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This is a follow up to the FREETOWN article I wrote a couple weeks ago. It opens today so don’t forget to get out and watch the movie if you’re close to a theater.
Below is the interview with Adam Abel, the director for FREETOWN:
FREETOWN releases nationwide on Wed., April 8
It has a limited release so see it on that day/weekend!
To find a theater near you, visit http://www.FreetowntheMovie.com
This morning I read about two miracles that were seemingly instantaneous. The first is in the scriptures in the Book of Mormon in Alma 15. Zeezrom is physically healed immediately after he accepts Jesus. Here is an excerpt:
6. And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
7 And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk…
I also read a modern story of a man named Roman Gutierrez, who is now a pastor who spent his teenage years as a drug addict, gang member, and in prison. He was declared dead twice and still lived. When he was 25, he attended a church service and accepted Jesus. He was healed instantly and didn’t have a desire to do drugs anymore. Now he spends his life serving others in a ministry that helps youth realize they can have a better life. Here is an interview with Roman:
Some Miracles (especially recovering from addictions) Take Time
When you read about miraculous stories in the scriptures, or learn about Roman’s story, someone who is struggling with addictions could either gain hope of delieverance, or I can see how it could be demotivating for someone who has turned their life over to God, but still struggles. It is for all the rest of us who don’t have instant miracles that I write this.
Many of you have read my book, Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication. While my main focus in the book is how I overcame anxiety and depression, I also spend some time discussing some addictions that I had and needed to overcome as well.
I struggled with addictions for a number of years and was proud, not willing to admit I had a problem. For years, I damaged relationships and used people to feed my addiction. When I came to realize I had a problem, I tried to fix it myself for a few years, but I would continue to fall.
One day I felt prompted by God to visit a friend and when I visited her, we talked. I discussed frustrations with myself in succombing to the addictions yet again and she told me she thought I needed to go through a 12-step program. I was ready to listen and I started the program. For me, healing didn’t take place immediately, even after I turned my will over to God. However, I received strength one step at a time and through a series of “little” miracles and graces from God, I was able to be healed within 2 years from meeting with my friend.
Now I serve as a volunteer for our church’s 12 step addictions recovery program as a facilitator. It is awesome to see people at various stages of their recovery. Some of them have been struggling for years and are making their first effort to fight the addictions they face. Others such as myself have experienced recovery and are working to help others in their journey and our continued journey of sobriety. In all phases, we feel the healing power of Jesus in our lives and know that He is there every step of the way and it is humbling to witness and experience.
If there are any of you reading this who are struggling, I encourage you to keep taking steps of faith towards recovery. Heavenly Father and Jesus are there for you no matter how many times you fall. Just like Art Berg said in his book. Some miracles take time.
I’m a Seahawks fan. I have been since I was 9 years old and I would try to emulate Steve Largent on the playground. My mom probably didn’t like me coming home with my pants all muddied up from catching long passes and diving into the mud on the playground.
When I played football in Jr High and High School, I picked the same jersey number as Steve Largent (80). I had dreams of being a great wide receiver and I was pretty decent until I didn’t have a growth spurt and all the guys in high school out grew me. I guess I could have kept trying, but I chose to hang up my dreams and jersey mid way through high school. Now my football dreams come alive through playing annually in turkey bowls and through the Seattle Seahawks the past few years.
Last night, I was in charge of a dinner at our church. We told everyone to dress casually and it was kind of funny how many people wore their Seahawks t-shirts and jerseys (myself included). The event was a fellowship dinner with a testimony meeting afterwards, but to an outsider looking in, it looked like a Seahawks rally!
