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The first time I went through the temple it really freaked me out.  What people wore and what they did and what they said, etc.  It made me wonder what all the hype is growing up in the church and wanting to prepare for the temple. 

I didn’t start feeling the Spirit or trying to put forth effort to understand the temple until 8 years later when one of my newly converted friends wanted to go on a regular basis.  I started going and slowly I started feeling a little more humble, a little softer-hearted. 

A couple years later, my wife was called as a temple worker.  I still had some great hesitation with going to the temple and sacrificing so much time (5 hrs.) to work there.  In the begining I went because I was supporting her, but soon the Spirit kept nudging me and prompting me over the course of a year that I needed to be a worker too.  I resisted until I couldn’t resist the promptings anymore.   The interview with the temple president was scheduled and I became a temple worker. 

For the past year or so as I’ve gone with my wife, I have had many occasions where the Spirit is so strong and I feel so pure in the temple.  After becoming a worker, recently I’ve started to see things symbolically in a way that is amazing along with feeling the sweetness of the Spirit as well.  Virtually everything in the temple points us to Christ’s atonement. 

I don’t understand a lot about why we do certain things in the temple or even why it is necessary.  All I know is that the more I go the more spiritual and closer to Jesus I feel. 

Since I feel my testimony of the temple and it’s importance growing, my new favorite blog is: http://www.templestudy.com/.  I like the insights given about temples and the many references to temples that are found throughout the scriptures.

Critics say there isn’t a need for temples and after Jesus’ death they were done away with.  Those who say that are probably those who say that God can’t speak to man or reveal truths or doctrines.  They are wrong.  God speaks to us in ways I’ve never felt before as I’ve been in the temple.

I invite everyone to visit that blog and learn about temples.  For those of you who may have not been through the temple, some of the information on the templestudy website may not be understood.  You can also visit another temple website: http://www.mormon-temple-ceremony.com/ for basic information on the temples.

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I recently read a post from the mormonmissionblog that reported a recent article in the Washington Post (I coincidentally work for them) on the challenges the LDS church faces.  In the article it discusses the decline in the number of converts to the LDS faith (a decline of 8% to 3%), the poor retention rate of LDS converts (One in three stays active), and the rise in converts to other faiths such as Seventh-Day Adventists and other Evangelical faiths.

This causes me to ask a few questions:

1. Are the numbers accurate that the conversions have fallen from 8%-3%?

2. What can be done to increase retention?

3. Why are people going to other churches

4. How should the LDS church feel about people are converting to other christian churches?

I will address these issues in a series of posts.  The first is addressed below:

Are the Numbers Accurate?

I’m not sure where they got the numbers from, but according to the LDS Newsroom, the conversions continue to be very strong at around 800 members per day as announced in this video by Elder Ballard.  Further graphs of church growth can be found here

As shown in the graph it appears the church’s growth has exploded in the past 10 years rather than tapered.  The article does mention that the church has “tighter recruiting standards” now, which could lead to lower conversion rates.  I do know that when I was on my mission in 1996 there were around 50,000 full-time missionaries and today there are about the same.

Overall, I would say that the church shouldn’t worry about not having enough converts with a growth rate of 800 per day. 

The question is how accurate is the Washington Posts statistical information?  Does anyone know? (Maybe a more important question is does it even matter? : )

The day after I posted that the Christian conservative leader for Focus on the Family had given Mitt Romney the nod (see my post by clicking here), Mitt dropped out of the race.

Now Dobson has officially endorses Huckabee as his candidate.  Who knows?  Maybe Huckster can pull it off.  He won two states tonight to McCain’s one. 

What is Christianity?  In my opinion, it is living and adhering to the truths that Jesus taught.  We all know the truths.  Even those who aren’t Christian can’t deny their truth and goodness.  Love your neighbor as yourself; love your enemies, love God, the fruits of the Spirit; the virtues taught by Paul (belief, hope, charity, faith); repentance…the list goes on and on, but you get the idea.   

Some of you may have seen the recent not-so-Christian-comments on my blog from some of my friends from other “christian” faiths.  I know some of you have read them and one of you has commented on how un-christlike many of the comments seem to be.  It caused me to reflect and was brought to my attention again today as I was reading an article entitled “Mitt Romney’s Evangelical Problem.” 

In this article the author discusses her up-bringing in a christian denomonation of another faith.  She said her church would show videos on how Mormonism was akin to devil worshipping and how anyone who affiliates with a Mormon or supports one will bring down the wrath of God so to speak. 

