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I’ve been reading Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon most recently.  Today I read in the “Hebraisms and other Peculiarities” chapter a section on a poetic form called “climax” (which means “ladder” in Greek), which was discovered in 1898 by a biblical scholar.  The definition of this poetic form is described as follows: “Climax occurs when the same word or words found at the end of one clause are repeated at or near the beginning of the next clause.” (Echoes, pg 166)

 The book then shares some examples of climaxes found in the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.  I thought the one found in Moroni 8:25-26 was beautiful and wanted to share it.  I will break it down as it is broken down in the book to emphasize the use of climax:

And the first fruits of repentance is

baptism; and

baptism cometh by faith unto

the fulfilling the commandments; and

the fulfilling the commandments bringeth

remission of sins; And the

remission of sins bringeth

meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of

meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the

Holy Ghost, which

Comforter filleth with hope and perfect

love, which

love endureth by diligence unto prayer,

until the end shall come, when all Saints shall well with God.

If I hadn’t read about this poetic form, I would have read right over it and missed great symbolic purpose.  I think it’s awesome to see how this is like a ladder, or climax in that each step builds on the other and at the top of the ladder is love, which is the greatest commandment.  Even better, it doesn’t just stop there.  The verses tell us how we can maintain our love and the result (dwelling with God) if we are diligent in keeping love in our hearts.

What are your thoughts as you read this?  Also, do you know of any other examples in the scriptures where this poetic form is used?

Last Sunday I was over at my inlaw’s house and watched a good little John Bytheway DVD called “Standards Night Live.”  I really don’t know much about John Bytheway except for his fun, but corny songs about being a Mormon and missionary, etc.  However, I really enjoyed this DVD and something he said in it has caused me to reflect all week.  

He discussed the famous and important scripture in Ephesians 6  about putting on the full armor of God.  He also mentions that of the things Paul suggests to have in defending against Satan, there is only one item suggested to use as an offensive weapon and that is the sword.  In Ephesians, Paul says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God .  John Bytheway goes on to discuss the tactics of Satan are to get us into situations where we loose the Spirit so we won’t have any offensive weapon against Satan. 

As I have pondered this, I’ve thought of a few things.  First, I thought it was interesting how Paul describes the Spirit (word of God) as a sword and I thought of other scriptures that have this imagery.  Next, I contemplated instances in my life when I have “let my sword down” and wondered what I could have done differently.  Finally, I wondered about how one can recognize the Spirit and have it return once it is gone.  I will share my thoughts on each of these areas.

The Spirit (Word of God) is as a Sword

Some scriptures that come to my mind that have the imagery of the Spirit being as a sword include:

Acts 2:37: “Now when they heard this, they were apricked in their bheart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, cwhat shall we do?”

Hebrews 4:12: “For the aword of God is bquick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged csword, dpiercing even to the dividing asunder eof soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a fdiscerner of the gthoughts and hintents of the heart.”

Helaman 5:30: “And it came to pass when they heard this avoice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a bstill voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul—”

3 Nephi 11: 3: “And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a avoice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a bsmall voice it did cpierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

Each of these examples include similar characteristics.  I’ll highlight a few of them.  First, the Spirit (or word of God) is described as being able to pierce (or prick).  Second, each example states it doesn’t just pierce lightly, but to the soul (or heart).  The questions then arise what is the Spirit piercing and why is it important to be pierced all the way to the soul?  We could go into many details just on these two questions, but some of the thoughts I have on this include the Spirit is piercing through the pride, passions, prejudices, “hardness of heart,” and sin of the natural man.  Some people call this “being born again” or “putting off the natural man.” It is important to pierce us to the soul because if it just touches our physical senses or our mind it won’t leave as lasting of an impression on us.  As seen in following verses in Acts 2, the Spirit touches their souls and they feel moved to action by being baptized.  In our own lives, once we feel the Spirit, I feel it is prompting us to action as well…maybe visit a friend, or help a family member.  In my experience it has always been to do something good. 

