You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Scripture Study’ category.

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

This is the first Spiritual SOAP post in the series.

In our class, we started in 3 Nephi 11 of the Book of Mormon, mainly because this is where Jesus comes and teaches his most basic doctrines of salvation.

“Gather, don’t Scatter”

Scripture: A large group of people gathered around the temple astonished about the great changes that had taken place in their surroundings (earthquakes, fires, many people dying, etc.)

Observation: 

  1. They gathered and weren’t scattered when destruction came
  2. They didn’t just gather anywhere.  They gathered together at the temple
  3. As they gathered, they were open in their lack of knowledge but openly discussed their concerns as well.

Application:

  1. If we want to have strength, gather with fellow believers
  2. Gather at a place of worship.  Examples of places of worship include: churches, homes of the faithful, the temple, etc.
  3. When we are gathered it is good to be open with one another and openly discuss our lack of knowledge, issues, and concerns.  This is how we grow.

Prayer:

I pray that I will always remember to turn to God in times of need, but also that I will turn to God in the good times as well.  I pray that He will lift me up and I will be able to have great associations with believers.  I pray that my home will be a place where God’s Spirit can dwell and a refuge for my children and anyone else seeking the Lord.

 

What thoughts do you have when you apply Spiritual SOAP to this scripture?

 

mormon scriptureA few weeks ago, in Gospel Principles Sunday School class, I taught about the importance of scripture.

The conversation was interesting because there were some investigators (people considering joining the Mormon church) as well as some “seasoned” Mormons in attendance.  When I asked questions about the importance of scripture, I noticed that most of the non-Mormons revered the Bible and most of the Mormons in the class acknowledged the Bible, but didn’t hold it as high as the Book of Mormon.

Mormons’ View of Scriptures

For those of you who are not as familiar with Mormons’ view of scriptures, I’ll briefly go over each scripture along with some quotes by LDS prophets on each.

The Bible

If you ask a Mormon if they believe in the Bible the answer will always be “yes”.  However, for most Mormons there is a little asterisk next to that yes because, according to Mormon belief:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly (see Articles of Faith 1:8)

Mormons believe that there was an apostasy after the original apostles died and over the years, parts of the Bible were removed, therefore the Bible is not the complete book that it once was.

In fact, the Book of Mormon has scriptures that discuss the “plain and precious truths” that were taken away from the Bible, thus making the Bible an incomplete book as to containing the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith worked throughout his life on what he called the “inspired version” of the Bible, which includes additions to the King James Bible that he received through revelation.  Although he never was able to complete the version, Mormons have the Joseph Smith Translation included in many of their scriptures (they do not claim this to be the official Bible, but have it to offer “insight”.)

The Book of Mormon

In speaking about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, Mormons’ founder and first prophet, declared

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book (Book of Mormon Introduction)

Many Mormon Apostles and Prophets have voiced of the importance of the Book of Mormon and even declare blessings that will come into ones’ life when studying the Book.  The late prophet, Ezra Taft Benson said:

It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance. (see talk: The Book of Mormon: Keystone of our Religion)

Since this talk was given by Ezra Taft Benson in 1986, I feel that many Mormons have focused heavily on reading the Book of Mormon above any other scripture, which is what I witnessed in the Sunday School class.

Doctrine and Covenants

The Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) are revelations that were given to Mormon prophets (mostly Joseph Smith) dealing with various doctrines and organizational structure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) that aren’t found in either the Bible or Book of Mormon in detail.

Some of the key revelations (in my opinion) include: how to receive answers to prayer, organizational structure of the Church, Priesthood defined and execution of callings within the priesthood, revelation on the Three degrees of glory (heaven), and The Word of Wisdom (no alcohol, coffee, etc.).

Other revelations that have had some controversy around them are: polygamy, temple ordinances (including eternal marriage) and baptisms for the dead

Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price (PGP) has two books (Moses and Abraham) that Joseph Smith translated from papyri that was found.  It contains more details on the first books of Genesis in the Bible.

Joseph Smith’s history is also included here.  The history is mainly his account of his First Vision, or when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him to reestablish Jesus’ church.

