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general conferenceToday 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.

 

Jeff Lindsay thinks Joseph Smith’s greatest legacy is the Book of Mormon.  I agree with him and personally feel that the Book of Mormon is probably his greatest legacy for me personally because reading it has literally changed my life.

However, there are many more things that Joseph Smith accomplished in his lifetime that I thought it would be worth highlighting some of them since this month is his birthday.  In fact, John Taylor (the Church’s 3rd president) went so far to say that “Joseph Smith has done more save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

Some things off the top of my head that I can think of that Joseph Smith left behind include: temples, translation of the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, eternal marriage, and the organization of the Church.  I’m sure there are tons more that I’m not thinking of, so that’s where you come in!

Below is a poll that includes a list of the major good things Joseph Smith accomplished.  Take the poll and leave a comment on your favorite legacy left by Joseph Smith.

I was looking up something from Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith that he gave in 1835 and I came across Jerry Stokes’ website.  In his website he compares these lectures to the Word of Faith movement (which I’ve never heard of before) and says it is heretical.  I will have to agree with him that many things stated in the Lectures on Faith are heretical to mainstream Christianity, which is a given for LDS theology.  One of the things he points out as being heretical is the fact that Joseph Smith states that one of God’s main attributes is faith and that without faith He would cease to be God.  This concept is found in Lecture 1 verses 13 – 17 and is quoted below:

13. As we receive by faith all temporal blessings that we do receive, so we in like manner receive by faith all spiritual blessings that we do receive. But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth. Thus says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, 11:3 –

14. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God; so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

15. By this we understand that the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed, was faith; and that it is by reason of this principle of power existing in the Deity, that all created things exist; so that all things in heaven, on earth, or under the earth exist by reason of faith as it existed in Him.

16. Had it not been for the principle of faith the worlds would never have been framed neither would man have been formed of the dust. It is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things. Take this principle or attribute — for it is an attribute — from the Deity, and he would cease to exist.

17. Who cannot see, that if God framed the worlds by faith, that it is by faith that he exercises power over them, and that faith is the principle of power? And if the principle of power, it must be so in man as well as in the Deity? This is the testimony of all the sacred writers, and the lesson which they have been endeavouring to teach to man.

I can understand Mr Stokes’ concern coming from a Christian perspective.  He may be appalled to hear that Jehovah, who created the world, would need faith.  After all, the Greek meaning of the word faith is “conviction of religious truth or of God.”  If Jehovah is all-powerful and all-knowing and He is the being who we worship, what need is there for Him to have faith in Himself?  Furthermore, does this lesson God’s stature and is it blasphemous to say that God has faith just as man does?

I don’t think it is wrong to say God has faith.  By definition, faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  For example, we read in the first book of the Bible (Gen 1:1-2) that God created the heaven and earth and the earth was without form.  The Hebrew definition of “without form” means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; fig. a worthless thing; adv. in vain” .  Therefore, God hoped for and had faith in himself that the earth would be made and he created the beautiful world that we live in out of chaos (or nothing depending on your belief).  This fits into the definition of faith that we just discussed. 

Now, does saying this lessen God’s stature and elevate man’s in relation to God?  Not at all.  In fact, this proves the majesty of God and shows us our relationship to Him.  We are humans and have seeds of divinity in that we have the power to have faith and create things, etc.  But no one can create a world. 

Now, I will admit that I disagree with Joseph Smith’s statement that God would “cease to exist” if He didn’t have faith.  In the scriptures we read that God is never-changing and always exsisting.  God would be God regardless of whether He created worlds or not.

Overall, I believe in Joseph Smith’s statements on faith and man’s relationship to God.  I believe that man has great potential and that we are children of God and therefore have seeds of divinity within us. 

What are your thoughts?  Do you think God has faith and is it wrong to say that He has faith?  Do you have any other examples from the scriptures where God or Jesus showed faith?