Another similarity in three of the four examples is the fact that many of the people don’t even realize they are feeling the Spirit and when they do, they don’t know what to do.  This also is a whole other discussion, but I simply want to point out that it is important to be able to recognize the Spirit.  I know many times in my life I haven’t recognized the Spirit because I’ve been too busy or prideful to listen.  If we humble ourselves and quiet our own spirits as these people did, we will not only feel the Spirit, but recognize it as well.  This is crucial in our spiritual development.

Letting our Sword Down

Most recently, I posted on Steps to Avoiding Apostacy, which in my mind are steps to avoid loosing the Spirit.  I feel that all of us are in a “state of apostacy” so to speak in that we all sin and come short of God’s glory.  If we work on these steps we can continuously feel closer to God’s Spirit and keep our swords up.  It is important to note that we will always come short of the glory of God and that it is through His mercy that we are able to be granted the Spirit.  It is our duty to do everything we can through the knowledge we’ve been given to keep the commandments and stay close to the Lord.   

The scriptures say that if we “withdraw ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord” we are left to our own devices and led by the “evil one” because God doesn’t dwell in “unholy temples” (Mosiah 2: 36-37).  Further scripture states the Spirit withdraws when we try to cover our sins and not confess them, become prideful, and harden our hearts

The scriptures show many examples of people who both let their sword down and who kept the sword up.  The consequences are like night and day.  Examples off the top of my head for those who let their sword down include: King David, Solomon, Sampson, the Saducees and Pharisees, and there are many others.  Those who kept the sword up include: Joseph (coat of many colors), Paul, Stephen, and Jesus.

If we were to compare each of these examples, again it is like night and day.  Joseph kept the sword of the spirit up and denied Potiphar’s wife.  He became more confident in the Lord and eventually a great ruler.  David and Solomon both let the sword down and led lives led lives contrary to the Lord.  David was very repentant, but could have avoided much heartache had he kept his sword up.  The Saducees and Pharisees are very good examples for those of us who profess belief in God and the scriptures.  They were so focused on the word of God and the letter of the law that when the new law came through Jesus they didn’t recognize it and crucified the very One whom they had been waiting for.  This again is another topic, but how often do we get too focused on something other than the Lord and/or put ourselves in a situation to loose the Spirit and therefore “crucify the Lord afresh” as stated in Hebrews.  

As I contemplate my own life and wonder what I could have done differently to keep the Spirit in my life, I firmly believe turning to the Savior’s example is the best way.

For instance, when I feel tempted to do something I know is wrong rather than “tarrying” like David did and contemplating the sin and rationalizing it, whatever the sin is or however big or small it is, if I simply say “get behind me Satan,” like Jesus did I will be much better off.  When people tried to logically prove things or twist Christ’s words in many instances, he kept silent in quiet dignity rather than try to prove his point or why He was right.  He remained humble, prayerful, grateful, and was a perfect example of what we need to do to keep the Spirit. 

However, we’re not perfect and we’re going to let our swords down at some point.  This means we need to know what to do in order to get the sword back up.

Getting the Sword back Up

Obviously since the “sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,” it is imperative to “get into” the Word of God in order to receive the spirit.  However, it’s a catch 22 because if we’re reading or hearing the word of God without the Spirit, we won’t recognize it.  I feel there are a few steps involved in getting our swords back up.  First, we need to recognize the Spirit is gone.  Secondly, we need to relax and put ourselves into a position to recieve the Spirit.  Third we need to repent.  Finally, we need to make efforts to put our guard back up. 

What did people in the scriptures do to get the Spirit back?  I mentioned King David as one who fell away, but he returned again to the Lord.  He recognized his sin and became very humble and contrite for the rest of his days.  He relaxed and invited the Spirit of the Lord when he wrote many Psalms unto the Lord and prayed.  When praying, he repented of his ways and made effort to not commit the same mistake again, which he didn’t. 

Another example is the anti-christ, Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon.  He was deceived and openly rebelled against the people of the Lord.  However, when he opened his heart and allowed the Spirit to penetrate his heart, he was able to get the sword back up and he preached repentance the rest of his life.  Other examples in the scriptures that are similar to this include the sons of Mosiah, Alma the younger, and Saul (Paul) in the Bible. 