In addition to these books, the PGP has the Articles of Faith (similar to a Creed), a revelation from a later prophet declaring it illegal to practice polygamy anymore, and a revelation extending the priesthood to black members.

Modern Prophets

One of the unique aspects of Mormonism is the claim that their church leaders are prophets, or mouthpieces, for the Lord.  As such, most Mormons believe that the writings of the apostles and prophet found in Church publications such as the Ensign are to be considered scriptural.

Which Scripture is Most Important?

A case can be made for each scripture.  For example, without the Bible, there wouldn’t be any of the other scriptures because Joseph Smith was led to pray for guidance from a scripture he read from the Bible.

On the other hand, Mormon prophets have declared the Book of Mormon the most important book…but if Mormons only had the Book of Mormon, they wouldn’t know exactly how to run the church and additional components to the faith such as the Word of Wisdom, eternal marriage, etc. wouldn’t exist.

Finally, I can see how some people would feel that Modern-day Prophets’ revelations trump all of the other scriptures (such as doing away with polygamy and using water instead of wine for communion).

Just for fun, I’ll close with a poll for you to rank what you feel is the most important scripture.

At an early age, I had my life changed as millions of other people have had through reading the Book of Mormon and feeling the power of Jesus Christ enter into my life.

I was in a dark place at a very young age following my parents’ divorce and was heading down a very wrong path.  When I was around 12 years old, I came across a copy of the Book of Mormon and started reading it.  Although I was very young and didn’t understand all of the concepts and words, I felt a peace I desparately needed at that time. 

After a few months of reading the Book of Mormon, I read what is commonly called “Moroni’s Promise” at the end of the Book of Mormon, which basically states that if you pray to God about what you’ve read in the Book of Mormon and ask if it is true, He will manifest it to you that it is true through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I prayed, and for the first time in my life I felt the love of God sweep through my soul and any desire to continue to sin be removed from me.  I committed to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and gospel I had read in the Book of Mormon (which is the same as in the Bible) at that time.

Shortly thereafter, my Grandmother became very ill.  On what was her last Christmas before she passed away, in 1989, she gave me a gift I hold very dear to me.  She knew how impactful the Book of Mormon had been for me so she gave me her only copy of a replica of the original Book of Mormon along with her last written words to me, as seen in the pictures below:

Words can’t really describe the impact the teachings found in the Book of Mormon have had on me, but I’ll attempt to share my feelings.  Through the teachings of Jesus Christ found within the Book of Mormon, I was able to lay a foundation for my life at a young age that has helped me overcome the negative affects in my life that came as a result of my parents’ divorce.  Although the path hasn’t been easy, I have studied and grown closer to Heavenly Father through reading the Book of Mormon.

Not only has the Book of Mormon helped me, but it has helped millions of other people.  Most recently, my younger brother was able to overcome some of his obstacles he has faced in his life through an experience with reading and studying the Book of Mormon.  I asked him to share some of his thoughts for the readers of this blog, and he was kind enough to do so.  Below are some of his thoughts:

It’s easier to express myself in person about this topic, because words can’t get the feeling across that I would like to portray in my message. As I get choked up right now speaking of this and as tears begin in my eyes, I want you all to know that I firmly believe in the Book of Mormon and its message. I believe that it is a testament of Christ and it can shape our lives in a way that is principal oriented and emotionally edifying if we abide by its teachings and mold our desires to those of the Prophets therein.

I have never been more focused in my entire life than I was when I was engulfed and excited for each new verse. I have ADHD and have always had an issue with focusing and not being impulsive, but when I actually pondered the meanings of this book and “desired” to read it, my mind was pacified and my concerns and worries seemed very small. My being was elevated to another level. I did pray frequently when I was pondering the Book of Mormon as well, but they seemed to go hand in hand for me. The difficult things in life that were in the forefront of my mind grew smaller and smaller with each day that I consumed each page. I can’t begin to even express the miracles this Book did for me and my belief in who I could become. Lord thank you so much, for all the effort in how this book was pieced together. Its just so hard for me to depict my feelings on this Book through words alone. 

