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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.

In the 1969 speech “The Loneliness of Leadership“, Gordon Hinckley discusses the loneliness that leaders feel-both spiritual leaders and secular leaders and how true leaders stand up for what they believe to be right regardless of consequences. Examples he uses include Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and recent converts to the Church who are ostracized and cast out for their belief.

He concludes with the following:

I like these great words of the Lord given to those who would go out and teach this gospel:

I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]

I think that is a promise to each of us. I believe it; I know it. I bear testimony of its truth to you this day.

After reading this, I thought about times in my life when I’ve had to stand up for what I believed to be right, according to what I felt that God had put in my heart.

Joining the Mormon Church

When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to another state. We had been raised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but after the divorce we gradually quit attending church.

I remember my mother inviting people over and having study sessions on why the Mormon religion is false and although I don’t think she knew I was listening, it did have an affect on me. Also, she confided in me a lot of negative information about my father that influenced my opinion of him as a person. He remained a practicing Mormon, so as a child, I blamed the Mormon church as well as all of the negative things that I heard in my home about Mormons. I hated Mormons.

At school I would bully them. Tease them. Gradually, it evolved into where I was not only teasing Mormons, but all people of faith. I was very young-11 years old- but I was getting involved in drinking, vandalism, and heading down a very negative path.

One day my mother came to me and told me that I should go and visit my father as I hadn’t seen him in 2 years because of my hatred for him and his religion. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she told me that legally I needed to and also it would be good for me. Looking back, I think she recognized a lot of the negative things in my life and thought I needed a father figure.

Before I left, she sat me down in the my bedroom that was in the garage of our old house and told me that when I visited my father that he would try and make me go to church with him. She told me that I didn’t have to go and to make sure that whatever I do I didn’t become Mormon. I looked at her confused and wondered why she would even worry about that because that was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the 2 week trip over with.

To make a long story short, I visited my Dad. I noticed a very peaceful feeling almost immediately when I was in his home. Something I didn’t realize I had been craving. I also noticed that he wasn’t as bad as I had been told and that he was actually a very sincere and fun person to be around. He had remarried and my new step-mom was very kind and patient.

The other thing I realized was that the Mormon church wasn’t bad. In fact, I felt peace there that I hadn’t felt anywhere else (when we left the Mormon church, we went “church shopping” to a bunch of churches like Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, non-denominational, etc). After only a short time, the Holy Spirit shared with me a vision of my life and what would come of it if I stayed with my mother in that situation at the time, or moved in with my Dad. It was clear to me and I feel blessed that the Lord put it into my heart that I needed to join the Mormon church and also live with my Dad.

When I had the conversation with my mom, I knew that if I came back home with her, I was too weak at the time to stand up for what I had felt in my heart and I would fall back into my bad friends and behavior. I told her I was staying with Dad. She and I had a big blow-out conversation on the phone that ended with her telling me that if I went back to the Mormon church and my Dad she wouldn’t talk with me again. That hurt me deeply, but I knew what God had put in my heart and I had faith that I should follow that. So I chose to stay with my Dad.

Years later, after I had experienced a lot of psychological and emotional pain (which I wrote about in my book Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication), I realized I needed to make amends with my mother and forgive her. Funny thing was that she put the blame back on me by saying I imagined that she had said that. I’ve forgiven her regardless and I’m very glad that I made that difficult decision years ago because it has changed my life a lot.

Other Experiences

Since becoming a Mormon, I have had to walk a lonely road at times. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but largely the Lord has blessed me.

There were times in college when young ladies wanted to sleep with me and I turned them down because of what I believe.

There were times in Europe when I was working after having served a mission in Germany where I was ridiculed and cast out of a home I was staying in because I wouldn’t drink with them.

In my career, I’ve found that people are very accepting for the most part, of my beliefs and I’ve made some great friends as I don’t shy away from my faith, but stand up for it. I’ve found that for the most part, people are drawn to that.

Most importantly, I’ve found that I feel the Lord’s comfort and Spirit come over me in a way that I can’t describe as I’ve been all alone and decided to stand up for what I feel is right. I’ve found that Heavenly Father surrounds us with love when we do this and we come to know Him as a father more deeply in these times.