Some things I do to get the Spirit back into my life once I realize it’s gone include: prayer, scripture study, go to the temple, visit nature, listen to music, write music, serve others, and think of things I’m grateful for.  Once I’ve recieved the Spirit, I note what I did to lose the Spirit and make plans as to how to avoid the situation again.

In conclusion, I hope these things I’ve learned and contemplated help whoever comes across them.  If you know of additional scriptures or experiences of people in the scriptures, your own personal life, or other stories, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you do to maintain the sword of the Spirit in your life.

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.

In a recent post, entitled “Making our Hearts a Manger,” one of my friends, Brad Trnavsky, shared an interesting insight.  He commented that “when we were children all of our hearts were like that (a place for the Savior)… As you get older it’s harder to see past our own bias and prejudice.”  Later that day when I was speaking with him he further shared insight on how his own daughter has no biases and that she “would share her lollipop with anyone.” 

In the Bible, Paul shares a similar insight in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “when I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…now we see through a glass, darkly…”

I thought about my life and how various experiences have led me to “see through dark glass,” as Paul describes.  I then asked myelf what “childish things” have I put away?  I don’t remember a whole lot about myself as a child and my perspective is different than someone from the outside looking in.  I wanted to get some insight on how I was as a child and thought my parents would be the best people to consult.  I emailed them and here is the feedback I received from my father:

As a very young child, you were pretty inquisitive. You were always getting in to things, and making messes in the process. I remember that one time you got into the diaper pail and had dirty diapers scattered all over the house. You were just sitting in the middle of it all having a blast. You were always asking questions. If we went to the movies, you were quite a pain to have there because we couldn’t watch a movie for you asking questions. We’d always say, “Just watch the movie and listen and you’ll find the answer. You were also pretty tender hearted, and felt bad for things that were hurt. You loved us to read books to you. It didn’t matter what kind of books they were. You were also reading by the time you went to kindergarten. One thing that you loved was horses. You would always just make your way over the their corral and just watch them. You loved to ride them. Another thing that you liked was being outdoors. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you wanted to be out. We put the fence up in the back for that purpose. If I was mowing the lawn, or driving the tractor, you had to be on their riding with me. We mowed lots of grass together, and cleaned lots of stalls riding on the tractor together…One thing that you really didn’t like was contention…Your were also very bright and loved to watch the stars, and play with the cats that we had. The main thing I remember about you during those years and beyond was you felt responsible to be a good example and to try to be a problem solver…”

As I read this, it brought back memories and humbled me.  First, I thought of how inquisitive children are and as a child I wasn’t scared or inhibited in searching for new knowledge no matter where it was.  In the early years learning and growing are all children are doing and the world is like water and kids are like sponges soaking it all in.  I asked myself how do I view the world today?  Am I still searching for knowledge and learning and growing or do I think I have it all figured out.  Worse, have I allowed the “dark glass” of prejudice or things other people have said or done to me to hinder me from progressing?  As a child, I wanted to learn, grow, and find answers.  I didn’t care what people thought even if it was in a movie theater! 

Next, being tender hearted is a good quality of most children.  How am I doing in that category now?  Do I know how my friends and family are doing/feeling?  Do I care about their needs above my own or am I too wrapped up in my work or what I think is important to me to stop and make a phone call, or pause while my wife or friends are talking to me in the middle of doing something, etc.?  How about the people I help at church?  Do I really care about how they’re doing?  What about the world?  Do I pray for and care about people in other nations or communities that do not have as much as I do or am I too busy with other things? 

I’ll have to admit I love the smell of fresh grass to this day and perhaps the reason is because of the many rides my father and I took on the lawn mower.  Something I’ve also learned from my mother is to appreciate nature.  She’ll call me and tell me about a neat view of Mt Rainier or when a full moon is out or she sees a blue heron flying (this is her favorite bird).  Children are the same way as I was as a kid.  They appreciate and love playing outside.  They love God’s creations as I loved horses, cats, and the outdoors.  I feel maintaining this simple awe for nature and respect is a very important characteristic to maintain in order to fully appreciate God. 

Finally, my father says as a kid I wanted to be a problem solver.  Being the oldest, I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility.  I ask myself this question now.  If something is wrong do I take initiative to fix the problem or do I wait for someone else to fix it? 