I truly believe that without the Book of Mormon I would not be who I am today. My friends I want you to please try to understand the meaning and passion behind what I am writing. I have not always wanted to be a part of religion, regardless of what denomination and questioned at times if there was even a God. The Book of Mormon forced my mind and utterly all of me to either believe the teachings of a God and a Christ or not to. I could not deny the way it made me feel and the peacefulness it brought to my mind. I cannot deny the way my soul understood the principals it is trying to reach out and explain to all individuals and nations! …I truly believe in this book and I believe in a Christ and in God the Father as well. Once again I apologize sincerely if my closeness to the spirit right now hasn’t been felt through these small writings, but even if nothing has been felt at all through my words alone, please know that I truly believe in the Book of Mormons‘ message and I would honestly choose this book over literally any other book in the world to read. That is not a lie. I would choose this book over any.
 
Sincerely
 
Seth Morgan Anderson

President Benson, a former LDS, or Mormon prophet, stated:

There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

 

Personally, I have seen his words not only be good advice, but be prophetic in my life and those close to me.  I encourage those who haven’t seriously studied the Book of Mormon to do so in conjunction with their Bible study this year.  Also, I encourage those who have had a personal experience with the Book of Mormon that has helped them to share their testimony in the comment section below.

 

On one of my most recent posts, some LDS and non-LDS christians were having a great discussion about what the definition of scripture is for each of us.  I do not claim to be the expert on this topic for either LDS or non-LDS, but I can definitely share my personal thoughts and also point to what others have said that I agree with on this topic.

My first thought when researching this is to turn directly to the LDS Bible Dictionary.  The definition is:

The word scripture means a writing, and is used to denote a writing recognized by the Church as sacred and inspired. It is so applied to the books of the O.T. by the writers of the N.T. (Matt. 22: 29; John 5: 39; 2 Tim. 3: 15). For an account of the process by which the books of the O.T. and N.T. came to be recognized as scripture, see Canon. Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).
This definition gives us a good start, but it can lead to various interpretations.  According to this, it states that scripture is writing that is recognized by the Church, but also scripture are words spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  Therefore, one could interpret scripture to mean that it is anything shared by inspired men or women prophesying.  This can be confusing for people.  Especially if what one is speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost may not reflect one’s personal convictions.  Or worse yet, may not be validated with other scriptures.
I believe that according to this definition, scripture has two parts, or definitions to it.  The first part is scripture for the Church.  The second is prophecy or divine revelation for individuals. 
Scripture for the Church as a Whole (Canon)
Once again, a great first step is to research the Bible Dictionary under “Canon”.  According to the Bible Dictionary, LDS believe Canon is “used to denote the authoritative collection of the sacred books used by the true believers in Christ”.  The dictionary then goes on to attempt to describe how our current Bible became canon and the test of how to decide if writings should be considered scriptural or not.  The test to see if something is scriptural includes these three questions:
Is it claimed that the document was written by a prophet or an apostle?
Is the content of the writing consistent with known and accepted doctrines of the faith?
Is the document already used and accepted in the Church?
Personally, I like the similar definition given by George Cobabe from FAIR.  In his article on The White Horse Prophecy, he describes how the LDS church deems a writing to be considered scripture for the Church as a whole.  First, it needs to be revealed through the prophet.  Next, it needs to be accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Finally, it needs to be presented to the members of the Church and accepted.  After all of these steps are met, then a writing is considered to be “scripture”. 
This process shouldn’t be foreign to other non-LDS Christians.  It is similar to the councils held thousands of years ago to determine what should be considered scripture.  The second part of scripture should also be familiar with non-LDS christians.
Scripture as Personal Prophecy
The second definition of scripture for LDS according to the Bible Dictionary is “that which is spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost”, which in my mind is essentially prophecy.  From my experience in the LDS church, one of the main ways one can recieve personal scripture is through a Patriarchal Blessing.  In the LDS church, there are men who are set apart and called as “Patriarchs”.  These men give inspired blessings and through the power of the Holy Ghost, prophecy personal revelation for individuals.   
On rare and special occasions, I’ve also seen people prophecy directly to someone but usually I’ve seen things come to pass through giving blessings.  In either case, by definition, this could be called “scripture” as it is given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Another way people in the LDS church receive “scripture” is through the prophet and apostles speaking.  Typically what I’ve heard is when they speak in general conference and their talks are published you can consider that scripture.  However, I’ve seen people quick to dismiss some things, especially things that were “prophecied” by former prophets such as Brigham Young or Joseph Smith that may have been published but didn’t go through the aforementioned process of canonization.  Therefore, there is some gray area around what to consider as “scripture” or just “inspired”. 
Conclusion
The two parts of defining scripture should be familiar to both LDS and non-LDS christians.  I’m confident that both parties can agree on how the Church as a whole accepts scripture.  The second part, which is less structured, may not be considered to be “scripture” per se for both parties.  A safe way to measure if we can consider what someone prophesies to be deemed as “scripture” is if it lines up with what has been canonized. 