Your Turn

I’ve shared a few examples of standing up for truth and your beliefs and how God blessed my life.

I’m sure that you have some stories as well. We would all love to hear them, so please share.

church callingToday one of my friends, who is serving as a counselor in a bishopric for a Mormon Church, told me he couldn’t hang out this weekend because of his schedule with a church assignment.  I jokingly told him that the main reason I keep moving around is to avoid getting a “big” church calling.  I’ll explain.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) are assigned jobs, otherwise known as church callings.  The callings are assigned under the inspiration of the local minister, or bishop and his leadership team.  From my experience, callings usually last no more than 3 years and can range from working in the nursery with kids during church, being the humanitarian representative in the community or even being a Relief Society President (for women) or Bishop.

I have been an active member of the LDS church for a number of years.  Just to give those of you who are not familiar with Mormon callings an idea, I’ll list some of the callings I’ve had over the years along with a brief description of what the job entailed:

Home Teacher: Visiting an assigned group of families within the congregation once per month and sharing a spiritual message with them along with making sure their needs are met.

Deacon’s Quorum President:  As a 12 year old boy, the Deacon’s president functions under the supervision of the Deacon’s adviser  who is an adult.  He mainly organizes youth activities and makes sure the sacrament (communion) is passed out accurately each week.

Teachers Quorum President: This is very similar to a Deacon, except the boys are 14 years old.

Priest’s Quorum 1st Assistant: Same as Deacon and Teacher, except the Priest also blesses the communion during church.

Elder’s Quorum President: The Elder’s Quorum President is responsible for seeing that all the Elders (usually males in the congregation 18-50 years old) are being spiritually in line with the Lord, making sure their needs are met, assigning home teaching assignments, receiving feedback on how to help members in the congregation with various needs, working with the bishop to help new members move out or move into the “ward” (i.e. congregation).

Elder’s Quorum Instructor: Teaching a spiritual lesson in Elder’s quorum class on Sunday.

District Leader:  Leader of a group of 4-10 missionaries.  Can also be a leader of Elders in a large Elder’s quorum.

Zone Leader:  In a mission, the District Leaders report to the Zone leader.  Usually about 2-4 district leaders to each zone leader.

Substitute Primary Teacher: Primary is Sunday School for children ages 3-12.

Executive Secretary to the Bishop: Note-taker and organizer for the bishop to keep him on track with all his duties.

Ward Missionary:  Works with the full-time missionaries to teach investigators (people considering being baptized into the Mormon Church)

Gospel Principles Instructor: Teaches investigators and newly baptized members basic gospel principles each week in Sunday School.

Youth Instructor (ages 16-18): Teaches youth each week during Sunday School

Sunday School President:  Responsible for calling all Sunday School instructors and ensuring they are properly taught on how to best teach.

There are also “callings” mentioned frequently over the pulpit from our church leaders that are things assigned to us as being disciples of Christ such as being a good neighbor, parent, spouse, etc.

The culture within the Mormon church is that it is sort of taboo to turn down a calling.  I’ve heard people say that if you turn a calling down from a leader, you are turning down the Lord.  Since the leader is (ideally) receiving revelation on who should be called to what position, that may very well be the case, but my purpose in writing this article isn’t to debate turning down a calling.  I mention it, just to let those of you unfamiliar with Mormon culture in on the mind set many members of the Church have when asked to do something.

Personally, I have turned down a calling on a couple occasions, but I usually accept the calling, even if I don’t necessarily want to do it.  I have found that in most cases I learn and grow a lot from the various callings I have been given.

That being said, I will rank my favorite callings (being a father and husband are my number one callings that I thoroughly enjoy, but I am referring to callings that are formerly issued) as well as my least favorite.

Favorite Church Callings

1. Elder’s Quorum Instructor: I loved this calling because I only taught once/month and had a whole month to dive deep into the lesson plan and scriptures.  The conversations and discussions with the Elders in church were very inspirational for me and I learned a lot from them and mostly from the Holy Spirit.  Plus, I love teaching.

