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Recently I had a close member of my family give me a movie called “Joseph Smith vs. the Bible” (actually, they left it in my car).  Since I’ve rarely had a Christian give me something about Mormons that wasn’t propaganda to try and convince Mormons they’re wrong, I really had no desire to watch it.  However, I did browse around to see if there were any reviews on the movie so I could have an idea what it was about if my family member asked me again.

Just as I had thought, the movie, according to both Christian reviews and LDS reviews, the movie was heavily one-sided.  The reviews do a good job of summarizing the movie and explaining what it is about, but in a nutshell, the host uses scripture to prove that Joseph Smith is a false prophet based on a few things he said such as the temple being built in Jackson County, Missouri (which it hasn’t been), and the Book of Mormon prophets saying Jesus would be born in Jerusulem rather than Bethlehem, along with a few other things.  He does have a random LDS guy on there that he talks with who isn’t really an expert or knowledgeable on some of the anti-Mormon stuff out there, but other than that, it appears pretty one-sided to both Christian and LDS viewers.

As a practicing Mormon, I could get offended and throw the movie back asking my family why in the world would you think I would want to see this?  I could even go further and start pointing out flaws in the Bible and prophets who fail the test so to speak.  However, I do not think that is the appropriate thing to do.

When a Christian gives me anti-Mormon information, these are the steps I usually try and follow.

1. Try and see things from their perspective

If you are a Mormon, chances are the Christian is trying to help you “see the light” so to speak.  Also, consider that some of Mormon theology is based on the fact that the Bible doesn’t have the complete truth, which is complete blasphemy for a Christian as the Bible is their source of authority on Jesus.  Therefore, they are trying usually with good intentions (I try and give the benefit of the doubt) to help you get on the right path. 

If you are a Christian, realize that a practicing Mormon will probably get a bit offended as for Mormons, authority comes from the voice of the prophets and by you attacking Joseph Smith, you are attacking a fundamental concept of their faith.  Just as you fee offended when a Mormon may say the Bible isn’t completely true, the Mormon will most likely feel the same way with an attack to the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith.

2. Do a bit of research on the book or movie, etc. before reading or watching it

For Mormons who receive the literature, if you feel comfortable watching it, go ahead and check it out.  Pay attention to the message and the feelings you have as you watch.  My experience has been that it usually is negative and not a positive experience as I feel it is usually trying to attack my faith and make Mormons look stupid.  Therefore, I just politely decline.

3. Return the information to the person politely

If I do not decline the original offer, I usually give it back.  When I return it, I acknowledge that they are trying to help me and I thank them for thinking of me.  However, I simply say I have read the reviews of the book or movie and choose not to watch this.

4. Share testimony

After I give it back, I share a quick testimony.  Something very simple like just saying that I’ve prayed and feel the path I’m on is the right one for me.  Sometimes I don’t even go into the fact I’ve prayed and had an answer and I just simply state that I firmly believe the path I’m on is right and leave it at that.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who have been offered anti-mormon literature (or who have offered it if you aren’t a Mormon).  For the LDS readers, what steps do you take?  For Christians who may have given anti-Mormon literature out, what were your intentions and how the the LDS person react?

Excommunication is defined by the LDS church as “A disciplinary process used only in extreme situations. This includes removal of an individual’s name from the records of the Church“. 

From my experience (which isn’t that extensive) with excommunication, one is removed for serious, repeated sexual sins or by having a very rebellious attitude towards the Church of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the years, I’ve often heard LDS members of the church say that the worst thing you can do is be excommunicated because the gift of the Holy Spirit is removed from you and you’re left to your own devices.

I believe that that statment is a falsehood designed by Satan to put despair into the hearts of those who are excommunicated.

I’ll share a story with you as to why I believe it is false that the Lord removes his Spirit from those who are excommunicated.

We were alone in a room in a church building.  The young man in front of me had just been excommunicated from the church and was sobbing in front of me.  I was the Elders Quorum President (mens group leader) at the time and I didn’t have answers for him that seemed to help.  He asked questions such as: Why did I choose to do the things I did?  How can I gain membership back into the church?  Did God abandon me?  Will I have the Holy Spirit and strength to re-commit myself to the Savior and His gospel?

As he cried and shared his feelings with me, I prayed silently “God help me help him feel your love and give him answers”.  Suddenly I remembered something I had done numerous times on my mission with investigators of the gospel.

