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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandpa doughhead when young

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

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

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

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

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

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

grandpa doughhead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Cal about his Testimony of the Book of Mormon

  1. What is your Christian background?

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

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

  1. What led you to looking into Mormons?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What success have you had with your ministry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few weeks ago I was asked by our local missionaries to find some people willing to share their conversion story with one of the people they were teaching. I knew of a lot of my friends from various walks of life who had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) so I asked for their conversion stories.

I appreciate the responses and will have a little “series” of posts called Mormon Conversion Stories. Each person’s story is unique and very personal, but it illustrates just how personal our Heavenly Father is when we open our hearts up to Him.

The first story I would like to share is from one of my friends named Brandon. He is a gifted illustrator and has a website: http://www.drawingfaith.blogspot.com where he has drawn images from various stories in the scriptures.

Here’s his story:

Brandon’s Conversion Story: From Catholic to Mormon

I was born Catholic, to a great family. My dad is an incredibly family-centered man who has always sacrificed for our family. My mom (with Dad’s support) made sure that my brother and I got a traditional upbringing in our native faith, complete with us going through most (if not all) of the Catholic ordinances, and I remember Mom reading to us from the Bible a lot as we grew up. I believe this instruction helped prepare and build my faith in the Lord.

By the time I was 19, I was in art school and working at a local movie theater. It was a wonderful time of making new friends, learning, and growing. Somewhere around that time a young man completed his mission in South Africa, Johannesburg. He went by “Fritz” and came back to work at the theater. Being ignorant of what being “Mormon” was, I have to admit that when I heard Fritz was Mormon I thought it meant that he was Amish ;) He was a very interesting and cool guy. My best pal from those days and I became fast friends with him. As we hung out, as recently-returned missionaries are wont to do, he shared with us about his faith. I can remember being at McDonald’s as he shared with us about the Plan of Salvation—God’s plan for us that includes our pre-mortal life and choice, as His spirit children, to come to earth. I can’t remember all the details of what he shared that night, but I can say that neither I nor my friend had ever heard anything religious that made so much stunning, intellectual sense as what we were told that evening. After that conversation both my friend and I expressed the sentiment that we were ready to “sign-up,” so to speak. But it would be some time before anything would truly gel for me about the faith.

Fritz also shared with us about the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Eventually I requested a copy from him. One day as my friend and I were working in the box office, Fritz came up to us with two copies of the Book of Mormon, and said, laying them at our stations, “Here’s two free tickets to Heaven.” That makes me chuckle to remember.

I began to read the book, every night going through a chapter or so. The book had been prepared with tabs to key chapters. There was a tab at Moroni 10:3-5, still a favorite for me. As I opened to the tab and read those yellow-highlighted verses, I understood I needed to pray to know if the book was true. (It is interesting to me just how much my faith was growing at this time. I was at a point where I feared that God would actually answer me. Funny, I know. But the gravity of actually connecting with the Divine was a very new and startling idea for me.) That scripture in Moroni promises that an answer will come to those who ask in sincerity of heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ—that the answer will come, “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Now, over a decade later, I understand better how the manifestations of the Spirit can be sometimes subtle and small, or sometimes dramatic, warm, and unmistakeable. But as a younger man I didn’t know what it would mean to get an answer, or how it would come.

With the best faith that I had at that time (certainly like a grain of mustard seed), I began to pray and ask. I believe I had only (or very mostly) Catholic training regarding prayer, so each night I would pray the Our Father and then add some of my own words to ask for the truth of these things.

Nothing happened right away. I read through quite a bit of the Book of Mormon, night by night. Then, when I was somewhere into the Book of Alma, while reading one of the war chapters, I began to envision the armies, the scenery, as I read. When I finished reading, an overwhelming feeling of warmth and peace came upon me. It was a better feeling than I had ever had. I was by myself in my bedroom. I looked up at the ceiling and said something along the lines of, “Wow. There is a God.” The feeling was so wonderful that I did not want it to leave and it stayed with me for quite some time. It was enough for me to recognize not only the existence of God, but also the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

I learned that the next natural step, having received a witness that this is true, was to be baptized. My pal, Fritz, was at BYU during this time, so we would write letters to each other. I asked what I needed to do to be ready for baptism, and he helped to guide me (I wanted to be worthy of it and had some behavioral clean-up to do). I soon began to meet with the missionaries, got baptized, and it’s been a wonderful learning experience I do not regret. My membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been life-changing and so very positive.

