You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2009.
Over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Why do People Leave the LDS Church?” It has since become one of my most frequented posts and recently received a comment from a sincere seeker of Jesus who has just left the LDS church. She has started a blog called Musings on Mormonism that shows her sincerety as a seeker of Jesus and her story of being a Mormon and chosing to leave the LDS church, yet devoting herself to following Jesus. I respect her choice and also commend her for following her heart and pray that she brings people closer to Jesus.
Her experience was very similar to the experience the experience of Shawn McCraney’s. Recently I read his book called “I was a Born Again Mormon.” In this book, he describes his experience as an LDS elder and missionary and also is conversion to Christianity and leaving the LDS church. I didn’t agree with a lot of what he wrote, but one thing I did agree with was that it is important to be born again. His definition of what a born again Mormon is and mine are drastically different, but I do agree with him in the fact that we as Mormons (and everyone for that matter) need to be born again.
I feel that it is unfortunate that many of our fellow Christians feel that we are not truly born again and believers in Jesus. No one is perfect, but if we are not doing things out of the love we have for Jesus, then we need to repent and become truly born again.
In John, chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus one must be born again to see the kingdom of God. In the Book of Mormon in Alma, chapter 7 it states we need to be born again through repentance and baptism as well. There are many other scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Bible for those who want to study being born again. Clearly it is something necessary and something that we as LDS should be talking about and thinking about.
In 2007, Elder Bednar, one of the Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ, gave a great sermon called “Ye Must be Born Again.” In this sermon, he discusses the importance in being born again and accepting Jesus:
We are instructed to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), to become “new creature[s]” in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off “the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn.
I would like to share with you when I experienced a “mighty change in heart” and was born again as a new creature in Jesus.
During a proselyting mission in Frankfurt, Germany I had had many discussions with non-believers and people who challenged my faith of if there was a God and if Jesus was real. I struggled with my faith for awhile and questioned if there was a God and if Jesus was really the Savior.
During this time, I would sometimes feel angry with myself for feeling this way and viewed myself as a hypocrite. I concluded that if I really wanted to know Jesus I would need to immerse myself in His word and pray, which is exactly what I did. In order to know Jesus, I decided I would read the book Jesus the Christ, by James Talmage along with the New Testament. I studied and prayed for over 8 months and learned a lot, but never did receive a “born again” experience. I actually wasn’t really looking for a sign and had the faith that God would reveal truth to me in His own time and way.
One morning, it happened. As I was praying, I felt completely overcome with a love and joy for Jesus that I had never felt before. Words to a poem, which I may share at some later point entitled “I’m With You ’til the End” came to mind and I dictated as the Spirit of God spoke to me through my writing. As I watched the words fall onto the paper describing who Jesus is and what His mission in life was and how He’s always there to help me, I felt my heart change and my love and desire to share the good news of the gospel overcome me. I wept in gratitude as God had answered my prayers.
That experience was more than 12 years ago now, but it is etched into my heart. I’ve made many mistakes since then, but I am a drastically different person since becoming a new creature in Jesus than I was before. I know that I have the opportunity to daily give my heart to Jesus and that He’ll lead me in all I do. As I try daily to give my heart to Jesus then I notice that I gradually become more like Him in my desires to serve others and to love as He did. Life, relationships, and everything becomes more meaningful.
Those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ should always remember that in all we do nothing matters unless we do it unto the Lord. Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters should never feel that we as Mormons are not born again and new creatures in Jesus, for without Him, nothing else matters.
If you are a Mormon, how would you describe your “born again” experience?
Also, if you are a fellow non-LDS Christian, feel free to share your born again experience as well.
For more good posts on Mormons being born again visit:
LDS Alive in Christ (this one is a beautifully written testimony by the author of the site of how he became born again. Highly Recommended)
For those not familiar with the Willie and Martin handcart company of the early Mormon pioneers, it is a tragic story in which many members of the party died or were severely injured. I will give a very brief description of the events surrounding the trek.
Due to unforseen events and financial restraints, Brigham Young designed a way for the poor LDS Saints in Europe to make the trek across the Atlantic and most of the United States to gather to Zion, in Utah. Handcarts were seen as the solution and the first 3 handcart companies made it to Utah without any problem.
Franklin D Richards was the Apostle appointed by Brigham Young to oversee the emigration of LDS Saints to Europe. According to the blog entitled “Intelligent Obedience” John Taylor (a senior apostle) had advised Franklin Richards not to encourage Saints to leave so late in the year of 1856 and to wait until the next year. However, Richards boldly told the Saints in Europe that it was God’s will that they go and that God would part the storms as He did for Moses if they but had faith. Over 1,000 Saints took up the journey.
Upon arrival at Iowa City, the Saints encountered set-backs that delayed their departure until mid-late July. Most of the Saints were naiive to the harsh terrain and climate that lay ahead. There was one amoungst them, however, who was familiar with the terrain whose name was Levi Savage. Savage had circled the globe serving as a missionary to Burma and had literally sacrificed his time in a way that many can not imagine. He had also made the trek to Salt Lake City and knew of the dangers in leaving so late in the year.