One of the guys who is in our congregation who recently moved from San Francisco mentioned how much pride the “12th man” has around town. The ‘Niners are a big rival for us, so he gets some friendly fire from us every so often. As I spoke with him I thought about my time in Utah where there are a lot of Mormons and every so often you encounter a non-Mormon. This post is meant to be a bit light-hearted, but here is a “top ten list” of similarities between a non-Mormon in Utah and a non-Seahawks fan in Seattle:
10 Similarities between Seahawks Fans in Seattle and Mormons in Utah
10. The conversation goes awkward if a Seahawks fan meets a non-fan just like it does if a Mormon in Utah meets a non-Mormon as the Seahawks fan or Mormon can’t comprehend such a thing as there being someone who isn’t a “believer”
9. A siting of President Monson is like a Russell Wilson siting in Seattle as the phone cameras fly out and crowds rush to see them.
8. The local news reports what a Seahawks player had for lunch while a Utah station reports where a General Authority was shopping.
7. Seahawks games bring a huge crowd that converges into downtown Seattle whereas a General Conference does the same in Salt Lake City, Utah. Non-Mormons and non-Seahawks fans rush to get their shopping done before the crowd comes back out.
6. Seahawks fans try to convert non-Seahawks fans and help them “see the light”. So do Mormons in Utah (and everywhere for that matter!)
5. Streets in Seattle are named after Seahawks players. Streets and cities in Utah are named after Mormon pioneers.
4. All TV stations show Seahawks games locally during football season. General conference is on all channels in Utah during that season.
3. The crowd noise in Seattle shakes the city and causes tremors. So does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when they sing.
2. Non-Mormons picket outside of temple square. Niners fans do the same outside of Seattle games
1. People skip church to watch Seahawks games. In Utah when there is a General Conference, people use that as a “vacation” from church as well.
I’m reading a great book about one of the first converts and apostles to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Parley P Pratt.
For those interested in a pretty good glimpse into the early church and the challenges and miracles that took place, this is a very good read.
One of the miracles that he describes is when the Latter-day Saints had been driven out of their homes in Missouri and into Illinois. They were destitute and left in the cold along the Mississippi River on a swampy land with no shelter. People were getting very sick.
Here is an excerpt of one of the miracles that took place during that time:
Here many were lying sick and at the point of death. Among these was my old friend and fellow servant, Elijah Fordham. He was now in the last stage of a deadly fever. He lay prostrate and nearly speechless, wit his feet poultice; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; his flesh was gone; the paleness of death was upon him; and he was hardly to be distinguished from a corpse. His wife was preparing his clothes for his burial.
Brother Joseph (the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith) took him by the hand, and in a voice and energy which would have raised the dead, he cried: “BROTHER FORDHAM, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, ARISE AND WALK”! It was a voice which could be heard from house to house…like the roaring of a lion or heavy thunderbolt. Brother Fordham leaped from his dying bed in an instant, shook the poultices and bandages from his feet, put on his clothes so quick that none got a chance to assist him and…he walked with us from house to house visiting other sick beds…Several more were called up in a similar manner and were healed.” (pg. 355)
This story is a fairly popular story that is told and repeated about Joseph Smith. The part that I was not familiar with that Parley Pratt writes about is this:
Brother Jospeh, while in the Spirit, rebuked the elders who would continue to lay hands on the sick from day to day without the pwer to heal them. Said he: “It is time that such things ended. Let the Elders either obtain the power of God to heal the sick or let them cease to minister the forms without the power”
Joseph Smith’s quote caused me to reflect on the power of healing within the Church of Jesus Christ today.
For those of you not familiar with how Elders are instructed to heal within the Church, I’ll share some information on the procedure, purpose and process.
In the Bible, there is a scripture that discusses how people who are sick should call on the elders and they will lay hands and anoint the people so they can be healed.
Today, we are instructed to do the same thing. We have olive oil that has been consecrated for healing the sick. We then put a little oil on the head of the person being blessed and then as the Holy Spirit shares thoughts and impressions in our minds, we pray and bless the people who are sick.
I have witnessed miracles on occasion through blessings such as these. For example, my little sister had a bad accident when she was 3 and my father gave her a blessing of healing and she started breathing again and was healed.