I must add, among so very many other things I could share, that in recent years I have pondered why, though I was nightly praying and reading, I had to wait those many nights before I got an answer from God (I had made it into the chapters of Alma for Pete’s sake). And why was it that I was reading a war chapter on the night He gave to me to feel the Holy Spirit that first, dramatic time? As I pondered this while driving home from work on a wintry day, I received a distinct impression in my mind about how important it is to fight for those things that are best in life. Anything worth it is worth fighting to obtain. In fact, if you’re fighting through life to stay true and/or to gain truth then you’re on the right road. The things we struggle to obtain are often the things we treasure the most. To anyone who is pondering about the Book of Mormon, or wondering whether joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the right move, I say hold on. Seek the Lord about the truth of it. He will answer, in His time and way—in the best and most instructive way for your needs.

I also believe that John 7:17 shoots us straight, that the proof is in the pudding: “If any man will do (God’s) will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” We should try these things out, try to live what we’re reading in the Book of Mormon to know the truth of it. Walking the path of truth paves the way for the Holy Spirit to find us.


Brandon Miltgen
Illustration & Design
drawingfaith.blogspot.com
brandonmiltgen.blogspot.com

christian and mormon logoRecently I received some comments on an old article I wrote about Mormons being born again. I reached out to a friend of mine I met through this website who is a pastor at Addisville Reformed Church in Pennsylvania.  I want to thank Doug Dwyer for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that it helps both Mormons and Christians from other faiths see where we have common ground.

1. What is your definition of a Christian?
Romans 10:9 speak of holding to Christ’s Lordship and his victory over the grave. Digging a bit deeper here I would say that a Christian is someone who has submitted himself (herself) to the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and has placed their hope and confidence in his atoning death and victory over death through his resurrection.
2.  Do you consider Mormons to be Christians?
I consider you a Christian. I have met Mormons who I sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives. I do not consider all Mormons Christians. Nor do I consider all Presbyterians or non-denominational or Catholics Christians. You have to live in the reality of Romans 10:9 and not all church going people, including Mormons, have sincerely done that.
3. Where do you see common ground between Christians and Mormons?
Wait-you just asked me if Mormons are Christians and then you ask me to speak of common ground between “Christians” and “Mormons” a bit confusing! Let’s change “Christian” to “Evangelical” as that is the group within Christianity that I identify myself with.
We share many things in common. Our culture, morals and worldview are similar. We both strive to know and love Jesus Christ. We both feel great concern for the direction our society is going. We both are the brunt of jokes by those in the world-with all the talk of tolerance Mormon and Evangelicals are not shown it by this society (I would say even more so Mormons). We both love our kids and want them to grow up to be God loving and people of integrity. We both look to the promised hope-Christ’s return. I imagine many Mormons and many Evangelical waking up in the morning and praying and hoping-perhaps today!
4.  Where do you see difference?
Joseph Smith and the restoration. Evangelicals may seem very judgmental to Mormons but we are officially apostates in the Mormon understanding of the church. We (Evangelicals) find it hard to get a handle on just what it is that you do believe. The whole exaltation concept just sounds strange. The fact that there are many gods seems to fly in the face of our Scripture. Your temples seem mysterious. Your understanding of Priesthood and your belief in the Book of Mormon and native people being somehow Jews-seems foreign to us. Aaron-when I have asked you about some of these things-like exaltation you say “to me it means becoming more like Christ-I really don’t think much about it beyond that.” I’m not sure what to make of it! Is it a goal to become a god or is that just some doctrine from the 19th century that is no longer spoken of.  That is just one example. There seems to be layers of Mormon teaching and thought-and because your beliefs are dynamic and evolving it is hard for us to wrap our brains around what you now think verses what was taught in the past. And what is still believed but not discussed very much-at least for now.
5. Where do you feel the greatest challenges are in building the gap between groups?
Because of our past history-we are suspicious of each other. Whenever Mormons and Evangelicals get to know each other-those old attitudes start to fade. When you begin to build relationships and get to know the person-it changes your opinion-I know it has mine.
Hatred grows when you dehumanize the other person.
6.  Where do you see a need for Christians and Mormons to unite in a common cause and why?
The push to redefine marriage and the homosexual movements success in turning their agenda into a civil rights issue and what all that means for our churches. In the recent issue with the BSA (my church holds charters to Cub and boy scout units-both my sons went through scouting-Dan is working on his eagle and David is an eagle scout) I looked to your church to help me work through this issue based on the recent vote. We both need to be united when it comes to Religious Freedom in this nation. Disaster relief-during the recent tornado in Oklahoma when I saw Mormons and Evangelicals working side by side doing cleanup and recovery-that was a beautiful picture for me. I hope some friendships were made!
7.  Is your perspective on Mormons the same as most Christians?
No-I have studied the Mormons and their story since I was in high school and have had a genuine love for them since then. Evangelicals are pretty ignorant about Mormons. They get the polygamous sects confused with your church all the time. Many think Mormons still have plural marriages-I set them straight about that. If many met and spoke to Mormons they would see them as being Christian. Among leadership I believe it is slowly changing and becoming more positive.
8.   What is the greatest thing Christians can learn from Mormons?
You do a better job in the discipleship of your children. Family Home evenings, seminary before school, service in the church and mission-we fall far short when it comes to raising our children in the knowledge of the Lord.
 Conclusion
I agree with everything Doug had to say and feel good that he sees some movement towards common ground between the faiths.  I feel that it is slowly moving to where Evangelicals and Mormons are “playing nicer in the sandbox” and as Doug states, even working side by side.
What are your thoughts on these questions?  Also, are there any other questions you would have asked?

