provides. I am drawn to story’s that explore the human experience and are based on true stories. As an audience member myself, I like to see and find hope in entertainment because I need such in my own life.
What was your inspiration in choosing to produce Freetown?
I first heard Garrett talk about Freetown while attending a film festival in early 2014. I was excited to hear the story and feel Garrett’s obvious passion for it. Garrett officially pitched me on the idea of partnering to make Freetown in May 2014. I admired his success with The Saratov Approach and felt Freetown was a great project to bring our individual strengths together and see what we could create. The script Melissa Leilani Larson and Garrett had written was thrilling, entertaining and inspirational. I was all-in.
What are you hoping that people take away from watching the movie?
First and foremost I hope people are entertained. Once that has occurred I hope they are inspired and motivated by the themes explored in the movie. No matter your place in life we all need to “keep moving forward.” The idea of “Faith overcomes Fear” is relevant no matter your place in life.
What inspirational moments did you have during the filming process?
I was struck, every day on set, by the passion and efforts made by our cast and crew in making Freetown. There is one moment in the film where a congregation of believers sing a hymn. The tangible spirit that accompanied their performance that day was unforgettable.
What was the most challenging part of the filming process?
Making “independent” films are challenging, no matter the circumstance. Add to that being in a foreign land, working with an unfamiliar cast/crew and there are certain to be challenges. But with every challenge we faced there was a compensating miracle to accompany it. One particular challenge we faced, early in our production schedule, was the wreck of a drone copter. It was fully submerged in a river during the wreck. Aerials in Freetown are used to demonstrate that God is always watching. It was imperative the copter get fixed but we were in West Africa and there wasn’t an easy or cheap way to get it fixed. We bought about 50 lbs of rice and used an airtight container. After 36 hours the copter not only worked but performed as we needed it to for the rest of the production.
What was the most exciting part of the filming process?
The most exciting part of the process for me is to be able to look back and see that 9 months ago we didn’t know anyone in West Africa but now have a completed film that is being well received by audiences around the world.
Tell us about the actors in the film.  
They were great. The talent available to us in West Africa was exactly what we need to make the film.
Will the movie be shown at all major theaters, or certain ones?  
The film is being released on April 8 around the country. We will be in 100+ theaters on April 8. Our distributor, Purdie Distribution, has done a great job spreading our 100+ screens out so we can reach a wide audience. AMC/REGAL/CINEMARK are some of the chains we are showing in. The film only succeeds if our audience support us opening weekend.
Where is the best place to learn more about the movie?
Our website www.freetownthemovie.com and facebook.com/freetownmovie are great places to learn more.
Where was the movie filmed?
Accra, Ghana.
How do you select which actors and partners to work with and why did you choose who you did for this film?
Filmmaking is a collaborative art form. Actors, Musicians, Cinematographers, set designers, to name a few are all artists and can on their own create their individual art. Filmmaking brings various disciplines together and in my opinion elevates individual contributions thru a successful collaboration and completion.

FREETOWN releases nationwide on Wed., April 8
It has a limited release so see it on that day/weekend!
To find a theater near you, visit http://www.FreetowntheMovie.com

FREETOWN poster

Our little 6 year old daughter came home after church a few weeks ago and asked my wife why she was crying while the Primary was singing the song “Gethsemane”.  She said she felt good inside but also felt like crying.

As a father, I was so glad to hear this.  We spend so much time praying for her and trying to teach her how to strengthen her relationship with God and know Him through prayer and scripture study, church attendance, serving others, etc.  She has often asked me how she can understand if God is speaking to her so it was a perfect teaching opportunity to share with her that He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, which speaks to our spirits through feelings such as she experienced during the song.

I’ve included a very good video that has the song to help us as we each take time this weekend to reflect on the gift of the atonement that Jesus gave us.

Have a blessed and happy Easter!

When civil war broke out in Liberia in late 1989, eight native Liberian missionaries of the Church were serving in the country. By July 1990, conditions were so bad that those missionaries were shuttered inside their homes, unable to preach the gospel and forced to risk death just to meet with members.

With their work grinding to a complete halt, Elders Marcus Menti and Joseph Myers, zone leaders in Monrovia, determined to go wherever they had to in order to complete their missions and serve as they had been called to do. That meant leaving Liberia, so together with the other four missionaries serving in Monrovia—Taylor Selli, Joseph Forkpah, Roverto Chanipo, and Dave Gonquoi—they devised a plan. With the help of Philip Abubakar, a counselor in the local branch presidency and the missionaries’ driver, the elders planned to travel north to Sierra Leone, cross the border, then continue to Freetown, where their mission presidency had already been compelled to flee.