Levi Savage (in the words from his own personal journal) said on August 12th:
Today we commenced preparing for our journey and ascertaining who wishes to go on this fall and who wishes to remain here. Many are going to stop. Others are faltering and I myself am not in favor of, but much opposed to, taking women and children through when they are destitute of clothing, when we all know that we are bound to be caught in the snow and severe cold weather long before we reach the valley.
When asked by President Willie to share his thoughts with the company on leaving so late in the year Savage (again in his own words from his personal journal) said on August 13th:
Brother Willey exhorted the Saints to go forward regardless of suffering even to death. After he had spoken, he gave me the opportunity of speaking. I said to him that if I spoke I must speak my mind, let it cut where it would. He said certainly to do so. I then related to the Saints the hardships that we should have to endure. I said that we were liable to have to wade in snow up to our knees and shovel at night, lay ourselves in a thin blanket and lie on the frozen ground without a bed. I said that it was not like having a wagon that we could go into and wrap ourselves in as much as we like and lay down. “No,” said I, “we are without wagons, destitute of clothing and could not carry it f we had it. We must go as we are. The handcart system I do not condemn. I think t preferable to unbroken oxen and experienced teamsters. The lateness of the season was my only objection to leaving this point for the mountains at this time. I spoke warmly upon the subject, but spoke truth, and the people, judging from appearance and expressions, felt the force of it. (However, the most of them determined to go forward, if the authorities say so.) Elder Willey then spoke again in reply to what I had said, evidently dissatisfied. He said that the God that he served was a God that was able to save to the utermost. He said that was the God that he served, and he wanted no Job’s comforters with him. I then said that what I had said was the truth, and if Elder Willey did not want me to act in the place where I am, he is at full liberty to place another man in my stead. I would not think hard of him for it, But, I did not care what he said about Job’s comforters, I had spoken nothing but the truth and he knew it. Elder Atwood then spoke mildly and to the purpose. He said that he had been listening to what had been said. He exhorted the Saints to pray to God and get a revelation and know for themselves whether they should go or stay, for it was their privilege to know for themselves.
Clearly, Levi Savage thought it an absurd idea to leave so late in the year, but upon praying and wanting to follow their leaders, the majority of the Saints decided to make the journey.
At this point, Savage had the decision to either stay or to go with the Saints. He clearly disagreed with the authorities (Franklin Richards and President Willie) on making the trek. However, Savage showed the courage of a true disciple of Jesus, being willing to die for his fellow friends to help them. He realized they were naiive to the territory. Upon the conclusion of the meeting, Savage stated:
Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true, but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and if necessary I will die with you. May God have mercy bless and preserve us.
What great courage, faith and dedication he had! As I read this, I thought about the commitment the people of Alma made at the waters of baptism to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who are in need of comfort. I also thought about the apostle James’ description of what pure religion is.
Later on in the journey as the Saints were struggling in mid-September, Franklin Richards, the apostle, arrived with a few elders. When hearing of Savage’s opposition in Iowa City, Richards called a meeting and openly rebuked Savage for his lack of faith and for not following his leaders. Savage’s response was amazing as he records in his journal on September 12th that he had no idea there were hard feelings and he was sorry for offending anyone.
As I read his personal account I was amazed at his great humility. Clearly he was in the right and he could have become very bitter, but he chose to remain humble. The story continues with the unfortunate actions of Franklin Richards.
According to one of the Saints, John Chislett, Franklin Richards gave a stirring sermon but then proceeded to ask for a meal. The Saints out of respect took their finest calf and killed it, when they were in dire need of nourishment. Richards then proceeded to eat the meat and not even offer it to the Saints. In Chislett’s own words he describes the event:
“These brethren told Captain Willie they wanted some fresh meat, and he had our fattest calf killed for them. I am ashamed for humanity’s sake to say they took it. While we, four hundred in number, travelling so slowly and so far from home, with our mixed company of men, women, children, aged, sick, and infirm people, had no provisions to spare, had not enough for ourselves, in fact, these ‘elders in Israel,’ these ‘servants of God,’ took from us what we ourselves so greatly needed and went on in style with their splendid outfit, after preaching to us faith, patience, prayerfulness, and obedience to the priesthood. As they rolled out of our camp I could not, as I contrasted our positions and circumstances, help exclaiming to myself: ‘Look on this picture, and on that!’
“We broke camp at once and turned towards the river, the apostle having advised us to go on to the south side. He and his company preceded us and waited in the opposite bank to indicate to us the best fording place. They stood and watched us wade the river—here almost a mile in width, and in places from two to three feet deep. Our women and girls waded, pulling their carts after them.
“The apostle promised to leave us provisions, bedding, etc., at Laramie if he could, and to secure us help from the valley as soon as possible.”