This morning I was reading in the Bible and the following verse caused me to ponder about life.  This verse is in James 4:14:

…For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

As I read this verse in the Bible, I thought about Jacob in the Book of Mormon when he wrote at the end of his life in Jacob 7:26:

…the time passed away with us and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream…

As I reflected on life and the meaning of life, I also thought about a recent professor from Carnegie Melon who has been giving lectures recently called “The Last Lecture.”  He has been diagnosed with cancer and has 3 – 6 months to live.  He was recently interviewed on Good Morning America.  The interview is included below:

For his full presentation that he gives, you can watch it here:

As he states and as James and Jacob state in the scriptures, life goes by quickly.  As seen in the video, he talks a lot about achieving our dreams and our goals.  If you notice, he focuses a lot on helping others.  Let’s take some time today and reflect on our dreams and how we would treat those around us and act as if today is the last day. 

One excersize I’ve seen before is to write down the things that you would want to be known for after you are gone and strive each day to reach that goal.  Here’s an example:

I want to be known for loving God, loving and respecting others including my family, friends, and all people.  I want to be known as someone who was honest in business and respectful towards people of all races, religion, and nationalities.  I would like to be known as someone who didn’t give up on a good cause and who perservered through adversity.  Someone who smiled and laughed often and who made others feel comfortable and at ease.  I would like to be known as someone who inspired others through the things I read, talked about, and did.  At the end of my days, I’d like to enter in the kingdom of the Lord as he says “well done, thou good and faithful servant….”

Try writing one for yourself.  It’s a good experience.  After you write it, take time to think about it often.

My wife and I have most recently been reading Truman G Madsen’s book entitled “Christ and the Inner Life.”  This is a very good book and some of the concepts from it I’ve written about in previous posts.

I’ll share some quotes from the book that recently caught my attention:

I say to you that when he (Jesus) said to the woman of Samaria and to others, “He that believeth on me, shall never thirst”; I say to you that when on the cross he looked down and back, under the searing sun, and said, “I thirst,” he was reflecting both the promise and the need that all of us have.  We, too, thirst until we ache.  We, too, are living and dying on deserts.

A few paragraphs later, Madsen further concludes by saying:

May God help us to walk in the light; and, when we do not feel that we have it, to walk in the memory of it with integrity.

I thought it was interesting to note that Jesus, who had stated those who follow Him will never thirst was left alone and thirsted not only physically, but spiritually on the cross when he said “Father why hast thou forsaken me?”  While his enemies scoffed and ridiculed him telling him to save himself.  At this moment Jesus didn’t feel like he had the light anymore as His father had withdrawn himself from him.  Jesus, who was all-powerful could have used his powers to save himself and destroy his enemies, but he didn’t because he had integrity.  Jesus proved to be conquerer by holding on to the memory of the light he had felt and his mission and finished his mission with integrity. 