However, I hear quite frequently about how today we’ve been blessed with modern medicine and technology and that we don’t need to rely on God as much for healings. Some people say that God caused the medicine and technology to take place so we shouldn’t bother God with a miracle unless we have to.
This makes me wonder if we are like the elders Joseph Smith talks about and rebukes and if we lack faith and rely too heavily on man instead of God. As the Book of Mormon states, when faith is lacking, God can not do miracles. Perhaps we don’t see as many miracles such as the one described because we lack faith.
What are your thoughts?
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and have written articles and books about the subject. In my free time, I try and help people who are struggling with similar issues and provide them guidance and hope.
With this in mind, I was very interested in a recent article that shares the science behind happiness. Within the article, he shares thoughts from Kate Bratskeir, a researcher on happiness, that I thought would be good to highlight for any of us. Some of these are similar to what I outline in both my book, Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication and a similar article I wrote a few years ago. Below are 10 of Kate’s findings on how to become a happier person:
Ten things that supremely happy people do
1. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people. Joy is contagious. People are four times more likely to be happy in the future with happy people around them.
2. Happy people try to be happy. When happy people don’t feel happy, they cultivate a happy thought and smile about it.
3. Happy people spend money more on others than they spend on themselves. Givers experience what scientists call the “helper’s high.”
4. Happy people have deep in-person conversations. Sitting down to talk about what makes a person tick is a good practice for feeling good about life.
5. Happy people use laughter as a medicine. A good old-fashioned chuckle releases lots of good neurotransmitters. A study showed that children on average laugh 300 times a day versus adults who laugh 15 times a day.
6. Happy people use the power of music. Researchers found that music can match the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy.
7. Happy people exercise and eat a healthful diet. Eating a poor diet can contribute to depression.
8. Happy people take the time to unplug and go outside. Uninterrupted screen time brings on depression and anxiety.
9. Happy people get enough sleep. When people run low on sleep, they are prone to feel a lack of clarity, bad moods, and poor judgment.
10. Happy people are spiritual.
Those of you who have read my book and articles know of the ways that have helped me with exercise, relaxation, spirituality, etc. and all I can say to this list is Amen!
I worked out this morning and my back is a bit sore, so when I saw #6 and massage therapy I got excited for the massage I’m going to get this Saturday!
One thing that is on this list that I haven’t outlined before is spending more on others than on ones’ self. I like that one! I would take it a step further and say spending both money and time with others is important whether that’s with your kids, a friend, spouse, etc.
What are your thoughts about this list and what have you found that helps make you a happier person?
For those of you not familiar with the prophet, Joseph Smith’s “first vision”, I’ll start with a short video that depicts it along with his writings. Joseph Smith was the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). An important note is that in the video below, it doesn’t depict how Satan tried to overcome Joseph Smith before Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to him. For a full account, you can read his history here.
My thoughts on first vision
I think that the first vision is a testimony that God works through small and simple things that challenge the worlds’ views. Joseph Smith was an unlearned boy of only 14 years. He couldn’t write well and didn’t attend school. However, he had great faith and desire to know God’s will and he was humble and sincere by asking. He didn’t just flippantly pray on a whim. Rather, he had pondered things in his mind and heart for months and perhaps years and on his own came to the conclusion that only God can give him the wisdom he needs.
I would do well to apply this in my life. Daily. Remember that I am nothing and if I want wisdom and strength to overcome Satan’s power and also know what God wants me to be and do, I need to ponder in my mind and sincerely ask for strength and guidance.
Principles learned from First Vision
1. God answers the humble prayer of an honest seeker
2. Heavenly Father is separate from Jesus and loves Jesus as a son
3. Jesus is Heavenly Father’s messenger and does what Father wants him to do.
4. Satan is real and tries to hinder our progression
5. If we’re tempted, it takes effort on our part to exercise faith and call upon God. Only God can dispel Satan through our faithfulness. If we have God with us, Satan has no power.
