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Recently, a Sunday School lesson in our Mormon Church was on a Book of Mormon prophet named Enos.  His account is very short in the Book of Mormon, but it is a very important chapter in the Book.

In short, he describes a long prayer and process he goes through to receive forgiveness from his sins through Jesus Christ.  His description could be described as what is commonly known in Christian circles as a “born again” experience because he prays and confesses Jesus as his Savior and asks Him to take away his sins.  He then is filled with the Holy Spirit and prays for his fellow friends and his enemies alike.

As I reflected on Enos’ experience, it reminded me of my own.

When I was in my early teenage years, I had been already living a pretty devious life and was full of hatred and anger.  Through the grace of God I picked up a Book of Mormon and read it within a few weeks.  At the end of the Book of Mormon, I had a very big desire to pray and know if the concepts in the Book were true.  The concepts in the book include the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes: faith, repentance, baptism, committing our lives to the Lord, and receiving the Holy Spirit.

According to a modern Mormon prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, for every one person who has a “born again experience” such as Enos, there are thousands of people who do not have a huge manifestation of the Holy Spirit all at once.  Rather, it comes gradually as we keep the commandments of God.

I feel fortunate to have had an experience like that of Enos.  Immediately after I prayed, I felt a warmth come all over me and a love and desire to share the Good News with my fellow man.  From the age of 13 (when I had this experience) I had the desire to go on a mission and tell the world about the gospel.  My mission was everything I dreamed it would be.  Although I was in a country (Germany) whose people didn’t accept the gospel with open arms, I still grew to love the Lord and the German people.  If I hadn’t had this born again experience as a younger man, I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so motivated to go on a mission, and the experience is something I reflect on almost daily that sustains my faith now.

I would be curious to see how many people out there have had a “born again” experience.  If you have, please share.  If not, please share how you have experienced receiving the Spirit and a testimony of Jesus.

On Sundays we try and focus more on the Savior than we normally would during the week.  By this I don’t mean that we forget about God during the week and then do a turn-around on the Sabbath, but we try and make Sundays a little more focused on Jesus and His gospel.

One example is that we try not to watch movies or TV shows that aren’t centered around the Savior or the Gospel.

Our little girl, who is 3 1/2 years old, loves her Disney cartoons, but on Sunday we typically have her watch cartoons about Jesus.

Recently, we watched a cartoon about Jesus titled “Jesus the Son of God” that has the story of him as a young boy going to the temple and being left behind by his family.  It shows how his parents, Mary and Joseph searched all through the city and one of the last places they look was in the temple, where they find Jesus teaching the Jewish priests about fulfilling the Law of Moses.

As I watched the cartoon about Jesus, I thought about my own life and how many times I look for answers in many other places before going straight to a place (such as the scriptures, prayer, church, temple, etc) where I know I can find my answers from God.  Generally, when I do this, I receive answers in the form of peace and guidance.

I also thought of how many people are out there struggling to find peace and light in their lives and they search in all the wrong places.  It is my hope and prayer that I can be an instrument in God’s hand to help some people find Him.  It is also my hope and prayer that all of you can do the same.  I believe that as we do this together, many people will be blessed and find God.

P.S. for those of you with small children, or if you just like cartoons about Jesus, here’s a link to the video:

Recently, as most of you heard, the famous reporter from 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace, passed away.

Really, my only memory of him is the first interview he did with former Mormon prophet, Gordon B Hinckley.

Wallace describes his encounter with President Hinckley as being very open and different from any other Mormon prophet in the past.  He said that in the past, he would be turned down for an interview and that the Mormons.  In my opinion, this gave the impression of being closed off to the world and out of touch.

As a Mormon myself, I remember feeling skeptical about talking about my faith openly because that was the overall view of leaders and most Mormons back then.

When President Hinckley came out in the open in not only one, but a few interviews with Mike Wallace, which were aired nationally on 60 minutes, he answered the tough questions head-on and with confidence and cheerfulness.  I remember being a senior in high school and getting excited about my faith and the prospect of going on a Mormon mission in a year to share it.