This excersize was very good for me because it allowed me to reflect and remember that I am essentially still a child and don’t know as much as I usually think I do.  Even though I’m older, I’m still a child learning and growing.  The more I remember this and internalize this, the better off I’ll be.

In addition to these practical implications, the Savior shares spiritual and eternal implications of being as a child.  The scriptures share some great insights, which I will share. 

1. (Mosiah 3:19) As a natural man, I am an enemy to God unless I become like a child: humble, meek, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to everything the Lord asks me to do. 

2. (Luke 9:48) If I receive the Lord like a child I will be “great in the kingdom of God.”  For me this is basically the same concept of being humble and submissive to the Lord.

3. (Mark 10: 13-16) In this verse, Jesus’ disciples “rebuke” those who brought children with them to see Jesus.  Jesus reprimands His disciples and says “suffer the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God.”  He further goes on to say that unless they receive the kingdom as a little child they can not enter into His kingdom and he blesses them. 

3 Nephi 9:22 is very similar to the verses in Mark as well.  In 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the people on the American continent that unless they repent and become as a child they won’t inheret the kingdom of God.  Notice that He adds that repentance is necessary for us to become as a child and therefore inherit God’s kingdom.

4. (3 Nephi 11:37-40) In this scripture Jesus informs the people that not only humbling oneself as a child and repentance are necessary, but baptism is also necessary to inherit the kingdom of God.  Verse 39 also states that this is Christ’s doctrine and whosoever builds on this doctrine is built on a rock (i.e. a solid foundation). 

5. (3 Nephi 17:21-25) In my opinion, these scriptures are some of the most touching scriptures we have.  Here, Jesus prays and blesses the peoples’ children one by one and weeps because of the love and joy he has for them.  It shows how much love Jesus has for children and it sheds some further light on the joy he must feel when we decide to humble ourselves like a child and submit to Him so he can bless us.  This is probably why the prophet Moroni stated that “children are alive in Christ.”  I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being able to say that I am alive in Christ with confidence.  When I focus on becoming as a child I am progressing towards this goal.

In conclusion, I invite you to either reflect on your childhood or ask your parents to provide you some insight on what you were like as a child.  Or if you have children look to them as an example.  Consider some of the “childish things you’ve put away” and pray and reflect on what you can do to incorporate them back into your life.  The promises are great if we can remember to become as a child by removing the dark glasses we see through and learn to see as a child.

I recently saw this question on Yahoo Answers.  Below is my response: 

Romans 3:23 states “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

Therefore we need God’s grace and mercy no matter what to save us.

However further scripture states everyone who dies (so everyone: ) will stand before God and be judged of their works (Revelation 20:12-13)

Further scripture supports this:

“And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.” (Alma 41:3)

In addition we are all given the light of Christ (some call it a consience) and knowledge of what is good and what is evil as quoted in this scripture:

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
  16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
  17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.  (Moroni 7:15-17)

To sum everything up.  We are all given a consience and ability to choose good or evil.  We all will come short of the glory of God so we need His grace and mercy to save us.  However, we will be brought to the judgement seat after we die and stand accountable to the knowledge we’ve been given from God.

Would you add or take anything out on this answer?

Recently I was having a conversation with one of my friends and she said that having a testimony of the Book of Mormon was essential in order to stay in the LDS church.

However, there are other denomonations that believe and support the Book of Mormon.  The RLDS (now Community of Christ) church and the Church of Jesus Christ (nicknamed Bickertonites) are two denomonations that believe in the Book of Mormon as well.

I’m not the best historian so maybe someone can help me here.  From what I understand, Sydney Rigdon started the Bickertonites and Joseph Smith’s son (Joseph Smith III) started the RLDS church after Joseph Smith died.  Brigham Young and the other apostles were with the main body of the LDS people.  Interestingly, all three groups seem to have claimed authority given to them from Joseph Smith.

So the questions are:

Is having a testimony Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon enough to stay strong in the LDS church? If not, what is necessary to have a testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

What happened historically and who exactly did Joseph Smith give the keys of priesthood authority to? 

It appears organizationally the three are similar with apostles, prophets, etc. and they all study the same books.  What are the differences between the three organizations?