How often do we feel like we’re alone in life?  How often do we feel the darkness of sin, doubt, or discouragement and cry out to God and feel that we are yet alone?  How often do we just simply not feel like walking with God, or doubt that He is there walking with us?  What do we do when we feel that God has forsaken us?

I like what Madsen says about walking in the memory of the light.  When all seems to be lost, the memories may be all that we have to rely on for a season.

First, we need to make sure we’re in the light. In a previous post, I shared ways to “plug” into the light throughy keeping the commandments and scripture study.  I would add sincere prayer to this as well.  We should continue to do these things even when we don’t feel like it because these are ways to stay in God’s light and feel His Holy Spirit.

Second, we need to remember.  We’re probably all familiar with scriptures relating both those who remembered and those who forgot.  I’ll share a few examples that come to mind.   

Poor examples in the scriptures include: Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, King David and Solomon, the Isrealites during Moses’ time.  In each of these individuals’ lives they had marvelous spiritual experiences.  David and Laman and Lemuel both saw heavenly beings with their eyes.  However due to negligence in keeping their eyes focused towards God, each of these individuals erred greatly and suffered because of it.  A side note is to remember that repentance is always there for us, but the further we fall from God’s light and love, the harder it is to get back.

Good examples in the scriptures of those who remembered in spite of hardship and despair include: Paul, Nephi, Moroni, and Joseph Smith.  There are of course numerous other examples, but these are the ones who come to mind. 

In 2 Nephi 4, Nephi turns to God in prayer when he feels his strength slacken, Paul states numerous times in the Bible to count it a joy to suffer for the Lord and reflects on Jesus’ sacrifice to help him “stay the course”, Moroni refuses to deny Jesus despite the fact he is the last believer left in his world.  Joseph Smith certainly wasn’t perfect by any means, but when times were hard and he felt like God wasn’t there for him anymore he didn’t give up on God, rather he turned to him in prayer and in turn received revelation.

There are numerous other means and ways given to us to remember God today.  Temple attendance and partaking the sacrament (in the prayer we promise to “always remember Him”) are two more examples. 

I know life probably isn’t easy for you, and it’s definitely not always easy for me.  But I know that life would be much harder without God in my life and the belief I have in Jesus as well.  As I’ve built memories with them, and try to further develop my relationship with them on a daily basis through scripture study and prayer as well as weekly partaking of the sacrament, I feel that life is much better.  I also believe that when we develop these habits it makes it that much easier to look back on the good feelings and spiritual strength we receive gradually over time. In addition, when we don’t feel the Spirit for a season we realize our dependance on God and become grateful for His mercy. 

When we’re down and don’t feel the light anymore I hope we can all remember to call upon God and keep walking in His light with integrity. 

03-07-08  Recently this post was posted on the postmormon.com website and I have received many comments from former members who are eager to debate doctrine.  My intention with this post was not to debate whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or the LDS church is true/false, etc.  Any comments made that are not uplifting or off-topic will be deleted.  If your intentions lead to off-topic discussions you are invited to go to another forum. Here is the original post:

I was on vacation a couple years ago in Hawaii and there was an interesting lesson on how to strengthen against apostasy.  I jotted down the 9 steps to strenthen against apostasy and put them in my scriptures.  This morning I came across them again and thought I’d share. 

Personally, I feel apostasy is distancing myself from the Lord and His teachings and truths that he has revealed to me about His gospel and teachings.  Each one of us have had different things revealed to us and it is up to us to keep searching and growing in light and truth.  When we stop searching by praying, studying scriptures, serving, etc. we are taking steps towards apostasy.  Following these suggestions can help us maintain the Holy Ghost and help us endure to the end.

Strengthening Against Apostasy

1.) Avoid those who would tear down your faith

2.) Keep the commandments

3.) Follow the living prophets

4.) Don’t debate points of doctrine (3Nephi 11:28)

5.) Search the scriptures

6.) Don’t be swayed from the mission of the church

7.) Pray for enemies

8.) Practice pure religion (James 1:27)

9.) Remember not everything has an immediate answer

 

As I look over these steps, I see things I can definitely improve on.  Questions to consider are: how do I react when someone from another faith comes on my blog and shares their experiences and even attacks me?  Do I pray for them or do I try to argue points of doctrine with them?  How am I doing with studying the scriptures?  Am I practicing pure religion as James describes it by visiting the homeless and the widows?  Am I impatient when I pray and demand an immediate answer?  Do I follow our modern day prophets or do I scoff at them? 