2. Zone Leader: I remember on my mission as a zone leader thinking if I could find a job that was like that, I would love it!  I am a Regional Manager in sales now, which is very similar to what I did as a zone leader.  The upside now is that the product I sell isn’t as hard of a sell as religion was!

3. Sunday School President: As I oversaw all the instructors in the congregation and made assignments, I felt I had the best of both worlds in teaching as well as administrative tasks.  It was an enjoyable calling.

Least Favorite Church Callings

1. Executive Secretary to the Bishop: I absolutely hated this calling.  I do not do well with organization and being the executive secretary was nothing by trying to keep the bishop organized.  I also do not do well with taking orders and this calling is nothing but taking orders from the bishop.  I will admit that I didn’t have the best attitude while I had this calling and so the experience wasn’t as good as if I had humbled myself more…or just not said I would do it.

2. Elders Quorum President:  This was a love/hate calling for me.  There were aspects that I completely loved about the calling.  The group of men I served had 92 elders in it.  It was a massive group.  I had 3 counselors and 1 secretary along with 5 district leaders (I divided the group in to 5 districts with nearly 20 men in each district).  I loved visiting the men in the group, teaching them, praying with them and for them, etc.  The only part I didn’t like was how draining it was on me emotionally and time consuming.  I was in graduate school at the time and working full time as well.  This calling took about 15 hours/week.  After about 2 years I asked to be released because I just couldn’t emotionally keep up with the demanding schedule and something had to give.

Conclusion

I think from my experience that I have learned that I do best in a role that gives me some flexibility to “call the shots” such as with teaching, or in some leadership roles.  My preference is that of teaching because I don’t have as many people who are reporting up to me and what I have to worry about is making sure what I am teaching is in line with what the Spirit is leading me to teach.

If you are a Mormon, what have your favorite and least favorite callings been and why?

If you are in a different faith, what is your understanding of being “called” to something and what callings have you had?

In one of my recent posts on a CNN interview with former members of Mitt Romney’s congregation, a reader asked me if we as Mormons enjoy all the media coverage.

I’ve seen people both excited about it, indifferent about it, and others who don’t want the Mormon church to be too exposed (as written about in the Washington Post article earlier this year). 

I thought it would be interesting to gauge how readers feel by having a poll to see where people from around the country (and world) feel about Mormons being in the media so much.  Take a few moments and record your thoughts on the poll below:

One side of my family has a long history in the LDS or Mormon church dating back to the early 1800’s.  I have ancestors who were pioneers leaving their families in Denmark to follow a prophet’s counsel to “come to Zion” in Salt Lake City.  Two of my ancestors married Joseph Smith.  One ancestor, Edward Partridge, was the first Mormon Bishop of the church and was killed by mobs who tarred and feathered him for his beliefs.

I have a special place in my heart for those who went before me and I thank the Lord for their sacrifice.

Below is an excerpt from a movie that depicts the early Mormon pioneers traveling across the plains to heed the call of their prophet.  I hope you feel the Spirit as I do when I reflect on all they sacrificed to serve the Lord.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) functions primarily as a lay ministery.  This means that members within the congregation are not paid, including the clergy. 

Mormon congregations are divided geographically into “wards”.   Every 5 years or so a new pastor (called a Bishop) is called from within the ward by the general authorities of the church.

In typical Christian denominations, I have seen that people tend to bounce around a lot until they find the “right” pastor for them.  They search for a pastor with the right personality, charisma, preaching style, and leadership style that fits their needs and if the pastor isn’t working or them, as Donald Trump would say, he’s fired! 

Although members of a ward ultimately can choose to attend a different ward outside of their boundaries, it is typically frowned upon to do that.  Mormon leaders encourage members to stay in their assigned ward in order to help build it up, regardless of who is called to be their leader.

This can be great when a “good” bishop is called to lead the ward.  However, if a bishop is called that clashes with members it can be a significant challenge. 

I’ve seen people quit coming to church altogether based on a new Mormon Bishop that was called.

A Micr0manger as a Mormon Bishop

One of the greatest conflicts I’ve seen is having a Mormon Bishop who is a micro-manager.  Since virtually all members of the ward are called to have a church job, this can lead to challenges for members if the bishop has a heavy hand in all the decisions.