While I was on my mission in Frankfurt, Germany, President Hinckley’s message “This Thing wasn’t done in a corner“. In this talk, he compares Paul’s encounter with King Agrippa in the Bible and how he was so bold in sharing the gospel publicly.  This talk stood out to me and re-energized me once again as he described his interview with Mike Wallace and how we shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel and sharing the message.

I don’t have any references other than observation to back this up, but after these series of interviews, Mormons worldwide saw their leader as he extensively traveled and gave interviews publicly.  I feel that all of us gained more confidence to speak of our faith more openly.

As the Mormons were seen more in the media, I feel people gradually came to accept Mormons and try to understand who we are.  I feel that Mormons began to do the same for other people.  As this synergy occurred, other things happened such as the Olympics in Salt Lake City, Mitt Romney coming in and saving the Olympics, Romney winning governor of Massachusetts, and now Romney going on to become the eventual Republican nominee.

I think that hadn’t President Hinckley taken on that interview with Mike Wallace it would have been much harder for Romney to be where he is today.

You’ve all probably either seen or heard this video by now and if you haven’t seen it, then here it is:

 

I think it is good that BYU is reaching out to Gay Mormon members.  While I’m not of that persuasion, I know people including family members who are, and they feel very distant from the LDS church and also members of the Church.  By   BYU reaching out to gay Mormon students, it shows they support them and love them as individuals.

After watching the video, I can see it is a good thing to come out and discuss the issue openly and support people who struggle with this.  I view it as something like any other weakness that we as humans struggle with and we need help and the Lord’s love to get through the struggles.

On the other hand, I could see how this video could be interpreted as showing the image that BYU, and essentially the LDS or Mormon church supports the sexual acts involved of being a gay Mormon.  This, I can see could hurt the Mormon Church’s stance on homosexuality as being a sin and not condoning it.

What are your thoughts?

There have been many times in life where I have been off the Lord’s path and have needed to repent.  I’ve been in callings at church on many occasions where I’ve been an instrument in the Lord’s hand to help counsel people towards repenting and getting back in the Lord’s light.

Without Jesus’ atonement, none of this would be possible.  I am grateful for His gift of the atonement and pray that all of us can remember Him not only this Easter, but daily as well.

I have a few Easter videos for you to watch and reflect on what the Savior has done for each one of us.  The first one is a brand new Mormon Easter video made recently by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The second Mormon Easter video is one from last year that I just recently saw.  The final video is one that’s a little older from the mid-90′s called The Lamb of God, but one that I really liked as a teenager.  I think I like this one the best because it is more detailed than the others.

Happy Easter!

 

 

(The Lamb of God is a little long, so I divided it into 3 parts…if you want to skip right to the Resurrection and crucifixion, it begins on part three)

Recently, I signed up for the free Constitutional Course (Constitution 101) offered online through Hillsdale College.  It is a 10 week course that has lectures and a lot of great readings from the Founding Fathers with the Constitution as the beacon.

This week’s course (week 6) was entitled “Religion, Morality, and Property“.

I found the lecture very interesting and also very informative.  I jotted down some notes from the lecture that stood out to me.  Here are my notes:

Free people = virtuous people

“firm reliance on “Divine Providence”

Moral duties=universal.

God created human mind free.  All can choose between good and evil.

All men are fallen and fallible.  With careful cultivation of soul through family, church, paying attention to God’s laws men will have the gift of liberty through self government.

Reason and revelation counsel religious liberty

God’s role: God is referred to in the Declaration of Independence as “Laws of Nature” “Creator”, “Supreme Judge”, and “Divine Providence”….God is chief law giver, chief exectutive and chiefe judge…only God is the one who has the duties of this…not government.

Government is not the creator or giver of rights, but protector of these rights.

Before humans have governments, they have rights.  Government cannot legitimately take the rights away.

“No Free Government or the blessings of liberty can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent reoccurance to fundamental principles”  George Mason “Virginia Declaration of Rights”

Virtue was key to freedom and when we stray from Virtue we must repent

Prayer and fasting were essential in Divine guidance including and especially during times of war.

Patrick Henry believed that in order for virtue to flourish, religious support was necessary and proposed a bill to give churches power to enforce these Christian traits.  People like George Washington supported this.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others opposed this proposed bill so that religion wasn’t “shackled to the state”.

Religion is something we owe to our Creator.  Religion’s integrity must not be hampered by politics.