Wind hit me and rain pelted down on my frozen skin like a pellet.  Shivering and shaking like a leaf on a tree, I looked up and watched as all of the
people in my heat of the race continued on without me.  My dream of finishing a triathlon seemed to diminish with every gust of wind and drop of rain.  Minutes before, I had made the decision to swim to the side of the shore.  The three foot waves may as well been a tsunami because with every breath I tried to breathe, I swallowed in more water.  As I sat shaking on the rock I pondered 3 questions:

Who am I to think I could finish a triathlon, especially under these circumstances?

I could easily just climb up from the rock and walk back over to my car.  Why am I still sitting here, and why am I even here in the first place?

Finally, questions such as where am I even going and why is it important to me?  Lingered in my mind.

Six months prior to the race, I was a recent college graduate working a part-time job.  I had an extra 20 hours per week on my hands and had started reading about triathlons.  The event seemed like such a monstrous challenge, especially since I had never had swimming lessons and was a very poor swimmer.  Furthermore, I hadn’t really pushed myself to the limits necessary to physically and mentally endure such a race.  The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it, so I set forth a game plan.

First, I purchased “The Triathletes Training Bible” and studied it religiously.  I learned how to track my work-outs and eating.  Part of this included getting rid of foods that were bad for me and wouldn’t give me proper energy like fatty and sugary foods.  I cleared my house of bad foods and started keeping close watch over what I ate.  I learned from expert athletes about how to mentally and physically prepare for the race.  I put up charts to track my progress and stay focused and every day as I read, I would focus on my vision during each stage of the race.  I could see myself confidently swimming gracefully through the water, churning 20 mph on the bike and running like the wind.  Over time, I gained complete confidence that I could not only finish, but do well in the race.

Next, I assessed my weaknesses.  I noticed an obvious flaw in my swimming and cycling abilities.  I had participated in running races previously, and saw some slight areas of improvement there as well.  After analyzing my weaknesses, I decided that I needed more hands-on guidance in swimming and cycling.  I turned to two experts in each area: a girl in my church who was on the BYU swim team, and my roommate, who was on the BYU cycling team.  As I approached them asking for help, they graciously obliged to coach me.