(Excerpt from article The Lord Provided A Way)

Having served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realize that it can be dangerous out there. However, when I read the article last year about missionaries who had been caught in a civil war in Africa that had to escape while rebels pursued them, I realized the challenges I faced on my mission are very minimal. The article was very inspiring, and intense. I was excited to learn that there was going to be a movie made from their experience as they overcome severe challenges to escape the country while being hunted down and threatened to be killed by the rebels.

I was able to catch up with Adam Abel (known for Saints and Soldiers and other movies), the producer of the movie, along with Garrett Baty (known for the movie, Saratov Approach), the director of the movie. They were kind enough to allow me access to the press screening of the movie and also do an interview with each of them about the making of the movie.

As I watched the press screening of the new movie, FREETOWN, which is on limited release and opening in theaters on April 8th, I was amazed at the faith of the elders as they were pursued by their enemies during the civil war in 1989. Their faith and desire to teach the gospel is amazing and the way God protects them while the rebels pursue them and nearly capture and kill them on a few occasions is amazing. The filming is great and done in Africa with African actors so it has a very authentic feel to it. It is definitely an inspiring movie that is also entertaining with intense scenes/situations.

As mentioned, I was able to catch up with both Adam and Garrett. Garrett’s interview is included below with some pictures of the filming of the movie. Adam’s interview will be published next week.

Interview with Garrett Baty, Director of FREETOWN

Garrett Baty

What was your inspiration in choosing to direct Freetown?

I read a short article about missionaries caught in a civil war in Liberia. I was intrigued because these were African missionaries, in a situation completely foreign to me, yet their motivations were very relatable. After reading their own accounts of what took place, I was determined to retell their experience in a film.

What are you hoping that people take away from watching the movie?

In addition to being entertained, I hope they appreciate the courage and determination that these missionaries had. I hope that after seeing the film, people will look at their own challenges, and feel motivated to overcome them. A prevalent theme throughout the film is “Keep Moving Forward,” which is really resonating with audiences.

Elders hunted down

What inspirational moments did you have during the filming process?

The production process was incredibly challenging, however I recognized daily “miracles” that enabled us to accomplish what we were trying to do. In researching the story, I interviewed a Liberian refugee, now in Ghana, living amongst some of the very rebels who caused him so much loss and suffering. I asked how he was able to live in such close proximity to those who were responsible for his loss. He taught me about forgiveness and moving forward, in a way that I will never forget. He stated “You can’t replace spilled water. If someone drops the vessel, you work together to get a new vessel, and fill it with new water.” His example is incredibly inspiring.

baptism freetown

What was the most challenging part of the filming process?

It was challenging to be away from family for 6 weeks. Making any film is difficult, and typically it is nice to go home each night and recover from the time on set. When you are half a world away from your loved ones, it give you a lot of time to dwell on the challenges of the day.

What was the most exciting part of the filming process?

It was exciting each day to see the footage that was being shot. We filmed a chase sequence with rebels chasing missionaries through a village, and it was a very exciting day on set. Each day’s footage was like opening a Christmas present, especially knowing how difficult it was to obtain each shot.

Freetown gun

Tell us about the actors in the film.

We auditioned over 125 actors for the film, and were amazed at the talent we were able to find. The film features some stirring performances, and the actors handled these scenes very well. We were also fortunate to have several recognizable veteran actors appear in key roles throughout the film. It was fun to have these famous Ghanain actors show up on set and be swarmed by fans. It’s not often that an independent film attracts that type of talent.

Garrett Baty with the actors

Will the movie be shown at all major theaters, or certain ones?

FREETOWN opens in elect theaters across the U.S. on April 8th. We’re very fortunate that AMC, Cinemark, Regal and Megaplex, along with other national chains have picked up the film. Purdie Distribution is distributing the film.

Where was the movie filmed?

FREETOWN was shot in West Africa, in and around Accra, Ghana.

What makes this film unique?

FREETOWN is unique because it is an important, faith-affirming story, set in a time and place that wouldn’t typically be inspiring. The Liberian civil war isn’t addressed very often on film, and when it is, usually the focus is on the brutality and harshness of the circumstance. FREETOWN is an experience unlike anything that audiences have seen.

How did you select which actors and partners to work with and why did you choose who you did for this film?

I approached Adam Able to be my producing partner on this film because of his vast experience in telling war stories with an inspiring message. I chose to work with screenwriter Melissa Lealani Larson after reading a short film that she had written, and seeing that she had a wonderfully honest and unique style.

FREETOWN releases nationwide on Wed., April 8
It has a limited release so see it on that day/weekend!
To find a theater near you, visit http://www.FreetowntheMovie.com

FREETOWN poster

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!!

12th_man_raising-7530771024x768

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.

monson-quote-christmas-1183546-tablet

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?

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