If this is what’s being taught in Christian churches and schools it’s no wonder I receive comments of hatred against my beliefs.  They’ve all been conditioned to react in this way. 

On the flip side being raised a Mormon I was conditioned to believe in “the one true church.”  I know that in the past I’ve offended many Christians due to my arrogance and assumptions that what I believe is the only way to Heaven as well.  I apologize to my Christian friends for this.

My call is to all athiests, agnostics, Jews, Budhists, Christians…everyone.  Let’s open our eyes and start at the basics.  If we believe in something higher than ourselves, let’s start acting like it.  If someone believes/looks like/behaves/ or is something differently than us; responding with hate will not solve anything.  Hate breeds hate. 

I used to listen to the rock group, Creed back in the day.  They have a line from their song “What’s this Life For?” that goes “…we all live under the reign of one King.”

Whatever we believe this “King” is, let’s join together and shed our prejudices and our labels we’ve put on others.  Let’s all take steps towards loving and living “Christian” virtues.  Whether you proclaim yourself to be a Christian or athiest, you can’t deny that the virtues taught by Christ are essential to humanity. 

Will you join me in this endeavor?

As you probably know, Mitt dropped out of the race today.  He gave a very good speech on conservative values and why he decided to drop out.  My hope is that he’ll be back or someone that has his same values. 

 Here’s the speech: http://www.sltrib.com/ci_8196972

This is huge!

 If you consider yourself a conservative Christian and you want someone with conservative values in the White House you must vote for Romney.  Dr Dobson said in a statement yesterday that a vote for Huckabee is essentially a vote for McCain and if McCain wins the nomination he won’t vote.

Read his statment

and/or

Listen to his statement

Now pass this information on to your fellow Christian friends.

For anyone interested, here is a message from an editor at Meridian Magazine, who compiled over 100 talks given by President Hinckley.

Here’s the link:

http://www.ldsmag.com/churchupdate/080129talks.html

After we finished excersizing today I collapsed to the floor by our bookshelves in the living room and said “Whew!  I’m going to sleep right here!”  I turned my head to the side and was about to close my eyes when I noticed one of my old German poetry books from college.  I hadn’t looked in it probably since college and so I picked it up and it opened to the following short poem by Angelus Silesius .

It Depends on You (by Angelus Silesius)

Oh, if only your heart could become a manger, God would once again become a child on earth.

The imagery and words immediately brought varying thoughts to my mind.

First, the image of a manger.  When we read in Luke chapter 2, we read of Joseph and Mary trying to find room in the busy inns.  In contrast, they find a humble location and a place in a manger.  In addition, I looked up words similar to “manger” in the thesarus and words such as “bassinet” and “cradle” are synonomous to manger.  I asked myself, is my heart like the inn or like the manger?  What can I do to clear it out and make it a place that God can rest?

The next thing I thought of was the part stating that “God would become once again as a child on earth.”  I thought of the numerous scriptures that Jesus spoke of us becoming like a child.  My favorite scripture is in Mosiah 3:19 when it talks about putting away our natural man and becoming patient, meek, humble, and willing to accept everything God gives us…the good and the not-so-good.

I’d like to hear what you thought of as you read the poem or my comments. 

How can we make room in our hearts for the Savior?

What can we do to become humble and meek like a child?

Why is it important, or is it even important to do these things? 

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. 

My 4th great-grandfather, Edward Partridge was a wealthy business owner when missionaries, including Parley P Pratt introduced him to the gospel.  Upon his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Edward forsook all he had including his business and his family disowned him.  However, Edward was steadfast stating: “I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit.” As a result, “my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1 (Jan. 1835), p. 61)

Two months after joining the church Edward became the first bishop.  He spent much time traveling throughout the United States to various branches of the church and administering to the poor.  He ultimately gave his life in service to his fellow man as he became ill but felt “he could not spend time to be sick.” (Woman’s Exponent, beginning 13 (1 Dec. 1884), pp. 102–3)

Since that time the LDS church has grown to become a leading and respected church in the humanitarian community.  The bishop of the church now assists the needs of millions of people both of the LDS faith and those not of the faith. 

Below are some articles that include statistics of the Church in their humanitarian efforts throughout the world:

Official Church Website

Humanitarian Update

Church News

I am personally grateful to have the example of Edward Partridge, who sacrificed all he had for the gospel.  I am also grateful to be a part of a church that reaches out and blesses the lives of so many of God’s children. 

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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