For example, within a ward (usually consisting of 200-400 people) there are leaders called by revelation by the bishop to lead many areas such as Young Men, Young Women, Sunday School, Primary (children’s sunday school), Elder’s Quorum (Men’s Group), High Priests (Typically the older men), and Relief Society (Women’s group).  Each of the leaders within each of those groups are in charge of selecting people from within the ward to help carry out tasks as well.

According to a recent regional conference in Asia led by Mormon Apostle, Dallin Oaks, members who are called are “entitled to receive inspiration and revelation for [their] respective stewardships”.  This gives members of the ward flexibility to pray and select people to help run their group as they feel inspired to.

The conflict arises if a bishop (who ultimately makes the final decision) doesn’t accept the decisions made by leaders of the various groups.  This can be very frustrating for the group leaders. 

What is the best way to deal with a micro-managing Mormon Bishop?

I’m definitely not the expert on this and welcome any feedback, but I will give a few suggestions that have helped me along the way.

Dealing Effectively with a Micro-managing Mormon Bishop

1. Pray

When things happen that a leader does that I don’t like it is very easy in the heat of the moment to say or do something I will regret later.  If I choose to pray for guidance the Lord usually calms me down and guides me.

2. Remove the beam from my own eye

It’s hard to do, but it is essential to look at myself and what things I’m doing wrong possibly first and not judge my leader.  This is what Jesus taught and it’s easy to talk about, but not always easy to do.  When I choose to do this things are a lot better and I have the Lord’s Spirit with me.

3. Try to see the Bishop’s perspective

The Bishop has a tremendous responsibility and is privy to many people’s challenges and needs.  He also has ultimate stewardship for the ward.  Since bishops are untrained and simply rely on their life experience and their faith in the Lord, it is crucial that members of the congregation rally around him and support him even if he’s not the most personable or a micro-manager. 

4. Trust in the Lord

I’ve heard President Monson say on many occasions “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord Qualifies”.  Try and remember that the Lord called the bishop and to pray to see things from His perspective as to why the bishop was called.  Pray again to see what you can do to support the bishop and lighten the load.  The church is the Lord’s church and He had faith in the bishop that was chosen, pray to see why.

5. Let Go

If I let go of my feelings and turn them over to the Lord, I feel much better.  I share my desires and reasons for why I want to do something and my frustrations of being micro-managed, or having a personality conflict, or whatever it is, and the Lord takes the burden for me. 

 

The following quote is taken from a 1992 publication of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and is informative for those not familiar with Priesthood Blessings and also for the personal story I will share later:

A priesthood blessing may be given only by those who have been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In the Church, most boys at the age of twelve have the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon them and are ordained to the office of deacon. At age fourteen, they are usually ordained teachers, and at age sixteen, priests. If the priesthood bearer continues to show faithfulness and worthiness, then at age eighteen, or anytime thereafter, he may receive the Melchizedek Priesthood with ordination to the priesthood office of elder. An elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to perform most priesthood functions in the Church, including giving priesthood blessings.

Each priesthood ordination, from deacon to apostle, is a type of priesthood blessing and is characterized, as are all priesthood blessings, by (1) the laying-on of hands by those in authority, (2) an invocation of the authority of the priesthood and the name of Jesus Christ, and (3) such words of blessing as follow the impressions of the Spirit.

This third element, that of spiritual impressions, is vital for any priesthood blessing. A fundamental doctrine of the Church is a belief that a worthy priesthood bearer, when giving a priesthood blessing, will receive promptings from the Holy Spirit regarding what is to be spoken-not necessarily the exact words, but ideas or thoughts that he will then express as clearly as he can in his own words. This is the essence of a priesthood blessing, and distinguishes it from a prayer. A prayer seeks to communicate with God, either vocally or silently, and is rooted in the faith that God will hear the words or the thoughts and feelings and then, in his infinite wisdom and power, will respond. A priesthood blessing is based on trust that the priesthood holder, while speaking the blessing, will receive spiritual promptings regarding what is to be spoken and thus his words represent the will of God.

