Sorry this is so late, but better late than never, right?
Which quote is your favorite?
Developing spirituality line upon line
Today was the first day of General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormons). For those not familiar with it, I’ll briefly describe it in my own words.
Based on a revelation given to Joseph Smith, found in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 20, verses 61-62, the church is to come together for inspiration and conducting business, which includes sustaining the elders of the church. The revelation suggests every 3 months, but we come together every 6 months now.
During the conference, all of the highest leaders of the Mormon church speak including all of the 12 apostles, the First Presidency, Many women leaders, and also members of the Quorum of the Seventy.
Each of the people who speaks spends time praying and preparing for what the general membership of the church needs to hear along with people not of the Mormon faith who may be listening in. It is interesting to learn from the perspectives of the leaders at the highest level, who dedicate everything to traveling around the world to help humanity.
Today one of the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Robert D Hales, encouraged all of us to reflect and re-read or listen to what was said during this weekends’ Conference. He said that we would receive personal revelation from the Lord in doing so.
As he spoke, I reflected on an experience I had just a few months ago.
In last Aprils’ General Conference, one of the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Richard G Scott, spoke about the power of reading scriptures as a family. We had tried numerous times over the years to have family scripture study. Over the course of just a couple of days we would get out of the habit and back into our normal schedule. We would then completely forget about it until the next General Conference, when someone would say something about scripture study as a family again and the cycle would continue.
As I read Elder Scott’s talk, this time was different. When I re-read his talk a couple of months after he gave the talk, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. Things jumped off the page at me and I received a simple, but inspired idea to help my family. A simple, but very profound idea came clearly into my mind. I knew it was from the Lord because of how clearly and powerfully it entered into my mind. It was simply this: put a copy of the scriptures out on the kitchen table as a reminder to read. After saying a blessing on the food, read a few verses out of the scriptures and have a small discussion with the kids.
We started doing it and the results have been great! It’s been about 4 months now and we are to the point that if we don’t read scriptures, our 4 year old daughter will remind us to. It has become a habit and part of our routine.
I’m very grateful that God speaks to us individually and through His servants. It has blessed the lives of my family.
I encourage everyone to listen to General Conference tomorrow and then spend time in the ensuing months to re-read or listen to the messages. I’m confident you will receive personal revelation.
Abish is a Lamanite. At that time in the history of the Book of Mormon, Lamanites are not followers of Jesus Christ as a whole. Therefore, Abish had hidden her testimony of Jesus Christ for many years. When the Nephite missionaries come and preach of Jesus Christ and perform miracles, she runs throughout the land sharing her testimony and bringing people to the location where the missionaries are.
Recently, I attended a beautiful wedding followed by a baptism of a nice young lady and her boyfriend/husband. I felt it an honor to be able to baptize her as she expressed an outward desire to enter into a covenant with the Lord to take His name upon her and keep His commandments.
When I asked her what brought her to the point of wanting to be baptized, she said it was her boyfriend. Her boyfriend had been baptized a number of years ago, but hadn’t been attending church for quite a while (Mormons label this as being “inactive) when they met. They had a child together and moved in with each other. Over the course of four years, he would talk with her about his testimony of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Over time, she grew to have a desire to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ, but didn’t know what to do.
Around that time, the missionaries knocked on her door and she gladly let them in. The missionaries told me about the nice young couple that they had met and also that her boyfriend was a member. They had been living in our ward boundaries (every congregation is divided into what we call “ward”, or a territory so we can take care of each other better) for nearly a year and we hadn’t even known it! We were glad to welcome them into our ward and she started taking the lessons.
The lessons went by very nicely because her boyfriend had done such a great job of preparing and teaching her, even though he didn’t attend church at all, or associate with members of the congregation.
I realized that although people may not be “active”, they still have testimonies and if given the chance, they, like Abish, will gladly share their testimonies.
I recently read an article entitled “Do Vegetarians Live Longer?”. There were numerous studies cited that support eating a purely vegetarian diet vs. a meat-based, or Paleo diet. However, a couple studies that stood above the rest was a study that showed eating mostly plant-based diet with some meat (mostly fish) is the best diet for longevity. Here is an excerpt from the article:
pescetarians—those who have a mostly plant-based diet but eat some seafood—were the true winners, with a slightly lower mortality rate than vegans, ovo-lacto vegetarians, and indiscriminate meat eaters. This may have to do with the food, but it could also be because pescetarians tend to put quite a bit of thought into their intricate dietary direction. Because they are often pickier when it comes to the food choices they make, they might do the same when it comes to other aspects of their lives such as exercise, smoking, getting enough sleep, etc.
Given the basic principle of Paleo eating is that our bodies are designed to eat the way our ancestors ate, it looks like we’re supposed to be eating (say it with me now) a largely plant-based diet and some animal products.