These are important things to consider.  I know the closer I am to the Lord and His Spirit, the happier I feel.  I hope we can all ponder these questions and be thankful if we’re on the right track and if we’re not, make some changes to get back on track.

The other day, my wife asked me, “Can you teach my Sunday School class this Sunday?”  She was out of town and there wasn’t a substitute for the 14-15 year old class she teaches.  I told her (reluctantly at first) that I would then asked “what’s the lesson on?”  She said “Isaiah.”  My desire to teach dropped like a rock in water.  Isaiah?  How am I supposed to teach something I have no concept about?  I have been avoiding Isaiah for years.  Sure, I know he has some great poetic verses about the Savior, but to teach?  I started back-pedaling and asking her if there was someone else who could teach instead or if we could combine her class with someone elses.  She has a good, soft heart for the kids she teaches and she told me she didn’t want them to have to be combined into a room with others.  She felt they needed and deserved a personal teacher who would give them the best treatment.  I told her I’d find someone for her. 

After we finished chatting I looked at the names of people who could substitute for her.  I was about ready to call a substitute but I realized the love she has for these kids and the effort she puts into her lessons.  As I thought of this, I realized that no one else would be able to simulate in a sense what she does except for me, as I watch her and hear her stories of each of them.  I at least wanted to show up to the class and let them know of the love she has for them.  I decided to put the phone down and call on the Good Lord for help instead.  I was going to give the lesson.

I shouldn’t have been suprised to get an answer to prayer so quickly, but not long after I prayed I received an email in my inbox from Meridian Magazine.  There was an article by John Bytheway headlining the magazine called “Leafing through the Chapters of Isaiah” (I encourage anyone interested in familiarizing themselves with Isaiah to read this article in conjuction with Isaiah).  I clicked on it and started reading and the first paragraph started describing how I felt as I thought of teaching Isaiah.  However, after reading the article and studying the “Isaiah Chapters” of the Book of Mormon, I started getting excited to teach the class.  The article discusses the four guides to look for in any of Isaiah’s writings as being those of Covenants, Christ, Current Events, and Coming Events.  In addition, it discusses some keys (spirit of prophecy, geographical knowledge of Jews, living in latter-days, knowledge of God’s judgements) needed to interpret Isaiah.  As I started reading the chapters with the guide and keys I started finding things in Isaiah I’ve never been able to comprehend or appreciate. 

I only studied for a few hours, so I barely was able to scratch the surface of Isaiah.  However, some things that stuck out to me were: prophesies of temples, the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see also Isaiah 11), Isaiah’s call as a prophet from the voice of the Lord, descriptions of the Millenium, Jesus’ personal approval of Isaiah, and much more. 

As I went to church, I pictured in my mind teaching the kids the best I could and taking care of them like my wife (and of course the Lord) wanted them to be taken care of.  However, the opportunity to teach didn’t come because our normally scheduled one hour meeting lasted almost 2 hours and the bishop told us we would cancel Sunday School.

Although I didn’t get to teach “Isaiah 101″, I’m grateful for the chance I had to learn and study and even if there were not many students in our church today learning about Isaiah, there was at least one student who learned something and that student was me.

Recently I posted a blog on why I believe in God.  Many of you emailed me directly and a couple of you left responses.  This blog is written in response to a comment left by someone on my blog who says he doesn’t believe in God.  I appreciate him getting in touch with me and sharing his perspective with me.  It caused me to reflect on my beliefs.  Here were the comments left on my page:

“…after careful consideration, pondering, reading, rationale, et. al, I’ve come to the conclusion  that there isn’t a god.  And because I don’t believe in a god, I only have to live for myself and those that I love.  And I mustn’t fear death, for I also don’t believe in hell.  It’s a wonderful way to live life.  It makes me very happy.”