Therefore, there needs to be a separation of church and state.  This doesn’t mean that church can’t influence the state through its members, but it meant that church can’t force people to obey laws proposed from the state.

Property and people’s rights should be protected by the government.  A just government will secure to man what is rightfully theirs.

I’m not claiming by any stretch to be an expert on the Founding Fathers or the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  I am positive there are many books out there that discuss the topic of religion and the nation’s founders. For the purpose of this post, I am only referring to the 30 minute speech given and the notes I took from the Hillsdale College professor.

With that in mind, it is apparent to me that all of the Founding Fathers had deep convictions when it came to reliance on God especially when founding and running a nation.  Also, it appears to me that their views aligned with Christian principles found in the Bible.  The only question was how to create an environment where people could have the opportunity to flourish and not be persecuted by the government.

Some would argue that because the U.S. decided not to have a separation of church and state that it means the nation wasn’t a Christian nation.  Others would argue that although the majority of citezens sided with Jefferson on the issue of church and state, that the values and beliefs were derived from the Bible, or Christian principles, and therefore the nation was a Christian nation.  Yet, others would still argue that these Christian values are the same values that are found in other religions, and therefore the U.S. shouldn’t claim to be a Christian nation.

What are your thoughts?

Unfortunately I missed part of this weekend’s LDS General Conference, which is held semi-annually.  I did listen to all of Sunday’s talks though.  One thing I noticed is that there were some very good quotes, which I will highlight.

Best Quotes from April 2012 LDS General Conference

  1. President Deiter Uchtdorf gave a talk on not judging other people.  The quote I liked was off a bumper sticker he had read which reads “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you!”
  2. Russel Nelson, an apostle, discussed in part the absurdity of the Big Bang Theory and made a great comparison.  He said “Could an explosion in a book factory create a dictionary?”
  3. Elder Rasband of the Seventy talked about how God’s works are often made manifest through other people.  He discussed how we sometimes need to jump in and help others rather than sitting back and merely asking “can I help?”  The quote I liked in his comparison was “would you ask someone who was drowning ‘let me know how I can help you’ or would you jump in and save them?”
  4. Todd Christofferson, and apostle said something that I’ve said a few times on this site that we’ve had discussions on regarding when a prophet is speaking as a prophet vs. as a man.  He discussed an example of how Brigham Young one morning said a lot of opinionated things to a group of LDS Saints and later in a church meeting he got up and said “this morning you heard what Brigham Young had to say…now you will hear what the Lord has to say”.  The quote I liked from Christofferson was “Not necessarily every statement by a prophet is revelation.”
  5. President Thomas Monson discussed how most of the things we worry about in life are of little importance compared to the big questions we ask during trials in our lives.  He also discussed making the most of our lives and not aimlessly going through life.  The quote I like from him was something to this effect: “we enter mortality not to drift through the waters of life.  We have the power to reason, think and achieve…”
  6. L Tom Perry gave a talk on the Book of Mormon.  The quote I thought was great was this “Are you a Mormon?  If not, you should be!”
  7. M Russell Ballard gave a very excellent talk on using the scriptures to havigate through life and also had some very good statistics on how people who live the gospel principles tend to (statistically) have more education and prosperity than those who don’t live the gospel.  The quote I liked from him was “when I first saw a GPS I felt like Lehi looking at the Liahona for the first time…it was a ball of curious workmanship!”
  8. Larry Wilson talked about not using force as parents or teachers to our children and spouses.  Rather, teaching principles without controlling agency.  The quote I liked was this: “wise parents raise their children to get along without them…ultimately children need to depend upon the Lord, not their parents.”
  9. Neil Anderson, an apostle, shared a very moving story about a father whose 3 small children had been buried in their home during the earthquakes in Haiti a couple years back.  The father prayed to God that at least one of his kids would be saved.  They searched and searched and after hours of looking, they heard something (and this is the quote I like) “a midst the rubble of the earthquake Ganchi (the man’s 5 year old son) was heard singing his favorite song ‘I am a Child of God”

I realize there was a lot said and a good portion of conference I missed.  Feel free to vote on the quotes I shared below and if you have a quote you liked better from conference, select “other” and then share the quote in the comment section.

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