This research falls in line with a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, called the The Word of Wisdom, which has been called many times “God’s Law of Health”.
Compare the statements above to some quotes from the Word of Wisdom:
tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man
all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man
Most people know that Mormons do not drink strong drinks or smoke or use drugs, but when you look more closely at the Word of Wisdom, there are a lot of “dos” as well such as eating mostly grains, fruits, and vegetables.
It looks like Science may have caught up with what God revealed a couple of hundred years ago and what our ancestors did thousands of years ago!
Every Wednesday I go visit members of our congregation and our community who we haven’t seen in awhile, who have fallen away, or who haven’t learned of Jesus Christ and His gospel yet. My intention is to help them feel God’s love in their lives as many times they have chosen a different path in life. I do this in a number of ways, but it always includes praying and reading scripture together along with challenging them to take action and move towards God.
When I prepare for these visits, I spend a few days contemplating and praying about who God would have me visit. Once I have an idea of who to visit, I then spend a few days praying and reading scriptures with these people in mind so God can prepare me for what they need at that time in their lives.
A God of Miracles
There is a great scripture in the Book of Mormon that discusses how God is still a God of miracles today. Here’s part of the chapter:
7 And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.
11 But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.
I love these verses! The other day I was able to witness a God of miracles.
Dreams from God
As I was reading scripture and preparing for one of my visits, I felt an impression in my mind from God that I needed to visit an active member of our congregation and tell them I had felt that God wanted them to invite someone close to them to their home and listen to a message from the missionaries about the gospel of Christ. I didn’t know anything more than that. Just that I needed to challenge them to do this.
For me, this was something that would normally be a bit awkward. First, I don’t usually receive answers to prayer to challenge other people to do things. Secondly, I wasn’t sure how they would take the news with me showing up on their doorstep telling them God wanted them to do something.
However, my experience has led me to believe that I should never turn down a prompting from God and that if I follow the promptings things will work out for the best. Therefore, I visited this individual in our congregation and informed them of my experience I’d had.
To my surprise, the person told me they knew exactly who they needed to ask to come to their home. They went on to tell me about a dream they had had a month or so earlier.
The dream was pretty cut and dry. In the dream, the member of our congregation had seen a certain family sitting around their (the members’) living room. There were missionaries there teaching them the gospel.
When the member woke up, they said they had felt a spiritual confirmation that they needed to invite this family over. However, for various reasons they hadn’t done so yet.
When I showed up and told them of my experience, they knew right away that they needed to invite the family over and accepted the challenge without a problem.
From this experience I learned a few things. First, God cares for each one of us and wants the best from us. He is watching over all of us and those of us who know Him are the ones He uses to bring his other children back to Him. Next, I learned that miracles definitely still happen today and God is a God of miracles. Finally, I learned once again that if I trust in God and act on promptings from His Spirit things will work out for the best.
Do you have any experiences that you consider to be miraculous? If so , please share!
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.
In the mid-90’s when I served my mission in Germany, we would often listen to cassette tapes where people would re-enact, or role play, various scenarios that we were likely to encounter. The actors on the tape would share a “less effective” and then “more effective” examples of how to teach missionary lessons, approach people, find people to teach, etc. We would always strive to use the more effective approach.
One day I was trying to use a “more effective” approach to finding new people to teach by going through our Area Book to find the names of people who prior missionaries had taught. As I scanned the notes, nothing special was standing out to me until I came across a name and an address. All it read was “Hr Neuhaus” and an address. There were not the typical notes or comments left by missionaries on what they had taught, the person’s reaction to the lessons, how many lessons they had taught, etc. It was simply “Hr Neuhaus.” Although there wasn’t much to go on, I knew we needed to stop by that particular house, so we mapped out the address and full of faith and confidence got on our bikes and pedaled to the address.
When we knocked on the door, a gruff old man shouted angrily at us from inside, “Keine Intresse,” meaning “not interested.” Usually I would walk on down the street to the next house, but this time was different. I felt moved upon to keep on trying. I called back and said the first thing that entered my mind, “You might not be interested in God right now, but God is interested in you!” That comment immediately sparked the gentleman’s curiosity and he came to the door and let us in.
The room we entered was filled with the haze of smoke from countless cigarettes Mr. Neuhaus would chain smoke. I could almost feel the smoke wrap around my skin like a blanket. I had never baptized anyone in Germany and I was confident that this gentleman would soon become another of our “one-teach-wonders,” where we taught one lesson and then never got invited back again.
Before we had a chance to get introduced, Mr. Neuhaus blunted stated, “I hate God.” I had never started a conversation this way before, but I could sense that he was in great pain, so I asked him questions about why he felt that way.
Mr. Neuhaus went on to describe how he had lived a great life with his wife for many years but suddenly she had taken ill and had recently passed away. The loss of his wife was too much for him to bear, so he had turned to alcohol and cigarettes to help numb the pain and loneliness.