A few times each week, I would meet with my coaches and they would help me with technique and encourage me.  Over time, I became much more efficient in both swimming and cycling.  For example, when I first started swimming, I couldn’t even go for ½ a lap.  By the end, I was swimming laps for 45 minutes without stopping.

Finally, I turned to other experts such as people at the pro-shops who were seasoned racers.  I would ask them questions about the proper equipment, techniques, and strategies.  I learned about how to properly eat before, during and after the race, what swimming, biking, and running gear are essential, and how to mentally prepare.  One word of wisdom that I wished I would have heeded was that I should purchase a wetsuit for the race.  The athlete who told me this strategy said it was helpful for a number of reasons: first, to provide buoyancy, and second to keep me warm in case of inclement weather.

As I sat shivering on the rock with my swim goggles pulled up over my head, watching as countless athletes swam past me with their wetsuits, I realized that I had made a serious mistake.  However, I thought about all of the time and effort I had put into preparing as well as the time and effort my coaches had put into me.  They believed in me, and I also believed in myself.  I also envisioned how dejected I would feel by quitting without reaching my goal of finishing the race.

I realized that over the course of 6 months of training, I had become an athlete as well.  I was in the best shape of my life and I was there to prove to myself and others that I could overcome a challenge and meet a goal I had set for myself.

A picture came to my mind that I had seen nearly every day for 6 months as I had trained.  It was a picture of a strong athlete finishing the race with hands held high in triumph.  As my mind caught hold of the vision of finishing the race, I pulled my goggles back down over my eyes and jumped back into the frigid water.  I didn’t want to let myself down.

When I stumbled out of the water, I had only one focus and that was to get to my bike.  However, I was very, very cold and shivering almost uncontrollably.  My friend, who was waiting for me instantly ran over to me and helped warm me up, gave me some food for energy, and helped me get my shoes on and onto my bike.  He gave me some words of encouragement and a big pat on the back as I started to ride.

I was so far behind that the next heat of racers was already getting onto their bikes.  I was the very last one in my heat.  Competition started to kick in and I pedaled as fast as I could.  Within a few minutes, the blood was circulating and I was thinking clearly.  I could clearly picture in my mind me running across the finish line.  However, that event was another hour or so down the road.  I realized that I needed to focus on a shorter goal.  What I chose was targeting the racer right in front of me and trying to catch up and pass him.  This strategy worked because I ended up gaining ground and finishing about in the middle of the pack once I ran across the finish line.

The Race of Life

When the huge and cold waves of the lake washed over me and I was overcome in the triathlon, I took time to swim over to a rock and re-focus on who I was and why I wanted to finish.

President Monson has said:

In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths?… when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens. Our thoughts become focused, and we are easily able to determine what is really important and what is merely trivial…In our times of deepest reflection or greatest need, the soul of man reaches heavenward, seeking a divine response to life’s greatest questions…

One of the main purposes for our life, if not the main purpose in life is to develop charity, or Christ-like love for ourselves and each other.  In the Book of Mormon Moroni wrote:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

Clearly developing the gift of love is one of the greatest purposes we have in this life.

Whatever our situation in life is, if we pause to pray and reflect on how we can love more deeply, we will be blessed with a closer relationship with God and our fellow men.  Like a triathlon, it takes patience and preparation and daily focus.  As we read our scriptures, pray, and surround ourselves with things that will bring us closer to God, it is important to realize that we can not endure the journey to the end without the help of Jesus.

Because Jesus Finished, We Can Finish

One thing to keep in mind as we do everything we can to develop the gift of Charity and endure to the end of our “race” is that were it not for Jesus there wouldn’t even be a race for us to run.  If Jesus hadn’t already won the race by suffering for our sins and dying on the cross, we would be hopeless and unable to obtain eternal life.