In General Conference this week one of the Twelve Apostles, Jeffrey Holland said (paraphrased) that many Christians err in the verses in Revelation 22:18-19 that state:

18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

  19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book 
President Holland goes on to state that the “words of the book of this prophecy” are pertaining to only the book of Revelation and that having additional scripture such as the Book of Mormon is not adding or taking away from the book of Revelation.  He says many Christians err in that they think the “book of this prophecy” is the whole Bible and that many books in the Bible were written well after the book of Revelation was written. 
If this is the case, one could argue that even though Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and other scripture, he did indeed add to the book of Revelation in at least five chapters which you can view here (make sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the Book of Revelation translations).  One could argue that the hard life Joseph led and the imprisonments he had to face, the many babies that he and Emma had that died, and ultimately what caused his death were all part of the curses described in the book of Revelation.
The curse in Revelation doesn’t only mention adding to the book, but taking away from the book as well.  One could argue on the other hand that Joseph Smith wasn’t adding anything, but he was restoring the “plain and precious truths” that were taken out of the Bible as the Book of Mormon suggests.  One could argue that the “curses” that came as a result were persecution that has happened to other earlier Christians who translated the Bible or to those who don’t have the “fulness of the gospel.”  One could argue that Joseph Smith was persecuted because Satan was trying to thwart the work from progressing, etc. 
I can see why someone could side on the first option.  Especially those Christians who believe the Bible is all God has revealed and ever will reveal and that further revelation isn’t necessary and that throughout all the years there hasn’t been anything taken out of the Bible.  However I personally disagree with this.  I feel that continuing revelation is necessary and that many truths were indeed taken out of the Bible throughout the years.  In addition, if God had prophets and apostles before why wouldn’t he have them now?
What are your thoughts?

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. 

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.

What is a Mormon?  Many people hear this word and different images come to their minds.  Having served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and having dealt with many members of other faiths through business and other travel experiences, I can probably guess what many think when they hear the word ‘Mormon.’  Many comments have been made to me about being a Mormon throughout the years, some of which I find quite commical.  Here are some statements I’ve heard:

“Aren’t you those guys who ride horses and buggies and can’t use electricity?”

“How many wives do you have?”

“You’re a fool for believing Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  In fact, all Mormons are going to hell!”

“What?!?  You don’t drink coffee, tea, or alcohol????”

“No way!  You’re 28 years old, single, and still a virgin?…why would you torture yourself like that!”

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.  Most people have certain ideas or things either they have heard through the media, history books, or their preacher.  My hope with this blog is that I can provide you insight on why I personally choose the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) faith and to help clarify mis-conceptions many people have about this christian faith. 

How I became a Mormon

Although I was baptized into the Mormon faith at the age of 8, I wouldn’t say I was converted to the faith until I was 11.  Soon after my being baptized, my parents were divorced and I moved away with my mother and siblings.  We quit going to the LDS church. 

My conversion started when I came across a Book of Mormon a few years later.  I had been struggling for a few years since my parents’ divorce and was searching for guidance and direction in my life at the time.  I remembered my father reading the Book and I thought I would read it as well.  The title page, written by Joseph Smith stated that the Book of Mormon was the “most correctly written book….” and that “a man would draw nearer to God by abiding by it’s precepts than any other book…”  I read the Book and felt a peace and calmness as I read of the prophets testifying of Jesus Christ on virtually every page.  By the end of the book, I had felt feelings of love, calm, peace, confidence that I’d never felt before and then I read the following verses in Moroni 10: 3-5:

” 3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.

  4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

  5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.”
Never before had I had such a desire to pray and ask God if these things (the words in the Book of Mormon) were true.  I had never before prayed to God for an answer, but I knew how to pray.  I knelt down and started praying.  The experience I had was one of the most precious experiences of my life.  I felt an overwhelming feeling of love, peace, excitement, joy, and a desire to share love with all my fellow men come over me.  I knew there was a God and that He loved me and I knew that Joseph Smith (the translator of the Book of Mormon) was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon was true.  It made such an impression on me that I could never deny it. 
Imediately I jumped up, ran up to tell my father and felt the desire to share these truths with all men.
I will be discussing many other of my beliefs and values as a Latter-day Saint, but wanted to start with this experience because it is the foundation of my faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father. 
I invite anyone with a sincere and open heart to participate in discussions.  Feel free to ask questions, comment, etc. and I will do my best to answer them.

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