Germans are bold so I boldly told him that if he listened to our message and did what we asked him to do, he would soon find God and his heart would be healed. That resonated with him ever so slightly and so after praying and reading, he agreed to have us return for another visit.
Our next discussion was much better than the first one. He had read several scriptures and had even started to pray. Although he was still very lonely and sad, his demeanor was much lighter as we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and Mr. Neuhaus made slight spiritual progress with every visit.
As missionaries, one of our responsibilities is to teach people about the “Word of Wisdom,” which is the law that distinguishes Mormons in that they cannot drink, smoke, use drugs, etc. The day finally came where we were to teach Mr. Neuhaus about the Word of Wisdom. I was sure he was going to quit having us over when we asked him to stop smoking. However, to our pleasant surprise, he not only wanted to quit smoking and drinking, but he also wanted to get baptized as well.
In order to help Mr. Neuhaus stop smoking and drinking, we bought him some candy and also told him if he was ever tempted, he could contact us via telephone no matter what time it was. I didn’t realize that Mr. Neuhaus would keep me so honest with my offer. He called about every other night so he could talk with us when he was tempted to smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol. I would help strengthen his resolve by him by telling him scripture stories and praying for him over the phone.
This pattern went on for several weeks. I noticed that gradually I grew to love the gruff man who initially had told us to leave him alone and never come back. Like a young flower gradually opens its petals, this was a miracle slowly unfolding before our eyes as Mr. Neuhaus’ testimony started to blossom. I also noticed that I had gradually grown to love Hr Neuhaus with a deep love that can only come from the grace of God. I had learned to see him as God saw him: a son of God most valuable and precious in His eyes.
On May 11th, 1997, I felt humbled as Hans Peter Neuhaus and I stepped into the baptismal font together and I offered the baptismal prayer. We went down into the water together and I lifted him back out. Immediately there was a change in his countenance and I felt a deep love sweep over me as I knew that God had approved of Peter’s baptism.
This experience happened about 8 months into my two-year mission to Frankfurt, Germany. Although I met many people during my mission who appeared they would be good candidates for baptism, none of them took the necessary steps that Peter Neuhaus did. At the time of Peter’s baptism, I did not know that it would be the only time in my entire mission that I would have the opportunity to baptize someone I had found and taught.
I learned that God looks on the heart and even though someone may not appear “ready” to hear the gospel, it is up to God and the individual to receive guidance and promptings from the spirit which leads eventually to baptism. As a missionary, it was my privilege to be allowed to participate as the Spirit bore witness to a “gruff old man,” who embraced the gospel, which in turn changed his life and mine forever.
I have the great opportunity to work as a Ward Mission Leader in my Mormon Church congregation. It is great going out with the missionaries and sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors who may not have a relationship with God. I have seen some amazing things in the past few months as the Holy Spirit has worked miracles to ignite faith in people as they pray and study the scriptures.
One of the things I look forward to nearly ever day, are the stories that the missionaries tell me of their daily adventures as they meet with people from all walks of life. My favorite ones are ones that involve members of our congregation as they help people in the community. The missionaries shared an example of this the other day.
In our neck of the woods (the Seattle area) it tends to rain in waves this time of year. For example, it will be sunny for 20 minutes then a cloud will roll in and pour rain and it goes on like that throughout the day.
One of the ladies that our missionaries have been teaching decided to walk to the store with her little child while it was sunny and on her way back a cloud rolled in and started pouring rain on her and the young child. She was very concerned about her child’s health and wondered if she would be able to make it home.
Just then, a van pulled up to her and the door slid open. A large Samoan man looked at her and said “Get in the Van”! She said at first it was startling, but she had a good feeling so she got in the van. There were a few kids in the van along with the gentleman’s wife. They asked her where she lived and told her they didn’t feel right about having her left out in the rain. She told them where to go and she arrived safely at home.
The next evening, the missionaries invited her to come to a woman’s activity at the church. She went and had a great time meeting members of the congregation. When she entered one of the rooms she looked up and noticed the same lady who had been in the van. They both did a double take and then got excited and hugged each other and started talking.
I was so impressed with this Samoan family. Their actions were an example of the pure love of Christ that we preach about when we are out in the community with people. It is one thing to talk about helping others, but it is another thing to quietly go about doing good as Jesus did without recognition, which is exactly what our Samoan friends did. This left a greater impression on our friend who is investigating the Mormon Church than any sermon could have done.
When I heard this story, the words of President Hinckley come to mind. When asked why no Mormon Churches have crosses on their buildings, he stated:
…The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. (Ensign, 2005)
I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to work with these great members in our congregation along with the great missionaries and people they teach. I have witnessed the hand of God working through all of us who give of our time and try to live as Jesus would have us live. When we do this, miracles happen and lives are changed.
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.)
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?