As described in the quote, Elders in the Mormon church are ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood.  The Elders within a congregation are assigned to be “Home Teachers”, or overseers for 3-5 families within the congregation.  Hometeachers are assigned in pairs of two and visit the homes of their assigned families on a monthly basis.  Part of their duty is to ensure the families’ physical, temporal, and spiritual needs are being met.  This requires the Elders to stay in tune with the Lord because at any given moment, a family can call and ask for a Priesthood blessing.  As we’ve already covered in the quote, a blessing is much more than a prayer.  It is being a spokesman for the Lord and is a humbling, but deeply spiritual experience.

Yesterday when visiting one of my families, the father asked us (me and my home teaching companion) to give him a blessing.  He asked me if I would be the one to give the blessing.

When giving a blessing, the Elders place their hands on the head of the individual receiving the blessing.  If it is a blessing of healing, consecrated olive oil is placed on the individual’s head and one Elder annoints the oil through a quick prayer and then the next Elder, who will be giving the blessing places his hands on the head together with the first Elder.  He opens the prayer by sealing the annointing and then speaks as thoughts from the Holy Spirit enter His mind.

Here’s a picture of what a blessing looks like:

Mormon Elders giving a priesthood blessing

After my companion annointed the head of the father, I sealed the annointing as outlined.  It was a deeply moving experience for me as thoughts and feelings came to my mind and heart of how much God loved this father and viewed him as His son.  Feelings of how noble and valued he was in the sight of God entered through me and it was hard for me not to get emotional.  Towards the conclusion of the blessing, I felt a strong feeling of Jesus’ suffering on the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane for our sins.  I became very touched and cried openly as I  spoke words of comfort and encouraged the father to turn to the Lord and place his burdens at His feet.

I’ve given many blessings in my life.  Some are very moving like this one and others are less moving, yet still spiritual and simple.  One thing I know is that in each case, I am not speaking my own thoughts and feelings, but I am speaking as a spokesperson for God.  It is a very humbling experience and a privilege that I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate in on occasion.

I realize priesthood blessings are very sacred for those who have both received and given them.  However, if you are comfortable with sharing your experiences, I think it would be good for those less familiar with blessings to learn from you.

Also, any of you who may not be Mormons and have additional questions, feel free to ask!

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.

Baptisms for the Dead have been a part of the Mormon church almost from the beginning.  For those who are not familiar with the Mormon view of baptisms for the dead feel free to review this link for articles and scriptural references on baptisms for the dead.  Here is a very short history on where Baptisms for the Dead originated:

Joseph Smith had received a vision of the celestial kingdom in which he saw his brother Alvin, who had died before Joseph had received the gold plates (see D&C 137). Joseph was surprised to see Alvin in the celestial kingdom, because Alvin had not been baptized before he died. The Lord explained to Joseph that all people who would have received the gospel, been baptized, and lived righteously if they had been given the opportunity will be able to be in the celestial kingdom (see D&C 137:7). Joseph later learned that baptisms for the dead could be done vicariously, using people on the earth as proxies.

Recently there was an article that covered members of the Jewish community being upset with the LDS church because an LDS member had done what is called “baptisms for the dead” in a Mormon temple for a  holocaust victim.  According to the article the LDS member who did the baptisms had seriously violated the church’s policy on baptizing deceased members of the Jewish faith as there had been an agreement between top Jewish and Mormon leaders.

If this LDS member is like me, he never heard anything about an apparent agreement between the Jews and Mormons not to have deceased members of the Jewish faith get proxy baptisms.

Some members of the Jewish community were outraged and suggested that the Mormon church should do away with baptisms for the dead.  This sentiment is also found within members of the Catholic church and other Evangelical churches.

Personally, I highly doubt that the Mormon church would do away with baptisms for the dead.  It is one of the key aspects of the religion.

Furthermore, I don’t see the reason why members of other faiths are so opposed to baptisms for the dead.  The way I see it, if they don’t believe in baptisms for the dead, then it is irrelevant if the Mormons do it in their temples.

What are your thoughts?

 

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