I have my own personal opinions from briefly reading the history of both organizations, but I’d love to hear what others with more historical knowledge have to say. 

Dress Standards and Culture

This is part three of my series on the Washington Post Article

The article mentions that the LDS church has fallen from the highest converting Christian church in America.  The official LDS website states the church is the second-highest converting church in America

The article suggests that other faiths are “willing to express the local culture in many ways that the LDS has been slow to do.”  And further asks if it is necessary for people to all dress a certain way to attend church meetings and for missionaries to be dressed a certain way, etc. 

I would love to hear what people have to say about this because from my own personal experience as a missionary in Germany it was very difficult to even have a conversation with the people about religion.  However, when I went back to work as a “normal” citizen in Germany and Switzerland, they treated me with respect and got to know me as a person.  I found it much easier to have gospel discussions after my mission as opposed to before.

Why do you think the LDS church maintains the standard American white shirt and tie approach to missionary work?  Do you feel a change in this would positively affect the ability for missionaries to embrace the culture of other countries? 

In addition to these suggestions, what other cultural issues have you experienced that the LDS church could improve on, if anything at all? 

I have deep roots in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  My fourth great-grandfather was the first bishop of the church, Edward Partridge.  Amasa Lyman was one of my ancestors as well and he was an apostle and a polygamist.  In addition, I’ve had many great spiritual experiences within the church and served as a missionary in Frankfurt, Germany and served in leadership positions of the church. 

If you read my post entitled “How I became a Mormon,” you will know of my conversion story and will know why I chose and still choose to be a Mormon.

That being said, I have had my own personal struggles with issues in our church history and our current practices in the church.  It has been hard for me to swallow the “polygamy” pill and the first time I went through the temple I was freaked out and had struggles going to the temple for 7 years afterwards. 

Being raised in a predominately LDS community in small-town southern Idaho, one is raised to think in black and white.  For example, the church is true (what does this mean anyways?) and everything else is false, prophets and apostles are infallible, Joseph Smith is the closest thing to Jesus there is, you have to go on a mission, etc. 

A few years after my mission I started learning more about the history of the church and many things that church leaders have said and done and things in the temple and my faith waivered.  I started exploring my personal faith and other faiths as well.  I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t deny the witnesses that I’d felt when I read the Book of Mormon and served in the church.  After examining other religions, I concluded that although our prophets and church aren’t infallible, they are definitely good.  Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that it is o.k. if I don’t know without a shadow of doubt everything there is to know.  I do know that I’m happier when I serve in the church and that I feel the Spirit and have felt the Spirit confirm to me on many occasions that many of the doctrines in the church are true.  I believe for me personally this is the path that God would have me travel and I’m very grateful for the blessings I’ve recieved as I’ve made the journey.

For those who have struggled, or are currently struggling in their personal faith within the church, I can totally empathize.  I have seen very close family members and friends leave the church and I don’t blame them or judge them in the least because I’ve had to deal with many of the same issues as well. 

I recommend reading the following essays and podcasts by John Dehlin for those who are struggling, or who have a close friend or family member struggling:

1. How to Stay in the Church

2. Why do People Leave the Church?

John interviewed people who had left the church for over two years and compiled reasons why people leave.  He also addresses what we can do to help those who are on the edge or already gone (and that could include ourselves).

Listening to these has helped me very much knowing that I don’t have to have a black and white mentality and also that other people, including Stake Presidents and others have had questions and overcome them as well. 

In conclusion I would like to emphasize that I know what the Spirit has testified to me throughout the years line upon line and grace for grace.  I know the scriptures make me feel closer to God when I read them; I know of the peace I now feel when I’m in the temple; I know that when I serve in the church I feel closer to God and love in my heart grows; I know as I partake of the sacrament I feel closer to God; I know and have felt the confirmation from the Spirit as I pray.  I know that I have a ton to learn and am grateful that I’ve had many experiences to help me keep moving forward. 

It is my hope that this helps anyone who may be struggling. 

Just in case you didn’t know about this, there is a new website dedicated to President Hinckley.  It has talks he’s given, pictures and stories of his life, etc.  Check it out:

http://www.lds.org/gordonbhinckley

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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