I looked at him and told him I didn’t have the answers to his questions, or the ability to heal his heart and offer forgiveness and healing for his sins, but Jesus did. 

We dropped to our knees and I offered the first prayer.  I opened my heart to God thanking Him for the blessing of the gospel and for the Atonement of Jesus.  I asked Him for guidance and direction for this young man and that He would pour His love into the young man’s heart.

Next, the young man prayed.  I have seldom heart a more honest and sincere prayer as I did that day.  As the young man prayed, the Holy Spirit came into both of our hearts and we both knew the young man was forgiven.  We both knew the compassion and mercy God has for us when we are humble and come to Him offering our hearts to Him.

We both cried and were both strengthened in our relationship with the Lord.

One year later, I was able to witness and assist this young man as he was re-baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.

If this young man had believed the lie that the Spirit couldn’t be with him after he was excommunicated, he would have lost complete faith in God and never experienced the love of Jesus in such an amazing way.  He would have let go and never come back. 

For those of you who know someone who has been excommunicated I encourage you to reach out to them as Jesus would and show an increase in love.  Don’t judge them or look down on them or think they are not capable of feeling the Lord’s Spirit.  If you do judge them, you’re commiting a sin and have need of repentance!

For those who may be excommunicated, I know that God loves you and that you can still feel the Lord’s love and He will increase his love and spiritual protection for you as you open your heart in prayer, read his Holy Word, and remain humble.

Recently, I read an article that discussed a survey of American people and their finances they set aside for emergencies.  In the survey, 1/2 of Americans would not be able to come up with $2,000 in case of an emergency.  This puts the United States amoung the most fragile financial countries in the Western world (according to the article).

As I thought about how LDS church leaders repeat over and over again the importance of “saving for a rainy day” (as Gordon B Hinckley used to repeat), I also thought about some things I have heard members of the LDS and Christian communities say about dealing with finances.

In our Christian churches, we hear the importance of putting God first and hear the parable of the rich man who wouldn’t give everything up and follow Jesus.  We also hear the importance of paying tithing and not putting our heart on riches of the world.  I’ve heard people state that if they pay their tithing, everything else will take care of itself financially.  I’ve also heard from other Christians (not so much from LDS Christians) that Jesus is coming soon so there is no need to save money because it will all be destroyed at His coming anyways.

While I agree that we should pay tithing and not set our heart on riches, and if asked, be willing to turn everything over to the Lord, I do not agree with just paying tithing, or deciding not to save and hoping that things will “work themselves out”.  I definitely do not agree with sitting around and waiting for Jesus to come and not saving any money either!  I feel that we should do all in our power to save for a rainy day, as the prophets have taught, along with paying tithing and giving to the poor.

I’m not a financial wizard, but I have read quite a few Christian and LDS books on saving, getting out of debt, and living within our means.  By following these principles along with praying and guidance from the Lord, we have been able to reduce all of our debt (except our house payment) and also save for nearly a year’s worth of living expenses in case of an emergency. 

I believe there are three parts to being financially stable.  Paying tithing is only part of being financially responsible.  Getting and staying out of debt and saving for a rainy day are the other parts.

If someone reading this is struggling with all three of these areas, or just a couple, may I offer some suggestions:

First, if you are not paying tithing or giving to the poor, start doing so.  I firmly believe that this practice helps us keep our hearts where they should be in relation to God.  It also benefits others who are less fortunate.  If you can pay tithing when you have little, when you make more money, it is easier to not get your heart “set on riches” because you are already in the habit of giving back.

Second, if you are paying tithing, but are not paying yourself, start giving yourself a little money each month to prepare for the rainy days ahead.  If you don’t have much, just put a few dollars into a savings account each month.  Shoot for paying yourself at least 10% though.  Have it automatically withdrawn into a savings or money market account and do not stop until you reach at least 6 months of savings you may need should you lose your job.

Finally, pay off debts.  Some may argue that this should be second, before saving money for an emergency.  I believe that it is important to do both at the same time.  The reasoning behind this is that if an emergency hits and you haven’t been saving money, but paying debts down, there will be no where to go but further in debt.  Plus, saving money is a good habit to develop.  A very good talk that describes a strategy on getting out of debt that helped me is by Marvin J Ashton, an LDS Apostle, entitled “One for the Money“.