First off, I commend this person for sharing their views.  Although many of his views are not aligned with mine, one of them is.  The view that he loves those around him and loves himself.  This I find to be very positive and there are many (including myself) that need to work on further developing the trait of loving and respecting oneself as well as his friends and family.    

Next, I would like to offer some suggestions to my friend just in case my friend ever has a faint desire to learn if there is indeed a God and how to find out. 

I would like to address a few laws that I know to be true.  In Doctorine and Covenants 130:20 it states that when we keep the commandments of God, he is bound to bless us.  It is a law and with every blessing there is a law attached to it.  What are some laws of Heaven?  Some examples include: Faith, Prayer, Tithing, Fasting, all of the commandments basically.  For purposes of addressing the topic on hand, I would like to focus on the laws attached to faith and prayer.

The Law of Faith

In my opinion, the most beautiful and simple explanation of how to excersize faith is in Alma chapter 32 of the Book of Mormon.  If my atheist friend even has the faintest desire to find out if there is a God, I recommend a careful study of this chapter.  It outlines step by step how to excersize faith.  Here are the steps:

1. Develop Humility (Alma 32 verses 12-16)

2. Desire to believe (verse 27)

3. Experiment upon the word (verse 27)

4. Hold on to truth…nourish the “seed” through prayer (verse 37)

5. Patience (verse 42)

6. Diligence (verse 42)

7. Recieve reward of Faith (verse 43)

If faith is a law, then god is bound to bless us with knowledge if we follow these steps.  He only blesses us with knowledge and miracles according to our faith. ( 2 Nephi 27: 23; 2 Nephi 26:13) Alma compares faith to a seed that if planted in our hearts will grow into a tree of knowledge if we are patient and nourish the seed by reading and studying and believing.  If we do not practice these steps then God can not bless us according to the laws of nature as seen when Jesus couldn’t perform miracles in the Bible because of lack of faith.  (see Matthew 13:58 and 3 Nephi 19: 35

However, numerous examples are contained in the scriptures of the miracles that are able to be perfomed because of following the prescribed steps of faith.  Some examples are: the miracles of Paul in the bible (Acts 19:11); numerous examples of healings in the scriptures; and people receiving a testimony or witness of the spirit according to their faith.  There are thousands of other examples in the scriptures that witness of miracles as well. 

It appears that my atheist friend was almost ready to recieve an answer or witness that there is a God.  He completed the steps of having a desire to know, and reading and studying.  I’m not sure if this studying was done in humility.  I’m not the one to judge, but if it was done in humility and he still didn’t recieve a witness then it was because he didn’t practice the law of prayer.

The Law of Prayer

In the scriptures it states: “All things ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall recieve” (Matthew 21: 22)  This is a law.  God promised he would do this and I testify from personal experience that he will.  Examples of people recieving a witness that there is a God by praying include Enos in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith when praying to find out which church he should join, and other examples throughout the scriptures. 

My atheist friend also commented on my experience I posted about praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true that there is no way that I could have had this experience and that it was something I had imagined up.  This story reminds me of an anti-christ in the Book of Mormon named Zeezrom who challenged Jacob, a prophet of the time. 

In closing and in response to my atheist friend, I want to tell you that I have tried the experiment on the words of God.  I know that the law of faith and the law of prayer works.  I know that I have felt God in ways that I can’t describe and that one can’t understand unless they have experienced them.  I feel like Joseph Smith in a small sense that the experiences I’ve had I know are from God and I can’t deny them.  If I were to deny that God has sent me His Spirit to testify that Jesus is our Savior, the scriptures including the Book of Mormon and the Bible are true, and that He (God) actually exists; I would be lying to God and myself.  This I will not do.

I invite my friend to try this experiement with humility and faith.  If you have the desire and patience I testify to you that you will recieve a witness.

If anyone reading this has similar experiences to share or ideas to help my atheist friend, feel free to contribute in your comments.

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 709 other followers

GraceforGrace Community

Blog Stats

  • 336,567 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 709 other followers