6. Satan is more powerful than we are alone. We need God to overcome Satan.
7. Be humble and God can work miracles with us.
What are your thoughts on the first vision and what other principles can we learn and apply to our lives?
The other day we took the kids out to buy some toys with the money they had earned. As we walked out of the store, a homeless guy was waiting and asked for some change. I had a couple dollars in my wallet and I also encouraged the kids to give them some of their money, which they did.
He tried to refuse their money, but I insisted as I wanted to teach the kids the lesson so beautifully taught by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon:
And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
It also reminded me of this video of being civil to ALL people…not just the ones we are comfortable with:
I’ll have to admit that I’m not always as generous as I should be and I’m judgmental a lot of the time when I see homeless people-especially when I’m in a rush or in a sketchy part of downtown. Fear and selfishness keeps me moving on rather than stopping and trying to get to know them and help them.
I’m curious. What do you do when you see a beggar or homeless person?
There he was again, left on the outside looking into his home where his wife and children were. However, he wasn’t allowed to enter. He had come home intoxicated yet again and this time, he was afraid, his wife really meant what she said when she said she was leaving him. He looked on through the Washington rain and his face was wet, but more from his tears than from the rain. He had to do something quickly…
Fortunately, for my friend, Milt, this story has a happy ending. It is with his permission that I write this article. I feel it a blessing to have been a witness to God’s gracious hand in the life of my friend, Milton Bridges.
The story from my perspective starts in early 2013 when the Mormon sister missionaries met Milt’s wife and started teaching her. I participated frequently in teaching her. She always had a very kind and sincere heart, but it wasn’t until she began seriously studying the Book of Mormon that her heart fully turned to the Savior and she converted to the gospel in May. She had a desire to give away the ways of the world completely and follow Jesus and she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.
She was very happy with her new faith and what it could mean to her family. The only problem was that her husband, Milt, wasn’t ready to give up his addiction to alcohol. It was in later that summer that Milt came home intoxicated for the last time.
Milt had become a friend of mine through the process of getting to know April and also as he would come and play basketball with us at the church. All of us who played ball grew to love Milt and looked forward to him coming. Sometimes, he would be a little inebriated and we could definitely smell the alcohol, but he was always welcome to come and play and we loved him.
When I received the phone call after Milt had broken down and been kicked out of his home for what he feared was the last time to see them, my heart was sad for him, but I was very happy that he had hit the bottom. This meant he was truly ready to change. He was humble and yearned for a miracle. It is at this point, in my experience, that God can work miracles in our lives. Milt asked me to come over and give him a priesthood blessing.
For those of you who are not familiar with priesthood blessings, I’ll describe it as best I can.
In the Mormon church, men are given the priesthood authority to act as a mouthpiece of God when called upon when giving a blessing. It is like in the Bible in James 5:14 when he asks if there is anyone who is sick and that if so, they should call upon the elders of the church, who will come and anoint them with oil and pray over them. There are other examples in the Bible of elders coming and “laying their hands” on people to heal them.
When I arrived to Milt’s location, he was a very broken man, but he had slim glimmer of hope. This is all that God needed. As I laid my hands on his head, the Holy Spirit moved me on what to say. I can’t remember the exact words, but the feeling I had was that if Milt spent time coming closer to God and studying his word and praying, he would be healed from his addiction.
After I gave him the blessing, he thanked me and went to a alcohol rehab center for a month.
We (those of us who were his friends in the Church) all prayed for him every day and occasionally heard from him through limited text messages.
He came out of the center and was clean and didn’t want to touch alcohol and hasn’t since. It was a miracle!
A few months later he began meeting with the missionaries and decided to be baptized. When I was getting ready to baptize him, he told me that when he was given the blessing a few months earlier, that he felt something come over him and the desire to drink was removed.