Not only has Jesus provided us hope through the Atonement, but He is also there to help us in our daily walk with God.  We need to realize that, like me stumbling out of the water, weak and exhausted and needing help to be lifted up onto my bike, we cannot move forward and be lifted up without Jesus.  Daily, we need to call on him and He will provide us with the strength we need to continue on.

Whatever trial we are facing, I hope we can find the energy to reach within ourselves and get back into the race by calling out to our Father in Heaven for help.  I know that if we do this, God will provide us support and strength to continue on and it is my hope that if we do this, we will eventually enter into His presence.

I just read the article and watched the videos on the news broadcast about my friend, John McDonald, who just lost his young daughter today.  I can’t even fathom how painful it must be for them today as they remove her from life support.

After she is gone, they not only will have to deal with the loss of their precious daughter, but the financial burdens from the expensive medical costs as well.

Below are some of the ways that you can join me in helping this family out in time of need:

  1. Pray for them
  2. Pay for them: if you go to this website, you can donate some money to cover some costs.  They need $50,000 and only have about $15,000 raised so far
  3. Encourage them: you can leave words of encouragement when you leave a donation.  Even if they don’t know you, I’m sure they will appreciate your kindness

In closing, if you have ever lost a son or a daughter, there was a very good talk by a Mormon General Authority given this past week in the October 2012 General Conference.  He shares a very touching story of losing his little son and sharing how he was able to rely on the Savior to help him through the trial.  The video is in the link below:

Shayne M. Bowen conference talk

One of my main purposes of this site is to unite people of all faiths into a common ground of understanding through uplifiting dialogue online.  I feel that slowly and surely we’re all beginning to come together as people of faith.  One example of this is the recent forum at Notre Dame entitled “Conviction and Compromise: Being a Person of Faith in a Liberal Democracy”.  At this forum, they had a few Christian leaders from various denominations,including: Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville; Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Rick Warren, founding pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California; and Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and a Mormon apostle (Dallin Oaks, pictured in the middle).

The discussion surrounded the role religion should play in our political decisions.

I thought it would be interesting to see how readers of this blog feel about the issue and thought we could have a panel of our own.

I will share the questions asked at the forum to each of the religious leaders.  When you leave a comment, share with us your religious affiliation and then answer the questions.

Panel Discussion Questions (as taken from the Notre Dame forum)

  • How can people of faith reconcile religious conviction with politics, which is often described as the “art of compromise”?
  • Should voters take a candidate’s religion into account when casting their ballot?
  • How should elected officials apply their faith when making policy?
  • How does religious diversity affect our national understanding of religion’s role in both politics and government?

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:

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)

I received an email from a close family member of mine who is of a different Christian faith requesting that I listen to the sermon given by a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity.

In the sermon, the gentleman discusses the differences between Muslim and Christianity and basically (without saying it, but implying it) that all Muslims had better convert quickly or go to Hell.  One of the reasons this man feels the Muslims are heading to Hell is because they do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

He goes on to quote Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on the Trinity as well, stating that a Muslim would say “Amen!” to Jefferson’s point of view on the Trinity.

Here are some of Jefferson’s thoughts:

—– To John Adams, 1813

It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one . . .

—– To Van der Kemp, 1820

The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself. Very soon after his death it became muffled up in mysteries, and has been ever since kept in concealment from the vulgar eye. To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.

I’ll have to admit that I also said “Amen!” when I heard the former Muslim-converted-to-Christian man share Jefferson’s quotes.  It falls right in line with the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Mormons believe.

Mormons believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the LDS or Mormon Church) is the restored church that Jefferson wished for.  Personally, I feel that the LDS church probably isn’t an exact restoration of how it was when Jesus walked the earth, but it’s the closest one we have on the planet now.  Also, I believe that the LDS view of the Trinity makes a lot more sense than what standard Christians believe.

Mormons believe that there is a God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who make up the Godhead.  Each one is an individual personage and makes a lot more sense than the more common explanations of the Trinity that are very complicated, as Jefferson points out.

So…what do you think?  If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, would he have been a Mormon?

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