As I read this account I was very apalled at the actions of the apostle. As I read further accounts Richards didn’t even leave any provisions or bedding at Fort Laramie (which may have been due to other circumstances), which led to the demise of many people as the winter storms hit.
After reading these accounts clearly there were many factors involved in the hundreds of deaths involved in the Willie Handcart Company. Many stories have been told about the heroic efforts of Saints in Utah that went to help them after they found out there were still some companies coming.
Throughout history, Levi Savage is sometimes known as one who opposed church authorities, and his name is sometimes mentioned as one of those who wasn’t a true Saint. However, I believe he stood as one of the true disciples of Jesus by not becoming bitter when his leaders were clearly in the wrong and also for putting his life on the line to help his fellow man. He is a good example for us to follow.
I read the most recent article by President Thomas Monson today about Faith and Prayer. I was touched by many of the faith promoting, scriptural examples he shares in this article and have written about it on another post.
Near the conclusion of this article, however, I read about how he (President Monson) received the gift of prophecy while serving as a mission president. He promised a young missionary that if he served faithfully his father would become a believer and be baptized into the gospel. The young elder then, in President Monson’s words “worked as if everything depended on him and prayed as if everything depended on the Lord.” The missionaries father was baptized a week before he came home from his mission.
This experience caused me to reflect on an experience I had while serving as a young missionary. When I was on my mission, we would meet with our mission president’s wife as well as our president. During one of our meetings, I expressed my concern for my younger brother, who was struggling spiritually at that time. I wanted to help him, but didn’t know what to do. It was amazing as my mission president’s wife had the spirit of prophecy come over her and she promised me in the name of Jesus that if I worked and prayed hard each day of my mission, my brother would not only overcome his struggles, but he would also serve a mission. I worked and prayed hard each day for my brother and the Lord heard my prayers. Two weeks before I came home I received a letter that he was going on a mission to the same country I had been serving in. There’s no doubt in my mind she was inspired by God to prophesy.
This experience led me to wonder about a few things within the LDS church. First, the culture of the church is such that men hold the priesthood (for those not familiar with this term it is commonly used in the LDS church as the authority to act in God’s name). As such, the youth meet with the bishops and other leaders of the church but do not have the opportunity to meet with sisters. I firmly believe that God’s gifts of prophecy are not soley for men. However, due to the culture of the LDS church being led by men, women rarely get to participate.
The second question I had as I reflected was one that my sister (who isn’t familiar with LDS practice) asked. She asked me why women couldn’t participate in blessing our new baby. I honestly didn’t know how to answer her because I know that women used to be able to participate in blessing their children (for more information on this, read Women, Anointing the Sick and Laying on of Hands).
I see nothing wrong with women participating in blessings, prophecyings, laying on of hands, etc. within their callings and jurisdictions. For example, one of the most sacred callings is that of father and mother. If a father and mother participate in using the priesthood to bless their children, is there something wrong with that? Also, if a mother feels inspired to prophecy to her child, or if she has a church calling is it fair to say she can prophecy for the people over whom she’s called to serve?
I personally feel that we could benefit by having the sisters more fully participate in priesthood opportunities within the church, but for some reason they don’t as they once did. I’d be interested to hear how the LDS sisters feel about this. Maybe they’re fine with it and I shouldn’t worry about it. All I know is that one of the most powerful prophecies of my life came to me from an inspired LDS sister.
For those of you who are LDS or attend meetings, how often have you heard the phrase “When I was on my mission…”? If you’re like me, it’s a phrase you hear almost as much as “I know this church is true.
Whenever I hear the “mission” phrase I think to myself “what about today?” Let me share an example.
Today in church we studied President Monson’s most recent article on faith and prayer. The teacher did a great thing, I thought and opened up discussion for people to share their experiences they’ve had with prayer.
As we were reading, I thought about an experience I’d had with my younger sister and thought it would be great to share. I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. I started the comment by saying “When I was on my mission I learned how to truly pray intimately with the Lord in someone’s behalf…” and then I preceded to explain a very personal and spiritual experience my sister and I had while we prayed together.
I hadn’t realized what I’d done until hands started firing up all over the place with people saying “When I was on my mission…” Suddenly, I realized what I’d done.
The whole rest of the lesson was about experiences people had had 5 -30 years ago while they were on their missions. I appreciate them sharing these comments, and have definitely been to worse meetings where people don’t even want to participate at all, but after the 5th time of hearing the “mission” phrase I started thinking about the LDS culture a bit more.
First, an LDS mission is amazing and filled with opportunities to grow closer to Jesus than almost anything else I’ve ever done. I was fully immersed in studying about the Lord and helping others. I’m sure this is why people love to talk about their missions. However, I asked myself the question: “What about today?”
That’s great that we had spiritual experiences to fall back on, but what are we doing today to have them? Maybe I’m off-base, but it seems that we as Mormons tend to fall back on our missions too often and don’t have daily spiritual experiences through faith and prayer like we once did.
What are your thoughts?