The first step in Milt’s conversion story was the healing of his alcohol addiction. The next miracle was the healing of his heart and the conversion of his soul to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had been reading and praying for a few months when he realized that he had a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to be baptized. He recognized all the blessings his family had received since his wife had joined the Church and he had seen miracles in his own personal life as well.
I considered it an honor when he asked if I could baptize him. I had seen everything he had to go through to get to that point and the new man that he was as he embraced the gospel was indeed a miracle.
The picture I’ve included is of me, Milt, and the Elders who taught him the lessons prior to his baptism. This is right before I baptized him.
When I see Milt with his two cute little kids and his wife at church, and when I see him passing the sacrament, I am amazed at the miracles that each and every one of us can receive if we open our hearts in humility to the Lord.
Once we are converted, we then help strengthen our brothers. Milt did exactly this and his brother, was also baptized a few weeks later. Below is a picture of Milt, his wife, kids and his brother.
When I see this, the song that comes to mind is one I’ve heard at other Christian churches “Our God is an Awesome God“!
Recently 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.
I was out with the sister missionaries the other night visiting a family they are teaching. The family is a great young couple just starting out in life in their early 20’s. They are very new in their careers and have all the aspirations that young couples have such as: earning enough money to live comfortably, raising children, and making their dreams come true in life.
While I was there, I felt that I needed to ask them why they are meeting with the missionaries? She said it is because she sees how happy people who have faith are and she wants that in her life and in the lives of her children. Her husband, once was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormon). He said that he decided around the age of 18 that he wasn’t going to stay active as a member of the church. However, after a few years he notices a void in his life and said that he also shares the same desire and knows he will “come back” someday.
They also shared experiences they have had learning about the Gospel from his parents, who are active church members. We read scripture together and I shared some stories of my conversion. He then shared a story of revelation that had come into his life at a young age and shared a witness of God answering prayers. He also said he felt a desire to pray and read scripture with his wife, which they never have done.
After the meeting, I couldn’t help but think that this meeting must have been an answer to the prayers of his parents. I also thought of my own conversion story as well as that of Alma the Younger’s in the scriptures, where the children, who are rebellious are saved through the faith and prayers of their parents.
Since you can read about Alma’s conversion story, I’ll briefly share my story and how it relates to my father.
My Conversion Story
After my parents’ divorce I became very rebellious at a young age. Although I was very young, I was getting into some very bad addictive habits and I was angry at my father, God, and especially anything related to the Mormon Church.
One summer, my mother persuaded me to go and visit my Dad, which I did reluctantly. The one thing I didn’t want to do was go to church, which I knew my Dad was actively involved in. Upon my dismay, he told me that as long as I was staying with him, I had to go to church. So I did and hated it.
However, after a few days I started to notice something and my heart started to change. I noticed my Dad wasn’t what I thought he was and he actually cared for me. I noticed a feeling of love and peace in his home that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. After staying with him for a couple of weeks, my heart had changed so much that I knew I wanted to live with him in an environment that was away from the bad friends and influences I had without a father figure in my life. I also started reading scripture and praying and God softened my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When I told my father all of this, he started to cry tears of joy and told me he had been praying for this to happen as he saw me slipping into a dark place. As I look back on things, I realize that it was indeed a miracle because I had no intentions of ever coming back. It was solely through my father’s faith that I was blessed with the grace of the Good Lord to experience what I did at that time and have experienced many times since then.
This message is to all of you parents out there who may have a child who has made some wrong turns. My heart goes out to you as I am a father of young children. At their tender ages, I can’t imagine them making bad choices as they are so innocent and full of love and life. If you have older children who have strayed, I’m sure you see your older children and remember them when they were young and so close to God. Don’t give up hope. The lives of the young couple I met with this week with the missionaries, Alma the Younger in the scriptures, and my own life are testimonies that through the faith of parents’ sincere prayers, our children can return once again to light and truth from God.