In conclusion, I know that it is important to pay God first, and I do know that He will bless us mostly spiritually when we do pay our tithing.  However, that is only the first step and by incorporating the other two steps of paying our debts off and staying out of debt and saving money for a rainy day, we can become financially stable in our lives, which allows us to reduce our stress and focus on helping and loving those around us as God would have us do.

With Fathers Day right around the corner, I thought I’d share this.  A few months ago in Elders Quorum (Mens Group), we had an excellent lesson on the roles of fathers to their children.  Part of the lesson included a list of ways fathers should give spiritual guidance to their children.  This list comes from the talk given in 1987 by Ezra Taft Benson (the LDS prophet at the time) entitled “To the Fathers in Israel“.  I’ll share the list with my comments to each point.

1.) Give Fathers Blessings to your Children

In the LDS church, Elders receive what is called the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Fathers who are Elders and hold this priesthood can give blessings to their children under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and say the words that God prompts them to say.  For those who are not LDS, saying a prayer under the guidance of the Spirit with your children is another way to do this.

Personally, I saw the value of fathers blessings while growing up.  I remember when I needed some extra help with school work or I was sick that I could always come to my father for a blessing.  It brought peace to me knowing I could do that and helped me on many occasions.

2.) Personally Direct Family Prayers, Scripture Study, and Family Home Evening (Family Night)

I think it is interesting that he doesn’t just say “have family prayer,etc.” but he makes a point to say “personally direct” family prayer.  I think it is important for children to see their father take initiative in spiritual matters.  I feel it is important mainly because children are used to seeing the “soft side” or “spiritual” side from mothers, but it can be more impactful coming from the father.

3.) Whenever Possible, Attend Church Services Together as a Family

It makes a big difference having the whole family at a church service.  It is important for children to see their fathers eager to learn and gain spiritual knowledge.  Also from a practical standpoint it is much easier to help teach children the importance of worship when the father is there to help the mother.

4.) Go on Daddy Daughter Dates and Father-Son Outings

During the lesson, this was the greatest thing that stood out to me.  Those of you who read regularly know I have a cute little 2 1/2 year old girl.  As I reflected on this message, I realized I didn’t set aside a specific and special time for us to go out.  I’ve only done it 3 times now, but what I did was schedule monthly daddy-daughter dates with her.  I’m sure that as long as I keep it in my schedule that we’ll be able to make it a habit.  I only worry about what we’ll do later on when she may not think I’m as cool as she does now (those of you with any older daughters, please share your advice!)

5.) Build Traditions of Family Vacations

One of my most charished memories as a child was a trip we all took to Yellowstone.  I remember floating with my family in a canoe in the river.  Although the water was totally cold, my parents seemed to have fun with each other and we all bonded as a family when a water fight broke out!

6.) Have Regular One-on-One Visits with Children

As a young kid my one-on-one visits with my father saved me spiritually on some occasions.  It seemed that my Dad was always inspired and had answers that could help me with decisions.  The one-on-one visits weren’t usually scheduled “interviews”, rather they were held usually as we were working on the farm together.

7.) Teach Children to Work

Work is something that my father definitely taught me.  As alluded to in the previous section, I feel it is important for fathers to work along side their kids.  Not only will it show them a good example and teach them how to work, but they will bond with you through conversation as well.

8.) Encourage Good Music, Art and Literature in Home

Right now, it is very easy to have good music with a 2 year old and a supportive wife.  Where I would be interested in hearing from readers are from those of you with older kids who want to listen to pop music that may not be the best.  How do you go about encouraging good music, literature, etc. in the home?

9.) Regularly Attend the Temple with your Wife

My wife and I used to work in the temple.  I notice that the more time we spend in the temple, the more patient, kind, and loving we are with each other.  I think it is crucial for parents to love each other if they want their kids to have the best chance against temptations out there. 

10.) Serve in the Church

I feel that church service is something that is good, but that shouldn’t take precidence over the other items mentioned previously.  I have seen people who focus too much on the church and their families are neglected.  I have seen where this causes animosity between the kids and the church because they feel it is taking too much time away from their Dad.  I have also seen personal relationships damaged because the father is building relationships with other people they serve in the church, while neglecting their own family. 

What are your thoughts about this list?  Do you have any other suggestions or experiences with this?

Thanks for the feedback!

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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